Category Archives: Politics

WHAT ABOUT BIDEN?

Since several friends have asked (and more of you may want to!) why my criticisms are mainly directed towards Trump, it is easy and straightforward to answer.

My teaching and writing are mainly to Christians. 

When I am speaking to someone who hates Trump and his policies, I am quite comfortable saying that I find the progressive left terribly lost. And I have a long list to offer!

But here is my concern…

I don’t hear many Christians talking about our own need for landscaping (see my previous post from Nov. 16. 

Sadly, I mainly hear (and many are glad to bend my ear about it) about how “bad our American culture has become” and little said about personal sin, or the various sins of American Christians. I am grateful for my friends who put their sins on the front burner of their complaints. It reminds me of a conversation with a pastor friend years ago during our lunch. I asked him: “What is your biggest challenge as a pastor?” He said, “Oh that’s easy Dave. My biggest problem is me.”

WE THE FALLEN PEOPLE: THE FOUNDERS AND THE FUTURE OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

I just finished We the Fallen People. Truly amazing. If I could wave a wand every American would have to read it as part of their citizenship.

Years ago, I developed “Moore’s Law of Worthwhile Reading.” I take the number of pages in a book and divide it by two. If my marginalia exceeds that number it was a worthwhile read. Some books that make the cut are ones I disagree with, but not this one. For this one, I made 321 marginal notes. These can be anything from an exclamation point to a few sentences. I never put one question mark in the margins which is rare.

In any case, I am going to be recommending this book far and wide!

My interview with Tracy will be coming soon…

AFGHANISTAN: WHEN “REALISTIC” LOSES ITS PERSUASIVE POWER

Note to readers: This post does not address who is to blame for the debacle we are witnessing in Afghanistan. If that is your interest, you have ample things to read elsewhere.

“Let’s be realistic…” Three words that remind us that we have set our expectations too high. Three words that remind us that the real world is full of pain and suffering, so we better adjust our assumptions accordingly about how life really works.

But realistic can also be a cheap dodge from moral responsibility. Invoking the need to be “realistic” can protect us from the critical obligations of a moral life. And this moral life is messy and difficult whether we are looking to address our own life or the life of a country like Afghanistan.

It seems utterly irrational to hang onto a plane when it is taking off, but we Westerners make our judgments far too hastily. When King David numbered his troops and the non-military men, he fell under the discipline of the Lord. God gave David three possible options for his punishment. Let David’s response sink in deeply: “…I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” Like the terrified Afghans, David knew full well how ruthless people can be.

From the comforts of our homes, it is understandable why we Americans feel helpless in offering anything of lasting benefit to the Afghans. I know the feeling. I wonder what I as a sixty-three-year-old man living in the safety of the American suburbs can do. It seems crazy to think I can do anything of consequence. Yes, I am terribly sad over the ghastly images I witnessed of those desperate people in Afghanistan, but then my inability to do anything screams with a clarity that seems undeniable. And inability eventually leads to a cold logic that says I have no real responsibility. It is a brutal calculus, but it permits me to go to go to bed with a clean conscience.

Realpolitik is a fancy word that describes geopolitical decisions being made based on pragmatic realities instead of allowing our moral outrage or ideological commitments to set the agenda. For example, our government (and this is true of both sides of the political aisle) understands that calling the Chinese to task for their abuse of the Uyghurs is impractical because it would hurt our economic interests. Our government can certainly offer some periodic outrage over the Uyghurs, but everyone knows, including the Chinese, that we are simply grandstanding for a hollow sound bite.

Realpolitik reminds us that America cannot be the police force for the rest of the world. It is a terrible thing to admit, but in our big and complicated world it is hard to gainsay. We Americans must simply nod in sad resignation that this is the way things are and carry on with our own lives.

During my days of college ministry, I recall hearing about a study that explained why people get more animated with lesser causes like saving the whales. Nothing wrong of course with wanting to save whales. The author of the study said people get exercised with lesser causes because the more important ones seem impossible to address. The lesser causes give us a sense that we are making some difference in the world.

It’s understandable why we are tempted to pass on bigger problems, but perhaps the crisis in Afghanistan is one we can do something about. Perhaps we are too easily invoking “Let’s be realistic about Afghanistan…” to escape things we can do.

What are those things? More than the stifling “Let’s be realistic…” will allow. Fresh brainstorming among those who know and love the Afghan people ought to be encouraged. “Let’s be realistic…” will hardly provoke the kind of creative, out of the box thinking about the issues that most vex us. “Let’s be realistic…” may also be a bogus excuse to do little to nothing when other possibilities exist, the kinds of things that only come into view when one is committed to thinking with moral clarity.

 

 

WHY LIBERALISM FAILED

Don’t be misled. The liberalism that the author speaks of is the classical variety that undergirds both conservative and progressive liberal thought. The liberalism the author believes has failed is that of Mill and Locke, the latter a big influence on our Founding Fathers.

I heavily annotated my copy of Why Liberalism Failed because it is the kind of book that makes you think in fresh ways about old ideas.

Much ink has already been spilled debating the merits of this book. I won’t go into detail on those since this brief review is designed to say that I find Deneen’s thesis quite compelling. I plan to read more of Mill and Locke so my view could change some, but right now, I find myself aligning with Deneen’s concerns.

 

MY VOTE…WHILE LIVING FAR EAST OF EDEN

The following represents my opinion, and mine alone. 
In light of my recent posts about our current cultural moment this may come as somewhat of a surprise to some of you, so here goes…  

From my early days as a Christian it made sense to me that the Bible has something to say to all of life. The Bible is certainly not a spiritual cookbook. It is not always straightforward how one should arrive at one’s decision. The book of Proverbs, and the whole wisdom tradition, showcase this sort of nimble discernment. Christians disagree over the proper interpretation and/or implications of the Bible. And those are Christians who agree on the binding authority of the Scriptures!

I continue to believe that is problematic to have Christians who rationalize or diminish the president’s rhetoric. That said, I Tim. 2:1,2 is a significant influence on how (at the present) I will vote. My vote is very much influenced by the person and party I believe that best protects religious liberty.

“POLITICS” AND LOSING FRIENDS!

Some of my friends tell me that they have lost friends over so-called political differences. I say so-called because most of us use that word “politics” in a diminished, and so unhelpful, way.

Politics comes from the word polis which means city. The original meaning carried the idea of what good I should do for my community. The modern idea of politics has denigrated as a synonym that means simply advocating for one candidate over another. We certainly ought to be able to talk about who we are voting for and why without animus, but there is so much more we ought to first talk about.

It would be more productive if we first spent ample time pondering what good we ought to do for our community, then, and only then, moved to specific candidates. Jumping too quickly over the first makes for either nasty conversations or people steering clear of talking about controversial matters altogether.

There is a better option. Engage thoughtfully, challenge your own assumptions, and have conversation partners outside your own tribe. Don’t exclusively watch CNN, MSNBC, or FOX. Read widely, including those who make you angry. They just might have something to offer that your own tribe is either blind to or unwilling to say.

 

 

TRUMP, MY FORMER PROFESSOR, AND ME

Dear Wayne,

Thank you for the many kindnesses you showed me (and Doreen) during our time (90-92) at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Your recommendation that I receive the award for the best thesis on a theological subject encouraged me in my writing.

Your recommendation that I publish my thesis with the same publisher that did your Cambridge dissertation was also a wonderful blessing. And thanks for writing the foreword.

Your approaching me to serve as executive director of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood surprised and humbled me. I am the furthest thing from a one issue guy, so it was easy to turn down, but it was an honor to be asked.

And I will never forget that you regularly supplied us with doughnuts at your advisee meetings!

I read your Town Hall piece. Allow me to offer a few areas I wished you had addressed.

https://townhall.com/columnists/waynegrudem/2020/08/08/letter-to-an-antitrump-christian-friend-n2573909

Nothing is mentioned about the founding fathers on the needed character to govern. For many years, the founding fathers were invoked by us conservatives, but then we slowly gave up their counsel because of Reagan’s divorce, Newt’s ruthlessness, etc. Realpolitik grabbed the imagination of many conservatives, so we got more “realistic” about the limits of purity in our governing philosophy. The political machinations of bad boys like Lee Atwater and Newt Gingrich turned Republican politics into a blood sport. Yes, it is played that way on the other side of the aisle as well. Some would say the Democratic party plays it better. Since most of the people I speak with are on the conservative side of the ledger, I will keep my concerns focused there. I still think Madison and other founding fathers should instruct us on character. I find it telling that the counsel of those folks has faded into the political ether.

You mentioned the illiberalism of the left. I agree. In the 1980s, I spoke on the free speech platforms at both Stanford University and Cal/Berkeley. I wonder what that experience would be like today, so I understand your concern. Unfortunately, you left out that freedom of speech is not just stifled by those on the left. It also gets stifled at bastions of not just conservatism, but Christianity, like Liberty University.

I wish there were more conservatives like Robert George of Princeton. He, as you well know, is close friends with Cornel West. They do not agree on many things, yet they truly seek to learn from one another. Trump, and many who follow him, find Professor George’s model quaint and impractical. Again, realpolitik rears its head above such idealism.

My biggest concern is one I have not heard mentioned by any who support Trump, even by those who say he is the better option of the “lesser of two evils” gambit.

What about the confusion Trump creates over the gospel? Christians who say Trump is the “lesser of two evils” seem to forget the integrity of the church and gospel. I was surprised you did not mention anything on this topic.

Here’s a diagnostic of sorts: Which candidate brings the most confusion to the gospel and hurts the integrity of the church? I would argue, and believe it is easy to do, that Trump does. The Democratic party has little use for evangelicals so no confusion to the gospel occurs. But a candidate who has health-wealth preachers and other Christians supporting him no matter what, certainly does untold damage. And that damage does not go away once Trump is out of office.

The church in America has lost much integrity in supporting Trump. You mentioned Trump’s unsavory character which is a proper thing to do. I am afraid your concerns over his character got drowned out when you so quickly pivot to how great Trump’s policies have been. In other words, your concerns over Trump’s character come across tepid and they lack the penetration of the prophet that is so sorely needed. 

There are several other things I keep hoping to hear from Christians, but sadly I keep hearing lots of crickets. For example, three times Jeremiah says that Nebuchadezzar was “God’s servant.” If God is still in charge with the likes of Nebuchadnezzar, should we really have a Chicken Little posture as we contemplate someone from the Democratic party being in office?

I did not vote in the last election. My reasons for doing so are too long to mention here, but a scholar of James Madison’s political philosophy said Madison would have supported my right to do so. Three months out from the upcoming election, I continue to think (and pray) about how I should vote this November. And rest assured, my vote will not be for Joe Biden.

No matter what happens I would like to hear more Trump supporters, especially the Christian ones, say he is unfit for the presidency, even though they are glad for his policies. Saying Trump is less than perfect is hardly the same as saying he is unfit to govern.  

[One factual error in your piece: Schlafly did an MA at Radcliffe, but her JD was from Washington University not Harvard.]

Your Former Student,

David (George) Moore

 

LESSER THAN TWO EVILS?

Many times I’ve heard the “lesser than two evils” objection brought up by those who voted (and will vote again) for Donald Trump. Here is David French:

And yes, Christians also hasten the decay if we vote for policies and people who would scorn the church, denigrate the value of unborn life, and celebrate other values contrary to biblical truth. But we do not have to choose between evils. Our nation’s two political parties do not dictate to the church how it must use its vast cultural and political power. The church must instead communicate its standards to our parties. 

If the world’s wealthiest and and most powerful collection of Christians are supine before their political masters in the United States, marching to the beat of secular drummers (even if allegedly “holding their noses” all the while) then I fear the message that sends is that we do not have faith that God’s providence governs the nations. We cannot and must not “put our trust in princes.” There is no such thing as a “binary choice.” We can choose not to yield to the spirit of the times. 

Theological truth can also create a pragmatic reality. Over time, perhaps the best method of cleansing our political class of the low, narcissistic characters who all too often occupy public office is to stop voting for them. “