Quick Links for Impatient Readers
- bid a sad farewell to the unpeaceable rhetoric of “culture war,”
- object to the distasteful secular rhetoric of “sex workers,”
- affirm the right of the people (individuals) to keep and bear arms,
- condemn public-venue hosting of transvestite events,
- and make some closing remarks.
My Sad Farewell to the Culture War ^
On 12 October I sent an item to my local paper, the San Diego Union-Tribune (U-T), under the subject line “Commentary: A Culture War Peace Proposal.” The U-T’s “commentary” submission category covers items running 700–750 words in length. As it does not do in the case of other reader-submission categories, the U-T requires that submissions in this category be exclusive to the U-T (per the paper’s “Letters and commentaries policies” document, printed to pdf 15 April 2019). I therefore won’t be reproducing that commentary here on the Pious Eye site until it becomes clear that the U-T isn’t going to use it. Since the same week I submitted this item the U-T’s opinion page started running only one page per day (it used to run two pages most days, longer on Sundays; it continues to be longer on Sundays, but it has run just one page Monday–Wednesday this week), I doubt they will find room for my commentary even if they think it worth printing, so it most likely will end up on Pious Eye eventually. (The U-T did run a two-page opinion section on Thursday. In addition to running a two-page editorial section at least one day other than Sunday, a weak positive, it continues to carry columns by a certain race-baiting columnist I’m tempted to describe as a “Hispanic nationalist,” a very strong negative. Meanwhile, the comics run at least two full pages every day, which surely says something about the state of public discourse in San Diego County. That three or four pages are now given over to legal notices might also say something, though I’m not sure what.)
In the meantime, I’ll pass along some of the thinking that motivates the commentary. It begins with Scripture.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:9)
If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:18)
Reflecting on these verses, the second of which seems to give explicit divine sanction to the libertarian non-aggression principle—according to which one may defend oneself (or others) against aggression but may never initiate it, and so may never coerce anyone to do or believe anything he does not choose freely, or to abstain from any behavior or belief he does choose freely—it occurred to me that the rhetoric of “culture war” so prevalent among socially and politically engaged Christians runs contrary to the peaceable approach demanded by these verses. The “Do violence to no man” of Luke 3:14 also favors the non-aggression principle, provided one grants that all forms of coercion are varieties of violence. In that sense, today’s cultural and political landscape is “filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11).
Based upon the idea that the moral values of the majority of Americans have shifted to less Christian ones, ones which, for example, judge homosexual activity unobjectionable or morally neutral, my commentary suggests that the way for us Bible-believing Christians to live peaceably with the growing number of Americans who, even if they profess to be “Christians” of some sort, do not share our values, might lie in the direction of libertarianism rather than in continuing to press for a return to dominance of Christian values. I propose this as a pragmatic application of verses like Matthew 5:9 and Romans 12:18, based on my expectation that the shift in American values currently underway will continue. Like other believers, I hope that God might still turn this nation around, but I’ve seen no persuasive evidence that such a turning around is underway or likely to begin anytime soon.
As I’ve previously noted, our nation’s founding principles may be construed as “libertarian.” As I point out in my commentary, every law both presupposes and seeks to enforce some moral system. Should American law seek to enforce the full Christian moral system, or might we make due with some less comprehensive system, one included within but not comprehending the Christian, biblical system? My commentary suggests that the libertarian philosophy of our nation’s founders, the philosophy central to our Declaration of Independence, might be able to serve as a “moral common ground” between traditional and Bible-believing Christians, on the one hand, and Americans who have embraced dominant trends in American values, such as the trend to see nothing wrong with homosexual inclination and activities, on the other.
My commentary presupposes that support for the full-orbed moral system of Christianity has indeed ceased to be a majority viewpoint in these United States. Politically engaged and conservative Christians often argue that their values are really in the majority, contrary to what the popular media, popular entertainment, and prominent pundits lead one to believe. Given how woefully sub-Christian are the teachings and behaviors of many “Christian” individuals and organizations these days, I suspect this “Christians are still the majority” idea is wishful thinking or a delusion resulting from too much time spent in a conservative and Christian information bubble, but I could be mistaken. I am much more an abstract-principles than a facts-and-figures guy, so my knowledge of demographics and polling, and of such empirical likelihoods as one might justifiably infer from them, is limited. Nevertheless, that America is trending in a direction where Christian values will be in the minority at some point, whether already or in the future, seems evident.
The same Christian conservatives who believe that they are still part of a mostly silent majority that must ultimately prevail in America also like to construe current legal victories as evidence that their “army” is going to win the war against freedom-averse unbelievers. Current judicial appointments do make prospects for short-term preservation of at least some American liberties a little better. But given that a majority of Christian parents still send their children to public schools, and both consume themselves and allow their children to consume the products of an American popular culture that celebrates values and encourages desires contrary and hostile to Scripture, the long-term prospects seem less bright. (I, too, consume too much American popular culture, so I do not rate myself “holier than” other Christians making this error [Luke 18:10–14], I should note.) After all, future elected representatives, unelected bureaucrats, and judges will have to be selected from among the children currently being indoctrinated by schools and pervasive media that are mostly unfriendly to the cause of Christ. Then again, I’m an innately dour person who thinks saying “the cup is half empty” is still too optimistic, so perhaps time will prove me wrong, Lord willing. Anyway….
The approach I’ve adopted in this commentary, one toward which I’ve been drifting for a while, may require I repudiate statements I’ve made in some past post. Since it now seems that I’m supporting making common cause with atheists and agnostics who believe in natural rights, even though I still believe they have no sound justification for this belief, my past opposition to making common cause with them may need to be jettisoned. Since some individuals do freely choose to engage in sex as a commercial activity (next section), and since outlawing such choices is a coercive imposition of my Christian values on people who do not share them, my prior identification of calls to decriminalize prostitution as “foolishness” may have to be abandoned, though the reality that coercive trafficking tends to coexist with voluntary participation where prostitution is legalized, as one National Center on Sexual Exploitation video points out, may allow me to hold to the identification a while longer.
In any case, on the basis of biblical principles requiring that I seek to live peaceably with those who do not share my Christian values, I now bid a sad farewell to the culture war. May cordial cultural discussion, peaceful cultural persuasion, and cooperation on matters of agreement and common concern replace it.
Prostitution: None (Among Secular Libertarians) Dare* Call It Whoredom ^
* Technically, “dares” would be correct here, since “none” means “no one.” “None Dare Call It…,” however, is a traditional phrase found in the title of at least a few books, so I’ve used it.
Though I now see the scaled-down set of moral principles comprising libertarianism as a viable basis for law in a free nation where values-diversity prevails, I definitely do not consider libertarianism adequate as a stand-alone moral system to guide personal conduct in all spheres of life. That secular libertarians often treat it as just that is evident from the morally permissive language they typically use. A prominent example of such usage is the phrase “sex workers,” which they use to identify pornographic performers, prostitutes, and all others who engage in sexual activities for money.
As far as I’m concerned, anyone who uses the term “sex workers” to refer to prostitutes and their ilk loses the right to have his opinions taken seriously. Enter a John Stossel video that recently appeared among YouTube’s recommendations for me. Stossel, like the Reason TV channel that hosts his show, is a libertarian of the secular variety. Like others of this ilk (Hoppe, Weld), Stossel ends up embracing a moral system pared down to match his political stance. Since a libertarian political order, even of the Christian variety, finds it difficult to justify outlawing voluntary prostitution by adult individuals, Stossel naturally opposes outlawing the practice. But, unlike Christians who favor a libertarian political order, the secular Stossel adapts his morality to his politics (or, perhaps, only adopted those politics because of his irreligious morality). To his way of thinking, prostitution shouldn’t just be legally tolerated but should also be freed of the moral stigma of terms like “prostitution” and “whoredom.” Hence he joins other secular libertarians in calling it “sex work.”
Secular libertarians’ legal tolerance of prostitution isn’t “tolerance” at all; it is approval. Whereas Christian advocates of individual liberty may favor legally tolerating consensual sins they still condemn as immoral, such as whoredom and (consensual) sodomy, secular libertarians only favor legally tolerating what they consider moral. It just happens that what they consider moral is just about anything, provided it doesn’t subject anyone to physical harm against his will. (They rarely allow non-physical harm to justify outlawing anything or labeling it immoral. Additionally, most of them consider physical harm to unborn children unobjectionable, though there are, thankfully, exceptions to this.) You can always tell someone who tends in this secular-libertarian direction by his tendency to use faith and religion as his go-to illustrations of thoughtlessness, unfairness, and tyranny. Tucker Carlson often does this. So does at least one RT commentator.
In a prior post, I noted that
The secular values driving the policies of California’s politburo are the mind-your-own-business values of self-centered apathy, the values that have led to such things as drug addicts being left alone as they shoot up in a public transit station in San Francisco. Apathetic, “well, it’s their life; they ought to be free to do as they please,” values cannot produce the sort of supportive behavior that directs those in need to a God whose revealed values show humans the only standard according to which they can lead meaningful, abundant lives (John 10:7–10; Proverbs 8).
The values I here describe as “well, it’s their life; they ought to be free to do as they please” values would more precisely be described as “well, it’s their life; they ought to be left alone to do as they please, neither coerced nor persuaded to change their behavior.” Often, Americans take the reality that individuals must be free to do what they choose to do, must be at liberty to make choices free from coercion by others, to imply that one should never attempt to persuade others to choose differently. “It’s none of my business,” they say. People ought to be free from coercion by others when choosing how they will act; they ought not to be free from the non-coercive influence of others. Recognition of others’ freedom to make their own decisions under God’s granting to them of stewardship authority over themselves (typically, if inexactly, called “self-ownership”) does not require that one abstain from trying to influence the decisions others make; it only requires that one never coerce them. When most people say that others “ought to be free to do as they please,” they mean that one should always butt out of other people’s decision-making processes because these processes are none of one’s business. Secular libertarians seem to go a little farther, holding that “there are no right or wrong answers” in moral questions concerning behaviors that cause no direct physical harm to others. Neither most people nor secular libertarians are correct.
What Part of “Right of the People” Don’t You Understand? ^
Emailed to U-T: 12 September 2019
Subject line: response to Community Dialog item of 12 September
Status: Not to be printed or posted
I wrote this in response to yet another tired attempt by a gun-control advocate to use the Second Amendment’s mention of “A well-regulated militia” to argue that the only individuals who should be permitted to keep and bear arms are members of “state armies” (in the words used by this gun-control advocate in his letter to the U-T). Many gun-rights supporters immediately respond to this by emphasizing how all able-bodied men of a certain age were considered part of their state’s “militia,” but this line of argument seems to me misguided because it implicitly grants that the amendment identifies the right in view as belonging only to members of the militia. This is incorrect. It is also incorrect to claim, as this gun-control advocate did, that the Second Amendment “grants the right” in view to certain people. The Bill of Rights guarantees government protection of the God-given rights of the nation’s citizens; it doesn’t grant rights.
“People need to go back and read Second Amendment” ([U-T] South + East Community Dialog, September 12) interprets “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” to mean that only state-controlled armies have a right to arms.
But the wording clearly affirms a “right of the people.” Per the Tenth Amendment, “the people” can’t mean “the states.”
If a state needs to defend itself, it must raise a fighting force from among its citizens. It is therefore in states’ interest that citizens’ right to arms be protected. You can’t raise a fighting force from unarmed citizens unaccustomed to using firearms.
The Bill of Rights needed to be approved by states, so it focused on how protecting this right would benefit states. But the right, which is God-given, still belongs to individuals.
Stop Dragging My Tax Funds Around: Publicly Funded Promotion of Drag ^
Emailed to U-T: 17 September 2019
Subject line: Response to “Say hello to this week’s winners and loser” (September 13 [14?])
Status: Not to be printed or posted
September 13 is the date the item posted to the U-T Web site. The opinion section was printed without a date this week, and I had thrown out the rest of the paper by the time I wrote my letter. It is likely the article itself was in the September 14 issue. This was the first week that the U-T carried this feature, and it is the only week the feature was called “winners and losers.” It has since been rebranded “cheers and jeers.”
The shortened version I emailed read as follows:
Re “Say hello to this week’s winners and loser” (September 13): Had this “drag-queen story time” been held at a privately funded and staffed venue, your Editorial Board’s “if you disagree, don’t go” might refute Christian protesters. But this event was held at a public library.
Christians who see the Bible as authoritative must object when public funds help promote contrary values. Though drag-queen readings seem minor compared to such prevalent immoralities as abortion, the Bible does condemn transvestism (Deuteronomy 22:5). When public funds help promote drag, Bible believers must protest.
As America’s liberty-centered constitutional system doesn’t permit outlawing transvestism, the First Amendment’s requirement that government remain religiously neutral shouldn’t permit use of public resources to promote transvestism. Yet when interviewed by local media before the event, your “winners” for the week left no doubt that making drag seem normal and acceptable was indeed part of the event’s purpose.
A longer prior version read this way:
Re “Say hello to this week’s winners and loser” (September 14): Had the protested “drag-queen story time” event been held at a privately funded venue staffed by volunteers, your Editorial Board’s “if you disagree, don’t go” might be a sufficient answer to Christian protesters. For an event held at a public library, however, it’s inadequate.
It may seem odd that Christians who freely consume American popular culture, and who mostly send their children to public schools, should choose something peripheral like drag-queen story time to protest. Still, their protest has a solid basis in Scripture: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God” (Deuteronomy 22:5).
While America’s liberty-centered system of constitutional government does not permit this moral stance to be imposed by law, the religious neutrality required of that government (see the First Amendment) makes public sponsorship of drag-queen story time objectionable. Participants interviewed by local media made it clear that they saw normalizing drag (transvestism) as an important function of the event.
I realize that Christians who see the Bible as authoritative rather than advisory are not in sync with the secular and permissive values of contemporary American culture, the U-T Editorial Board, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (an organization that routinely identifies peaceful Bible-based activism as “hate”). That’s one reason I, as such a Christian myself, am glad I live in a liberty-centered constitutional republic where individual rights are not subject to majority will.
Closing Remarks ^
It appears that the inconsistencies I recognized in my political convictions back in 2016 are beginning to resolve themselves into a dominantly libertarian perspective. The licentiousness of many secular libertarians, however, should keep me from subscribing to Reason magazine or joining the Libertarian Party anytime soon.