Dylann Roof: The Startling Truth About His Gun

thThe actions of the disturbed Dylann Roof on June 17th set off a chain reaction of sorts, the components of which are driven by political agendas. American history is being washed of anything that might be considered offensive, especially if it has to do with the southern states and their failed attempt to exercise what was then recognized as a constitutional right to secede from the Union.

To those who support such measures and more, it all makes perfect sense. Dylann Roof was a typical southern racist who wore his hatred–and his Confederate Battle Flag–on his sleeve, or his jacket, or his hat. He gained access to a weapon because of America’s inordinate love of guns. If we had reasonable laws it would never have happened.

Simple, except for one thing that came to light last Friday.

We now know Roof secured his .45-caliber pistol because of procedural errors committed at the FBI. On April 11th this dangerous young man walked into a shop to make a gun purchase. He completed the necessary form for a background check and this was referred to the feds. Mistakes were made. Dictates of the law were not properly fulfilled. And when the seller of the weapon had allowed the legal time limit to pass, he completed the sale of the firearm to Roof.  All of this has been confirmed by FBI director James Comey who says on behalf of the entire agency: “We are sick that this has happened. We wish we could turn back time.”

As constitutionalists like me have argued for a long time, we don’t need more laws about guns. We don’t need to limit the access of law-abiding citizens to the tools of self-defense in this world that seems to be constantly on the brink of collapse. We need to ensure that existing laws are respected and wisely acted upon. In this case it didn’t happen. Nine innocent souls in Charleston paid the price for this oversight. All over the country there are others paying a lesser but still emotional price as the truth of our national past is revised and painted in the emotional terminology that always serves as a tool for radical community organizing.

For those who worship at the altar of Federal Government, the horrendous act of Dylann Roof has become an opportunity to finally nail the lid on the coffin of States’ Rights. The reversal of American history is nearly complete. Those who would speak up to correct this mistake are finally being silenced. Their flags are being lowered. They are being ridiculed as nothing more than symbols of racism. Some even propose that the display or sale of them on private property should be forbidden. Even the dead are being driven from their tombs.

In New Orleans and in other locales, wrongly-informed citizens have arisen to speak against the traitorous southerners who rebelled against their nation. They are described as being unworthy of respect. They had no reason for their acts except the pure motive of racial hatred. Their rebellion was against the laws of nation and humanity. The memory of their actions must be obliterated from our national memory. Confederate soldiers may be buried at national parks commemorating our past, but the flags under which they died may soon no longer fly above their remains.

The problem with all of this is that so much of it is revisionist claptrap. The founders of the United States of America did not establish a national government. They explicitly refused to do so. Instead, they established a federated form of government. The nation to which the first Americans owed their allegiance was not the federal government but the particular state where each resided. Virginians owed primary allegiance to Virginia and Marylanders to Maryland.

So insistent were the founders on this point that they decreed in the Constitution that all rights, powers, and privileges not explicitly granted to the federal government remained the preserve of the states and the people who reside there.

Have you heard Barack Obama and others deride the Constitution because of the manner in which it limits federal action? That’s intentional. The founders did it that way for a reason. They knew that despots who have agendas can always raise an army, or send in the police, or agitate a crowd so that the rights of others are disposed of. This realization on the part of our founders caused them to seriously limit the powers of the federal government.

It was understood from the beginning that the Union was a voluntary association. Secession from that voluntary association was often debated and threatened. The states of the southern rebellion were not the first to threaten secession. They were simply the first to follow through with their threat. Even the textbooks at West Point taught that secession was a right belonging to the states.

Some say that the War of 1861-65 was not a rebellion. I heartily disagree. It was a rebellion. It was a rebellion against the growing power of the central state, a power that was not constitutional. The southern states rebelled, but they were not traitors. They were patriots demanding recognition of the original creed of constitutional government.

We they wrong to have slaves? Yes, of course. Let us all agree that slavery is a tremendous evil. But that particular problem was not only in the south. It was a problem that existed prior to the establishment of the United States and prior to the War of Southern Rebellion. Slavery in the US could have been ended peacefully as it was in other nations. Many southern leaders knew that the days of slavery were limited. That is why the Constitution of the Confederate States of America outlawed the importation of further slaves from outside its territory (in other words, there were to be no more slave ships).

th (1)Here’s a lesson from history. Take note of the Seal of the Confederate government. The man on the horse is not Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, or any other Confederate leader. It’s George Washington, first president of the United States of America. That should tell you something.

The director of the FBI wishes he could turn back time. So do I. The deaths of nine innocent people are on the consciences of everyone at his agency. But there won’t be much backlash. Far too many in the country have already found the scapegoat for this tragedy.

Politics Gets in the Way

10009830_10206373929203035_7507572490564070816_nThis blog post is in memory of the nine people who died in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last week. While we fume and fuss about flags and statues, and while we debate about statues and plaques, the families of these innocent people are in the throes of mourning.

Allow me to honor the dead by listing their names. They were our fellow citizens, fellow human beings, Christians gathered in their own house of worship to study scripture. They were praying. They were the kind of people we need more of in this country, and their killer snuffed out their lights in an instant. They were the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson, Daniel Simmons, Ethel Lance, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Cynthia Hurd, and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.

I wish we could grieve for them without all the debate and argumentation. I wish there were some self-imposed moratorium on the political wrangling so that the extinguishing of their lives could fully be recognized as the evil that it is. These, our fellow citizens, were worth more than any flag on any poll, and the immediate turn from their deaths to debate about the past and the symbols of the past seems disrespectful to me. It’s disrespectful to them and to their memories. As they lie among the dead, I feel unclean and lousy using this time to engage in political debate.

Yet this is where we find ourselves. I regret it because I believe it detracts from the honor we should give to the dead. This debate over symbols will divide us just when we should be united in grief and in a commitment to teach our children why racism and violence are wrong. What political pressures are being exerted? What social agendas are at work? What parts of history are being overlooked? Who is being demonized and painted as an outcast? Who will die next?

Go back to the list. Look at their names. Read them aloud and remember that each was a person with plans, dreams, and hopes. Read those names again. Honor the dead. Debate the politics of the day if you must, but remember what is most important.

“What does the Lord require? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

The Liberty Professor Endorses Chris McDaniel for US Senate

McDanielPerhaps there is nothing more wonderful, more perplexing, or more troublesome than the challenge of discovering where we belong in life. As a Christian and theologian, I believe that life is God’s greatest gift to each of us. It is a gift that must be unwrapped daily, little by little. It can forever surprise and delight us.

The poet e. e. cummings was a unique person. To be oneself, he argued, is the toughest challenge of all. “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

Yet discovering yourself is the first challenge.

I have come to realize that I am simply not called to the political arena. God has opened new possibilities for the fulfillment of my life’s genuine vocation. We academic types are used to argumentation. In some ways we even thrive on it. Others are not used to it and find it not only baffling, but confrontational as well. I do not wish my political commitments to be a barrier to those to whom I may be called to minister.

My political commitments have certainly not changed. But I will no longer be a public spokesman for those commitments. This will be the final post for The Liberty Professor.

These are unsettling times for constitutionalists. We are under fire from both sides of the political aisle. We are labelled with the cruelest of names and accused of the most vile of attitudes–for no other reason than the fact that we have asked important questions. Has government become too unwieldy? Is it too powerful? Are both major parties responsible for growing the size and scope of government for the sake of their respective agendas?

I believe the proper response to each of these questions is assuredly “yes.”

As we approach the 2014 midterm elections, Mississippi has an opportunity to make history. In my opinion, Sen. Thad Cochran has not done enough to support the Constitution. He is a big-government Republican whose time in DC should come to an end. With this post I thank him publicly for his service and I humbly ask him to return home as a private citizen.

In addition, I happily and vigorously endorse Chris McDaniel, whom I believe will bring a new voice to Washington politics on behalf of the good people of Mississippi. I have met Chris. I have heard him speak. I believe he is a genuine constitutionalist.

It goes without saying that I don’t always agree with Chris McDaniel. No one with a brain should agree with any politician all the time. There are things I would say differently than McDaniel. There are ways I would emphasize the message differently. But one thing is absolutely certain to me: Chris McDaniel is a person of profound integrity and soul-searching honesty.

I believe Chris McDaniel will join political forces with other elected officials in DC who are “fighting the good fight” to bring back to the national debate a full appreciation of the power of limited government as laid out in our Constitution. For that reason I support him without reservation.

Humbly, I ask you to give Chris your consideration. Think of the future and the burden being placed upon your children and your grandchildren. Think of the unbridled power and expense being accumulated in the halls of the federal government. Then take note of the growing clamor of false accusations and mud being slung toward McDaniel and his campaign. It speaks louder than words. It tells you that some powerful people are very afraid of the McDaniel campaign message.

Ideas are dangerous. McDaniel has a good idea: let’s be faithful to the Constitution.

Please mark your calendar. The Republican primary is set for June 3rd. I urge you to cast your vote for Chris McDaniel, and to vote for him a second time in the general election on November 4th. I have already contacted my neighbors and asked them to consider Chris. I hope you will do likewise.

It is a great honor to offer this endorsement, and it serves as a fitting way to bring this blog to a close.  May God bless America, and may God preserve the Constitution.

Obama’s Audacity: Using the Shutdown to Punish Some, Reward Others

immigration_rally_national_mall_APBarack Obama is nothing if not audacious. The title of his now-famous book seems to confirm it–The Audacity of Hope. His style of political campaigning confirms it, and although he did his best to hide the most extreme portions of his agenda, hints of it emerged during his original presidential campaign. He and Michelle want to leave a vastly different America in their wake when they leave the White House. “We’re going to have to move into a new place as a nation,” Michelle Obama promised. “We’re going to have to change our history, our traditions.”

When your agenda is that audacious, you have to destroy anyone who gets in the way. What better way is there for an community organizer to do that than to agitate all those who agree with him so that his political opponents are demonized? Let’s look at how community organizers do their work. Three methods are particularly effective: they inform their constituents of the government assistance to which they are entitled, they get them fired up and energetic about securing those entitlements while clamoring for more, and then they scapegoat any politician or political group that stands in their way.

This is exactly what Barack Obama and the Democrat party are doing at this moment with the government shutdown. Of course, “shutdown” is too strong a word. About 17% of the government has been turned off, and in some cases even furloughed workers are having to put in extra time to put up signs and ticket those brave citizens who dare trespass upon federal lands during a shutdown. It’s a selective shutdown.

The Obama administration is engaged in a calculated effort to punish some while rewarding others. As long as the political payoff is estimated to help the Democrat cause, it doesn’t matter who is harmed or what victims are made to suffer. Exemptions are gladly given, however, to those groups that support the cause.

Families of our military who have died in war since the shutdown began have been denied the death and burial benefits promised them. Chaplains have been threated with punitive action if they offer religious services to their congregations. Cancer trials for children have been halted. Parks, turnarounds, and scenic vistas–some of them nothing more than a patch of grass or concrete–have unnecessarily been blocked in order to make a point. In one case, a jogger was ticketed for being on federal land while it was declared to be closed. Private businesses that receive no federal funds are forced to close needlessly, simply because they are on federally-controlled land.

Is the average citizen so dangerous that he or she cannot even be present on federal property without supervision? Supposedly, the federal government maintains these lands on our behalf. Then why do we cower in fear when we imagine taking a stroll on “our” property?

Disgusted by the charade, a park ranger in DC explained the end game: “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can.”

Yet it is not so for all. Just two days ago a massive immigration rally was held on the National Mall in Washington, DC. That mall is officially closed due to the shutdown. The reason is simple enough. The rally was sponsored by the AFL-CIO and SEIU, two important unions serving as intimate allies to the Obama agenda.

To put it bluntly, while blaming the Republicans for the shutdown, the Democrats are refusing to budge on the issue of funding Obamacare. As long as they believe they have the upper hand they will not blink. They will cause inconvenience and even suffering–perhaps to the point of death from cancer–just to stand their ideological ground.

Harry Reid has exposed this nasty agenda on at least two occasions. He recently refused to consider a continuing resolution to fund NIH cancer trials for kids, as covered in my blog post from earlier this week. In addition, when publicly harassed by the mayor of Washington, DC for refusing to vote for funds needed by that city, Reid was inadvertently caught by cameras as telling him to quiet down. “I’m on your side,” he warned Mayor Vincent Gray, “don’t screw it up.”

As a political gamble this strategy may work. But there are hints that it may backfire. Obama’s approval rating is down to 37%, the lowest yet of his presidency. His pals in the media won’t talk much about it–and when they do, they’ll hide it someplace innocuous. A recent article from the Associated Press was headed by the announcement that the GOP is getting the blame for the shutdown, while hiding Obama’s low approval rating in the body of the article. There’s not much objectivity to be found there, as you can see. For an interesting Canadian analysis, click HERE.

This is the same government that kills American citizens overseas without benefit of arrest and trial. It is the same government that illegally passes personal data from IRS to White House. It’s the same government that places a harmful tax on medical equipment, refuses to enforce immigration law, and told us that Obamacare penalties aren’t a tax–until it argued before the Supreme Court and said that they are a tax. This audacious government will say almost anything, blame almost anyone, and give breaks and benefits to its friends and cronies. While blaming capitalism for our nation’s economic woes it engages in the worst form of crony capitalism and favoritism. We who recognize it are labeled as angry extremists.

It’s time to be angry. It’s past time. Audacity is a two-way street.

The Truth About Truth

Time Saving Truth From Falsehood and Envy, by Francois Lemoyne (1737)

Time Saving Truth From Falsehood and Envy, by Francois Lemoyne (1737); in retrospect, perhaps it’s a bit of political irony that the day after completing this piece, the artist tragically committed suicide

Last night, while channel surfing, I happened upon a documentary about the flooding of Venice, Italy. According to one city official interviewed on the program, about 100 times a year the tide rises higher than normal and floods the city. The waters of Venice are beautiful when they stay in their canals, but troublesome when they visit themselves upon homes, businesses, and historic cathedrals. Never mind that the Venetians have had problems with their lagoon for centuries or that their city rests atop wood pilings. The producers of this video claimed to know the cause and they proclaimed it passionately. Venice is undoubtedly flooding, they said, because of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming. It’s worse than that, however. In their own words, “the world is sinking.”

I sympathize with the good people of Venice. But they’ll find an answer to their water problems as they always have. Their history is loaded with past examples of flooding (and taxation to pay for its remedy). In great part this is because its underwater foundation slips a bit lower every year. Even those who believe in human-caused global warming have to admit that “the greatest threat to the city” for most of its history has been “earth subsidence.” In other words, its wooden foundation is slipping deeper and deeper into the mud below.

As a popular science-fiction program once reminded us with the start of every episode, “the truth is out there.” Yes, it certainly is. But to get to it there are a few things you need to understand about the truth. In other words, there is some truth about truth that you need to know–truly!

First, let’s realize that we humans are “wired” to find explanations for things. That, along with our advanced brains, has given us a biological advantage over the other species on the planet. They may be bigger and stronger, but we’re smarter. We’re driven to find answers.

Before you become too proud of your genetic superiority, remember a second important point. We humans are also, in a sense, sociological herd animals. We move in psychological “packs.” Rather than doing the hard work of thinking for ourselves, we often accept what others believe. This can happen for any number of reasons (affection, political preference, religious belief, admiration, physical attraction, etc.). I confess to having a strong distaste for this tendency. As a child, when I did stupid things, my father wisely challenged me. His challenges stuck with me. When I see a parade of others following a “Pied Piper” of any sort, I shy away to watch … and to learn.

A third truth about truth that we must recognize is that money changes everything. Even truth–or what is presented as truth. There are plenty of people who would sell their souls for money. There are even more who would manipulate data for money or accept funding with “strings” attached. When billions and billions in government funding is involved, there simply is no way to know how deeply the influence and corruption have drilled themselves into a search for truth. Big money can come from big government or big corporations. Sometimes both.

Finally, let’s remind ourselves that there is no such thing as pure objectivity. Perhaps Leonard Nemoy’s Mister Spock came close, but even he was half human. We humans are motivated by all sorts of things, and not all of them are bad. Please don’t interpret my words to suggest that I’m a pessimist or misanthrope (a people hater). I’m not. But I am a realist. Call it sin, or imperfection, or simply human reality–but let’s face it. We humans aren’t perfect. Sometimes we respond to our base instinct for self-preservation. Sometimes we’re selfish or greedy. Other times we act with real generosity. Quite often we are a mix of “good” and “bad” at the same time. (As an aside, it strikes me as odd that when government starts doling out money to those “in need,” our human failings are no longer suitable for discussion.)

Lack of objectivity isn’t a bad thing. It’s a very human thing. The problem isn’t that objectivity is lacking. The problem is that we’re not honest about its absence. Wouldn’t it be nice if people claimed their biases so that when they speak of their greatest beliefs and philosophical commitments we can understand where they’re coming from?

Imagine a Fox News broadcast beginning like this:  “Good evening. We here at Fox believe that Barack Obama is the devil. Now on with the news.” Or imagine that CNN begins its nightly programs in this way: “In the interest of honesty, the broadcasters of CNN wish to remind you that we believe that conservatives, Republicans, and Tea-Party people are selfish bastards who want to screw Mexican immigrants and the poor. Here are this evening’s highlights.”

I always find such honesty to be quite refreshing, actually. It’s one of the reasons I named this blog “The Liberty Professor.” If you’re looking for absolute objectivity, you won’t find it here. The truth is that you won’t find it anywhere. But I’m honest about that. Get it?

With all of these caveats in mind, here are a few of the so-called “truths” that I have rejected. I speak only for myself, but I do so after reasoned reflection and research. Each of the issues described is what Patricia King and Karen Kitchener refer to as an “ill-defined problem.” If you’re a teacher or have a philosophical bent, you might enjoy their book entitled Developing Reflective Judgment. In it they argue that an ill-defined problem has more than one possible outcome (as opposed to a well-defined problem with an easy solution).

Let there be fanfare and the blast of trumpet … here are some “truths” that I robustly reject!

1. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) was intended by its creators to lower healthcare costs and “fix” what’s wrong with America’s healthcare system. Nope. Not even close. It was designed to move us toward a single-payer healthcare system in which the federal government is financier and supervisor. Promises were made about how much it would cost and how much freedom would be granted to those who already have health insurance. Guesses, estimates, and even lies were offered to us for our mental consumption. The most recent estimate I heard is that it will cost three times as much as promised in the first ten years. In addition, its thousands and thousands of pages of regulations are going to cause premiums to go up for nearly everybody, especially young men. Remember the promise of Barack Obama about your own health insurance? “If you like it, you can keep it,” he insisted. Maybe. If you can afford it. Most of us won’t be able to. We–along with our employers–will be forced to drop private coverage to move into the single-payer (federal) system. The entire law was designed with this in mind. As they say, “out with the old and in with the new.” Don’t forget the words of Barack Obama to the Illinois AFL-CIO in June of 2003: “I happen to be a proponent of the single-payer, universal healthcare program.”

2. Federal gun-control initiatives are being designed to reduce crime and protect our children from violent criminals. Even I have to say that this sounds nice. It’s a feel-good proposal if ever there was one. But that’s not the primary factor for the unconstitutional gun grab taking place before our very eyes. (It has hit some temporary road blocks, but as with Obamacare, its proponents won’t stop until they get what they want.) The real goal is to have a nation in which guns are in the hands only of government officials and to outlaw them for everyone else. When that happens the government will have little to fear from dissenters, and only outlaws will be armed. Everyone with a weapon, whether it’s used in a crime or not, will be subject to arrest and punishment. In addition to maneuvers in Washington, international pressure is being put upon Mr. Obama to sign the UN Arms Trade Treaty. That treaty, like all treaties, will require Senate approval. We can look for one heck of a mud slide when that battle comes. Obama is widely expected to sign the treaty since it moves us one more step toward his goal, and since it provides cover for the confiscation of many types of civilian-owned weapons as well as a UN-supervised, international gun registry. That’s right. According to the president of Iowa Gun Owners, if allowed to keep my .38-caliber pistol I’ll have my name on a UN list as well as a US list.

3. IRS officials did nothing wrong when they targeted conservative groups,Tea-Party organizations, and groups favoring Israel for special scrutiny. Oh, really? That must be why IRS division director Lois Lerner invoked her Fifth-Amendment right against self-incrimination when called to answer questions before Congress. That’s a constitutional perversion of the highest order. Here’s why: She is a government employee called before the people to answer for her actions. The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution was enacted to protect the people from the government, not the other way around. She and her minions at the IRS have the power to pry, to search, to seize, to confiscate, and to order the arrest and imprisonment of citizens. They carry guns. When we, the people, call her to an accounting she suddenly wants to invoke her constitutional rights. She needs to be held in contempt of Congress and the investigation into the matter must continue. Without a doubt, the trail will end in the Oval Office. White House visitors’ logs already demonstrate this.

4. Global warming is a rising disaster caused by human industrial and economic activity. Look, I reject this proposition. But I don’t reject the idea that we should be responsible stewards of our environment. Another of Dad’s witty and wise sayings recognizable to many fellow Southerners is that one should never put fecal material on the handle of the water pump! But the global-warming hype isn’t being controlled by reasonable people who care for the environment. It’s being directed from the upper echelon of government for the sake of raking in more tax money, penalties, and fees to fund bigger government. The “science” behind human-generated global warming is tainted with government money. As some very bright but mistaken academics have argued, the scientific consensus is that human-caused global warming threatens the planet (not just Venice). They insist we need severe limits on economic activity, travel, and energy production; we need more taxes and government-controlled carbon credits. My own research brings me to the conviction that global warming is entirely natural and that the recent warming trend is tapering off. We are probably entering a new period of global cooling. It wouldn’t be the first time, as historians recognize from recent history. Perhaps our children and grandchildren will be subjected to overblown predictions of a new Ice Age!

5. The solution to our economic problems and social injustices is to be found in more government activism. So said Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and a veritable host of central planners. But when central planning fails it fails big. Guns are needed to keep people in line. Perhaps you’re seeing a pattern? American constitutionalists do not reject all centralized government activity. The Constitution makes provision for the activities of the federal government. But once it’s engaged, the power at the top tends to be centripetal. In other words, it exerts a pull toward itself. Power exercised at the top tends to increase and multiply toward the top, or toward the center of power. The founders of the United States recognized this fact. They had overwhelming historical precedent for it. That’s precisely why power was invested primarily in citizens organized by states, not in the federal government. It’s also why they chose a federated system and not a national government (there is a difference). Only a small number of powers were granted to the federal government. Was it a perfect system? No. It didn’t recognize the rights of slaves, for instance. But its inspiration (that everyone is “created equal” in rights, not abilities) would eventually blossom to repair this immorality as well as other defects.

6. Fatty foods are making us fat and high blood cholesterol is putting us at risk for heart attack. So says an official US government blog and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC). There is even a new government push to monitor the cholesterol of children and to put them on statin drugs if necessary. Research is moving us rapidly away from this thesis. Fat isn’t making us fat. Carbohydrates and sugar are making us fat. They increase inflammation and cause heart disease. Among the scientists and medical doctors now arguing for a new approach to the matter can be counted Dr. Jonny Bowden and Dr. Stephen Sinatra. Check out their excellent and well-researched book, The Great Cholesterol Myth. According to them, the “four horsemen” of the cardiac apocalypse are inflammation, oxidation, sugar, and stress. Dangerous statin drugs, they insist, should be used only by those who already have heart disease. They show strong evidence that statins are useful only because of their anti-inflammatory properties and that lowering cholesterol isn’t the proper approach for stopping heart disease. In their opinion statins should never be given to children. To get the updated research full disseminated, the tie between big pharmaceutical companies and big government must be broken. And doctors who treat patients should never be paid advocates for particular companies or brands. The ties between these entities amount to a contemporary medical mercantilism or corporatocracy–similar to the military-industrial complex that guides so much of our foreign policy.

7. If you love someone you’ll never hurt their feelings. Well, you might not hurt their feelings intentionally–but that’s a whole different matter. Love isn’t a feeling. As Jesuit theologian William O’Malley has pointed out, love is a conscious and active commitment to the well-being of someone. I bring up this point because too many people these days, when arguing politics, seem to be guided less by intellectual consideration and more by emotion. They decide what’s right based upon how their proposals make them feel. The Christian virtue of love is shared by many religions. One doesn’t have to foist one’s Christianity on others to love them, but love nonetheless is a terrific guide for making political decisions. Too often our political debate is framed as if it’s a choice between the people who care for others (the “liberals”) and those who don’t (the “conservatives”). That’s just downright stupid. There are people on both sides of that divide who genuinely care to increase the well-being of others. My complaint is that we can’t decide what’s best based upon how it makes us feel. We need to think and think hard.

So there they are. Seven “truths” that I reject because I don’t think they are true at all. There are others, such as immigration reform (the real reason for which is to secure votes). Each of these is an ill-defined problem with adherents who passionately argue that I’m wrong. So be it. As Martin Luther is reputed to have said, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” But my stance isn’t based upon any attempt to be hard-headed or belligerent. It’s based upon my appropriation of the best information I can find. Don’t take my word on any of it. Do your own research. If I found the information, you can find it as well. I make my own choices and live with the consequences. You must do likewise. Gosh, we don’t hear that too often, do we?

In the final analysis, remember one thing, please. Only in a free society can divergence exist when it comes to values, beliefs, and ideologies. Wherever you stand on the issues, I beg you to be consistent and to be honest with yourself. Don’t give a pass to politicians or government bureaucrats just because they share your preferred political agenda–especially not if they have the privilege of carrying government-issued sidearms.

Avoid schadenfreude. That German word describes the human tendency to take pleasure in the suffering of someone else. If it pleased you to see certain groups targeted by the IRS, remember that it may one day be a group you admire. It could even be you. Political winds blow where they will.

Tyranny hurts us all. Even when it’s applied to our political adversaries.

Wounding the Cause of Liberty

untitledIt’s being reported that President Obama boarded Marine One (the presidential helicopter) Friday morning, that he was saluted by a member of the United States Marine Corps, and that he failed to return the salute. It is also reported that the president climbed out of the helicopter a moment later to shake hands with the marine and to engage in a brief conversation.

Within moments (thanks to Twitter and members of the White House press pool), the event was reported online. It’s especially popular among the political adversaries of the president as well as those who just don’t like him.

On Thursday of last week the Turkish prime minister visited the White House.  When it began to rain, Obama asked nearby marines to help out by holding umbrellas over his head and that of the visiting dignitary. As with today’s episode, it was quickly reported as a sign that Barack Obama is not respectful to the military or that he expects special treatment. This is being done despite the fact that previous presidents have been accorded the same privilege.

In the long run, and in view of the genuine threats to our constitutionally-guaranteed rights, these incidents mean absolutely nothing. When liberty-minded citizens harp on such minor realities (“non-issues”) we actually do terrible damage to the political cause for which we stand. We look silly. We come off as hyper-critical, ridiculous, even childish–and the mainstream press is given another full quiver of arrows to aim at the genuine concerns of constitutionalists.  In other words, the silliness of trivial issues is pasted right on top of the critical issues for which we’re arguing. In the end, we shoot ourselves in the foot by pursuing the non-issues of presidential salutes and umbrellas. We are written off as kooks who have no respectable agenda rather than patriotic Americans who want the Constitution to be preserved for the benefit of all.

untitledIf you want to know exactly what I think about the politics of Barack Obama, you don’t have far to go. This blog is laden with very specific charges, along with explanations in profound detail. I believe I have legitimate concerns and I post those concerns in order to help others see the dangers that are inherent in the policies of our current government. The political vision and the economic goals of Barack Obama have no stronger opponent than me. Count me among the loyal opposition–loyal to the Constitution and opposed to every threat being levied against that sacred document.

But please don’t expect me to chime in and complain every time an umbrella is held for Obama, a salute is overlooked, or a presidential comment is misunderstood. My fellow constitutionalists, our energy and influence are better invested by dedicating ourselves to the challenge of reigning in excessive government. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

We’re in troublesome waters. The ship of freedom is in danger of sinking. We have no time to argue over the location of deck chairs or the music being played as the vessel goes down.

Sex, Love, and Liberty

THE KISS, by Francesco Hayez, 1859, oil on canvas (located in the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan)

The Kiss, by Francesco Hayez, 1859, oil painting on canvas (located in the Pinacoteca di Brera, the primary public gallery of Milan, Italy)

As I have often remarked to my students, the most fascinating topics of human existence are sex, religion, and politics (not necessarily in that order). Each is imbued with layers of meaning. Each can be a source of profound liberation and joy, but each can also be used by manipulative individuals for unhealthy control over others. From my perspective as a Christian, the moral quality of all three is enhanced by the presence of genuine love, accurately defined by Jesuit theologian William O’Malley as a conscious and active commitment to another person’s well-being.

All three topics (sex, religion, and politics) merge into a sometimes volatile intersection as Americans debate the issue of gay marriage. After months of reflection, the Liberty Professor has decided to weigh in on the topic. I have hesitated for some time now simply because I recognize that this is a controversial and sensitive subject–and my parsing of the details and components involved will probably offer to everyone something about which they will be unhappy. As the French remind us, c’est la vie.

I trust that my readers come here for honest, libertarian commentary–not necessarily to find total agreement on all issues of the day. My goal in this post is to untangle some of the many threads that combine to make this issue so contentious. It is a complicated subject; the political outcome of the debate, no matter how it ends, will have consequences. The liberty-minded citizen must move cautiously in these waters in order to remain faithful to his or her constitutional values.

1. Let us begin by reminding ourselves that we live in a society of profound moral diversity. This is nothing new. What is new is described by psychologist Kenneth Gergen as “social saturation.” Technology, social mobility, and ease of travel have resulted in a world in which it’s more difficult to withdraw into moral and religious enclaves where we can ignore those whose views differ from our own.

Dealing with such diversity of beliefs has been a hallmark of the American experience from our very beginnings as a people. It resulted in a form of federalism (not nationalism) that intended to leave most decisions in the hands of localized entities (sovereign states) and which forbade governmental favoritism or prohibition in matters of religion. In other words, citizens do not have to agree with one another on the greatest issues of human existence, but they must tolerate one another and refrain from infringements upon one another’s rights.

2. Since I am not an anarchist (neither do most Americans identify themselves as such), let me also propose a second foundation for our discussion on gay marriage: human society functions best when the rights and obligations of its citizens are delineated clearly and fairly enforced. This is not an argument for bigger government. Far from it. What I intend by this statement is to say that citizens have the right to freely enter contracts and agreements as they wish, whether it be for personal or professional reasons. They also have the right to refrain from such contracts, even to their own detriment.

With the perspective of a strict constitutionalist, I argue that government should stay out of those private agreements unless invited in by one or more of the parties involved due to fraud, misrepresentation, or default resulting in damage or loss. This attitude applies even when people enter contractual agreements that I believe to be unwise (such as poor business choices), immoral (such as prostitution), or potentially dangerous (such as the use of an experimental drug). The key to this point is full disclosure and personal freedom. I’m arguing that adults of full mental capacity have the right to arrange their lives and their moral activities as they see fit, with a minimum amount of governmental interference. When such interference is necessary (such as the just hearing of grievances between parties), it should take place on the most local level possible, with only a small and enumerated list of powers being exercised on the federal level (as proposed by the Constitution).

3. Sexuality is an inevitable and vital part of the human experience. It is one of the legitimate pleasures emerging from the fact that humans have bodies. It is also a powerful and mysterious procreative reality–one that should not be used to cause harm to others. Some social prohibitions upon sexual behavior are urgently necessary. The first to come to mind is protection of children against pedophiles. When it comes to fully-informed, consenting adults such as those described in the paragraph above, I am of the opinion that government entities should mostly refrain from the attempt to regulate behavior.

4. Evidence (both scientific and anecdotal) increasingly supports the understanding that genuine, exclusive or predominant homosexual orientation is not experienced as a choice but as a given. My reading of science and my experience with friends and students who self-identify as gay has led me to believe that when it comes to lifestyle “choices,” sexual orientation is not a choice. It’s a situation that must be dealt with by the millions of people who experience it. At this point in the discussion I refer the reader back to point #2, above. I do not find it necessary to address the question of morality here since the decision about this issue doesn’t rest with me. It rests only with those who find themselves in the particular situation being addressed.

5. Speaking philosophically, I believe that the Constitution must be read in light of the Declaration of Independence. In proposing the constitutional thesis that individuals must be allowed to live by their own beliefs and morals, I understand this to be based upon the differing opinions we citizens have with regard to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (that phrase comes from the Declaration). Constrained only by the few limitations listed in point #2 (above), citizens should be free to live as they choose so long as they cause no harm or loss to others (there are exceptions to this). In addition, it is the constitutional role of the federal government to treat citizens with equal rights before the law (though it is not the role of government to force all businesses or employers to give identical benefits or services).

6. Both marriage and homosexuality have been around for a long, long time. Their presence cuts across human cultures; I have encountered both in every society that I have ever studied, from primitive to postmodern. Cultures have handled homosexuality in differing ways throughout history. Some have been intolerant of it while others have provided a comfortable niche for it.

Some societies have distinguished between male and female homosexuality. Some cultures have assigned special religious roles to homosexual persons. Even among those societies that find it acceptable, homosexual relations have been distinguished from marriage, with marriage understood as a relationship between man and woman. This understanding was present even in polygamous societies (those where men could have multiple wives) and also in societies where married men were allowed to have male lovers (such as in ancient Greece). In other words, with or without social approval, homosexual relations were deemed to be distinct from marriage. Not surprisingly, it was understood as a different kind of relationship–even when it was given social and religious recognition.

Now let’s get to the crux of my point. Let me spell it out as clearly and as precisely as I can. As a constitutionalist I believe that government should not be in the business of giving benefits to some citizens while denying them to others. As a steadfast general rule, I’d like to see government (especially federal government) do less, interfere less, spend less, dictate less, and possess far less power than it does now. If it’s true that well-ordered relationships are good for society as a whole (such as marriage in which duties and rights are clearly delineated and the relationship is supported by law), then I can find no constitutional reason to deny that same protection to gay couples who freely choose to establish similar relationships.

In other words, I’m arguing for nothing more than equal status before the law for all citizens, including gay couples. To do this, however, government does not have to change the definition of marriage–a definition that seems to be as old as humanity itself. Nor should it. 

Gay couples should have the same legal rights and opportunities as all other citizens. Married couples have a right to see the definition of their relationship remain the same as it was on the day they entered that relationship. This distinction does not constitute an act of bigotry or hatred.

As cultures and societies around the globe have recognized for thousands of years, there are different kinds of relationships. Changing the definition of marriage is not the way to guarantee equal rights before law. It will open the door to limitations on liberty, not to an increase in liberty. If we truly wish to live in a society that tolerates moral diversity, we must refrain from using the law to enforce moral uniformity.

Let’s allow people, associations, and religious congregations to make their own decisions about how to understand these different relationships. Should the federal government try to redefine marriage, it will open the door to legal actions against the very institutions we cherish most by further eroding the constitutional limits placed upon that government. This realization explains why there are voices condemning the proposal–even among our fellow citizens who happen to be gay.