May 31, 2009

"You can eat your fill of all the food you bring yourself!"

My family studied 1 Corinthians 11:20-22 today, it was wonderful.

"When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not."

We have no communion with God, in the sense of the Lord's supper, without communion with people. The Lord's supper is defined by the togetherness of the church! We are to care for each other as we eat, share a meal together, not just exist in our own world, eating our own food, thinking about our own things.

When the church, that is, the body of believers, gathers together to break bread, or to have communion in the traditional sense of the term, we are to be united. [I can't decide if the love we should share is closer to storge, as in, "love one another in brotherly affection," or in friendship, a almost spiritual connection, with the shared interest of our faith. (Yes, you can tell I read The Four Loves this week.)]

In any event, it's such a radical contrast to the Iowa attitude described by the Music Man, where they say, "You can eat your fill of all the food you bring yourself." Eating with each other, with the purpose of remembering Christ's death, is communion. Communion is not a mere ritual of crackers and grape juice- it is the family of God sharing with one another, proclaiming the salvation, stirring up each another to love and good deeds.

everlasting life

Whenever I remember God's amazing love, whenever I've been so selfish and stupid but God restores me, I have this overflow of energy. I want to sing, I want to blog about it, (or I ask myself, could I use this for today's poem?).

I don't want to brag about myself or my walk with Christ: it's rather silly to say "God really speaks to me" in the same way it's silly to say "this poem really speaks to me." Of course, God speaks to every Christian! If I boast, my boasting is in the Lord, I have nothing of my own to pride myself on. But I can't not speak about my happiness. I feel energetic and excited. This is why we say the joy of the Lord is our strength!

When I woke up this morning, I remembered my selfish attitudes and my ridiculous sin. (I understand now what it means to remember so you can forget.) And I understand better David's plea to restore in me the joy of your salvation. God has delivered me, he has forgiven me, and he continues to restore me. Ahh. God is so good!

May 28, 2009

Too much to do in too little time. (A few more words can make the title rhyme)

(Brain)
Fried
Tired
Hopelessly illogical

(Command)
Process
Compute
Request to server can't be fulfilled

(Action)
Listen
Scan
Disorganized masses of information

Typing without meaning
Reading with comprehending
I worry myself since I'm
Thinking without progressing

Time is running out!
I want to shout
I can't seem to escape
this cycle of doubt

Fizz Crackle Pop
I wish I could stop.
Let me out from this pressure
And don't let me drop

Working too hard wearies the child
I think she needs something cool and mild
There, there. All will be made right
You won't fall prey to the cruel and wild

Genius in art

I love thinking about beauty or art being an expression of God. But I realized that many of my thoughts on this (besides being garnered from my "longing for God" apologetics card) are from this video, which I read about from Stuff Christians Like. Hence, you may have already watched it, but I'll recommend it anyway. I'd say it's definitely worth your time. :)

May 27, 2009

What's in a name?

A name, a title, a definition
Simply a description?
Capturing essence

Flavouring the well
Establishing preconceptions
Biases and stereotypes

Opportunity to create
To to command, to commend
A potent platform

Style.

Concepts and ideas,
Yearning to be expressed,
Become graspable or, at least,
glimpsable by language

We cry out in painful longing
"This is beauty! This is truth!"
But is it reverie for a clear idea
Or for a style that adds beauty?

When God speaks through you
(In that moment of inspiration, genius)
Am I in awe of his ideas or His words?
His message or his method?

Why is Jesus called the Word of God?
He was the perfect (complete!) man,
God's spirit manifested in tangible form
His style, his personality, his signature: faultless

Could He have shown himself any other way
Or was there only one possible Incarnation?
Are styles of expression powerful for themselves
(hence equally able to bring forth beauty)
Or must the word communicate only the true meaning?

May 25, 2009

green is the color of peace

the water is sitting peacefully,
bubbles occasionally rising
the life of the trees reflecting
off the dark surface of the pond

my gaze into the green forest
mixes with the streams of sunlight
a breeze cools my face
as my mind rests in memory

the ethereal mood surrounds me
this is what green is
it's a living breathing organism
that paints peace everywhere

May 24, 2009

Is holding on holding back?

There's a stupid word
They call it "senior"

Applying angry adjectives
Never affected anything!
I hate not the word, but
The heartrending reality

I don't want them to leave,
These people whom I love

Is constancy possible
Or is separation inevitable?
Can we be torn in person
but be together in heart?

In time, I'll graduate too
I should know that time never stops

Will pouring myself out now
Stop the steady severing later?
If I cling to them hard enough
Will we each remember?

It might be simpler if I let them go
But, oh... I want this parting painful.

May 23, 2009

Pacifism (version 2)

Objective: peace and justice.
Mission: Impossible.

There is a lot that I don't understand about pacifism. Here is a probably ugly, hopefully logical, and doubtless a little dry hashing out of my thoughts. (Essentially, expect this to be boring, but I had to post it since I already wrote pacifism version 1.)

People are sinful, and injustice will be committed.

To start at the most basic level, I know that humans are sinful. I can't pretend that injustice does not exist.

Should individuals deliver retribution?
When evil is done to us, we should respond with peace. (Matthew 5:39: But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.)

When evil is done to others, we should respond. (Isaiah 58:6: Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?)

What principles should guide our response?

Do not take vengeance. (Romans 12:19: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.")
Can we avenge others? Since vengeance is the Lord’s, I don’t think so.

Avoid murder. (Exodus 20:13: You shall not murder.)
But what is murder? Is killing always wrong?

Love our enemies. (Matthew 5:44: But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.)
I believe that it can reasonably be concluded that if those who persecute our brothers and sisters in Christ are still our enemies, and thus we should love them and pray for them. I’m having a hard time seeing how killing is loving.
A thought from William M. Swartley: “Of all the strategies that we may advocate for response to the powers, this command to love our enemies must ever be kept in view, since it is easy to absorb the very evil we seek to resist.”1

Can we love our enemies and the oppressed at the same time?
The command to love is so very unclear. J. Daryl Charles presents a position for pacifism as self-defense, but coercive force for the defense of society:
“When people such as Augustine and Aquinas and Luther argued that one can be a soldier and a Christian, that one’s duty may include the protection of others, that indeed one can even use coercive force to achieve such and be motivated by charity, then contemporary Christians—pacifists in particular—need to consider the moral consistency of their position. And while pacifism as self-defense is morally legitimate, pacifism as public policy is not. Someone must protect society.”2
Furthermore, the Bible presents authorities as a legitimate obstacle to injustice. (Romans 13: 4: But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.)

Again from J. Daryl Charles,
“In the hands of the governing authorities, however, justice is not only permitted, it is required. Moral-social order depends on it, based on the propensity and social ramifications of the “evil-doer”. Not to wield the sword is to be delinquent in terms of the role designated by the Almighty for the magistrate."3
What principles should guide governmental administration of justice?
It’s hard to find specific Scripture references for this area. Do no principles apply? Is our guiding goal simply to minimize suffering?

C. S. Lewis also argued in his essay “Why I am not a pacifist” that claiming that war just “seems wrong” is simply relying on unfounded (and largely disagreed upon) opinion. "A mere unargued conviction is in place only when we are dealing with the axiomatic.”4

An area that was bothering me was the fact that the people in government are still people who should adhere to moral principles. But I believe this can be responded to with the understanding that their role allows violence, and their authority is set up by God to deliver His wrath. And, there has never been a command not to kill, only one to be a peacemaker. To reach peace, one can conceivably sanction war. Finally, there are numerous Scriptural analogies of war and examples of godly people who did fight in wars.

Then there’s also the issue of rights, that we should not harm others’ liberty. By that logic, one could fight only if the people had chosen to go into war. That gives a reason why killing can be acceptable, but killing innocent civilians is not.

When is war called for?
This is a huge area. It’s hard to predict what would have happened, and there are many things that can be done to prevent war. I believe that there must be some criteria for a just war, but a quote from Catholic writer Richard McSorley gives me pause.
“The [just war] theory was formulated to show that some wars might be an exception to the law of the gospel; it has become a theory used to justify every war that comes along. Instead of justifying an exceptional war, it is used to make all wars acceptable…”5
Here is where what I say degenerates into a bunch of questions. I cannot reject all war categorically, but I don’t know when preventing war becomes impossible and a nation must fight in self-defense. How can we know if peaceful measures have failed? How can we predict how much a security threat endangers lives in our nation?

I would not like to be working in the government, having to answer these questions. But at least I think I understand more clearly my role as a human being who seeks peace.

Matthew 5:9: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

1. William M. Swartley. Covenant of Peace: The Missing Piece In New Testament Theology And Ethics. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2006
2. J. Daryl Charles. Between Pacifism and Jihad. InterVarsity Press, 2005. p. 92-93.
3. J. Daryl Charles. Between Pacifism and Jihad. InterVarsity Press, 2005. p. 86.
4. C. S. Lewis. “Why I am not a Pacifist.” The Weight of Glory. p. 70-71
5. Richard McSorley. Kill? For Peace?

May 22, 2009

Pacifism (version 1)

Consumed by an idea
Eating up my energies
We're wrestling;
I can't put it down
It claims to give peace
But it's a war in my mind

Intuition and reason
People and authorities
Principles and results
Forbearance and retribution
Compassion and justice
The now and the future

I can't seem to compile this
I'm buried in Scripture analysis
Theologians and histories
Vile material world!
Must I understand you
Before I can grasp peace of mind?

May 20, 2009

I fail at love.

Ridiculous, how much words affect
My perception of you
How I wish I could love you

You speak sweetly and humbly
I smile and am thankful I'm your friend
It's so nice to see the you I know

You comment offhandedly and coldly
I wonder if understand you
I doubt that we're connected

What if all I knew was one voice?
What if my open eyes were blind?
What if all attachment was a delusion?

But my fears about you now tear me up
Would you love me if I wasn't myself?
What happens if I fail to show who I really am?

I truly want to love, to not care
Even if you were the rudest person in the world
I want to be unaffected

But if my approval is so easily swayed
I should realize that yours is too
Unless I'm the only one who falters

I hate to admit my selfishness
My judgments, my desire for your faithfulness
Grasping onto a perfect fantasy

So I keep trying to stop these judging opinions
I keep remembering that I'm never alone
And I keep learning, learning to love

May 19, 2009

To Be With You

Cum is a little Latin preposition that means with.
Communication allows sharing of thoughts, ideas, emotions with others.
Community shares life with each other.
Communion means sharing existence, *being* with others.

I feel a little repetitive belaboring this idea of sharing, of withness. But I find it so fascinating. What's the point of speaking or writing, really? It's communication. And communication is meant to unite, to bring people together into community. At its most intense, this connection is communion, seeming to be part of another.

I think I understand why Christians should aim to "think God's thoughts after Him." Communion with God means that we abide in Him, His being is our being, His thoughts are our thoughts. And it makes sense, communion with God means that the Holy Spirit lives in me. God exists in me.

Communion with other people is existing with them, where part of yourself is part of them. Communion leads us to feel what Emily Dickinson expressed, "Where thou art, there is home." Communion is the sharing of Truth through transparency. Most of all, to commune is to be.

So many concepts are contained when I say "to be." Being is thinking, being is acting, being is existing.
To be with means to live, to share, to connect, to struggle, to ponder, understand, to learn- together.

I want to be with you.

God, I want to be with You.

In praise of doing what you want to do


If I was being a little more accurate, the title of this post would be, "In praise of doing what you want to do without caring what everyone else is doing." Thus, it would give me an opportunity to congratulate Hayley for not minding being unoriginal, and to thank Micah for not changing his template just because everyone else was.

I like the template I have now, I don't think I'm going to get a new one any time soon. But if I did, I'd pick from three awesome ones that Kris found (and I like).

A pretty gray, subdued expression, and flowers.

I like this one because it's so organic, graceful, and airy.

And rain rocks the world.

Wewt.

May 17, 2009

Feeling guilty

Halting of breath
Awkward speech
Vague annoyance
This is guilt's slavery

Want to get over it
Come on, get rid of it
But the shadow hangs
Uncomfortably, oppressively

Spit it out. Dump it on a friend
Mull over it. Process it.
But thought's got to lead to action
"Let it go... daisy, let it go."

Now

So many conflicting feelings...I want to be sensitive, with a real heart, resisting injustice and being revolted at wrong. At the same time, I want to be brave and strong, (like Warrior Liberty! :P) not bursting into tears at the slightest provocation or playing the role of a damsel in distress. There should be no paradox between the two, I just need an attitude of "don't save me, save the world."

But, when I take a stand or get upset, it's sometimes hard to distinguish if I'm fighting for right or to be right.

"Were we debating for the truth in all of it, or were we debating just to win the argument?" -Nuisance by John Reuben

Today, I was singing the lines from Mostly Prove Me Wrong: "I'm tired of being right. I'm retiring from that fight. Hey, come on, prove me wrong!"

Kristen asked if that really happened to me. Ah! Do I ever get tired of being right? I want to give up needing to be right. I think I have...I say I don't really care about being right, I care about finding Truth. Sadly, though, I can't think of any distinct examples of giving up arguing. Maybe it's because I have a bad memory, maybe it's because I think that I'm right, therefore, being right is also fighting for right. (An example of when there's no conflict...hey, it happens sometimes!)

'Tis hard, but there's no use trying to prove past righteousness or sin. Today is today.

When I think back at my own annoying self, my silly frustrations, my controlling self, I wish to cry out, "wait for it! You'll see- I'll be worthy one day. Eventually, I can stop being a selfish friend."

But how ridiculous that is. I'm never going to be worthy, I can't live to make my friends proud or do right so that I look good. All I can live for is God. (And He keeps restoring me!) <3

May 15, 2009

Language and lists

How can language carry feeling? How can scattered sounds mean something, how can lines on a computer screen affect my mood?

How? Connections and neurons and chemicals in my brain. Well, of course. Nor is the why hard to answer, really: we need some way to communicate, and God gave us words (among other things).

For some reason, I think I can understand how words convey ideas, that ideas are somewhat grasped and defined by language. But...is feeling an idea? How can emotion be communicated save by mood? I think my sub-conscious impression is that ideas are defined by language, because I think things out in my head using the English language. But I don't feel in English. And yet, essays, stories, poems, carry not just words and ideas, but tones, moods, attitudes. It fascinates me.

And unrelated: I wonder why I feel the need to make lists of favorite artists, quotes, names for kids, whatever. Do I do it just to keep a record? Do I feel some kind of innate desire to rank things and make judgments on things? What would happen if I wrote nothing down? Would my mind still organize facts similarly?

May 9, 2009

Coming to terms with the fact that my poetry is limited

Only one slide
in a glorious film reel
Only one side
from a ten-course meal

Only one second
in hours of waiting
Only one stroke
from a masterpiece painting

A moment, a breath, held eternal
In corny, ridiculous weight
As if one word of woven tale
Can somehow reveal my fate

I don't tell a story, but a feeling
At least I can capture myself
I want clever rhymes, not meaning
I'll take a penny instead of your wealth

The words I wrote were not fiction
(My silly excuses will say)
But I've focused my entire diction
To explain one mere scene of the play

In flailing and self-conscious fashion
I try to compute my poems' worth
Devoting my time and my passion
Where I never should have ventured forth

Is it foolish to strive to describe
Only a piece of the world that I see?
Do I blow my experience larger than life
As if the world's centered 'round me?

Perhaps I should aim to tell epics
That detail the entire view
But I think that I'll keep writing poetry
As I seek to discover what's true.

May 8, 2009

Midnight "Lune" Haiku

Foolish aims
Exhausted stupor
Leaden crash

May 7, 2009

beautiful parts of a brilliant whole

I kind of like quoting song lyrics in my gmail status...but I seem to run into a sort of a dilemma. The part that shows the message most clearly is often a little lame-sounding without context.

Think about it. "It's a beautiful day!" sounds nice, but it's far more awesome when you actually listen to the whole song. And the parts that are brilliant, such as, "In my dream I was drowning my sorrows, but my sorrows they learned to swim" are confusing or not applicable to people reading your status.

Of course, you can just quote a whole section, to give your friends a picture of the ingenious rhyme or rhythm, as well as the message, but eh. I don't know if I like reading huge chunks of text.

Now, I realize I'm making gross over-generalizations, and there are likely many examples of cool-sounding and meaningful short quotes. But, just wanted to share with you the challenges of communicating a message in a way that is charming! It's so much more complete and fulfilling when we see all the parts as one whole story.

On a side note, I finished Perelandra today. 'Twas a glorious book, I grew so much older reading it. :D I have also accrued a decent store of quotes from that treasure-house of wisdom. Oh, it was wonderful- the eternal truths, the surprising insights, were all presented through the flow of a well-crafted story. Each new layer revealed something more lovely underneath...yes, this is a rambling rave, I'll stop now, but *happy sigh*

May 6, 2009

Nonsense is one sense I often forget to employ

I sing keylessly, my locks are tangled
(Can any key open a lock of hair?)

I scramble up a slope with my long legs
(Don't know about the scrambled eggs.)

I waltz in the petals falling from the tree
(I'm sure the grass likes the pink rain.)

I exclaim happiness from concrete blocks
(You're an attentive audience, oh river and rocks)

I ride the swing. The swing flies high.
(I like crazy flying without wings.)

You know it's easy to be giddy
(So won't you skip with me?)

May 5, 2009

Redeem(ed)

Eyes are tired
Feet are cold
Heart is sore
Feel so old

Such desire
to have sleep
But instead
only weep

Was a day
near half wasted
Not the worst
Ever tasted

A little longer
Then flickers, gone
A couple minutes
Redeem the wrong

Heart and face
Can wear a smile
Share my joy
A little while

May 4, 2009

"What life have you if you have not life together? There is no life that is not in community, and no community not lived in praise of God." -T.S. Eliot

So...I can love, I can need people, I can be attached to the people of this world- as long as my love for God is greater. That seems pretty simple, I'm going to start trying again.

(This post has no purpose except to express my appreciation of community and to allay your concerns about my emotional health.)

(This untitled post is a first for me, yay for random and insignificant milestones!)

is love a joke?

Lyricists are much more adept than I am.

Singing without tongues
Screaming without lungs

I want more than my lonely nation

I want more than my lonely nation

Desperate we are young

Separate we are one

I want more than my desperation

I want more than my lonely nation


I can't articulate, or understand. "We are slaves of what we want" but I don't know what I want. Nor do I know if what I want is even what is right.

I don't understand friendship. I think I can envision myself friendless, cynical at the world, hardened, and unemotional. Read this from a poem I wrote today:

Strip me of my feelings!
Callous my heart
?
Slaughter my emotion?

Only keep me
safe

Resilient enough, you say

I don't want to be thick-skinned

Love is a joke that I need

I don't want to stop.


Instinct- or selfishness, I don't know which- tells me to reach out. I can't shove the world out, I can't spend eternity walking in the park by myself, with God.
Proverbs 19:23, "The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm." God is our refuge- are we supposed to just rely on him? We shouldn't become attached to the world. But passionate me is attached, horribly attached. But is it to the world, or just to people?

I don't want to be satisfied by the unsatisfying. Yet I don't know why it seems I have to love people less than I want to.

Luke 14:26: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."

Now it seems I shouldn't allow myself to get attached to my friends- to you. That I'm only intended to show agape, that showing signs of truly needing you is some kind of idolatry. Ugh. Is this the truth, or only my extreme withdrawal?

May 3, 2009

Silence

Silence
Is easy. Offense avoided
Hurts left untended
Hard thoughts uncontested

Silence
Is difficult. Desire checked
Hurt feelings unvoiced
Opinions unshared.

Speaking
Is easy. The words come
Tumbling and singing
Rashly and innocently

Speaking
Is difficult. The words come
But must be tested
Reasoned and rationed

Words are my life
So let me listen
Words give me strife
So let me say nothing

I want to continue
in the peace of selfishness
I want to exist
in the simplicity of emptiness

Keep listening, you won't hear me speak
Only tend to the crash when I fall
And tell me what I did wrong.

The Law: Justice Alone is Enough

On the other hand, the way of liberty, and consequently justice, is morally sound as well as the surest path to progress. Law based on natural rights recognizes Oliver Wendell Holmes oft-quoted adage: “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins.”18

Bastiat reminds us of the bounds of law when he writes, “Since law requires the support of force, its lawful domain is only in areas where the use of plunder is necessary. This is justice.”19 Just laws use force only as a deterrent for those who infringe on another’s rights, withholding their influence when plunder is not taking place. For, if government organized labor, education, or religion, it would only be perpetuating plunder. Having a standard of justice will bring integrity to government: citizens can regain faith in the law when it punishes plunder and lets liberty live.

A government that assumes its proper role will safeguard liberty, protect property, and uphold life. With these gifts, we are free to labor, to learn, and to worship as we see fit. We gain a sense of responsibility for our property and our life. In short, we have the best conditions for progress. In Bastiat’s words: “Since all persons seek well-being and perfection, would not a condition of justice be sufficient to cause the greatest efforts toward progress, and the greatest possible equality that is compatible with individual responsibility?”20

Government limited in such a way allows us choice. Being able to choose to give up our property allows us to buy, sell, and contribute. If we so desire, we can choose to submit ourselves to liberty-restricting rules. A criminal who chooses to murder receives justice when the law takes his life. Compare these conditions of choice with those of force. Too often, excused by the supposed promotion of the common good, the law takes advantage of the people, and steals away property and liberty. It goes beyond deterring injustice and begins to deter prosperity as well.

We must realize that citizens and lawmakers are, in the words of Jon Foreman, “equally skilled at perverting justice.” Citizens infringe on their neighbor’s liberties. Politicians wield the law to legalize plunder and use force unnecessarily. Even when they are seeking after the common good, they unintentionally sacrifice justice, morality, and prosperity. All in all, humanity is quite successful at failing. Yet since we have been given life, liberty, and property, and since, at the same time, people wish to abridge these rights, we must set liberty as the standard for lawmaking.

There are essentially two options open to us: justice, based on God-given rights to life, liberty, and property, or misguided human decrees. They are fundamentally different and cannot be followed together.

So let justice reign! Let furthering justice become the first and foremost priority of the law. This will require legislators to relinquish their control on education, labor, and morality. After all, what right have they to direct citizens’ actions? As Bastiat writes, “They are your equals! They are intelligent and free human beings like yourselves! As you have, they too have, received from God the faculty to observe, to plan ahead, to think, and to judge for themselves!”21

Justice realizes that every human possesses imperfections and rights. It furnishes law with the necessary liberties and restraints. Justice alone is enough.

18 “The right to swing my fis…” Random Quotes. 13 February 2009. .

19 Bastiat, p. 52.

20 Ibid, p. 20.

21 Ibid, p. 37.

Introduction // The Injustice of Enforcing "Good" // A Call for Realism // Justice Alone is Enough

The Law: A Call for Realism

“We don’t live in a perfect world,” you may argue. “We’ll never have true justice. Can’t we expedite the process of prosperity and use the law to improve the common good?” No. And here’s why: trying to enforce “good” is not merely unjust. It consistently fails to produce a good or prosperous society.

Socialists contend that without government mandates, people will make unwise economic choices, shun charity, ignore the education of their children, or be drawn in to false religions. As Bastiat writes: “They assume that if the legislators left persons free to follow their own inclinations, they would arrive at atheism instead of religion, ignorance instead of knowledge, poverty instead of production and exchange.”12 They base their decisions on the concept that the people are not wise enough to make decisions for themselves. While correctly realizing that people are naturally flawed, these politicians seem to ignore the existence of their own fallibility. Perhaps these politicians are more educated than the average citizen. Still, the consequences of their mindset are unsavory. Having a subjective standard (for no one can agree what constitutes the common good) allows selfish humans to unscrupulously promote their own interests. Forcing citizens to “be good” does nothing to cultivate real character.

Labor laws intend to protect workers. Yet, often, the opposite becomes the case. High income taxes in Europe have contributed to unemployment. A Newsweek article from 1993, reporting on Germany states, “As unemployment mounts across the continent, a growing body of economic wisdom points to payroll-tax-financed benefits as a job killer, mostly because new hires mean bigger tax bills for employers.”13 Such arbitrary and liberty-reducing mandates make it economically unfeasible for employers to yield to the law. From the National Review, “Including benefits and taxes, a French minimum-wage worker now makes 50 per cent more than his American counterpart. Beleaguered employers find some relief in the underground economy.14 These examples show how an artificially high cost of labor hurts workers and the rule of law. Governmentally organized labor, in the form of welfare benefits, also encourages irresponsibility on the part of the receiver. Again from Newsweek, “Germany's payroll taxes finance pensions, health care and unemployment benefits…. Such benefits, economists say, reduce the incentive to work.”15 Though these articles chronicle economies from the last decade, the principle is the same: labor restrictions ignore principles of supply and demand, trample liberty, and benefit few.

While the competition afforded by private schools and homeschools reduces costs and improves the quality of education for all consumers, government intervention in education has done the reverse. As the Cato Institute noted earlier this month16, the cost of education per student (adjusted for inflation) has increased by 128 percent over the past forty years. $9,266 was spent on every American student in the year 2004 alone. Despite having access to such extravagant budgets, public schools fail to educate America’s youth adequately. Again from Cato, “The longer American kids spend in our public schools, the worse they do compared to their peers in other industrialized countries.”17 Naturally, the weight of the government’s inefficiency falls on taxpayers. Shunning liberty in the name of the “common good,” our government pours funds into the black hole of public education. The return on their investment would be considered abysmal in any other venture.

Need we even mention morality and religion? True religion is based on a heart condition that overflows into action. Mandating moral behavior will not create a God-fearing nation, only a nation of legalists. If religion is true, then God will make Himself known through his followers. We do not need the government to convert others to the truth. More likely than not, unjust laws that enforce religion will only alienate citizens to the message.

Clearly, violating liberty cannot create character. Instead, it fosters contrived outward morality. Nor can legal plunder help a nation prosper. A government that loses focus on justice will become the friend of irresponsibility and waste, the enemy of entrepreneurs and all those who contribute most to national prosperity. So by all counts, striving for good without the compass of liberty will prove unsuccessful.

12 Bastiat, p. 25.

13 Charles Lane and Theresa Waldrop, “Is Europe's social-welfare state headed for the deathbed?” Newsweek, 23 Aug. 1993, p. 37.

14 Ed Rubenstein, “Right Data,” National Review, 30 September 1996, p.16.

15 Lane, ibid.

16 Neal McCluskey, “Hitting Bone Is the Least of Our Worries,” Cato @ Liberty, February 6, 2009, Cato Institute. 13 February 2009.

17 Andrew J. Coulson, “What? High Schools Go All the Way to Grade 12?Cato @ Liberty, June 1, 2006. Cato Institute. 13 February 2009.

Introduction // The Injustice of Enforcing "Good" // A Call for Realism // Justice Alone is Enough

May 2, 2009

The Law: The Injustice of Enforcing “Good”

Law based on what a politician thinks is good is destined to fail, simply because humans are imperfect. Bastiat points out that whether we witness grasping, “stupid greed,” or “false philanthropy,” such “perversion of the law”5 is idealistically wrong and pragmatically foolish. The Law provides an example of false philanthropy, when, “Under the pretense of organization, regulation, protection, or encouragement, the law takes property from one person and gives it to another; the law takes the wealth of all and gives it to a few.”6 In fact, there are many cases when greed and government philanthropy, acting through the law, violate not only citizens’ property, but also their life, or most commonly, their liberty. Bastiat calls any instance where “the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong”7 legal plunder. This is a detestable situation - the law encourages what it ought to condemn. It is “organized injustice.”8

The minimum wage, union laws, and caps on hours of labor are all instances of this organized injustice. Such labor restrictions, in search of equality, restrict the liberty and property of workers and employers. Bastiat writes, “Try to imagine a regulation of labor imposed by force that is not a violation of liberty.”9 Whether we search through imagination or practice, finding a liberty-protecting labor law is impossible. Labor restrictions in the form of welfare and healthcare benefits infringe on citizen’s property. Bastiat’s message is clear when he states, “Nothing can enter the public treasury for the benefit of one citizen or one class unless other classes have been forced to send it in.”10 Funds must come from somewhere, and what right have we to take away what was never ours? All of these government-enforced labor regulations are legal plunder, regardless of their charitable intent. So let employers be free to set their employees’ wages as they see fit. Let laborers be free to work as much as they need to. Let employees be responsible for their own future, instead of benefiting from the salaries of others. The government has no place intervening.

We are becoming victims of legal plunder in the realm of education as well. Despite the fact that “the Supreme Court has declared time and time again that parental rights are among the oldest and most revered of fundamental rights, among the ‘liberties’ that are guaranteed to every American by the Fourteenth Amendment,”11 parents face a fierce fight to be allowed to educate their children as they see fit. New Jersey homeschoolers felt this acutely when State Assembly Bill 3123 threatened families with miles of bureaucratic red tape. Regulations proposed under A. 3123 allow the theft of liberty to be legalized, even encouraged, by the government. Or, if homeschool regulations aren’t severe enough, simply turn to the public school system to see a glaring instance of legal plunder of property. Through the government’s well-intentioned aim of an educated society, citizens are forced to contribute to the pay of the nation’s teachers, whether or not their children are enrolled in the public school system.

Finally, consider the liberty-restricting dangers of the law organizing religion. When laws bind us to a specific religion or dictates how we ought to worship, it takes away our rights and gives sinful, human, lawmakers control of our devotions. The history of our nation makes it evident that government mandates on religion, even in the name of morality, are intolerable. Was it not the quest for religious freedom that motivated the Pilgrims to seek America? The desire to worship as we see fit is not an irrational and selfish urge. It is a reasonable and beneficial instinct of self-defense. Even today’s fight against terrorism is part of the age-old fight for justice. Seeing liberty as a pathway to licentiousness and social decay, Osama Bin Laden and fellow al Qaeda leaders wage war on free nations. We must be careful not to commit the same error. No amount of excuses should permit us to accept a governmental promotion of religion.

This does not mean that laws should contradict principles of morality. Murder and theft are morally wrong, and the law does right when it prohibits them. But if we simply base laws on our morality, where can we draw the line between prohibiting murder and mandating church attendance? We need some kind of standard to be able to discern what laws would be overreaching, as well as help prevent misguided understandings from controlling the nation. Furthermore, we must keep in mind that liberty is a basic right upon which no government ought to infringe: in fact, it is the existence of natural rights that inspires us to create laws and establish justice. With that understanding, we are compelled to avoid any policies that legalize plunder and degrade justice.

The key word to remember is force: no legal plunder occurs when we willingly give our property to help those in need, surrender our liberty to follow our moral convictions, or sacrifice our lives to fight for our ideals. But when legislation demands that we to do so, it becomes unjust and immoral. Injustice breeds disrespect for the rule of law. No society should be founded on injustice.

5 Ibid, p. 4.

6 Ibid, p. 10.

7 Ibid, p. 13.

8 Ibid, p. 21.

9 Ibid, p. 20.

10 Ibid, p. 21.

11 “The Current Status of Parental Rights.” ParentalRights.org. 13 February 2009.

Introduction // The Injustice of Enforcing "Good" // A Call for Realism // Justice Alone is Enough

The Law: Intro

There's not one honest soul left alive here on this planet
We're all murderers and thieves
Setting traps here for even our brothers
And both of our hands
Are equally skilled
At doing evil
Equally skilled
At bribing the judges
Equally skilled
At perverting justice
Both of our hands
Both of our hands

The lyrics of Jon Foreman’s “Equally Skilled”depict humanity as dishonest, unjust, and skilled at doing evil. Where evil is cultivated and practiced, justice is hard to find. Applying this understanding to politics makes us aware of two things: first, that we need laws to protect justice, and second, that lawmakers are imperfect as well. Yet, imperfection is not the only characteristic of humankind— we also have a marvelous capacity to learn, to labor, and to love. It is not impossible to have a just government. However, understanding the gifts and shortcomings of the human race is necessary to realize the proper role of government. To counter the selfish desire to profit at another’s expense, the law must defend the rights of each citizen.

In The Law, Frederic Bastiat explains what these rights entail. He argues that “Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused laws to be made in the first place.”2 These three natural rights, then, are fundamental and belong to every human being. Indeed, one of the main arguments that Frederic Bastiat defends in The Law is that justice, at its heart, is “nothing more than the organized combination of the individual’s right to self-defense.”3 This simple principle has been clouded, complicated, and contested by competing interests. Many would propose that the law be used to promote the common good, in addition to protecting justice. While Bastiat assures us that a nation founded on the principle of protecting persons, liberties, and properties would have “the most non-oppressive, just, and enduring government imaginable,”4 skeptics cannot help but wonder: is justice enough?

Why can we not extend the power of the law further and ensure that the people are good and free? Because attempting to enforce “good” would steal away our essential liberties while denying us the results we seek. There is a conflict between a just, unwavering, liberty-based law and law arbitrarily determined by government leaders. There is a clash between a system that allows us to become responsible and one that assumes irresponsibility. Since we must decide between the two, let us examine the ramifications of both.



1 “Jon Foreman - Equally Skilled: Lyrics,” Sweets Lyrics. 13 February 2009. .

2 Frederic Bastiat, The Law, (Irvington-on-Hudson, NY: Foundation for Economic Education, 2007), p. 2.

3 Ibid, p. 3.

4 Ibid, p. 3.


Introduction // The Injustice of Enforcing "Good" // A Call for Realism // Justice Alone is Enough

May 1, 2009

Frederic Bastiat's "The Law" Essay

I just discovered that FEE announced the winners for their Bastiat essay contest. That's all fine and good with me, but the essay that I entered would like a home. Hence, I'll be posting it here for you to read, if you be so inclined.

The topic I chose to address was:
Since the law organizes justice, why should it not also organize labor, education, and religion? What is the author’s answer to this question? How does the law commit legal plunder when used to promote charity? Education? Morality and religion?

There are four parts.

Introduction // The Injustice of Enforcing "Good" // A Call for Realism // Justice Alone is Enough

Infinity

"Your own religion, after all, says that the devils are fallen angels."
"You are saying precisely the opposite, as far as I can make out- that angels are devils who've risen in the world."
"It comes to the same thing," said Weston
-Perelandra

No, Weston, there is a difference. We fall, we diminish. What we have, we lose. That fact underpins so much... Molecules-to-man evolution claims that we can increase, grow into perfection. Even- that man can create heaven on earth. But never has science supported this. Over time, genetic information is lost, not gained. Recessive genes die out. Species go extinct. Royalty who marry their own relatives are sickly.

To survive, we need a bottomless source for information, something outside of ourselves. To be alive, we need infinity.

By ourselves, we have nothing. We're vessels only capable of speaking and sharing what has already been poured into us. The ideas and understanding of this world is finite. (Or, if there's anything about us that's infinite, it's our tendency to stray from right. Perhaps there's an infinite amount of the absence of God.) How easy it is to go around in circles like a broken record, set on play but always covering the same ground. Again and again and again. Dead, empty, meaningless.

Never new, always the same.
I am a sham, an emotionless name
This life is repetition, a foolish game
Originality is an impossible aim.

But God! is infinite. He never ends. He inspires us, he gives us knowledge. No, not knowledge only- wisdom. Truth. Again and again and again we can learn, soak in his word, and it means something every time. It is new. It is original. No, those are silly words when the one I need is right within reach- it is True.

This deadness that I experience, when words mean nothing, reminds me that words are only meaningful when they are guided by the hand of the Author. Just as devils can't rise, or humans can't produce new genetic information, we can't create meaning.

But meaning I need, desperately. It's as if the little amount of truth I have isn't enough to sustain me.

Sure, I sing in praise of truth and ideas
but it feels empty, hollow, stupid.
Nothing matters. I won't come alive
Until there's something more to reach for

My longing for newness is a longing for God. The staleness I feel at the pointlessness of everything is an absence of meaning, an absence of God.

Infinity, come!
I'm in circles
waiting for you
I need an escape
from this
monotony

Infinity has come. He is here. And I rejoice.

Minor annoyances

Bothered. I use that word alot.

For example, I'm bothered when I spend a lot of a time on lameish blog post, and can't decide if I even want to post.

I'm bothered with people who ramble or believe what I strongly disagree with.

This is what Hayley told me two days ago:
"James 1:20 - "man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." it's just not really worth getting ticked about."

Oh, great, now I can be bothered at my unrighteousness. I think I secretly like being bothered by things, it makes me think that I have high standards and am sensitive. I don't know the right perspective to take about minor annoyances. I do know I should be content, I know I shouldn't be self-righteous, I know that I should hate evil.

Of course, the things that bother me aren't all "evil." They're usually minuscule things that don't matter.

Why do I find it so hard not to care about what doesn't matter?

And I've already thought about this same problem of mind so many times, I've already discussed being bothered that I'm bothered. The problem is not a theoretical uncertainty, but a difficulty in practice.

Is it asking too much to request you to tell me if you see my attitude off?