Friday, February 25, 2005

Toward Anarchy

Here in Charlotte, the local school system has descended into another crisis—only the latest one on a very long string of such problems—and this time the turmoil concerns what is being called deconsolidation. Briefly, the wealthy and relatively placid suburban areas wish to secede from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) and form their own, separate system. In fact, they have suggested that CMS should be broken up into at least three—and perhaps more—smaller, more local, more accountable districts. The backers of this idea believe that local autonomy and a smaller, more efficient administration are the keys to reforming a horribly inept, corrupt, unfair, and ineffective governmental agency.

The public school system is probably the most visible and tangible form of government to most Americans, certainly to those who have children in the system. It is here that the shortcomings of big government are most quickly observed and have their greatest impact on the average citizen. Despite the fact that voters have the "power" to elect school boards, the unified school districts around the nation are not run by these elected officials but by the entrenched bureaucracy created to support the ever-expanding—and soon-bloated—system. With power over billions of dollars and motivated by an agenda to impose their often-liberal values (in CMS's case, it is forced integration through busing and mandated racial "equality" through disproportionate allocation of funds to the inner city—in effect, a kind of reparations package), these relatively unaccountable managers implement their ideas through successive administrations without missing a beat. In Charlotte, it took thirty years for the frustration with the system to build into outright rebellion.

On the national level, the rumblings against big government are also being heard. For starters, democrats are widely seen as advocates of higher taxes, expanded services, and increased governmental involvement in every area of life, and their candidates—at least nationally—have done poorly in the last three elections. In addition, fiscal and social conservatives are quite concerned about President Bush's profligate spending. Granted, much of it has gone to military matters, but perhaps even more is being funneled to fund No Child Left Behind, prescription drugs, and other social benefits. Many claim his proposal to "save" Social Security will be another financial boondoggle for the American taxpayer. Whatever the case, more spending means higher taxes means increased government means less freedom for Joe and Jane Citizen—whether the administration is Republican or Democrat.

Even on the radical Left, some are crying for decentralization and local autonomy. Ward Churchill, the embattled Ethnic Studies professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has called for "the United States out of North America," meaning that he advocates the breakup of the American government into hundreds or even thousands of local, self-determining districts. Whatever his reasoning, he believes that there can be peace, freedom, and equality only on the "tribal" level—that is, only among those who band together around a set of common beliefs and aims. To him, the larger the entity, the less cohesive and fair it is, so it makes sense to him to strip all large governments of power. He and many who think like him are reacting to the obvious abuses and inequalities engendered by huge, powerful, impersonal, and inevitably corrupt human government.

Since the Second World War, the world has been advancing and building global structures: the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the International Criminal Court, etc. Only now are many seeing the problems associated with such transnational organizations. For instance, the UN has recently found itself mired in scandals ranging from the Oil-for-Food Program to sex-trafficking on UN missions. Observers are realizing that the self-interests of often very diverse peoples keep clashing, causing horrible disparities, abuses, and offenses around the world. For this very reason, the U.S. will not become a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, to name just one example.

The human solution is to move in the opposite direction, toward tribalism. Deconsolidation, decentralization, downsizing, local autonomy, and similar words or phrases are all catchphrases for this movement toward tribalism. At its extreme, tribalism becomes each man for himself—anarchy, literally "without a ruler," an absence of government, resulting in lawlessness.

The Bible describes such conditions: "In those days, there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6; 21:25; see also Deuteronomy 12:8). The book of Judges has been called "the bloodiest book of the Bible," as the text shows Israel cycling through the process of freedom, decline, oppression, and revolt time after time. The author pares the cause of the Israelites' instability down to this one statement: There was no government, so it was every man for himself.

Do we really want to go there? On the other hand, do we really want to continue under the present system?

The real problem in all of this swinging back and forth between globalism and tribalism is self-interest—or to put it bluntly, selfishness. No human government, big or small, powerful or weak, centralized or local, will work unless the governed are willing to put aside their self-interests for the good of all. Certainly, this is altruism, but it is a basic message of the Bible: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). There will be no universal stability, peace, and prosperity until humanity realizes this and chooses to live by it.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Something Is Wrong

I recently experienced another birthday (making me as old as Jack Benny always claimed to be—really!), and in looking back at the last nearly four decades, I was struck with how different the world is today. By the time I became aware of current events and circumstances, American culture had already moved past its peak, sliding down what appears from this angle to have been a precipitous slope—and it has not yet reached bottom. However, the consequences of our cultural descent are becoming evident; we see them in our newspapers and news programs with discouraging regularity.

Perhaps most appalling is the number of pundits and persons of influence who not only apologize for the pollution of our popular culture, but also support and applaud it for its "edginess," "realism," and "honesty." These champions of the tawdry, tacky, and inferior continually urge the American people, particularly those who produce such garbage, to take cultural change even farther—not just being satisfied with living on the cutting-edge or even the bleeding-edge, but to hurtle recklessly past the edge altogether into the realm of the untried and unimagined. With the hubris that comes from money, power, and boredom, Americans are trying to outdo the ancient Romans for spectacle and perversion.

In addition, Americans of all ages have forgotten or were never taught to apply the principle of cause-and-effect—every action produces a consequence. This is partly due to the fact that Americans tend to have short attention spans, historically speaking. For too many, "just a few years ago" is ancient history, and, they whine, who needs to be bothered by all that worthless information, since it has no relevance today? The obvious result is that Americans tend to ignore the lessons of history and fail to see that past actions have produced penalties that we are only now just observing. We are reaping what was sowed in past decades (Galatians 6:7).

As an exercise, then, the following list will give us a push toward finding solutions to our culture's downward spiral by making us face up to the consequences and work backward to the cause.

Something is wrong when . . .

. . . the most popular television shows and movies make fun of others' misfortunes. Human nature always wants to laugh at the foibles of weak people, but today it has moved on to utter exploitation of the unfortunate. We do this because it makes us feel better about ourselves by comparison, yet in reality, it exposes an attitude of contempt and pride. It is a product of individualism taken to an extreme—to the point of disdainful unconcern for fellow man.

. . . homosexuals comprise only 1-3% of the American population, yet they hold a disproportionate share of positions of power in government, education, and entertainment, influencing the course of American life. While this hints at grand conspiracy, such a thing would not have happened except the majority had simply capitulated to all—or nearly all—of their strategically brazen demands. This capitulation has been marketed as enlightened tolerance, but it is really abject fear: fear of retribution, fear of disease, fear of losing their own cherished rights to practice their personal perversities.

. . . young girls and women of all ages seem to take delight in exposing themselves in public. It used to be that women upheld decency standards far longer than men, but today's women appear to be leading the pack in matters of peddling flesh. Today, it is no longer just a matter of high hemlines and deep-cut necklines, but of leaving virtually nothing to the imagination. This public undressing of American women stems, paradoxically, from the over-emphasis on self-esteem in homes and classrooms across the nation. Because this indoctrination has been done at the expense of teaching propriety, standards, and self-discipline, it has produced the opposite of its intended effect.

. . . an increasing number of young men refuse to grow up and take on the responsibilities of adulthood. Sowing one's wild oats used to be over by the time a man graduated from college, but today it drags on into the thirties. Such "old adolescents" live for parties, sports, women, drugs—good times, by their reckoning—and abhor the thought of becoming contributing members of society. This avoidance of maturity has its source in a failure to instill discipline and proper ambition in boys, allowing them to play all the time.

. . . more than a million mothers agree to let a doctor kill their unborn babies each year. The obvious catalyst of this ongoing tragedy is Roe v. Wade in 1973, but overturning this colossally and criminally idiotic Supreme Court decision is a red herring. It should be done, but the underlying causes are more fundamental and moral. At its base is a diminished respect for life and a hyper-selfishness akin to extreme narcissism.

These examples are just a handful of things that are wrong with our society. They are happening for a reason, and with a little thought, we can trace them back to their causes. Ultimately, they all go back to forsaking the universally applicable principles of God's Word. As Jesus says, "If you know these things, happy are you if you do them" (John 13:17).

Friday, February 11, 2005

Going Nuclear

The big news late this week was that—surprise!—North Korea has nuclear weapons. The planet's growing nuclear family (composed until recently only of the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, and France) now includes India and two somewhat unstable regimes, Pakistan and North Korea, and many would include Israel in this latter group, as it is assumed that the beleaguered Middle Eastern state has and would not hesitate to use atomic weapons if pressed. Nevertheless, among these three nations, Kim Jong-Il is by far the most extreme—some would go so far as to say he is certifiably insane. If nothing else, he is a brutal, egomaniacal tyrant in the tradition of China's Mao Zedong and Cambodia's Pol Pot.

All the nations in the nuclear club are nominal democracies except for China, Pakistan, and North Korea. China, however, as a major power in Asia, has shown restraint in its use of force and, despite its sometimes fiery rhetoric, is generally considered to respect international norms and protocols. Pakistan is ruled by General Pervez Musharaff, who attained his position via a coup and a rigged election, and who is embattled by Islamic fundamentalists of the Taliban variety, the kind that made neighboring Afghanistan the prime U.S. target after 9-11. His subsequent cozying up to the Great Satan, America, has made him quite unpopular inside his own country, and several attempts to assassinate him have already been made. Despite these strikes against him, Musharaff has said and done the right things enough times over the past three and a half years to earn a guarded trust on the nuclear issue, even from Pakistan's perennial enemy, India.

North Korea, though, is the proverbial horse of a different color. It is the world's most isolationist regime, seemingly on speaking terms with no one but Communist China, which fronts for it internationally. It has made some concessions to its cousin to the south, but reunification plans with South Korea have all but fizzled over its intransigence. Little news leaks out of North Korea, but enough emerges to know that it never has enough food to feed its population and that the government has brutally interned thousands of dissenters in concentration camps. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il is paranoid and delusional, imagining attacks and invasions from every quarter, and he orders provocative countermeasures frequently. It is a regular occurrence to read of North Korean forays into other nation's territorial waters or, as yesterday, its bellicose, accusative language against America, Japan, or some other perceived enemy.

Conventional wisdom, intoned sagely and repeatedly by talking heads in the media, claims that dictators are more likely to choose the "nuclear option" than democratically elected officials. But is North Korea likely to use nuclear weapons?

Probably not. For starters, with the world against it, it would be annihilated in response. If North Korea used a nuclear weapon on the U.S., Japan, or South Korea, America's military reaction would be, if not in kind, another but deadlier shock-and-awe campaign. Pyongyang would be a hole in the earth. It is also likely that North Korea has only one or two nuclear devices—a handful at the most. It would not want to deplete its arsenal all at once for fear of not having suitable defensive or second-strike capability. Third, even though it claims to be able to strike America, there is no solid evidence that North Korea has a missile capable of reaching the West Coast—not to mention hitting its target. Finally, nukes are more valuable to the regime as bargaining chips at the international negotiating table than they are as offensive weapons. Ultimately, its aim is to extort aid and security concessions from the United States, and its nuclear arsenal certainly makes America pay attention. Kim Jong-Il may be crazy, but he is not stupid.

What does history teach us? The only member of the vaunted nuclear club to use its atomic weaponry aggressively was and still is a stable democratic state: the United States of America. It dropped two nuclear devices over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945 to end World War II. The rationale was that, by vaporizing, burning, and/or irradiating a few hundred thousand Japanese civilians in a couple of strategic cities, many more lives—American lives, predominantly—would be saved. The tactic "worked," forcing the capitulation of Imperial Japan, but the end in no way justified the means.

This is not to say that history will repeat itself, but it certainly destroys the idea that a stable, democratic, nuclear state is "safe." Democratic states merely choose their leaders by popular or electoral vote—how those leaders govern, the decisions they make, after they are elected is, for the most part, out of their citizens' hands. And bad, fateful choices are the record of humanity, no matter what nation.

Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said rightly to the House of Commons in 1947, "Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Human governments all have one fatal flaw, human beings, and God warns us:

"There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all gone out of the way; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one." . . . "Destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known." (Romans 3:10-12, 16-17)

Do not be distracted by the antics of "rogue states," as they are somewhat predictable. The trick is not to miss the elephant in the living room.

Friday, February 4, 2005

Is British-Israelism Racist?

A fairly common accusation leveled at believers of British-Israelism (the belief that the lost ten tribes of Israel can be found among the Anglo-Saxon peoples of Northwestern Europe, North America, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand) is that it is a fundamentally racist idea. It is understandable that some would leap to this conclusion, considering that such modern Israelites could lay claim to being "God's chosen people" and heirs to the spectacular physical promises God made to Abraham. Not a long step away is the seemingly logical conclusion that other ethnic groups just do not measure up, and those of a weak and prejudicial nature could carry this to the point of snubbing, abusing, or persecuting individuals of these supposedly lesser ethnicities.

Sadly, some advocates of British-Israelism have done just this, shining a bad light on other believers who do not share their racially motivated hatred and violence. Among these are fringe groups linked to the Identity Movement and Aryan and Neo-Nazi factions. These wrongheaded toughs take out their spite predominantly on blacks and Jews, but also on Asians, Hispanics, and generally anyone who is not as pure-blooded as the skinheads declare they themselves are.

Their anti-Semitism is ironic in the fact that Jews are just as much Israelites as they claim to be. How do they justify this? By asserting that the Jews are not who they say they are! They maintain that there is precious little Jewish blood in modern Jewry and that they are instead descended from either Esau or Ashkenaz, son of Gomer, son of Japheth (thus, the "real" reason they are called Ashkenazi Jews), or that they have been totally mongrelized due to their worldwide conspiracy to control everything from banking to industry to government. They lean heavily on the fraudulent Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, and they even subvert Scripture to their cause (for instance, the book of Obadiah and Revelation 2:9; 3:9), granting them an air of legitimacy, which in reality is a total sham.

However, the irrationality of a handful of kooks does not—or should not—malign the majority of sincere believers who base their understanding and practice on true biblical principles. God Himself gives Israelites little room to take excessive pride in their election and certainly no permission to abuse and persecute other peoples. His reasons for His choice of Israel are listed in Deuteronomy 7:6-8:

For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

God did not choose Israel because of anything they had going for them—in fact, they were a small, insignificant people. He chose them because He loved them, and that love has its basis in His relationship with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Most Israelites have lucked into God's blessing, as it were, by being born of Israelite stock; they have done nothing to deserve what God has bountifully given. Their receipt of the blessings is based solely on God fulfilling the promises He made to the Patriarchs.

However, it carries a price: They are bound by their "lucky birth" to be a model nation to the rest of the world of God's way of life. In this regard, Israel has largely failed, and thus God has given them up to war, exile, perversity, and forgetfulness. Today, the vast majority of Israelites have no idea who they are and what God requires of them. Those who do know understand that this knowledge does not exalt them over other people but burdens them with heavy responsibilities to live according to God's commands. Notice Deuteronomy 10:12-16:

And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good? Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it. The LORD delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day. Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.

Because of Israel's rejection of God, He is now working with select individuals whom He calls, makes a New Covenant with, and converts to His way of life. To these He gives His Spirit, and they become His witnesses among the nations. But God is not finished with the Israelites, and it is mainly to them that the gospel of the Kingdom of God is preached as a witness against them (see Matthew 10:5-7). When Jesus returns and sets up His Kingdom, He will require Israel to fulfill the job they originally covenanted with Him to do (see, for example, Ezekiel 44:10-14). Then they will truly know that with great gifts come great responsibilities, not superiority.