Quick Links for Impatient Readers
Welcome to the latest collection of my off-site correspondence, including online discussion posts and, possibly, remarks I opted not to post. As previously noted, all posts on this site are snapshots of my thinking at whatever point in time I wrote them. Since I’m always modifying and improving my thinking — or trying to — my current opinions may not precisely match this set of snapshots. The following materials are snapshots from the third quarter (July, August, and September) of 2022. This is part two of the collected correspondence from that time. I date these collections based on when the snapshots are from, but it should be noted that most of the added commentary here dates to late May of 2023. In this particular collection, in fact, I’ve brought in so much later content that only a desire to maintain the Pious Eye site’s organizational scheme has kept me from dating it to May 2023.
My correspondence for this quarter was so voluminous that even these two long posts will not be enough to cover it. Rather than trying to take all the quarter’s correspondence in chronological order, I’ve here combined materials from July and September. Additional materials remain for all three months. Aren’t you excited?
Here’s what’s included:
- A sent letter rejecting the idea that federalism means states have the authority to authorize the murder of unborn residents.
- Related YouTube comments inserted into this 2022 Q3 post from 2023 Q2.
- Draft remarks for an unsent letter criticizing my congressman’s support for interventionist foreign policy and for ostensibly prolife organizations that do not demand equal protection for all individuals under the law.
- My posted response to a YouTube video, in which I suggest that the religious freedom is based on, or the same as, property rights, conscience being just one of the things one owns, followed by my responses to others who were either pleased or (more often) displeased with my remarks.
- Some closing thoughts.
No, Laurence, States’ Rights Do Not Include Legal Abortion^
Letter to: The Future of Freedom Foundation, 11350 Random Hills Road, Suite 800, Fairfax, VA 22030
Date: 17 July 2022
Description: Letter in response to “Libertarian Litmus Tests” by Laurence M. Vance, Future of Freedom July 2022.
Subject line used: Re: “Libertarian Litmus Tests” by Laurence M. Vance, Future of Freedom July 2022.
In this article, Vance writes,
Republicans also generally envision a federal role on the abortion issue even though the Constitution doesn’t authorize the federal government to have one. Before Roe v. Wade (1973), some states had laws against abortion and some didn’t. And that is how it should be under our federal system of government. (19)
From an author who takes the most extreme stand on libertarian principle he can in almost every other sentence he writes, this states-rights cop-out is profoundly disappointing. It asserts that state governments should have the authority to legalize murder of some human individuals under their jurisdiction. This is a very strange position for someone to take in an article where he elsewhere asserts that
There should be no laws at any level of government for any reason regarding the buying selling, growing, processing, transportation, manufacturing, advertising, using, possessing, or “trafficking” of any drug for any reason. (22)
So, governments are obligated to honor the natural right to liberty by not infringing on the freedom to take dangerous drugs (and, presumably, arresting private individuals who try to forcibly prevent others from taking the drugs they want to take), but governments are not obligated to honor the natural right to life of an entire category of humans (such as by justly punishing anyone who murders them) but, in fact, may make it legal to kill them?
I do hope that FFF and Vance have not made opposition to nationwide protection of God-given individual rights, whose protection is the sole justification for having governments at all, a litmus test for their version of libertarianism. In my view, as long as the libertarian movement is more fervent about liberty and property rights than it is about the right to life, which alone gives meaning and value to any rights that living individuals have, it will not deserve to be taken seriously.
Regardless of the depraved refusal of some states to protect the right to life of the unborn before Roe, the Reconstruction amendments, particularly the 14th, clearly intended to ensure governments nationwide would live up to their responsibility to protect individual rights — and, should they fail to do so, the national government would act. If you have not already done so, please take some time to read Josh Craddock’s Protecting Prenatal Persons: Does the Fourteenth Amendment Prohibit Abortion? (Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 539 , copy enclosed). This article does an excellent job demonstrating how the 14th Amendment must be understood to mandate protection of the right to life of unborn human individuals. Every human individual in every state, born or unborn, must receive from his government equal protection. If any individual (or whole category of individuals) is denied equal protection, “The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of” the 14th Amendment.
Legal abortion has never been any more legitimate in an state than legal lifelong slavery was. While the original federal order of this nation failed to grant the national government any authority to ensure that states and localities lived up to their responsibility to protect individual rights to life, liberty, and property, the amendments passed following the Civil War intentionally nationalized this in a new way. Whether this was a wise or foolish move can be debated, just as it can be debated whether jettisoning rather than tweaking the Articles of Confederation was the best choice. But the original federal order of this nation no longer obtains. With the Reconstruction amendments, the rights-centered ethos of our founding became a national mandate with federal enforcement authority. No longer a union of sovereign states that happen to agree about most things, we are now a nation where agreement about protecting natural rights is mandatory.
Interpretive intrusion: a clarification for Confederates
Since writing this, I have learned that today’s advocates of the Confederacy reject identification of the United States as “a nation.” In their view, a federal republic, which is a union of sovereign states, is not a nation. To my way of thinking, a federal republic and union of sovereign states is a type of nation. Given how I think about this, I failed to perceive how my wording in this letter could be misconstrued. A person of the pro-Confederacy position would naturally read the preceding paragraph as asserting that the post-Civil War amendments changes the United States from a federal republic and union of sovereign states into a nation. My point was actually that the nature of our union of sovereign states has changed. The way it has changes is that, now, a new condition of our federal compact is that the several states must protect the natural rights to life, liberty, and property in their jurisdictions — or else the federal authority will do so. The post-Civil War amendments did not grant any powers to the federal or national government other than those specifically enumerated in said amendments. The central government’s many usurpations of state and local power since that time have not been made constitutional and acceptable by these amendments. We are still a federal republic, and our Constitution is still a document of enumerated powers, just one that enumerates a few more powers now than it did when first ratified.
In further fairness to modern-day Confederates, I should note that they consider the process by which this particular amendment was passed illegitimate. This is a bit like a modern descendant of some tribe of American Indians claiming ownership rights to land underlying a large, long-occupied housing development: academically interesting, but pointless. They also do what opinionated people with historical knowledge often try to do with documents that say things they find disagreeable: reinterpret the words of the document to mean something different from what they clearly say. Applied to Scripture, this same kind of reinterpretation is what gives us such corrupt contemporary innovations as “gay Christianity” and female pastors preaching heresy (1 Timothy 2:12). (Male pastors can preach heresy without such reinterpretation.) I’m not able to take it seriously.
That said, back to the letter
Even before this was made explicit during our nation’s “second founding” after the Civil War, no government anywhere had the authority to permit the killing of any human beings in its jurisdiction [except in self-defense or as just punishment for capital crimes]. The 14th Amendment makes stopping state governments from doing so a national responsibility. Since life, liberty, and property are summary headings under which can be subsumed any natural right one can think of, the idea that amendments like the 14th have applied the full implications of the entire Bill of Rights to state governments as to the federal, the doctrine of incorporation, seems to me sound. And, as a resident of a state eager to violate such rights as the right to keep and bear arms, I admit that I have a fondness for this doctrine. It has preserved legal protection of important rights in my state.
If a state today wants to reinstitute slavery, or if a state today refuses to protect the right to life (including the right to defend one’s life by keeping and bearing arms, for example, as well as the right not to be murdered between conception and birth), the right to liberty (including one’s right to worship or not worship as one chooses, for instance), and the right to property (such as the right to pay no more in taxes than required to fund the few legitimate functions of government), the national government may now act to protect those rights. At present, this is not as helpful as it might be, since the national government has little interest in protecting natural rights. But I still see worth in the ability of citizens of the several states to appeal to the federal courts if state courts refuse to protect them against rights-violating legislators.
As a U.S. citizen residing in the tyrannical state of California, I value these federal protections added after the Civil War rather highly. (See my enclosed letter to our governor on the abortion issue.) Though I realize a large number of today’s libertarians want to give up on the national government and just work to have liberty-respecting states withdraw from the union, I think this is foolishness that, if successful, will ensure that tyranny rather than liberty becomes the norm always and everywhere once again. We Americans will either hang together and embrace liberty nationwide, or we will hang separately as tyranny overruns us. But the secessionist tendencies of today’s libertarians are a side issue and debatable. While we are a nation, we should strive to ensure that all individuals’ rights are protected equally in every state, even if that requires federal action. Individual liberty, not states rights or federalism, is the proper [primary] focus of libertarians. And surely the right to life is the most fundamental and essential right of all, the right from which all others grow. Only one who is first alive may have either liberty or property; even ownership of oneself requires that one be alive to own and be owned.
In addition to the documents already mentioned, I’m enclosing How Can We Rescue Those Being Taken Away to Death (Rescue Those, 2021) and some “drop cards” from Free the States. (Mine are the Abortion is Murder and Everybody Knows It cards, in case you’re curious.) Since I’m aware that at least one or two affiliates of your organization have professed Christian faith, I wanted to pass along some timely material on Christians’ responsibilities when it comes to abortion. Our responsibility is not to fight for states’ rights to permit and regulate murder. It is to defend the rights of those who cannot defend themselves.
Thank you for your time.
Jacob Hornberger, FFF’s founder and someone with whom I’ve corresponded before via email, emailed me a nice note complimenting my passion and apparently long and careful thinking on the issue. His note also informed me that he’d forwarded my letter to Vance for a response. I’ve never received a direct response by postal or email. If Vance opted to respond in the pages of Future of Freedom, which would be unsurprising, I have yet to get around to reading the appropriate issue. Since I still have two book reviews that are years overdue (well, not technically so, since the publisher did not have due dates for reviewers when I signed up to review the books, but I’m clearly in violation of the spirit of the program), I don’t know just when I might discover any response.
Since writing this letter, I’ve learned considerably more about the secessionist-inclined, neo-Confederate, we-are-not-a-nation spirit taking a certain part of the libertarian community by storm. Since I agree with this libertarian faction more often than I agree with other libertarians, I’m not excited about having to disagree with its adherents on this issue. Nevertheless, I do rank the right to life as higher in important that the freedom of states to do as they please.
A Brief Visit to the Future^
Comment on: Vivek Ramaswamy takes on Chuck Todd on Meet the Press
Date: 28 May 2023
Description: Response to remarks by Vivek Ramaswamy, my initial favorite in the Republican presidential primary, who expressed a states-rights perspective on abortion essentially identical to the one I criticized above
Direct link to comment (if post took)
[I keep getting error messages and having to repost. I just hope you only receive this comment once.]
Concerning the federal government and legalized murder in the states (abortion), please, if you have not already done so, take some time to read Josh Craddock’s “Protecting Prenatal Persons: Does the Fourteenth Amendment Prohibit Abortion?” (Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 539 : link. I believe this article demonstrates how the 14th Amendment must be understood to mandate protection of the right to life of unborn human individuals. Every human individual in every state, born or unborn, must receive from his government equal protection. If any individual (or whole category of individuals) is denied equal protection, “The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of” the 14th Amendment.
On every other issue: outstanding interview. As always (so far), I’m very impressed.
Thank you for your time.
I attempted to post this comment three times. I got odd error messages the first two time. Only the third attempt included the bracketed note about this at the beginning. The direct link is to that third attempt, which may or may not ultimately have taken. If you find this comment posted multiple times, drop me note so I know to go back and delete a couple.
Since this comment just extracts and slightly rewords material from the preceding letter, I thought pulling it into this post from the future was the way to go. Whether or not Ramaswamy reads the journal article and finds it persuasive (assuming people on his staff even pass along the recommendation), I’m not going to eliminate Ramaswamy as an option when I vote against Trump. If some other candidate adopts Craddock’s position during the campaign, he may well get my support instead. But, for now, Ramaswamy seems to be making the most consistently sound set of proposals. I’m not fully on board with his voting proposal, but you’ll have to wait for a later post to find out about that, or else check to see if my YouTube comments on subject are still posted.
As an aside, I’ll note that seeing a professing Hindu embrace so many sound principles of Americanism (American nationalism in the John-Birchian sense of the philosophy underlying and expressed by the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution) makes me hopeful for India’s political future, though I of course believe that widespread Indian conversion to Christianity would lead to the best outcomes.
Now, back from the future to the present.
To Truly Support Life, Darrel, Stop Supporting Foreign Intervention and Mainstream “Prolife” Groups^
Letter to: Congressman Darrel Issa
Date: 21 July 2022
Description: Remarks for an unsent letter to my Congressman concerning foreign interventionism and the prolife movement
Subject line used: Not applicable
I wrote these comments in response to a “prolife score” mailer I received from the U.S. Congressman for my district, Darrel Issa, in July 2022. My plan had been to include abortion abolitionist materials along with a letter containing the comments. Alas, however, I let the moment (and the months) pass. If another occasion for a similar letter presents itself, perhaps I will still find a use for these remarks and the planned enclosures.
First of all, an admission: I doubt I can ever support you. This is because of your foreign-interventionist ways, your extreme support for a globally active military and the arms makers enriched by it, and your “yes” votes for the unconstitutional giveaway of debt-funded U.S. currency to the governments of such sovereign foreign nations as Israel and Ukraine. The job of the national U.S. government is to defend the U.S., not defend, fund the defense, provide arms, or provide aid of any sort to independent foreign countries. If a foreign nation wants to get funds or military support from the U.S., let it petition to become a state of our union. Otherwise, you as a Congressman have no authority and no right to vote in favor of sending U.S. arms, equipment, supplies, or money abroad.
Even so, I do appreciate your informing me via mailer that you score well with a prominent organization in the mainstream “prolife” movement. Because this movement has actively opposed equal protection under the law for unborn individuals, preferring to regulate rather than abolish abortion, I am not able to assume that endorsement by this movement ensures that you will always sponsor the bills you should sponsor and cast the votes you should cast.
I would call special attention to the last three sentences of the second paragraph. In my view, “America First” is not enough. The phrase suggests that the U.S. government has some legitimate authority or responsibility beyond this country. It does not. Such things as the common identification of the President of the United States as “leader of the free world” are nonsense. The president is the leader of the executive branch of the U.S. federal government, and nothing more. The “free world” does not have a government, and our president is not its leader.
The sad reality, of course, is that my congressional district is likely to keep reelecting Issa for as long as he cares to stay in office. And, since his opponent in every election after California’s ridiculous “top two” open primary will be the greater evil (in most cases, by a very wide margin), I will end up voting for him.
You Know, Misean Friends, Religious Liberty Rights and Property Rights Are Kinda The Same^
Comment on: The Market for Security vs. the Clown World of Civil Rights
Date: 24 September 2022
Description: Is freedom of conscience or religious liberty fundamentally different from property rights? Not hardly.
Direct link to comment
The two hosts of this program, with whom I often but not always agree, are part of that secessionist-leaning faction of libertarianism I mentioned earlier. In this case, I found myself mostly in agreement with what they had to say. These comments unpack and extend a certain principle implicit in their remarks.
Properly understood, religious liberty rights are property rights: you own your conscience. They are worth treating separately sometimes because conscience is a different sort of property than physical possessions. But I think you’re right that people go down some blind alleys philosophically when they treat them as in a class by themselves.
That said, your discussion highlights how civil rights laws should never have applied to privately owned and funded associations. Public institutions should not be allowed to discriminate, but private businesses of “public accommodation” should be free to work out their associations in negotiation with potential customers. Turning away paying customers is dumb, but business owners have a right to be dumb if they want to.
I think some of these problems could be resolved if the tolerant values of commerce took greater precedence for people. For instance, though I am a Bible-believing Christian, my conduct in commerce if I were a baker would not match what certain high-profile bakers have been doing. [Though most coverage has focused on a single baker, who’s been sued and won in court more than once, but at great personal expense, I vaguely recall news stories on one or two others, which might have been dropped or settled before courtroom resolution.] I think the whole “I refuse to bake a cake for that” approach is wrongheaded.
My approach would be to have all customers read and sign a disclaimer that stated my values, noted various behaviors I condemn as immoral and encourage customers to abandon, and required customer acknowledgment that my creating a cake with certain words and decorations should not be construed as an endorsement. I would then create whatever foolish or twisted sort of cake people wanted provided they read and signed the disclaimer and, most importantly, gave me money. Both our freedoms of conscience would remain intact and unviolated, and I would have some nice cash to enjoy. I and my LGBTQ customers might never be “friends,” but we wouldn’t be at each others’ throats or constantly in court.
In retrospect, I think this wording badly underestimates just how twisted a depraved unbeliever’s cake might be. Writing out blasphemies with my own hand, for instance, wouldn’t be permissible. I suppose a customer could even say, “I want you to write the following on this cake: ‘Custom Baker David Hodges endorses gay marriage as a moral and God-approved institution,’” which would also cross the line.
A problem with our culture evident in our popular entertainment is that we admire martial values much more than we admire commercial values. Television and film extolling commerce (like The Paradise, say: IMDB link) are rare, whereas movies extolling warriors or cloak-and-dagger operatives abound. In most cases, commercial interests are condemned in Dickensian fashion or lampooned a la Star Trek’s Ferengi. (To its credit, Deep Space Nine had moments where it almost showed respect for this species’ values, such as one that highlighted “The Great Material Continuum.” [The one where Jake and Nog traded a sequence of things they had no use for, including “self-sealing stem bolts,” until they ended up owning a piece of land needed for a critical government project, was also great.]) Peaceful coexistence and tolerance in order to make one another wealthy, comfortable, and happy get short shrift in our entertainment, sadly.
The BBC series Selfridge is another interesting series where commerce plays an important role. Sadly, some prurient material, particularly in season one, makes me hesitant to recommend it. Of course, even The Paradise includes a lesbian character (from France) in a set of episodes, but (thankfully) one who is rebuffed when she makes an advance. I also half suspect that, in Selfridge, some of the pervasive secularism in today’s Britain has been imposed on a past era when I think we would have seen at least a few devout Christian characters. Then again, these characters are city folk, and (I ask tongue-in-cheek) they’ve never been very pious, now, have they?
Our twisted, uncommercial values do things like make people want to call everything a “war.” We don’t have disagreements and different values that we can discuss in a civil and tolerant fashion; we have a “culture war.” And so on. Free people who want to live out their values without forcibly imposing them on anyone else, and to live peaceably with everyone, don’t seem to have a place in a society with this pervasive warrior mentality.
Thank you for your time.
Is tolerance a virtue or a vice? Interacting with two critics and one supporter
Though I granted that any private business owner should be free to choose with whom he does and doesn’t want to do business, my response provoked the ire of a Christian reader who had followed closely the story of the most prominent of the persecuted Christian bakers. Looking back, I think my “Turning away paying customers is dumb, but business owners have a right to be dumb if they want to” wording was ill chosen. While true as a general statement of principle, it’s not applicable to Christian service providers who want to deny service because they believe Scripture requires them to do so. There is nothing “dumb” about obeying your Christian conscience. “To go against conscience is neither right, nor safe,” as Martin Luther is portrayed as saying in the great classic film, Martin Luther.
For my part, I’m not persuaded that baking a cake or designing a Web site for a homosexual “wedding” can only be construed as an endorsement by the service provider of said “wedding.” If I were low on work as a freelance editor and a job proposal came in to edit written materials for one of these events, I would not rule out bidding on the job. I’m not willing to edit profane or vulgar materials, so I’d have to opt out if the materials used the Lord’s name in vain or used filthy language (or else edit all such language out regardless of the client’s wishes). But I wouldn’t see my editing as an endorsement. Of course, I consider such work my craft, not “art” or “self-expression,” so I’m not in the same category as the bakers and Web designers think they’re in.
In any case, the user, TROCK754, provided some interesting details about the baker’s case, shared some relevant personal experiences and his own convictions, then closed with the following: “TOLERANCE IS NOT VIRTUOUS” (all caps original; quoted from the user’s response as it existed on 26 September 2022, when I responded to it. To see the full comments in whatever form they now take, follow this link.
My response to TROCK754
Date: 26 September 2022
Direct link to comment
Thank you for sharing your perspective, Trock754. You’ll note that I began my remarks by saying that “civil rights laws should never have applied to privately owned and funded associations. Public institutions should not be allowed to discriminate, but private businesses of ‘public accommodation’ should be free to work out their associations in negotiation with potential customers.” I began, therefore, by endorsing your freedom and the freedom of every baker or other businessperson in America to refuse service to anyone for any reason, provided said businessperson does not receive government funding. If a private business owner who receives no government funding wants to refuse service to people with blond hair, even, I’m fine with that. Ownership comes with its privileges, including the right to make bad business decisions that alienate one’s customer base.
Like you, I would never engage in a commercial activity that could only be construed as an endorsement and participation in activities contrary to Scripture. The whole point of requiring customers to sign a form acknowledging awareness of my beliefs and refusal to endorse anything contrary to them was to allow commerce to proceed in at least some cases where it could not otherwise. My working assumption about commerce is that we are all better off if everyone approaches his commercial activities in as neutral and unbiased a way as possible, striving never to make commerce a tool for promoting his particular perspective on debated social and political matters. Though biased commerce by small operators causes no widespread disruptions, we’ve seen from the recent woke turn of big corporations just how much damage can be caused when commerce stops being neutral. What’s good for the baker is good for the big tech tyrants: as the former can deny the finest specialty cake in America to those engaged in activities of which he disapproves, so big tech tyrants can deny platform access to conservatives, Christians, and others they deem malcontents.
By the way, in the case of my editing, I wouldn’t see a need for customers to sign such an acknowledgment. Editing involves clarifying and improving a client’s thoughts, not presenting your own, so there is no assumption that editing something means you agree with it. Some bakers and Web designers, apparently, consider the cakes and sites they design personal expressions, meaning they cannot in good conscience design custom cakes or Web sites for events or causes they oppose. They should be free to do this. I do hope these individuals are consistent and also refuse, for instance, to apply their creative talents to materials for weddings between people divorced from prior spouses for reasons Scripture does not countenance (Matthew 19:7–9). I don’t believe the law should require them to be consistent, mind you. I just think their Christian consciences should.
For my part, though I grant that all these free-market operators may freely do as they like, I think we would all be better off if people on all sides of debated social and political issues made an effort to separate their commerce from their convictions in these areas. I believe that the widespread abandonment of this neutrality by big companies is one of the greatest threats to liberty in our day, in fact. The Rollerball dystopia gets closer by the day: IMDB link.
As a former [and future?] conservative who now accepts [but may soon have to jettison?] the label libertarian, though I cannot become a dues-paying Libertarian Party member under the current LP platform, I’ve abandoned belief that government has any legitimate role to play with regard to marriage aside from enforcing the duly executed contracts of consenting adults. I agree with you that only a union between a man and a woman is a marriage. But I don’t think it is government’s proper role to make sure other people in America share my view. I do not accept that it is the proper role of government to define terms and choose which voluntary bonds among individuals should be encouraged or discouraged because of what those in power believe will make for the greatest social cohesion and best future.
On the subject of dystopian films, the Terry Gilliam classic Brazil captures an essential feature of our current dystopia that films focused on technocratic idea suppression, widespread brainwashing, and highly effective social conditioning usually miss: overgrown bureaucracy incompetently inserting itself into all areas of life. It also highlights the twisted and idiotic values people in such a society may end up developing. Because it does contain morally unedifying materials, I probably shouldn’t “recommend” it. Then again, just how many time can one rewatch Little House on the Prairie?
To give you a clearer idea of my thinking, here is a copy of the letter I wrote asking my elected representatives to vote against the “Respect for Marriage Act” back in July. It is the letter I sent to replace the letter suggested by the American Family Association (AFA), though I did retain one paragraph from the AFA letter:
Sent via https://www.afa.net/activism/action-alerts/2022/biden-and-pelosi-coming-after-christian-schools-and-nonprofits-call-your-u-s-senator/ on 29 July 2022.
Subject: Vote NO on The Respect for Marriage Act [This Act codifies the existing rule imposed by the Supreme Court]
Body: Please vote NO on “The Respect for Marriage Act.”
This bill illegitimately uses the coercive power of government to impose an anti-Christian, unbiblical definition of “marriage” on all Americans. This is a violation of the freedom of conscience and religious liberty of countless Americans of faith, including, but not limited to, Bible-believing Christians like myself.
As a libertarian, I recognize that the rights to freedom of association and freedom of contract do allow same-sex partners to enter into contracts of union mimicking marriage if they wish to do so. I do not propose to deny anyone who rejects biblical values the legal freedom to exercise this right. All that I object to is having government use the force of law to declare these ungodly and perverse unions “marriage.” They are not marriages, and no Christian may say they are without violating his faith and offending his God.
If passed, this bill could be used by the IRS to target Christian schools, universities, and nonprofit organizations. The “cause[s] of action” in the bill will unleash a wave of lawsuits and DOJ investigations against Christians and others who embrace the historic, natural, and biblical definition of marriage. [Note that this paragraph was written, or mostly written, by the AFA. It was the only paragraph of the model letter I found I could retain.]
“The Respect for Marriage Act” is an immoral and unconstitutional piece of legislation that you are duty-bound by your oath of office to oppose. Please do oppose it.
While you’re at it, please work to expunge all references to “marriage” in federal law. [Example: tax laws.] Federal government references should be to “contracts of union” or something similarly neutral in nature. The federal government needs to get out of the business of defining terms and rewarding or punishing people for how they use words.
Thank you for your time.
My pronouns are those required by logic and proper English given that I have a Y chromosome and am singular, not plural. If you wish to claim pronouns that do not match your chromosomal makeup or that violate the singular-plural distinction, I apologize for my inability to play along. Logic, science, and my Christian faith make it impossible for me to do so. [I copied this note over from my standard email signature because it seemed appropriate to the context.]
Based on Romans 12:18, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men,” I believe that tolerance is virtuous. Tolerance is not approval. It is just recognition that other adults have the same authority to make decisions for their own lives that I have to make choices for mine. I do not believe that one must endorse forcible imposition of Christian values to satisfy the requirements of Christian virtue. When a young man rejected the advice of the incarnate God himself, Jesus did not deny him the freedom to depart (Matthew 19:22).
Could I be incorrect? Could God, in fact, want Christians to impose the full law of Scripture upon unbelievers using government force? That’s a possibility. If I at some point become convinced that Scripture obligates me to adopt that approach, I will adopt it. For now, I remain a libertarian and see most of what goes under the “culture war” label as conflict to no useful purpose.
Note, by the way, that I do not include abortion among “social issues” where individuals may “agree to disagree.” Murder is a violation of the most basic and important of natural rights, so my libertarianism mandates that I be an abolitionist as to abortion. Humans from conception to natural death must never be deprived of life without being duly convicted of a capital crime by a jury of peers.
An opinion too rare to influence policy and too at odds with human nature to work?
Very few people, I find, are willing to parse the issue this way. A guest on AIER’s Liberty Curious discussed at some length how classical liberalism (libertarianism) has never sold well to the majority of people. He observed late in the interview that a factor that should be irrelevant to one’s convictions about individual liberty and the legal order tends to predict political affiliations pretty well: squeamishness. Hearing this made me very sad. If the only people who can be reliably counted upon to support individual liberty are the sorts of people who lack squeamishness about, say, consensual adult acts that God condemns in his Word (Deuteronomy 23:17, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26–27, Hebrews 13:4), I don’t see much hope that liberty will prevail. Nor, under such conditions, could I would want it to. I’m not interested in normalizing “sex work” or helping convince pious people that homosexual acts are “not really that bad.” I want to maintain, as Scripture requires, that sex work and homosexuality are abhorrent, disgusting, and repulsive — but, in accord with the principles of individual liberty, should be legal for consenting adults.
What I’m beginning to fear is that this parsing of the issues is incompatible with human nature in its fallen state. People who begin supporting only legal tolerance while maintaining moral condemnation seem, over time, to always begin doubting their moral condemnation. Legal tolerance suggests moral acceptability — even, weirdly, to people who know better, having previously reasoned through the legality-morality distinction with care and in detail. If this is a genuine limitation of human nature, principled libertarianism is not a viable option for Bible believers even if Scripture itself allows it: reality and practicality rule it out. Since the only wholly true morality is God’s morality, the only sure guide to proper law under these conditions is God’s own law in Scripture. Theonomy returns.
Nature, nurture, & primacy of the intellect
In the interest of full disclosure, being authentic, or whatever other cliché phrase you find appealing, I should note that strictly pious moralizing in accord with Scripture is neither natural nor easy for me. My natural inclination — no doubt helped along, if not created (in which case it only seems natural), by public schooling, secular entertainment, and a pervasively desacralized American culture — is to have an omnitolerant, anything-goes attitude toward others’ behavior (so long as I don’t have to watch, hear about, or participate in that behavior). I’ve had to train myself to find reprehensible what God’s Word tells me is reprehensible. Rather than finding these things abhorrent instinctively, I find them abhorrent in much the same way Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Commander Data might if he simply altered his ethical subroutines to include the appropriate condemnations. Were it not for Scripture-based modifications to my intellect (ethical subroutines), I would view moralizing about adults’ consensual activities as the confusing of aesthetic preferences or tastes with morality. Whether someone likes oysters, snails, or both oysters and snails would not seem to me a moral issue at all.
Fortunately, we Reformed people have a doctrine establishing that the intellect is primary. If either natural inclination (nature) or my upbringing and cultural environment (nurture) have bereft me of (or else hidden or suppressed) the natural revulsions of an uncorrupted nature, this needn’t affect my conduct. When my emotions are in compliance with my Scripture-guided intellect, that’s very helpful. But when I have yet to get them trained into such compliance, I can proceed with proper conduct without their assistance. Because the corrupting forces of our society (woke culture, LGBTQIA+ activists in positions of power and influence, etc.) focus their attacks on social and emotional manipulation, such as the schoolchild brainwashing methodology of social-emotional learning (see video below), primacy of the intellect is going to be more important than ever for future American converts to Christianity. More Americans than ever are being raised in a way that ensures they will lack most of the emotions that are supposed to accompany their God-given moral sense. Like me, they will have to rely a great deal on Scripture-based moral reasoning as they strive to retrain their corrupted emotions in compliance with the Bible. Lacking the essential focus on intellect as primary, forms of Christianity that rely heavily on emotionalism will not be all that helpful in coming years.
Additional brief responses to comments by others
Date: Same as preceding, just after preceding
Direct links may be found within the text below
Another visitor, more favorable to my original post, made some comments that were rather mystical and made me think of Exclusion and Embrace, a curious theological text I had to read while at seminary. (I confess that my recollection of this book does not go beyond some vague impressions. I may only have had to read select portions.) If the user, Eternal Light, has kept the comment posted, you may review it here. He referenced one of his own videos, as you’ll see from my response.
Thanks for commenting. I presume you reference your “An ordinary conversation (with myself) about White people (You drive me crazy !)” I’ve added the lengthy video to my “watch later” list, mainly because I’m impressed someone can carry on a conversation with himself for that length of time. I get bored with myself by the 30 minute mark, at best. Just as a side note, since I consider the concept of “races” within the human race nonsensical and unhelpful, I very much dislike the current trend toward capitalizing identifiers like “white” and “black.”
I confess, I have not yet gotten around to reviewing even part of the referenced video. In my defense, I have hundreds of videos in my “watch later” list.
Still another visitor, with the unhelpful handle MyChannelOnThisSite, took a more hostile approach, identifying my viewpoint as “a debased and vulgar interpretation of freedom of religion” and opining that “Libertarians seem unable to understand any phrase that isn’t [an] anagram of ‘property rights.’” Though I’ve quoted most of this response because it’s such fun, you can see whatever is still posted by visiting the URL this links to.
I’m sorry you feel that way. As you should have foreseen, your emotional aspersion-casting has not convinced me to change my viewpoint. If you wish to ever persuade someone to adopt your perspective, consider presenting rational or biblical arguments in a calm, civil fashion. I’ve already noted in my response to another user that I will ultimately adopt whatever viewpoint I am persuaded Scripture obligates me to adopt. I will not change my view simply because some unpleasant individual chooses to throw some invectives my way.
We have here a brief, amusing, but hardly productive exchange. I take a dim view of online insult-casters who use obscure handles rather than their own names, so I made no attempt to answer this interlocutor’s assertions. I post as myself with no apologies for doing so, though I may apologize for post content if that seems called for. Those who make uncivil remarks under fake names should not expect me to take them seriously.
That said, I’ll comment a bit now on what this anonymous person said. The main problem I think this viewer has is that he (which I mean generically, not knowing the actual gender), like many in our day, does not see property rights as important. Not seeing property rights as important, but still seeing freedom of religion as important, he was offended by my suggestion that an individual possesses his mind, convictions, and conscience — his very life and self — as property. To me, private property and the rights of ownership are as sacred and essential as all God-given, natural rights. Modern American culture, by and large, thinks property rights may be freely violated “for the greater good” as needed. Every involuntary wealth-redistribution plan undertaken by federal, state, and local governments today is an outworking of this basic disregard for private property.
Final Thoughts: Losing My Libertarianism? ^
So ends part two of my 2022 Q3 correspondence drop. As you can tell from the added commentary, mostly dating to May 2023, my ongoing thought experiment in Christian libertarianism is running into difficulties. How, for instance, should a Bible-obedient Christian understand the Old Testament death penalties for what today’s libertarian (and, in fact, most Americans) would deem the necessarily legal actions of consenting adults? One option is to believe that God heightened penalties for sexual sins (adultery, sodomy) in the Mosaic legislation “ceremonially,” that is, as an instructive — but temporary — foretaste of final judgment. This is how some explain the all-ages slaughter commanded by God when he sent the Israelites into Canaan, and it has superficial plausibility. Another option, no less plausible, is that God knew sexual impulses to be so overpowering of human will that penalties against wrongful indulgence must be extreme to be effective. Can a society remain orderly and functional over generations if “consenting adults” are free to do whatever their basest impulses urge them to do? If the answer to that question is “no,” prudence (aka pragmatism, aka realism, aka common sense) rules out libertarianism.
Before one gets too scared at this prospect, it is worth observing that a very broad zone of individual liberty remains even in a political order grounded in Theonomy. Theonomists call for going only as far as God’s law goes, and no further. They are not like today’s woke dystopians, whose willingness to impose an ideological vision on everyone is not constrained by any objective authority or written standard. For the time being, however, I haven’t given up entirely on libertarianism. Not yet. But I am now seeing more clearly the ways in which it may not be a viable Christian viewpoint. These flaws were not so clear to me back in the third quarter of 2022.
Thanks for reading. Be seeing you.