Tuesday, April 29, 2008

This Is Not Republican Values

Down in Indiana there is a real scandal brewing. An ambulance chasing attorney named Tony Zirkle is running for the Republican nomination for congress in the second district - that is South Bend. (Thankfully he has an opponent!) This guy spoke at a birthday bash for Crazy Adolph Hitler put on by the National Socialist Workers Party. (That's the Nazi's.) He also said that segregation should be re-examined. According to Zirkle we would have six states for the blacks and forty-four states for the rest of us. I'm not sure what he proposes to do with mulattoes -half black, half white, and the quadrones - a quarter black and three quarter white. And what do you do with all the Arabs in Dearborn? That's almost a small state's worth of people by itself. (Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot, those are fellow descendants of Shem! Right!)

The bottom line is that this is disgraceful in the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant. It is the Republicans who freed the blacks from slavery. It is the Republicans who joined with a Democratic president, against the majority of Democrats in Congress, to pass the Voting Rights Act. (Remember the filibuster attempt by Wm. J. Fulbright and Al Gore, Sr.) And it is Democrats who re-enslaved blacks to the welfare state. There is no place in the Republican Party for this sort of asinine male cow manure.

Dr. Gene Edward Veith in his book Modern Fascism explains that one has to give themselves over to the logic of irrationality to be a fascist. Zirkle appears to be poster child for this very sort of irrationality. His insanity does not in any way represent Republican values! Period!!!!

Bush Get's an A for Today

Today President Bush gave a speech on the energy problems facing our country. He laid that blame on a paralyzed and incompetent congress. That's right where the blame belongs. Congress has been feckless and brainless my whole life. Rare are the congressmen and senators who actually stand for something - Duncan Hunter, J. C. Watts, John Kaisach, Bob Dornen, Spencer Abraham and few others. Even Newt Gingritch fell into the standard political traps when he was Speaker of the House.

Bush advocated deregulating the oil industry so that they can open new oil fields and build new refineries. He especially brought up opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). He noted that opposition to drilling in ANWR is now considered a litmus test for environmental orthodoxy.

I would go further. I would say that opposition to new drilling in our current context is unpatriotic. Buying oil overseas has become a national security issue. We are actually funding our own enemies. Further, the price of imported oil fluctuates with the value of the dollar. Biofuels, as they exist today are no answer at all. It places energy and food into competition with each other. Plus, biofuels are generally simply energy conversions. So you have to have another source of energy to make biofuels. I would advocate an all out energy offensive. New drilling anywhere there may be oil including under the ocean and the great lakes. We need new refineries. We should locate all the contaminated industrial sites and let them be developed as refineries. (We sure don't want to put sub-divisions on those sites!) In addition we should build new hydro-electric dams, which, if engineered properly would create new recreational lakes and very valuable lake front property. We should replace all the existing aging nuclear power plants, plus build at least that many additional plants. We should also build new coal fired plants. Aren't those dirty? Not the newest ones. With filtration systems on the stacks, coal can be as clean as any other fuel. Following this plan, we could, in just a few years be energy independent. An energy independent U.S. is much more stable and secure, both economically and militarily.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Lincoln Day Times Two

This past weekend was a big one for politics up here in the north woods of Wisconsin. On Friday night we had our annual Lincoln Day dinner for the Polk County Republican Party. Our featured speaker was Tom Burnett, Sr. His son, Tom Burnett, Jr. was one of the leaders of the resistance on flight 93 - the one that crashed in Pennsylvania on 9/11. It was great look at a true American hero and a reminder that we must persevere in the war on terror. I also met a young man who had served in Iraq. If I remember the name right he's Steve Winkler. He's from the Osceola area. Steve also expressed the idea that we must finish the war on terror on our terms.

Another great moment was the challenge offered by executive committee member Tom Magnafici. Tom actually grew up in Ronald Reagan's home town of Dixon, Illinois. He challenged us stand for conservative principles. Tom also made some comments about Barak Obama. He's read both of Obama's books and feels that this man is left wing extremist. Tom also had a little trivia contest. I won a flight 93 t-shirt (which Bonnie says shes confiscating for her own use) by knowing which presidents signed the Declaration of Independence.

On Sunday night I attended the Burnett county Republican Party Lincoln Day party. Again it was an awesome evening. I met Supreme Court justice elect Gableman. He is a humble, soft spoken man who nevertheless has an incredible presence about him. He defeated an incumbent justice who was very liberal. We learned more about how this miracle was achieved. Sheriff Dean Roland called all the other sheriff's in the state and simply told them what a great judge Gableman was in Burnett county. He had the support of more than 70% of elected law enforcement officials across the state.

Another speaker was Dave Ross, the mayer of Superior, Wisconsin. Ross explained that Republicans can win consistently in Democratic areas simply by making clear promises and then fulfilling them. He recently won reelection campaigning on the theme: He did what he said. It reminded me that Contract with America failed precisely because most of it was never enacted and most of those elected on those promises simply proved to be politicians.

Three candidates spoke at both events, incumbent state senator Shela Harsdorf, Dan Mielke, running against Dave Obey for the U.S House and Kent Muschinske running for state assembly. Shela is being targeted by the Madison dems, as she was four years ago. But she's been a great senator and will be a strong candidate. Dan Mielke is a long time political activist who has been though many political battles. He seems to have a strong plan to win over Democratic voters. Kent Muschinske has served for the last few years as the chairman of the Polk County Republican party. He's an airline pilot and hobby farmer, who as also taught ag classes at the high school level and served in the Air Force during both Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He also will be a very strong candidate.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Persian Cat?

How do you know if you have a Persian Cat? I wonder?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sermon for April 26-27

The Sixth Sunday of Easter
April 26-27
Text: Acts 17:16-31

Dear Friends in Christ,
We live at a time where there is a great deal of controversy about evangelism. We have great divisions, that pierce to the very heart of the faith, as to how we are supposed to proclaim Christ to a dying world. No place do we find a better exposition on the nature of evangelism and mission work than in the16th and 17th Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Here we see how mission work is filled with success and failure, as well as conflict and violence. The thing that this chapter makes clear in no uncertain terms, is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is an offense to our sin filled world.
Our story really begins in chapter 16: “And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” (Acts 16:6-10) This passage tells us several things. Paul had one plan and God had another. He saw the mission field in the province of Asia being ripe for the harvest. But God said, no, not there. The other point is rather incidental, but I will point out nonetheless. Notice that the pronouns shift in the middle of the passage. From this we see that Luke, the author of Acts, joined Paul’s party in the city of Troas. From here they went to Philippi where they made some converts but also were at the center of riot and were thrown in jail. Then they went to Thessaoinica. The story repeats itself. The majority of the jew reject Paul’s message and stir up the crowds to run them out of town. About this time, one has to wonder what Paul and his companions are thinking. God, are you sure this was what you wanted us to do? Then they went to Berea where we read a most interesting passage, indeed: “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11) Ah, finally, success. Paul and his companions can get on to building up their megachurch. This must be what God had in mind. But no, Jews from Thessalonica came over and stirred up trouble. They were afraid for Paul’s life. So the church made a fateful decision. For his own safety, Paul had to go. So Silas and Timothy stayed behind to quickly finish the work that they had started. Some other men escorted Paul from Berea to Athens. You get the impression that this was almost like a kidnaping - that Paul wasn’t given much choice in the matter.
Paul was probably told to lay low in Athens until Timothy and Silas could join him. But no, Paul couldn’t shut his mouth. He immediately interrupts his vacation by telling people about Jesus. Soon he was preaching on Mars Hill to all the philosophers of Athens. But in the end he only made a few converts. From there he went to Corinth and once again was arrested. This time, however, he was brought before the provincial governor, one Lucius Junius Gallio - no relation to the wine makers. Gallio is the brother of the philosopher Annaeus Seneca. The reference to Gallio places Paul in Corinth in 52 A.D. about 18 years after his dramatic conversion to the Christian faith.
On the surface, Paul’s work in Macedonia and Greece appears to be a failure. He won few converts and was run out of nearly every town. This appeared to be hard soil indeed for planting the seed of the Gospel. But three very important things happened. First, Paul brought his message to the most learned men of Athens. Though many rejected it, the idea was planted among them. They would continue to discuss this new idea. Paul’s greatest success came in Corinth, though the congregation was plagued by internal troubles from the start. But Corinth was one of the busiest sea ports in the world at that time. Any idea that was present in Corinth would quickly spread throughout the Roman world and beyond. Finally, Paul, by speaking to Gallio, penetrated the highest circles of Roman society and government.
We have been entrusted by God with a great treasure. We have been given, as a free gift, the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life in the light and peace of heaven. This was done for us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when He died on the cross. This gift was sealed and certified by the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. And so we too will we rise in our body to life with Christ. It is God’s desire that all men come to faith and be saved. God also tells us that many will reject that message. What seems most offensive to people is the “resurrection of the body.” Christianity is unique in this teaching. Most religions that teach an afterlife, teach that only the soul or spirit lives on. This is what offended the philosophers of Athens. Because, like many people today, they believed that all things physical are bad. We as Christians, assert with St. Paul that God made the entire material universe. In Christ, God saved all men from sin and death. And God, in Christ, raises us bodily from the dead. As we share this, probably ten people will reject it for every one that believes it. Many of those who reject God’s teaching of life will become angry that we teach this. They will speak against us, or in some cases perhaps even seek to harm us. We must remember what happened to St. Paul. The same will happen to us. And remember the ratio that I gave - ten to one. We must remember that the Gospel is the most offensive message in the history of the world. Far more people reject it than believe it. We have some in our synod who think that they can package and soft peddle the gospel in such a way that it does not offend. This is foolishness. Only a Gospel that offends can save. Because it is the very idea that we are sinners in need of a savior in the first place that the world rejects. It is the very idea that God would save us that the world rejects. It is the very idea that the dead rise that the world rejects. So it is the very heart of our message that offends the world. If you make the message unoffensive, you also gut it of all Christian content.
St. Paul probably would have had more earthly success and have worked more peacefully in Asia. God had other ideas. God wanted the Gospel proclaimed in Macedonia and Greece. For from there, and those handful of converts, the Word would travel all over the world. From the head in the clouds philosophers of Athens and the debauched sailors and merchants of Corinth, that offending Gospel would spread. Many would hear and reject God’s saving words. But others, would come to faith in Christ and be saved. So it was then, thus it is also today. We offend to save. There is no way around this. For the very idea of God dying for the sins of the world is the most terribly offensive message ever uttered - and the most beautiful.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Missouri Synod and the Fourth Commandment

Fourth Commandment (As Lutherans number them): Honor Your Father and Mother

In recent letters from LCMS President Kieschnick and the Council of Presidents (COP) we warned to make sure we fulfill our Fourth Commandment obligations to our elected district and Synodical officals. They invoke the Fourth Commandment saying that the rank and file pastors and lay people have a duty to obey them. This is not so. In fact the obligation under the Fourth Commandment, in our political structure runs exactly the other direction. The elected officials of district and Synod are set aside to be servants of the whole. Of course when they speak correctly from the Word of God, as Dr. Walther teaches us in his book Church and Ministry, we must obey. After all, if we were to oppose them at such a time, we would be speaking against God Himself. Nevertheless, the authority in our political structure is placed with our congregations and expressed through our district and Synodical conventions. Far from the rank and file pastors and lay people having to obey our elected officials, our officials must obey us when we speak through our conventions. Again there are limits. They can never be bound to act contrary to the Word of God. But in other matters, our conventions are the final authority in the Missouri Synod.

Now if we are not allowed to speak of the matters at dispute within the synod, how can our congregations make a wise choice in selecting delegates? How can our congregations instruct our delegates? How can the delegates, who collectively hold Fourth Commandment authority over the synod, make informed and wise decisions? Dr. Walther, the first president of Synod, understanding this, insisted that anyone who has a concern and has access to a printing press was free to circulate his concerns as he thought best.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Eighth Commandment and the Cloak that Covers Evil

Over the last twenty plus years, going back to the time when I was finishing up at Concordia, Ann Arbor, I have heard one screed on the Eight Commandment after the other. But what is always missed is that the commandment cuts both ways. We are to bear true witness. That means we are to call evil, well... evil. Sometimes the best construction we can legitimately put on something is to explain that is a public sin. The Eighth Commandment is given to protect people's reputations from false attack. But it is also given so that we can warn God's people when a wolf is in their midst. In the end what is most important is the truth. As St. Paul says, "Love... rejoices with the truth." (I Corinthians 13:4-6 ESV) So any attempt to use the Eighth Commandment to suppress the truth turns the command into a cloak which covers evil - and is ultimately, unloving.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mary, Jesus, and the Mythical Roman Soldier

Film director Paul Verhoeven is coming out with a biography of Christ. Thankfully it will take some time for it to be translated into English. He trots out the old saw that Mary was raped by a Roman soldier. This idea was first floated by the Jewish leadership in the middle of the first century. There is only one major problem with claim. There weren't many Roman soldiers in the region at the time. The province of Galilee was part of the kingdom of Herod the Great, who had pledged allegiance to Rome. He had his own army. They were locals, not Romans. So the idea of Mary being raped by a Roman soldier, just on the face of it, would be very unlikely. Verhoeven's book is not much of a threat to traditional Biblical scholarship.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

An Earth Day Message

Special Thanks to Rev. Kurt Hering of Trinity Lutheran Church,Layton,Utah for permission to reprint his most excellent article on Earth Day.

What does God's Word have to say about such things as man's worries about global warming and his efforts to save the planet?

1. Until our Lord returns on Judgment Day there will be all sorts of disasters throughout the world, and even the universe, that will cause all sorts of distress to men.

a.. "'And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken.'" Luke 21:25-26
2. The earth will not be destroyed and its people will not face extinction one moment before God's will for all His elect, predestined to be saved, is accomplished.

a.. "'Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.'" Luke 21:32-33
3. Those who do not believe in Jesus as the Savior of the world, whose hearts fail from fear of what may become of the earth and of them, will get caught up in trying to prevent, forestall, or hide from the disasters. But those who believe the Son of God is their Savior, and abide in His Word, know their redemption draws near and the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

a.. "'But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.'" Luke 21:34-36
b.. "'Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near. Then He spoke to them a parable: 'Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.'" Luke 21:28-31
More from God's Word to guide us in our thoughts about "Earth Day":

a.. The earth is the LORD'S, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters. [Psalm 24:1-2]
b.. So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." [Genesis 1:2-28]
c.. "Behold, God is great, and we do not know Him; nor can the number of His years be discovered. . . . God thunders marvelously with His voice; he does great things which we cannot comprehend. For He says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth'; likewise to the gentle rain and the heavy rain of His strength. . . . From the chamber of the south comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds of the north. By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen. Also with moisture He saturates the thick clouds; he scatters His bright clouds. And they swirl about, being turned by His guidance, that they may do whatever He commands them on the face of the whole earth. He causes it to come, whether for correction, or for His land, or for mercy. "Listen to this, O Job; stand still and consider the wondrous works of God. Do you know when God dispatches them, and causes the light of His cloud to shine? Do you know how the clouds are balanced, those wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge?
d.. Then the LORD . . . will question you, and you shall answer [Him]. "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; When I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; When I fixed My limit for it, and set bars and doors; When I said, 'This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!' Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it? It takes on form like clay under a seal, and stands out like a garment. From the wicked their light is withheld, and the upraised arm is broken. Have you entered the springs of the sea? Or have you walked in search of the depths? Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Or have you seen the doors of the shadow of death? Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this. Where is the way to the dwelling of light? And darkness, where is its place, That you may take it to its territory, that you may know the paths to its home? Do you know it, because you were born then, or because the number of your days is great? Have you entered the treasury of snow, or have you seen the treasury of hail, Which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war? By what way is light diffused, or the east wind scattered over the earth? Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water, or a path for the thunderbolt, to cause it to rain on a land where there is no one, a wilderness in which there is no man; To satisfy the desolate waste, and cause to spring forth the growth of tender grass? Has the rain a father? Or who has begotten the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? And the frost of heaven, who gives it birth? The waters harden like stone, and the surface of the deep is frozen. Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades, or loose the belt of Orion? . . . Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you set their dominion over the earth? Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that an abundance of water may cover you? Can you send out lightnings, that they may go, and say to you, 'Here we are!'? Who has put wisdom in the mind? Or who has given understanding to the heart? Who can number the clouds by wisdom? Or who can pour out the bottles of heaven, When the dust hardens in clumps, and the clods cling together? . . . Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said: "Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it." [Select verses from Job 38:1-40:2]
Therefore, based upon the Scriptures, when we pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," we realize that "the good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also." [Luther's Small Catechism explanation to the Third Petition of the Lord's Prayer]

And when we pray "Give us this day our daily bread," it is based on God’s own promise that he "certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. [Furthermore, this] daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like." [Luther's Small Catechism expanation to the Fourth Petition of the Lord's Prayer]

Furthermore we confess to the world that they may also believe that God is their Father that takes care of them:
"I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.
"He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.
"He defends me from against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil.
"All this He does out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him." [Luther's Small Catechism explanation to the First Article of the Apostles' Creed]

By this we mean to say:
"'That [God the Father, creator of heaven and earth] has given and constantly preserves (Psalm 36:6) for me my body, soul, and life. . . . He causes all created things to serve for the uses and necessities of life. These include the sun, moon, and stars in the heavens, day and night, air, fire, water, earth, and whatever bears and produces. They include birds and fish, beasts, grain, and all kinds of produce (Psalm 104). They also include whatever else there is for bodily and temporal goods, like good government, peace, and security.' So we learn from this article that none of us owns for himself, nor can preserve, his life nor anything that is here listed or can be listed. This is true no matter how small or unimportatn a thing it might be. For all is included in the word Creator.
"Further, we also confess that God the Father has not only given us all that we have and see before our eyes, but He daily preserves and defends us against all evil and misfortune (Psalm 5:11). He directs all sorts of danger and disaster away from us. We confess that He does all this out of pure love and goodness, without our merit, as a kind Father. He cares for us so that no evil falls upon us. . . .
"Now, all that we have, and whatever else is in heaven and upon th earth, is daily given, preserved, and kept for us by God." [Luther's Large Catechism explanation to the First Article of the Apostles' Creed]

So on this "Earth Day," and indeed each of these Latter Days, remember and take heart at the Word of our risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ:
"And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. Luke 12:4-9

Thanks be to God!

Why No One Believes David Strand

On Tuesday of Holy Week, the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod canceled the popular radio program "Issues, Etc." from KFUO radio. This station in St. Louis is owned and operated by the LCMS. This program had a world wide following via podcast. David Strand, who works for the synod, has been the primary spokesman on this.

According to Strand, the program was losing too much money for the synod to continue funding it. But this doesn't make any sense at all. The new program replacing it on the schedule, creatively called "The Afternoon Show," costs money to produce as well. "Issues, Etc." generated over $900k in revenue per year. This is after the LCMS Foundation siphoned off a 38% fundraising service fee. The new program, on the other hand, is unlikely the generate much revenue at all. This is especially so since the show is not podcast. A great many "Issues, Etc." donors were from around the country. So here is what Strand is asking us to believe: The new show, which will generate no revenue of its own, will cost about a million dollars less per year to produce. I don't think that even the Enron accountants could pull that one off. In reality, the cancellation of "Issues, Etc." will increase the expenses of the synod. It doesn't take a Wall Street wiz to figure that out.

Since David Strand is such a fiscal genius, I wonder if I could interest him in some penny stocks?

Conservativsm and Constitutionalism

Second in a series of articles intended to define conservatism.

George asked me to write about the conservatives and constitutionalists. So I’ll take that up before I take up libertarianism.

First we must say that there are two types of constitutionalists. The first type could be called hyper textualists. They operate in a historical vacuum as if there were no history or jurors prudence. There is only the text. The other type would see the text in light of understood history and jurors prudence. This would include the English common law tradition. Those who hold to this latter type of constitutionalism, would say, for example, if a president acts in a way that is consistent with past court rulings, he is within his rights. This would hold true even if some disagree with those rulings. Both groups however, have high judicial standards. So both would object to blatantly activist rulings like Roe vs. Wade which make up law in a total vacuum. Such rulings make the very existence of a constitution worthless.

A constitution, when properly understood is a limiting document. It prevents people from doing whatever they please. Such a document is the underlying foundation of the rule of law. Without such a foundational document you really can’t have the rule of law. A constitution is more than a framework or structure for governance. It places certain things off limits. For example, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents government from outlawing private ownership of firearms. The authors of a constitution embody those ideas they consider to be sacred and non-negotiable.

Conservatives will be constitutionalists of some type. Conservatives are about conserving personal liberty and the unique American culture. The U. S. Constitution, when preserved by originalist judges, as well as a faithful congress and president, serves as a mechanism to preserve the ideals of personal liberty and opportunity.

Monday, April 21, 2008

FLDS, Polygamy, & the Law

As I'm sure you all know, the authorities seized a large group of children from a compound operated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). This is a group that practices what is best described as historic Mormonism. That means that they still practice polygamy. Of course that is against the law.

Now I find this a bit odd in a sense. Our courts have ruled that just about anything goes sexually. There are no laws against shacking up and a lot of people are doing just that. So what if a man shacks up with two or three women at the same time? It's not illegal. Are we going to sweep in take their children from them?

What about stories of children marrying at very young ages? That's not right, is it? Well, it's not right in that it is against the law. Most cultures at most times in history had girls marry shortly after physical maturity. It worked like this: A girl would have her first period and daddy would throw a big party celebrating his daughter's coming of age. It would be his way of saying that his daughter was now on the market. Within a year or two, daddy would pick out the boy he liked for his daughter and the marriage would take place. This would have been common in both Jewish and Christian cultures. So marrying at a young age is not immoral, though it is illegal in the United States.

There is another practical angle to this as well. A girl, younger than age 16-17, couldn't even function as a wife and mother in the practical sense at all. She couldn't drive or do many of the things she would be required to do in normal American society. Further, this would require the husband to be the sole breadwinner. In reality, even most 18 year olds, would have difficulty. This is, in part, because we train our girls to be young professionals rather than wives. This has good points and bad. We really are quite limited in our ability to change this. So it just is, as it is. So apart from living in an FLDS compound, marriage at a young age, in our current society is just not practical, even if it were legal.

How does Christianity view polygamy? There is a lot of confusion on this. Polygamy is not wrong, unless it is against the law. Pastor's are forbidden from practicing polygamy, but not lay people. This is important on the mission field where men who become Christians may have many wives. But monogamy, that is one man and one woman, for life, is clearly God's model. We see this from the creation account in Genesis. God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Eve, Jen, Jess, Katie and Mary. This is why most nations that are a few centuries into the Judeo-Christian worldview will outlaw polygamy. That happened in most parts of Europe around 1000 A.D. So it does take a while for this work out.

While the FLDS group in Texas was in violation of the law, I do have some concern about the way this came down. The government seized 300+ children because of one complaint that now appears to have been a crank. What evidence did the government actually have against the FLDS group before they acted? I raise this because the next time it could be Lutheran homeschoolers in the government's bullseye. In general, I do not like the fact that we have given bureaucrats administrative power to seize children and remove them from the custody of their parents. In my experience bureaucrats tend to act when they shouldn't and not act when they should. They also often develop their own hobby horses, like going after homeschoolers, or deeply religious parents. I would rather risk a child being left a little longer in a bad situation than have children pulled out of a good situation. This, I think, is part of the idea of people being innocent until proven guilty. I also see it as being rather like the first rule for doctors - first do no harm. I see children being harmed more often then they are helped by government intervention. So while I have all sorts of issues, legal, social, theological and moral with the activities of the FLDS in Texas, I'm not real thrilled with the governmental response either.

Sermon for April 19-20

Sermon - The Fifth Sunday of Easter
April 19-20, 2008 - Text: Acts 6:1-9, 7:2a, 51-60
Dear Friends in Christ,
Ideas are dangerous things. They could get someone killed. In fact most people who have been killed throughout the history of the world have been killed for some idea. One such dangerous idea was that of personal liberty. People like Nathan Hale, died for it. Another such dangerous idea was that all human beings are created equal. In order to transform this idea into reality, men died. Lot’s of men died in the American Civil War. The first man of rank to die was Colonel Elmer Ellsworth killed in a raid on Alexandria, Virginia. He was laid in state in the White House and his elaborate funeral was held in New York City. Many cities were named in his honor, including Ellsworth, Wisconsin. Another dangerous idea that many seek to crush is that there is any possible origin of life apart from Darwinian Evolution. The movie “Expelled” open to packed theaters last night challenging this orthodoxy. Another dangerous idea that must be silenced is that our refusal to fulfill the promises we made to the South Vietnamese government led to millions of people dying. Likewise the idea that man made global warming might not be real must be crushed. How will scientists get their grant money if people don’t think the sky is falling? The most dangerous idea of all is that God became flesh, dwelt among man, died for the sins of the world, and rose again victorious over sin and death. This idea is so dangerous that anyone foolish enough to actually believe this must be marginalized, abused, silenced and even killed.
It is for this reason that many of the Old Testament prophets were killed or imprisoned. Isaiah was beheaded. Elijah was hunted. Jeremiah was imprisoned. Numerous other, lesser known, prophets were killed or imprisoned in the Old Testament. Christ Himself was put to death to silence his accusations against the unfaithfulness of the Jewish leaders, whose descendants are with us to this day, even within the Christian church. Nor did this stop with the death of Christ, as we see in our text. The suppression, abuse and even murder of those who dare to speak the truth continued unabated.
Who was Stephen? Stephen was Hellenistic Jew who lived in Jerusalem in the first century. A Hellenistic Jew was one who, though Jewish, adopted many ways from the Greco-Roman culture around them. We know that Stephen is a Hellenistic Jew because he had a Greek name, rather than a Jewish name. According to Christian tradition, which is probably correct, he was stoned to death by a Jewish mob on December 26, 33 A.D., that is eight months after the death and resurrection of Christ. We don’t know when he came to faith in Christ. Perhaps he was part of the larger group of disciples that is described in the book of Acts, that existed prior to Pentecost. We are told there were 120 people in that larger group. Perhaps Stephen was a Pentecost convert. Perhaps he joined the Christian Church some time after that. He was a man who knew the Scriptures extraordinarily well. He was also immediately recognized as a man of great character. We are told that there was a dispute in those early months. The church in Jerusalem provided support for Christian widows. Now we must understand that in those days there were many young women who were widowed. Typically such women became prostitutes. The church offered them an honorable alternative. This support for young widows would evolve into the later nuns and convents. Some women felt they were getting slighted in the supported provided by the church because they Hellenistic Jews. So they appointed seven helpers, or deacons, to over see this work. Stephen was one of the seven. Two of these men, Stephen and Philip, became directly involved in apologetics and evangelism as well. It was during such an apologetics endeavor that Stephen was stoned. The Jewish leaders did not want to hear the truth of Christ. They stopped up their ears, both literally and figuratively to the truth that Stephen spoke.
This is still true today. Many will try to attack anyone who dares to stand up for the truth of Christ. We see this even in our own community. One of the main tactics of those who would silence voice of Christ is to say that all religions are really just different path to the same God. Since the various religions not only use different names for god, but also describe deities of radically different character, this is absurd on the face it. It is irrational. But more important than this, is that Christ Himself specifically tells us that this is false. “Jesus said..., ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6) Further Christ warns of false messiahs on numerous occasions. The book of Acts echoes this as well: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) In fact the idea that we must be connected to God by the names He has revealed - Christ - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Yahweh, and so forth, is central throughout Scripture. Finally in the Apocalypse of John we read many warnings in the letters to the churches about denying the name of Jesus. We must say with firm conviction that anyone who says that Christianity is but one of many ways to god, that Christians and others, like Muslims, worship the same god, are not in any way Christians and they will not be in heaven. It does matter how much they claim to be Christians, they are not. And if we fail to boldly confess against this, we place our own salvation at risk. And yet, we see all too often that those who teach this falsehood will brook no opposition and will seek to crush all who oppose them.
Stephen finally gives us the proper attitude toward those who persecute us. “‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” If we have the mind of Christ within us, we do not want our worst enemy to be sent to hell. We pray that they would come to see their error by our bold confession. We know that many will not, but there are always some who do. In this, the stoning of Stephen is instructive. The man who whipped up the crowd was a young Jew named Saul of Tarsus. Saul was a man consumed with the destruction of the Christian Church. He would arrest many for being Christians and was even sent out by the Sanhedrin to arrest Christians in the city of Damascus. But on his way to Damascus, Saul was confronted by the risen Christ. Acknowledging his sins, Saul would become the great missionary St. Paul. We never know what God has in mind. God has a sense of irony, or as He puts it Scripture, God works in mysterious ways.
The Church has faced persecution in every age. Yet, we must confess Christ. He alone is our savior from sin and death. Apart from Him and His great gifts of life and salvation, we have no hope. There is no other way to avoid the flames of hell. We know that we may be abused and at certain times and places may even be killed. But then our Lord also was put to death, so can we expect anything less. Yet, we know that our reward is secure, because it is a free gift from Christ to all who trust in and confess His name. And sharing the mind of Christ, we do not wish ill upon our persecutors. We hope and pray that they,like St. Paul, come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved.

Conservatism Vs. Fascism

Here is the first in series of articles intended to define what political conservatism is.

Often we see Conservatives identified as Fascists. Is this accurate or fair? No. Let me explain why.
The modern conservative is focused upon individual rights and responsibilities. A Conservative believes that the individual person should be free to solve his or her own problems. They also believe that the individual will produce a much better solution to their own difficulties than the government or any other outside agency. Conservatives believe in innovation. They believe that private persons are the source of innovation. For example, a century and half ago, many immigrants found that the banks would not lend them money. In many cases it was because of their country of origin or their religion. Such immigrants innovated and created a solution - their own group credit unions.
In contrast, Fascism is a political philosophy based on the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche. Fascism sees individualism as a force which alienates people from one another. It is statist at its core. The government, which is seen as representing a particular people group, works to advance the interests of the members of that group, regardless of the damage it does to others or the society as a whole. Often Fascism becomes connected to racial purity. The individual is seen as a problem. Solutions to problems, for the Fascist, can only come from government. No other solution is considered possible.
The reason you cannot call modern American Conservatives Fascists is that Conservatives are about individual personal liberty while Fascists are about advancing people groups by the use of state power. Conservatives are in fact the opposite of Fascists. But we must ask, is there an organization on the American landscape that does seek to advance various people groups by the use of state power?

Want to know more? Try:
Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview
Gene Edward Veith, Jr.
This is a real primer on Fascism as an intellectual idea.

Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning
Jonah Goldberg
I’ve heard the author interviewed and the book is on my must get list (along with fifty others, someday when I get money). He echoes Veith’s contention that Fascism is a left wing movement.

Who Am I and Why Am I Here?

Well, you've found me. You may or may not be happy about that. We'll see. I am Rev. Jody R. Walter, a confessional Lutheran pastor who is currently rostered in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. I serve two congregations in northwest Wisconsin - Immanuel, Frederic and Immanuel, Cedar Lake. (You'll find Cedar Lake listed under Rice Lake, Wisconsin.)

I have many interests, but I don't intend to bombard you with stuff about the Detroit Tigers baseball team, historical wargaming, or my years in the Society for Creative Anachronism. My wife Bonnie is certain she doesn't want me to talk too much about her, though she is a wonderful, hardworking, longsuffering spouse. She also has a wonderfully pure singing voice, but that does not blog too well. My purpose here is to write about the matters of religion and how it intersects with society, particularly in northwest Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota. I have long also contended that if our faith in Christ informs our life it will also be reflected in various political matters. And so a great bit of space will also be taken up with politics.

A bit more by way of full disclosure. I am a theological conservative. That means I believe that the entire Bible is the Word of God and is without error. Lutherans have not historically believed that the entire Bible is literally true, as we would understand that today. Rather, the context of each book within the Bible will inform us how to read it. So I contend, for example, the book of Genesis must be read literally. But, the Revelation of St. John must read figuratively. This is actually a simpler task than one would think, if one has actually done some real study of the Biblical writings and their background. With just a little work one can figure out what is literal and what is figurative. What is amazing is how many people get messed up on this! I generally however don't call myself a conservative Lutheran, rather I term myself a confessional Lutheran. That means that I also hold to the historic confessional writings of the Lutheran Church. I think Luther, Melanchthon, and Chemnitz, back in the 1500's got it right! (For those who want to find these documents, they are collected in "The Book of Concord" which made its first appears in 1580.) Part of being a confessional Lutheran is holding to the historic worship practices of the Lutheran Church. I'm no fan of praise bands and other such schlock.

In politics, I am a conservative more than a Republican. I am, however, on the executive committee for the Polk County, Wisconsin Republican Party. I am not, however, always happy with the Republicans. I give President Bush a grade of C. He's been awesome on some things, like appointing supreme court justices, but a disaster on issues like securing the border.

A bit more about me personally. I have Cystic Fibrosis. At 44 years of age I am about 10 years past median life expectancy. I have three siblings who have died, that had CF. My brother Tim lives in Michigan, and is a school teacher, but without permanent position at the moment. He keeps out of trouble (or in trouble) as the state's busiest athletic official. My sister Susie lives in Illinois. She also served as a Lutheran School teacher. Though she doesn't have CF, other health problems have left her unable to teach. My wife and I have two nieces and two nephews. The youngest is still in college and the others are getting started in the world. Bonnie's parents have passed away. My parents live in Michigan, still in the same house where I grew up.