Category Archives: State Apologetics

These posts deal with frequently used arguments to support State aggression. If you have any arguments you would like to see addressed, please let me know.

The New Republic’s Case for Orwellian Newspeak

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Elizabeth Bruenig, writing for The New Republic, argues that we all should stop using the word “taxpayer.” Unfortunately, it is difficult to extract a coherent argument anywhere in her article.
She begins by criticizing House Republicans’ budget for FY 2016, stating that it is
…an ideological document meant to advance a particular set of beliefs about how government should function, and toward what end.
This is a strange observation in that it is impossible for a government budget to be value-free. Even if it contained no narrative and only consisted of spreadsheets and figures, it still assumes a proper role of government. Particularly nefarious to Mrs. Bruenig, however, is that it uses the word “taxpayer” or a permutation of this term “24 times, as often as the word ‘people’.”
While “people” designates the broadest possible public as the subject of a political project, “taxpayer” advances a considerably narrower vision—and that’s why we should eliminate it from political rhetoric and punditry.
It’s hard to see how she reaches this conclusion, even when considering the full context of her article. As far as I can tell, she dislikes the fact that the narrower category of “taxpayer” implies that there is a productive class and a parasitic class. Acknowledging reality seems to be problematic, for some reason.
Her primary contention appears to be that taxpayers have no right whatsoever to decide how or on what that money should be spent. She scoffs at the idea that government “expenditures that do not correspond to an individual’s will are some kind of affront,” and argues that,
If money owed in taxes is imagined…to belong to the taxpayer, then programs operating off of public revenue do seem to have some obligation to correspond to their funders’ consent, and serving the interests of others does seem unfair. But these are all obfuscations brought on by the term.
Why? Because taxes are spent on “the public good,” that’s why. In what can only be called hypocrisy or arrogance on the part of Mrs. Bruenig, she, while decrying several types of spending cuts in the House Republican budget, also criticizes their “disturbing gestures toward more military spending.” While she is right to call such gestures disturbing, on what basis is she able to make any statement on the propriety of public spending, if taxpayers themselves, the ones being fleeced to pay for all these wonderful programs, have no right? She continues:
The same laws that determine that money deposited into a person’s bank account belongs to that person also determine that taxes owed on that deposit do not.
In what sense are they “the same laws”? Because they come from the same infallible government? If that’s the case, couldn’t we also say, “The same laws that determine that murder is unlawful also determine that someone who sells marijuana twice should go to prison for more than twice as long as someone who hijacks an airplane?  I really don’t know what point she’s trying to make with this statement.
Public revenue is just that: a pool of public money to be used for the good of the public, not 300 million pools of private money each to be used to serve private individuals’ interests. What is in the interest of the public may involve expenditures that can’t be filed in a pay-in-cash-out formula, as the “taxpayer” terminology would suggest. Kids, for example, usually don’t pay taxes whatsoever, but spending on children is a necessary social function. Our roads and public utilities, too, are available to anyone inside our borders, not because they have been purchased, but because strong infrastructure provides for the common good.
In other words, we can’t do a perfect accounting of benefits received from tax expenditures, therefore “taxpayer” as a category doesn’t exist. Just because you can’t easily determine the distribution of the benefits, how does that imply that we can’t tell who the taxpayers are? She then mixes in a public goods “argument” (which is very difficult to call an argument, since calling something a “necessary social function” or “providing for the common good” does not readily imply that the state should be in full control of serving these functions, the will of the taxpayer be damned). She feels no need to justify the idea that the state shall be able to take whatever resources it wishes from you for whatever purposes it (or Mrs. Bruenig) deems fit, and imprison (or kill) you should you wish to say, “No, I’d rather not.”
But this view [that taxpayers should have some say in where their money goes] is precisely contrary to the democratic vision invoked in historical verbiage like “consent of the governed,” as it mistakes the source of a person’s rights. Our share in democracy arises not from what we can pay into it, but from the fact that we are persons and personhood confers certain obligations and dues.
Here we see Mrs. Bruenig’s Orwellian tendencies come to full fruition. In her mind, “consent of the governed” has nothing to do with what the governed consent to, and prefers not to tell us where a person’s rights come from. (Indeed, it’s not even clear what she considers to be the mistaken view of the source of a person’s rights.) Instead, she asserts the “personhood confers certain obligations and dues.” But what obligations and dues? And why does “personhood” confer them? This is left unanswered.
Mrs. Bruenig says that the slogan “power to the taxpayers!” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “power to the people!” (though a more accurate slogan for her own view may as well be “power to the state!”) and that US Constitution doesn’t begin “We the taxpayers” because it “would have been an odd construction for a nation born from a revolt against British taxation.” I imagine that if Mrs. Bruenig had been alive during the American secession from Great Britain, by what she has written, she would have been staunchly in favor of British taxation and against the American colonists, saying, “What? You think you have a grievance in being forced to pay for your own oppression? Shut up and pay your taxes!”
Finally, she writes “So let’s leave ‘taxpayer’ to the IRS and remove it from everyday speech. With every thoughtless repetition of the word, we’re carrying political water.” Does she believe that eliminating the word to describe the people that are robbed by the IRS carries no “political water”? This is truly one of the most incoherent things I have ever read.
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Is Josh Tolley a Totalitarian?

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A person in the Idaho liberty movement encouraged me to check out radio host Josh Tolley, saying that he ought to be promoted as a media personality who supports liberty. I subscribed to his YouTube channel and watched a video every so often (or rather listened to his videos, which are mostly excerpts from his radio show that rotate still images instead of actually being video). However, the one to which I listened today was rather disturbing. It is entitled “Bible Vs Constitution: Only One Supports Freedom (it’s not the one you think).” You can see it below:

Josh Tolley interviews Ted R. Weiland, the pastor of Christian Covenant Fellowship in Scottsbluff, Nebraska and who wrote a book called Bible Law vs. The United States Constitution: A Biblical Perspective. Mr. Weiland argues that the US Constitution is not inspired by Judeo-Christian values or Biblical law, but not for the reasons one might think. Rather, the reason that the US Constitution is anti-Christian is because it fails to establish a nation-state theocracy that enforces the Mosaic Law.

In the above-mentioned book, there is a chapter dedicated to each of the articles in the US Constitution, as well as one for each of the amendments. In this interview, Weiland mentions the arguments he makes against the First Amendment, particularly freedom of religion. If it weren’t for this anti-Christian provision, he says, we wouldn’t see the rise of Islam or polytheism in the United States. “But wouldn’t this mean forced conversions?” a caller asks. Forced conversions are not real conversions, Weiland replies, but we are talking about the government and not individuals and there is a big difference. So here we have the obvious indication that Weiland is a statist totalitarian: he believes something that would be absolutely morally reprehensible for an individual to do is a duty of the state. And yet Tolley does not bother to challenge this point.

Weiland also claims that under what he believes to be a Biblical government, there would be almost no need for prisons. Before you think,” Wow, this guy must really be progressive,” please note that the reason why is the immediate execution of those convicted of capital crimes and the payment of restitution to victims of non-capital crimes (who are summarily executed if they fail to pay restitution). When a caller asks about whether it is just for offenders who fail to pay restitution to be executed, Weiland replies that such a penalty would rarely, if ever, be enforced. Why, whoever would choose not to pay restitution must have a death wish, he claims. But if we are to accept that reasoning, we would have to say that people would rarely, if ever, do anything that incurred the death penalty, which is 1) not true in practice and 2) sounds like a basis for totalitarianism: just have the death penalty for all undesirable behaviors and they will go away!

Weiland also seems very confident in his Biblical interpretation skills, as he says most Christians are wrong in how they believe Jesus freed us from the requirements of the Mosaic Law. Not so, says he, we still need to stone adulterers and homosexuals. If we only followed God’s perfect law (strictly enforced by the state), we wouldn’t have any of the social problems we have today. Weiland shows the tendencies common among totalitarians: he believes in an earthly utopia brought about by state power and he is clearly willing to execute people to reach his objectives.

And even through all this, interviewing someone who is obviously not a libertarian and shows many of the signs of being a totalitarian, Josh Tolley expresses no disagreement with anything Weiland says. In fact, he wants to have him on his show again. What are we to think of Josh Tolley?

A Reminder that the State Requires Justification

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Though the reasons why aren’t mysterious, most people think the burden of proof is on those of us who believe that the state is illegitimate to demonstrate such a contention, rather than the other way around. When this issue is considered from a conventional perspective (states dominate the world, there aren’t any stateless societies in which one would want to live, I have been taught to love the state since birth, etc.) then it might seem logical that the burden of proof is on the other side. But when we try to get past our preconceived notions and accurately define what we’re talking about, we might find that the burden of proof ought to be on the other side. And really, this fits in with our conventional ideas of justice: the prosecution has to prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, not the other way around, before they deprive him of life, property, or liberty. My question is, why not take this a step further and apply it generally, not only in criminal prosecutions? The state deprives people of these three things on a regular basis: it kills people in Yemen with no declaration of war or any other form of due process, it forces people to serve in its jury system and register for selective service, and demands its pound of flesh every April 15th. And yet, if you are to be exempt from any one of these things, the burden of proof is placed on you to show why. What we have here, I submit, is a miscarriage of justice.

And let us not get bogged down in any nonsense that we tacitly agreed to this subjugation or that “we are the government.” There are few things so obviously untrue that public figures can say and still be treated seriously. Consider this excerpt from a recent piece by John Whitehead:

…the government insists it can carry out all manner of surveillance on us—listen in on our phone calls, read our emails and text messages, track our movements, photograph our license plates, even enter our biometric information into DNA databases—but those who dare to return the favor, even a little, by filming potential police misconduct, get roughed up by the police, arrested, charged with violating various and sundry crimes.

As George Carlin said, the state is made up of a club, and you ain’t in it.

It should be clear to everyone that what defines the state is its legitimacy in doing things that if done by anyone else would be seen as illegitimate. This presents a prima facie case that justification for such legal privilege is required. And yet, most of us go on as it wasn’t.

So the next time you should feel inclined to correct someone who claims the state holds everyone’s salvation for health care, safety, wealth, etc., gently ask them to justify the state (that is, violence in pursuit of their ends) in the first place. This unspoken premise largely goes unchallenged. Challenge it.

Senator James Risch on Drugs

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1015_steve-mcqueen-dead-celebs_485x340Perhaps the above title is ambiguous. Today’s post involves an email I received from Senator Risch regarding the Drug War. Personally, I find the War on Drugs to be an extremely bad policy. Drug criminalization, along with “Get Tough on Crime” measures such as mandatory minimum sentencing and three strikes laws, can explain over 90% of the explosive increase in US incarceration rates over the last four decades (please contact me if you are interested in getting a copy of the research paper I wrote on this).

This is very expensive, and I feel comfortable guaranteeing that people would be far more willing to end the Drug War if they knew how much it cost them, or at least reduce it by a dramatic extent. It costs around $20,000 per year to incarcerate a man (a figure provided to me by a criminal justice professor of corrections), and more for women (because there are fewer incarcerated women, economies of scale don’t apply as much). This is in addition to the money spent by the DEA and other law enforcement on actually catching drug users (rather than solving or preventing crimes with identifiable victims), as well as the court costs of prosecuting the huge numbers of drug offenders.

Also important to consider are the extreme costs to our civil liberties. Even though I have never used drugs, I consider myself a victim of the Drug War because of the fact that my car has twice been searched by the police using a drug sniffing dog. (It is my belief that the dog was not faulty, but that these officers lied about the dog alerting; there is no way I can prove that the dog didn’t alert, and there is no penalty to them for finding nothing. Thus, they are able to illegally search any vehicle at will.) Other than the War on Terror, nothing has eroded our civil liberties to the extent that the Drug War has.

And, ultimately, I don’t think it’s any business of the government what adults choose to put in their own bodies. As long as they are not harming anyone else, they should be left alone. There is a lot more one could say about the evils of the War on Drugs, but we’ll get into what James Risch has to say:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding drug legalization.  I really appreciate hearing from you.

I oppose the legalization of illicit drugs.  Legalization could encourage experimentation among those who currently do not use illegal substances and could lead to addiction and criminal activity.

It is ironic that Risch believes legalization could lead to criminal activity, as it is the nature of black markets that encourages criminal activity to surround drugs. We can see this in several ways:

  • It is because they are illegal that the prices of drugs are so high. Without these high prices, drug users would have less of an incentive to engage in criminal activity to support their habits.
  • Generally, businesses in competition with one another will tend to provide lower prices or higher quality of service. Due to the black market in drugs, cartels have a greater incentive to engage in violence to increase market share and less of an ability to resolve disputes peaceably (you can’t take a dealer to court for ripping you off).
  • The threat of imprisonment, all else equal, incentivizes violence against law enforcement where there would otherwise be none.

I generally support a reduction in government authority, but in the case of drug legalization it is important dangerous drugs are prohibited or regulated to ensure their safe use for the intended purposes for which they were developed as well as for general public safety.

Again, it is ironic that Risch would point to prohibition as a measure that would ensure safe use. It is because of alcohol prohibition that we have such unsavory terms such as “rot gut.” Again, if there is no tort system available, the costs of selling unsafe substances decreases because of lower accountability.

Drunken driving is a serious problem in this country.

His fellow senator from Idaho should know!

If more illicit drugs were legalized, the problem of impaired motorists would increase significantly—which can have devastating impacts far beyond just the individual who used the drug.

Of course, this is a bald assertion rather than a rigorously supported claim. But even if this is accurate, how could it possibly be the case that public safety would be decreased on net? It is highly doubtful that drug-related violence (how many have died in Mexico’s civil war?) would be outweighed by any increase in impaired driving.

The economic benefit that could be derived from additional drug-related taxes cannot justify the risks associated with legalizing dangerous substances.

The economic ignorance of James Risch is concerning. If he thinks the only economic benefit of drug legalization is more tax revenue, he is grossly misinformed. As mentioned above, a huge amount of money spent on law enforcement is spent in pursuit of the Drug War. Furthermore, it is quite a statist notion to think of increased tax revenue as being an economic benefit. Indeed, in many situations it would be far better if tax revenues were burned rather than allowed to distort the economy as they do (examples include farm subsidies, student loans, bank bailouts, the military-industrial complex, etc.).

Again, I really value your effort to get in touch with me to share your thoughts, as many Idahoans do.  Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future on this or other issues.
Very Truly Yours

James E. Risch
United States Senator

Website: Risch.senate.gov

My offices:

Boise – 208.342.7985
Coeur d’Alene – 208.667.6130
Idaho Falls – 208.523.5541
Lewiston – 208.743.0792
Pocatello – 208.236.6817
Twin Falls – 208.734.6780
Washington, D.C. – 202.224.2752

How is Gun Control like Keynesianism?

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packin keynesBack when I was in a class about criminal justice statistics, the professor asked the class whether theories or facts were more important. Most of the class responded that facts are more important because theories can be wrong; facts are facts.

“No,” said the professor, “if all you have is a bunch of facts and no theory, then you can’t explain social phenomena.” In criminology, there are a lot of statistics, such as the fact that the US has the world’s largest incarceration rate of about 762 incarcerated per 100,000 population. If you have no theory of why this is the case, then you don’t have much basis for explaining why an alternative policy would reduce the incarceration rate (unless, of course, it’s simply to let everyone out, but I think you get my point). So, theories are supposed to explain causal factors that lead to the facts and statistics we have.

Another important quality for a theory to have is that it be possible to disprove it. I believe that Keynesianism, as presented by proponents like Paul Krugman, fails in this regard, particularly fiscal stimulus. Despite the fact that the Japanese and US governments have spent trillions in stimulus packages, they both have economies that haven’t fully recovered and still have high unemployment numbers. Yet Krugman always seems able to rebuke any doubts cast on his theory by saying, “The stimulus wasn’t big enough,” or “Without the stimulus, things would have been worse.” Essentially, it’s not possible to disprove these statements empirically: we don’t have a time machine to go back and try a stimulus that Krugman would declare big enough, or to go back and take the stimulus away and see what happens. Thus, Krugman and his theory always have an escape plan.

Similarly, it seems that the theory behind advocacy of gun control is also non-disprovable. Think about the shootings that gun control advocates use as reasons why there should be more gun control measures: the Aurora theater, Sandy Hook Elementary, Tuscon, Columbine, etc. Almost all of them (with the exception of the shooting in Arizona), occurred in an area where no guns at all are allowed or concealed carry is prohibited. Indeed, had anyone shot back at the shooter in the Aurora theater, he or she would have been guilty of a felony. And yet largely the policy response to these incidents is not “Gun control totally failed to prevent these situations,” but that there isn’t enough gun control.

So my question is this: what exactly would it take, or what would have to happen, for a gun control advocate to say, “Hmm…I guess gun control doesn’t decrease violence.” It is my suspicion that anything short of full civilian disarmament (or maybe they’ll let you have a muzzle-loader or two) would not be enough; any shooting incident still occurring would be evidence that further gun control is needed.

Mike Crapo Engages in Newspeak

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Mike Crapo, post-DUI arrest

Mike Crapo, post-DUI arrest

Mike Crapo is a Republican Senator from Idaho. I sent him an email telling him to not support the Orwellian-named “Marketplace Fairness Act.” Here is the form letter sent back, along with my commentary.

Dear Tate:
 
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Marketplace Fairness Act.  I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.
The Marketplace Fairness Act, S. 743, was introduced by Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) on April 16, 2013.  In 2009, 18.6 percent of all retail and wholesale transactions were conducted over the Internet.  S. 743 would give individual states, rather than the federal government, the discretion to collect sales and use taxes on all purchases, regardless of whether they are made over the Internet or at a local retail store.  On April 22, 2013, the Senate voted 74-20 to proceed to debate and consideration of the bill.  As a strong proponent of states’ rights, I voted in favor of proceeding to consideration of S. 743.
Crapo doesn’t seem to understand the concept of states’ rights. “States’ rights” is used to denote states retaining powers not delegated to the federal government under the US Constitution, not the federal government making it so that state governments can further rob people. What he’s doing is using the popular buzzword (or phrase) of “states’ rights” to endorse something that is anti-freedom.

Read the rest of this entry

Sheriff Raney Uses Scare Tactics to Get Old Ladies to Give Him Money

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Recently my mother received a message from Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney on behalf of the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association. Here is what it says (along with my comments):

I am writing you, Ms. __________…..

….because I believe you are a law-abiding citizen who has worked hard for what you have. I also believe you are fed up with people who violently prey on innocent victims or turn to crime as an easy way to make a living with no responsibility to society.

I find this paragraph highly ironic. If there is any group in society more able to victimize people and steal a living with no responsibility to society, it is government police. Raney has already denied his responsibility to the people who elected him in favor of the unaccountable federal government. Police, unlike those of us who choose to peacefully convince others that our services are worth voluntarily paying for, live off of money taken by force. They cannot be fired; if one tries to do just that, they will be met with violence. Raney needs to look in the mirror, because the enemy he describes is himself. Read the rest of this entry

Logic Fail on NPR

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This video is from a couple of years ago, but I think the subject is still quite relevant today. It is a recording of NPR’s “On Point with Tom Ashbrook” where Neil Siegel (a Duke Law Professor) and Tom Woods (professor of U.S. history) are guests, discussing the subject of nullification in light of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

At first, I was struck by how poor the arguments were by callers. Then, I noticed how bad the arguments by Professor Siegel were. And finally, I began wondering if they were going to let Tom Woods speak. It was quite frustrating to listen to, and what better place to vent my frustration than the Internet?

@01:22 Neil Siegel expresses that he thinks there are legitimate discussions about limits to federal power but doesn’t like the fact that such discussions often involve talking about nullification or secession. This seems strange to me for a couple of reasons: 1) he says the individual mandate is constitutional because of Congress’ taxing power, and agrees with the decision of the Raich case (where SCOTUS ruled that Congress, under the Interstate Commerce clause, has the power to regulate marijuana that has neither been sold nor crossed state lines) which to me implies he believes that there are no limits to federal power; 2) he doesn’t address how limits to federal power will be enforced. He repeatedly says that nullification is not mentioned in the Constitution and is therefore not legitimate, yet does not acknowledge the fact that neither is judicial review by the US Supreme Court. Read the rest of this entry

Senator James Risch Won’t Stop Obama From Killing Americans and Children

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Some will say that writing letters to senators and congressmen is a waste of time. As far as stopping state violence goes, I can’t say I have any evidence to the contrary. And yet, for some reason, I keep doing it. A big reason is that it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort; the time and cost of writing an email are relatively low (especially when using a service like DownsizeDC.org). Another reason is that I want them to know that I am aware of what they’re doing (and not doing). Their iniquities are not a secret. Thirdly, I suppose if enough people do it they might start to change their behavior. I don’t really depend on this as a primary method for change, but I don’t want to leave any stone unturned. And unlike voting, which many will argue is an aggressive act or endorsement of the regime, letter writing has no such stigma.

Within the past few days, I have written a bit about the drone war and how upsetting it is to me. If you have the time, I would highly encourage skimming through some of the sections of the Living Under Drones paper, which states the following:

  • Those who order the drone strikes often don’t know who they are killing. The government reports very few civilian casualties partially because they count any male of military age as a “combatant” unless proven otherwise.
  • The US government uses a “double-striking” tactic, where they will bomb one spot and bomb that same spot again later. This has led to the deaths of rescue workers trying to save people who were bombed in the first attack.
  • The number of high-level targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low—estimated at just 2%.
  • Many families have pulled their children out of school, fearing for their safety. As well, Pakistanis are afraid to attend funerals because they have been targeted by drone strikes in the past. Able to hear the drones overhead, they live in a constant state of fear. Read the rest of this entry

What a Bible Says About Abraham Lincoln

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When I graduated from high school my church gave me the “College Devotional Bible,” which is a TNIV translation with  devotionals spread throughout, including short thoughts written by people in college. The added content doesn’t really seem to have anything that has to do with college specifically; I think it could be renamed and no one would be the wiser.

Anyway, they have a devotional regarding Jeremiah 24, where those in exile from Judah and in Babylon were compared to two baskets of figs. One basket is good and one is bad. Likewise, some of the exiles were good, some were bad. And so the devotional says that “We are not to conclude that those who suffer do so simply because God is unhappy with them. Here we see God accomplish with one act of judgment at least two purposes: Some are drawn to him by prayer, while others receive their just due.”

Interestingly enough, the writers compare this to the story of Abraham Lincoln and the American War Between the States. First of all, they seem to have an elementary school understanding of the situation, as detailed by their first paragraph:

Despite his popularity in American history, Abraham Lincoln did not win the presidency by a national landslide. When he was first elected in 1860, his name did not even appear on the ballots of nine Southern state. Despite this lack of political support, the electoral votes he secured in the North were enough to give him the presidency.

I suppose one may be confused, given what he or she is told in public school, when confronted with the fact that Lincoln wasn’t an American icon in his day. What? Not everyone loved him? And yet it’s presented here as if Lincoln’s presidency is some underdog story, rather than an absolutely broken electoral system where nearly half the country gets a president they don’t want.

Even as he took office, the Civil War loomed as an inevitable reality, and the Southern states were planning their secession. As was predicted, a bitter war erupted, a conflict that took the lives of almost one million people.

If we live in a fantasy land where war-making isn’t a conscious decision made by those in control of governments, then I suppose that war was inevitable. But that is not reality (indeed, it seems to deny the idea that individuals have a free will, without which Christianity would make little sense). Lincoln made the conscious decision to prevent the seceding states from peacefully leaving the Union. These deaths would not have happened but for his actions.

Before the war was over, Lincoln had won his presidential reelection. With his second term secured, military victory seemed inevitable, and slavery was finally abolished. As he gave his second inaugural address, Lincoln acknowledged that God providentially uses one terrible event and applies it to each person individually according to their need. To some, it is bitter punishment. To others, it is the means he uses to draw people back to himself.

It is interesting to note that in the book of Jeremiah, God uses the Babylonians to punish the people of Judah for their wickedness. However, it also goes on to state that the Babylonians were punished in turn for their aggression against the people of Judah. It wasn’t as if the Babylonians were on some righteous mission from God; he simply used what they were  inclined to do anyway to punish Judah. In the same turn, it shouldn’t be that we automatically assume the Union was acting justly.

It was during that speech that Lincoln called people back to the God who directs the paths of history: “Fondly do we hope – fervently do we pray – that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God will that it continue…so still it must be said the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”

I’m not sure what to make of this. Lincoln could have chosen to end the war at the time he gave this speech. The Confederate States weren’t trying to take over the Union, the Union was trying to take over the Confederates. Stated otherwise, as the aggressor, Lincoln could have ended it. But since his goal was to break the South into submission, the war went on. It almost seems blasphemous that he would attribute his acts to God.

Lincoln’s response to war was to turn to God, seeing it as the loving rebuke of a just and sovereign God rather than simply as a punishment without purpose. One month later he became the first president to be assassinated. His words are a lens through which to understand his death. God’s promise remains: “They will be my people, and I will be their God.” 

The first sentence of this paragraph is absolutely ridiculous. But, as alluded to above, I wasn’t taught in school how Lincoln jailed those who would criticize his war, suspend habeas corpus, and institute an income tax (which alone would seem to make the argument that he was fighting against slavery lose its legitimacy). Perhaps without the knowledge of his tyranny and having the inculcated idea that this war was just (an idea that should be defeated through simple logic), maybe one could come to their conclusion. But it’s still hard to stomach.

Needless to say, I am very disappointed with this devotional (though I can’t put myself above my own criticism here; I know that I read through all of these devotionals before and didn’t give this one much thought. It was during my pre-Enlightenment). It somewhat reflects my partial disillusionment with the American church at large in that the members of it mostly seem unaware or uninterested in the murderous actions of their government abroad and domestically. Often, when I bring this point up, I am pointed towards Romans 13 (which Gerard Casey writes masterfully about here) and told that we are to obey the State. And yet, we see that it is often the same church people who are ardently opposed to abortion and believe that the government’s funding and approval of it as illegitimate. Political speech seems acceptable on this subject and on few others. Why the double-speak?