The Church and Politics in 2016

Anyone who has the abysmal fate of having me for a friend on social media will already be aware of my relentless assault on Donald Trump, and more specifically my assault on the idea belonging to some of my fellow Christians that Donald Trump is worthy of our support. First, I need to say a word about the word “our.” It should be clear already, but I typically write my Facebook posts, my tweets, and even these blogs with a Christian audience in mind. This is not to say I don’t have dear friends who don’t share my Christian convictions; I certainly do. But overwhelmingly, due to my upbringing, my pre-college education and my continued involvement in the Church, as well as my aspirations about vocational academic work on behalf of the Church, my social circles and audience are overwhelmingly Christian. Thus any uses of “our” or “we” or “us” moving forward in this particular post should be understood as referring not to Americans, but to Christians and the Church.

The 2016 Presidential Election is giving many Christians more pause than elections typically do. At this point in the campaign, conventions done and over with, politically conservative and liberal Christians are typically either enthusiastic or at least confident about voting for the Republican and Democratic nominee respectively. This year is different. Those of us who are politically liberal are disenchanted with Hillary Clinton’s track record of corruption and dishonesty. Those of us who are politically conservative stare wide-eyed at the bombastic, seemingly xenophobic, and morally indignant Donald Trump. Sure every election to date has involved some level of compromise, since the perfect candidate doesn’t exist. But this year Christians on both sides of the political divide are being asked to overlook more than in years past. I want to lay out what seem to be some of the glaring flaws of both of the major party candidates, as well as mention their strengths. Before that, I would like to be forthcoming about my background and methodology. And hopefully, throughout this blog criteria for discernment can be gleaned for use in this election year. If I am able to successfully offer guiding thoughts which Christians can employ to interpret the messy campaign that is sure to be coming to TV commercials, news headlines, and perhaps even churches near you, I will have met my objective.

Criteria For Discernment:

Politically I stand at what I think is an interesting meeting of N.T. Wright (New Testament Scholar and Historian) and Stanley Hauerwas (Theologian and Ethicist). From both of them I am convinced regarding the undeniable public dimension of the Christian life. Indeed Christ’s ministry is a public one, with public implications. That “Jesus is Lord” is of course, given the first century context, also a declaration that “Caesar is not.” At the center of Jesus’ teaching was the Kingdom of God, which Wright has argued should be taken as the rule of God. Hauerwas too has suggested that at the heart of what it means to be Christians and to exist communally as the Church is to establish an alternative to the world’s politics. Interestingly Wright has criticized Hauerwas for his “resident alien” proposal, suggesting that it slides into a retreating Church, rather than a public one. That Hauerwas is also a committed pacificst and Wright is not undoubtedly has something to with this critique. I think Hauerwas would respond that a Christian commitment to non-violence is not itself inevitably a retreat, rather it is a call to a specific kind of very public action that seems counter-intuitive, especially to Americans. There isn’t room for a full interaction of these two brilliant scholars, but I mention them both because I am sure that they’ve been equally important in my thinking of Christian thoughts about politics.

Christ stands as the center and the norm of a Christian approach to politics. His teaching, of course, but his character and actions as well–what we might call his embodied teachings. That Jesus is Lord I take to be not just a matter of my opinion, but a true and concrete reality. Jesus is Lord of the Church, and all the world. Karl Barth (theologian, 1886-1968) is helpful here. What does the universal work of Christ mean for the interplay between the Church and societies? Christ, Barth says, is like the center of two concentric circles. The smaller circle is the Christian community, which knows that Christ is the center and aims to live in light of that knowledge. The larger circle around the smaller circle is the civil community, which also has Christ as the center without knowing it. The inner-circle of the Church of course is the gateway for the outer-circle of society to know and realize the center: Christ. The Church is to make Christ known. This is not only true of formal evangelistic efforts, but in every area of the Church’s public activity, including Christians and politics. We should see, and I think this is crucial, our political engagement as an activity which has an end goal of making Christ, the center, known to society.

I do not pretend to know exactly how the issues should be ordered, but in terms of evaluating evil I take it to be a common practice to think in terms of severity, which would include scale. Political policies effect humans, this is what they all have in common, either permitting or denying certain behaviors or actions, granting certain benefits, and so on. Since scale, the number of humans effected, is an important factor when deciding which issues matter the most, I take migration, abortion, war/violence, and international affairs (including things like global poverty, hunger, war, etc.) to be first order issues. Less important but still worthy of consideration would be second order issues like economics and taxation. In addition to the issues, the character and virtue of the candidates themselves, as seen in what is known of their personal lives and public conduct is important to the Christian’s evaluation.

I. We worship a God who welcomes all humans into his care. Our God is just toward all humans. Thus Christians, in making Christ known to their society (Barth’s circles), should seek to establish a society that is welcoming and just toward migrants. We should care especially for those who have been pushed from their homes by violence or poverty. In 2014, nearly 60 million people lived as refugees. Our Christ was himself a migrant. His family left Judea for Egypt, refugees from a government campaign of mass murder (Matt. 2). The notion of migrants is even a metaphor which Christ uses to explain the transition from the world to the kingdom (Matt. 25). One of Jesus’ most well known parables dealt with the good Samaritan–a despised racial minority from a neighboring country. Whatever else is occurring in that lesson, it is also a call to reconsider prejudice and fears of other groups of people. Christians, being imitators of Christ, are called to be welcomers. We are all strangers to God, and yet he invites us and calls us to a new home. An appropriate response to this divine welcome is to receive and imitate it. Miroslav Volf has suggested there are legitimate societal limitations on immigration, set by two goods they serve: Security and Preservation of a society’s way of life. On Security, governments must protect their citizens–but we must evaluate the intensity of our fears against the legitimacy of threats. And self-preservation and safety, for Christians, cannot trump preservation and safety of another.

II. We worship a God who creates and sustains life. All life, born or unborn, is precious to God. As Christians we should care for all life, especially life which is most vulnerable and in need of nurturing and protection. Bearing new life is an important part of God’s creation of women. To be a mother is among the highest of callings in God’s world. Bearing  a child does not reduce a woman to an incubator. If a woman is pregnant, the new life she carries adds to the ways in which we have obligations to care for her. The intentional destruction of this new life for reasons such as “economic burden,” “unplanned,” “ill-timed,” etc. are inexcusable citations for an abortion, as they would be for any instance of murder. Christians should work for the reduction and elimination of the practice of abortion, and should seek to impose a reversion to the pre-Roe v Wade illegality of the practice. However, thinking well about the issue of abortion forces us to consider the factors which lead to its rise in the political sphere, why did it become increasingly necessary? In part, I think it is because society and the Christians of that society were and are not caring properly for women, and especially pregnant women. Healthcare should be expanded and made affordable for pregnant women, as pregnancy introduces heightened risk of certain health problems. Women should not be economically disadvantaged because of pregnancy, and their job security should not be jeopardized. Finally the Church should abandon any residual legalism in its relating to and caring for women who are pregnant, married or otherwise. The Church owes emotional and practical support to pregnant women, for her sake and the sake of the new life she carries. Finally, Christians are historically not agreed on whether abortion is justifiable when a mother’s life is at serious risk. As a general rule, neither life should receive preference in care, and in seeking to remain consistently pro-Life, not just pro-Birth, Christians should leave medical professionals the option to discern on a case by case basis whether abortion is justifiable in these rare circumstances.

III. We worship a God of peace. Jesus embodied a relentless commitment to non-violence. Use of violence for self-defense is always justified by its proponents by establishing a guilty and innocent party. No party was ever more innocent and undeserving in being assaulted than Christ himself, who refused to use violence. War is always a slaughter. War, for Christians, should always be interpreted in terms of loving one’s neighbor and loving one’s enemies. 231 million people died in the wars and conflicts of the twentieth century. Christians often fight in and support these wars, and that is not historically unusual. But God is the God of peace (Rom 15, Heb 13). As Christians we must seek and pursue peace (Ps. 34). Peace is not just for our friends and comrades, peace is universal. Christ came to bring peace to the world. Christians therefore are to pursue peace with everyone (Heb 12). Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that is was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sens rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous (Matt 5). There are no exceptions to the love commandment, and so support for a war could only be justified if it could be shown to be a form of love. Aquinas (1225-74), the most common source for just-war theory, reminds us that the question of love in war concerns active benevolence, not just warm feelings. Wars therefore cannot be for our benefit only, but must also be for the good of our enemies. Volf has, from Augustine and Aquinas, identified these keys to the composition of a just-war: Legitimate authority, just cause, right intention, last resort, reasonable chance of success. Because of the many ways in which war and violence have become commonplace for Christians and the Church, it requires a much fuller treatment than can be offered here. I would point in the direction of three enormously helpful books: The Politics of Jesus (Yoder), War and the American Difference (Hauerwas), and The Peacable Kingdom (Hauerwas). For a Christian to be part of the military would mean that they are more willing to die than be killed, and act with the utmost discrimination in determining whether they are acting with love for the good of their enemies. In general, it seems unlikely that killing your enemies is ever the same as loving your enemies. More practically, for Christians who posses tools intended to kill those who may seek to kill them, I am reminded of the missionaries in Ecuador who had the guns necessary to defend themselves from head hunting natives, but who recognized that their own souls were prepared for eternity and their killers’ souls were not. John Piper has written well on whether Christians should arm themselves for self-defense. Finally, a word about the use of torture. Christians should never condone it. To defend the intrinsic value of all human life while supporting one of the most dehumanizing practices of all, torture, is incoherent. Those who use torture also dehumanize themselves. To intentionally inflict severe pain upon a beloved creature of God is to mock the love which God has bestowed.

IV.  We worship a God who is the God of all he has created, including all people. Consider the previous three issues of migration, abortion, and war/violence. The refugee crises are only solvable when the root cause of the “push” factors are dealt with in the part of the world being fled. Abortion, which has everything to do with the dignity of human life means the principles involved are interactive with other issues, like the death of recently born human life due to starvation and disease. War and violence are occurring in every corner of the earth. None of these issues is just local, and thus Christian should have the same scope in politics as most already do with evangelistic missions: Global. This is perhaps the most complex of all the issues. None of the biblical authors could have imagined the sort of globalization we have in today’s world. I recently had the privilege of hearing two friends in dialogue about technology and the problem of how to live ethically given how connected things now are. iPhones are produced in horrible Asian factory conditions in which suicide nets are set up to keep workers from leaping to their deaths. Most diamond engagement rings are unethically sourced, coming from war torn parts of Africa where the diamond industries trade hands between war lords–Blood Diamond is not entirely fiction. How is a Christian or anyone to live and navigate these things? Is it our obligation to be actively working to end all of these injustices? Hunger, disease, poverty, human trafficking, etc. One of my two friends suggested that a healthy dose of the reality of human finitude would go a long way in keeping us sane. Remember that you can’t do it all, and you are where you are because God has work for you to do there. Is it right to take your family on a trip into the mountains or out to dinner instead of sending that money to a charity digging clean water wells for Africa? Here again, these sorts of issues require a lengthy treatment. For starters, we need a balanced approach which recognizes human limitedness alongside the Christian obligation to be on the side of justice. What this absolutely cannot mean, is a foreign policy of isolationism, America first, etc. If racism is the privileging of certain races above another, nationalism is the privileging of certain nations above another. For Christians, our allegiance is to God and we therefore share in his commitment to be for the whole world, not just the nation of our birth.

V. Second order issues, including economics, taxation, and now care for the environment, are important considerations but I haven’t thought as much about them and they seem to be much less pressing than the first order issues. I did actually write a Christian approach to environmental ethics for an ethics course my freshman year, and that may be of interest to some of you.

VI. We have a God of holy and righteous character, full in every kind of virtue. Christians ought to foster courage, humility, a thirst for justice, respect and compassion in their societies, and thus they ought to seek these things in their political candidates of choice. Christians are also people who forgive and love, as we are people who have experienced the forgiveness and love of God. The past mistakes of an individual do not mean they are incapable of being good–think especially of the Apostle Paul, essentially a terrorist turned missionary and theologian! Personal failures and vices may or may not rule someone out from a Christian’s political consideration. As a basic rule, someone who is obviously and publicly behaving and conducting themselves in opposition to Christ’s example is not worthy of the support of Christians. Our own witness and testimony is damaged when we are tethered or perceived to be tethered to evil. We appear as hypocrites. We cannot make Christ known to our society by endorsing and supporting candidates and policies that are mostly at odds with Christ’s own character.

Moving Forward:

If Christian existence is as Barth conceived of it, the Church as a smaller circle with Christ as center, making the larger circle of society aware of the center it does not know it has–then how are we to engage politically? The key question for this election would seem to be, how does your support of Candidate X make Christ known? Is Candidate X aligned with the theological criteria from above? Is candidate X himself or herself guided by the character and virtue we’ve learned from Christ? In the coming days I’ll be writing a fuller engagement of these criteria as they relate to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton specifically. Prayerfully consider how your public Christian life, which politics and voting are part of, relate to your mission on earth and the continued witness of Christ to the world.



Being Conservative

In my thoughts, attitudes, and passions relevant to American politics, I am conservative. I find this word to be an increasingly negative way to describe myself. First, because many who are older than I am consider themselves “conservative”–but not in the way I do. They pride themselves in rhetoric which says laziness is the only cause of poverty, individualism and individual liberties are the heartbeat of the nation, government is always the problem, homosexuals are the root of all evil, immigr–YOU MEAN ALIENS are destroying this country! And liberals, you may as well hang them for treason. Second, because many who are my age assume that my self described conservatism means I heartily ascribe to the crude list of aforementioned beliefs–but such an assumption couldn’t be poorer. Although, I do have to be fair here, for many my age, this breed of conservative (which i hope to show isn’t really conservative at all) is the only type they’ve seen in action. Radicals like Michele Bachmann and her Tea Party Caucus in the House often describe themselves and their values as “conservative.” Increasingly, conservative is meaning unfeeling toward the poor, bigoted and hateful towards the homosexual, derogatory and unhelpful towards the immigrant. If you’re not conservative, you are dismissed, after all, you hate the country and you want to destroy it. You’re either ignorant about how government works best, or you’re some sort of domestic terrorist. Since this is the sort of crap that most people my age are used to hearing associated with conservative, I don’t blame them for reacting and taking pride in being themselves liberal. But I would like to make petition here. I am pleading with you my fellow millenial, do not let radicals on the far right, a very small and isolated part of the Right in America, define conservatism for you.

I’d like to consider myself a classical conservative. By that I mean that I see order as a good thing, and as a priority over unrestrained liberty. I would like to see traditional social institutions preserved. I prefer continuity and stability to rapid changes. I think that a good way forward for the United States includes a strong economy, and strong government beginning with the states, and brought to fruition in DC. However, unlike many who also call themselves “conservative”, I do not consider those with a more liberal philosophy to be evil. I admire liberals for their deep concerns about education and their compassion for the poor and the oppressed. I think there is strength in preserving tradition and strength in progress and newness.

Conservatism isn’t about rhetoric and winning arguments and angry old white men (with the exceptions of Palin and Bachmann) getting red in the face. Conservatism isn’t about a crazed mob with signs demonstrating their illiteracy. Conservatism isn’t about a lonely mentally deranged individual that kills an abortion doctor. Conservatism isn’t about cheating the poor and enabling the wealthy to accumulate. Being conservative, is about being moderate. It’s about recognizing the security that comes from tradition, tried and true methods of civil government. Conservatism is respecting and honoring those who brilliantly ensured the survival of our young republic, but that does not demand their divination–something the Tea Party is absolutely guilty of. Conservatism isn’t about smear campaigning, name calling, or elitism. Conservatism is a rich tradition of civility. Beginning with Alexander Hamilton–the father of our economy– and flowing up through the journalism of William F. Buckley. Being conservative, very often, means being contrarian, and holding a vast array of opinions. Thinking well about the issues that face us, and not rushing to harmful solutions. Being conservative is not about being trigger happy and seeking military conflict out. It’s about exhausting every possible alternative and weighing in the balance the morals and virtues at stake in that most dreaded capability of men–but of course recognizing that our ability to end oppression sometimes obligates we do so.

A lot to take in, and in typical fashion, I have not been conservative in my writing. Each of these individual inferences could be developed into its own essay, and perhaps someday after college midterms, when i have the time, I will do so. But for now, dear sister, dear brother, I beg of you to see past the “conservatives” of Washington D.C., and understand that there is goodness and a wealth of opportunity and order– both chief to the flourishing of any nation–in preserving traditions. Conservatism is chiefly required because, as Hamilton, my political hero has said: “The passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.” If conservatism hopes to survive as a popular political philosophy in the United States, we must put down the radicals and establish ourselves as the party that prefers order and security rooted in tradition, over an untamed sea of liberty.

The Founders vs. Libertarians: They aren’t allies.

It is truly a wonder that so many Americans who call themselves libertarians hold the founding fathers and the constitution in such high regard, even sacred reservoirs. A simple review of history demonstrates that the founders who supported the ratification of the constitution were the Federalists like Hamilton, Washington, Adams, Jay, etc. The most significant tenant of their political platform, in fact the reason they existed as a distinguishable party, is because they saw a strong central government as essential for the survival of the nation. The federalists also viewed the constitution as a document that could be interpreted broadly and with “elasticity,” in order that future generations would not be bound by the confines of the laws necessary in their own (the founder’s) era. Remarkably, this view favoring broad interpretation and the principle of elasticity is not similar to the view held by most libertarians and “constitutionalists” today, just the opposite. Most libertarians/constitutionalists support a strict adherence to the constitution as it was written, and have the gull to suggest that anything otherwise is in violation of the founder’s (which ones?)  intentions for the document. That would be true for founder’s like Jefferson, but here it is critical to remember that Jefferson opposed the ratification of the constitution in the first place! It was only afterwards that Jefferson adopted the ideals of “strict construction” in which the constitution must be viewed literally and without room for elasticity. It would be just wonderful, if the folks who claim to stand with our founders would truly do that and support a strong central government and a loose construction view of interpreting the constitution. Those of you who consider yourselves “dedicated constitutionalists” and people who support “liberty over order” should really begin to consider that your view of history may be skewed, your understanding of the founder’s opinions could be tainted, and the alliances you find in history are illegitimate. Do you really stand with the founders that supported the ratification of the constitution? “Constitutions should consist only of general provisions; the reason is that they must necessarily be permanent, and that they cannot calculate for the possible change of things. And furthermore, why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of man will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.”- Alexander Hamilton
*This is merely an introduction to what will become several posts against what the author believes to be the most volatile, destructive, and bewilderingly popular political movement in modern American history.

the poor

Deuteronomy 15:11- There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
Proverbs 14:31- 31 He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Proverbs 21:13- 13 If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.
Proverbs 29:7- 7 The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.
Jeremiah 22:16- 16 He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the LORD.

Matthew 25:37-40-“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'”The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Luke 16: 19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

Obligatory Super Tuesday Post

Yes, as someone with a blog who enjoys such things, it is out of a sense of duty that I am writing this post, but I will not apologize for loving this corrupt game we call politics. It it a tremendous opportunity the American people have to cast votes today. We think of the people in Russia who will suffer under yet another Putin term due to the false democracy in the former Soviet Republic. So who did you vote for, who would you have voted for, or don’t you really care? Because I’ve not yet done this since starting the blog, we’ll take a look at the four remaining candidates, and I will endorse at least one of them.(yeah, maybe all four) There is no reason the candidates were numbered the way they are below:

#1: The Traditionalist, Rick Santorum   Rick Santorum is an old school, conservative family man. Placing so much emphasis on social issues and values has many evangelicals excited about politics again. Although Santorum himself is Roman Catholic, his strong opposition to gay marriage and abortion, and the way in which he has articulated his position has caught the eyes and tugged at the hearts of many in the still profound evangelical sect of American politics. He was recently a senator from Pennsylvania, and voted on some very key legislative issues. On the economy and fiscal policy he is most nearly a moderate, having voted for the bailouts of the banks and auto industry, but generally opposing government involvement with corporations. Pennsylvania is one of those purple states, so you can’t expect their senators to bleed red and die on the constitution. Santorum seems to be a respectable man, and also somebody with a distinct ability, in this race, to connect with the average American. He speaks passionately, but on occasion gets himself into trouble on the same coin. Comments like “homosexuality should be seen no differently than beastiality”, though they may score points with some, cannot come from a person running for President in a country on the cutting edge of secularism. I appreciate the fact that Rick is unabashed about his definitions of morality, and his strong faith, and its remarkable how he has grown and become a real contender in the race. He would be a formidable foe to debate President Obama on traditional values and the family, but his muddied career when it comes to the economy, by far the leading issue of 2012, will plague him this Super Tuesday.

#2: The Constitutionalist, Ron Paul

Teens, hippies, lend me your ears. Liberty loving, Thomas Jefferson reincarnate is hear to deliver salvation from expanding government. Ron Paul has been for me the most fun to watch this primary season. Generally speaking he is socially liberal and fiscally conservative, sticking with the classic libertarian formula. He is the only candidate that is explicit with his plans to slash spending and a goal to cut the budget in half with the elimination of tax dollar vortexes like the Department of Education. His economics and his understanding of what will happen if we continue nf our current path is spot on. Perhaps the most detracting thing about Ron Paul is his isolationist foreign policy. It didn’t work for Tom Jefferson, and it definitely won’t work for Congressman Paul. With Mid-East turmoil, an ascending China, and always ominous Russia, it would be irresponsible and impractical for the United States to remove itself from the world stage. Ron Paul blames the United States for 9/11, claiming its government as the “obvious aggressor” in the attack. Another troubling dynamic is his “conviction” that Iran deserves nuclear weapons if they want them because “We have them don’t we? Why shouldn’t they?”. If you’re looking for someone who is serious about the deficit, serious about the constitution, and will seriously put your liberty above everything else, Ron Paul is your guy.

#3: The Business Man, Mitt Romney

Former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney. The front runner, the moderate, the presidential candidate. Mitt ran in 2008, and came in third, behind Mike Huckabee and eventual winner John McCain. His father was governor of Michigan, where he was born, and recently won a primary. Mitt Romney is not a far right extremist, he is not an isolationist, he is not a champion of social conservatism. Mitt Romney is the business man. He spent 25 years in the private sector building Bain Capital, he was president of the Winter Olympics, and he was a republican governor, that managed to lead the Kennedy-blue state of Massachusetts from the right. To call Mitt a moderate may be fair, but as governor, he was irrevocably conservative. Besides having the best record on the economy, and the most experience, Mitt Romney is the most organized, has the most money, and he is the best debater in the group. He ran in 2008 and received praise for running a very strong campaign despite eventually losing. He launched a new campaign just about a year after President Obama was elected, and hasn’t looked back yet. He has already been endorsed by nearly 2/3 of the Republican governors, including Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and John Kasich, all three of whom are in states that Barack Obama won in 2008. Stated simply, Mitt is the best equipped to defeat Barack Obama. The most proficient criticism he faces, is that he is a flip flop. Frankly, he has flipped all the ways I and others on the right wanted him too, so we’ll call it square. He truly is the Hamilton to Paul’s Jefferson. (<You’re welcome fans of history)

#4: The Visionary, Newt Gingrich

Former Speaker of the House, Newt has always had a gift for improvising and ingenuity. Most recently he is noted for a grandiose scheme to build a permanent base on the moon, but this comes in a time when Americans are struggling to build stable incomes. He is the most philosophical, and the most inventive, yet through it all he still seems able to energize a crowd. Baggage from Newt’s personal life stunted his early primary success, but if he is able to win handily in his home state of Georgia tonight, as well as in Tennessee, the old professor could be back in the hunt.

The Endorsement: I greatly appreciate Rick Santorum’s message of tradition and strong families, Ron Paul’s love for liberty and the constitution, and Newt Gingrich’s skill at the podium and his ability to reform. Although all these things are needed, and have contributed to making this country great, if Barack Obama is not challenged by a strong, and united front of independents, moderates, and conservatives we don’t stand a chance at victory. Priority number one of the next election must be the defeat of the Barack Obama and his destructive policy. That is why for 2012, Mitt Romney is the candidate I am supporting in the primaries, and hope to see challenge Barack Obama for the presidency.

Be sure to comment or email A.J. at

Tea Anyone?

The so called Tea Party Movement has been the object of praise by personalities like Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Mark Levin. It’s already being referred to as the rise of the third party in America. A few questions to consider: Will the Tea Party Movement grow into a powerful third contender in the American political arena? What is the message, or what are some unifying elements of the movement? Is the Tea Party the best way to go about changing Washington?

Before delving too deeply in my responses, I’d like to try and discover for a moment why these people have any right to the “tea party” label. On December 16, 1773, patriots in Boston, fed up with countless abuses of power by a mad prince, his cruel courts, and an intolerable parliament, took action. They would not adhere to the seemingly “for kicks” Tea Act passed by an out of touch and proud of it British Parliament. In this one act, the fundamental issue of the American Revolution was masterfully displayed. Taxation without representation demanded no obligation of the American people, except to make a grand last stand for their freedoms. What the Boston patriots did was not simply a waste of perfectly good tea. (which, for those of us who hate the stuff may already put them a step ahead of our modern day “tea partiers”) The magnificence of what they’d just done in challenging the world power. The imagined consequences were nothing less than a miserable life spent in rat infested, plague saturated European prisons, a public tar and feathering, or most compassionately, death by hanging. Their articulate display of liberty cannot and should not be reduced to such nominal displays as we’ve seen by these right wing extremists who march on our nation’s capitol in the name of Thomas Jefferson. (forgive me of the ad hominem, and any others that manifest.) While I very much expect that Mr. Jefferson would have defended their right to do so, I highly doubt that faced with the challenges of today he would be nearly as critical of Washington, or nearly as self-centered. Thomas Jefferson and the tea partiers are most different in this way: Thomas Jefferson was a man of vision and enterprise, he was articulate and practical, fair and dignified, as well as directed-none of which can also be said of the Tea Party. Thomas Jefferson was generally speaking very selfless, always considering how his vision would affect his constituents. He loved liberty, but most of all that his people had it. These same folks who cracked jokes about those in attendance at the inauguration of our first black President, a truly grand and historical procession, now stand in the same place lining the same streets, declaring themselves the onslaught of a new revolution. It is absurd and should be fiercely challenged for anyone to be comparing this rabble to the men who built this nation. (And although it is a secondary issue, Sarah Palin is no George Washington.)

The Tea Party will not become an influential third member in any branch of government, chiefly because their platform, defined in their own crude terms, is porous and irrevocably near sighted. As a lover of history, I quickly noted some similarities between the tea partiers and the group that I believe to be their doomed ancestors, the “Know Nothings” of the 1840s and 50s. I hate to say it, but the majority gives me the awful impression of doomsday preparers and paranoid saps that have never read or considered any of the arguments against their “convictions”. The Know Nothings were nativists and racists opposed to all forms of immigration, legal or not, into the United States. Sound familiar? They proposed harsh crackdowns, strict naturalization laws, and raised anti-Irish, anti-German, and eventually anti-Italian sentiments. No position could be more at odds with the country the founders envisioned and sought to establish. In addition to locked down border nativism, the tea partiers are largely evangelicals, and sticking with tradition, intolerant of other worldviews and perspectives, even amongst themselves. The Know Nothings didn’t last because they ran on hate and isolation, and like all great societies, we evolved out of the primitive states of paranoia that drive such things. I would expect this new second wind for Know Nothing doctrine to succumb to the same fate. The fact of the matter is America is among the most secular places in the world, and this old European style of intolerance won’t be sustained. Most basically however, the platform and reason for this “tea party” is a government that’s too big. Once that problem is fixed, which it will I believe over time, as it always has done, going through flexable periods of growth and downsizing, the Tea Party will die. But perhaps this is what they want, in my understanding, they have no reason other than downsizing government for being. This is why I can say with confidence that this movement will not last or be too influential for very long.

One thing is evident, these people are angry about something. Government being overbearing? The PATRIOT Act? Welfare? Leaders that are too benevolent with “their” money? Legitimate complaints include tax reform, which should be done to make things simpler and promote growth of the private sector, and corruption should be curbed. But for all of us who see these as serious issues, don’t leave it up to the conservative brand of the Occupy Movement for reform.