Legalising Legislative Deception: Judge Sutton and the Individual Mandate

Orin Kerr is proud of himself that Judge Jeffrey Sutton agrees with him on the individual mandate rulig:

I think Judge Sutton’s separate opinion is excellent, but then it’s easy for me to say: Judge Sutton’s views closely match what I’ve been saying here and elsewhere for a long time, so maybe this just proves once again that brilliant people agree with me.

He may be, but I am not.  It’s difficult to follow much of the argument here, but this is, as I see it, the course of events:

  1. Congress mandates that hospitals and other health care providers furnish services to those who cannot afford health care.
  2. Health care providers comply with this, using the paying customers to subsidise those who can’t pay.
  3. Congress and the President then decide that everyone’s health care needs to be paid for.  Obvious solution: do a single payer and tax everyone.  Had they done this, we wouldn’t be having the judicial back and forth over the individual mandate, because there would be no argument that the federal government has the power to tax.  But because most people are happy with the status quo and insurance companies would vanish with a single payer, we ended up with the cobbled mess called Obamacare.
  4. The losers then sue, pointing out that the federal government is forcing people to buy something against their will.
  5. Sutton and his ilk respond that, because of (1), mandate is both necessary and no sweat, and really is a tax, which Congress can do.  This not only confirms Congress’ legerdemain/bait-and-switch (take your pick,) but also makes (1) look like a set-up for (3).

If the Supremes buy this and uphold the individual mandate, they will do the following:

  • Allow Congress to get away with seriously deceptive legislation, which will only encourage more (as if they needed the encouragement).
  • Short-circuit process and substantive content in legal language, or more directly further the cause of outcome-based justice, which undermines the rule of law.
  • Allow Obamacare to proceed.  As an administrative nightmare, it will make a mess of health care, which will only encourage the push for the next step: single-payer health care.

The government will end up issuing everyone a health care card.  But, to obtain really worthwhile health care, we will need two documents: a passport and a plane ticket.

Taking Evangelicals on a “Wild Goose Chase”

That’s what they’re hoping to do at least:

The Wild Goose Festival, an ongoing four-day revival camp in North Carolina featuring music, yoga, liberal talk and embracing of gays and lesbians, is facing heat from evangelicals who say it is aimed at selling gnostic beliefs to the youth.

“Most Religious Left groups that advocated leftist policies in past generations are now in severe decline, and their activists are now targeting evangelical youth,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, which works to reaffirm the church’s biblical and historical teachings.

This is another one of those “plus ça change, plus la meme chose” kinds of things.  In many ways, “Main Line” churches have been a long time stop for disaffected evangelicals, many of whom (or their children) end up out of Christianity altogether.  (Traditionally, much of that disaffection has been driven by upward social mobility.)  The Emergents, which are not as different from their Main Line counterparts as they would like to think, are trying to accomplish the same thing, and will probably get the same result, namely decline as the reality sinks into the membership that what they believe and practice isn’t that different–and certainly no better–than the world around them.

One thing that Main Line and Emergent bank on is a latent desire for “church” amongst people, irrespective of beliefs or lack thereof.  But that’s not a given either, certainly not now.

As J. Vernon McGee used to say, those who don’t stand for something will fall for anything.  It is, as my mother used to say, a “wild goose chase”.  And her use of the phrase was pejorative.  (It also, sad to say, ended up to be her experience.)

HT to VirtueOnline.

Book Review: Peoples of the New Testament World: An Illustrated Guide

One of the challenges of New Testament study at any level is simply putting ourselves–and the events and people depicted therein–into the world in which they actually happened and lived.  The Greco-Roman and Jewish world at the turn of the first millennium has many features that are on their face unfamiliar to us, yet are crucial to understand the life and ministry of Our Lord and the early days of the church.  Many of these features, if properly explained, can be more readily understood, clearing up mysteries and enriching our understanding of the Scriptures.

A book that can be very useful in that explanation is Peoples of the New Testament World: An Illustrated Guide.  Written by Dr. William A. Simmons, Associate Professor of New Testament at Lee University, it uses the device of “people groups” to break down and explain the various groups and institutions that Jesus and the early church encountered in the New Testament era.  The whole concept of “people groups” may conjure visions of political correctness run amok, but this book is anything but politically correct.  Sticking with the Biblical text while employing a broad range of scholarship, Simmons begins with a brief introduction which is more of an overture than anything else, repeating themes that he returns to in the core of the narrative.

Simmons’ core contention is that the Judaism’s leitmotif from the Babylonian Exile onward to the destruction of Herod’s Temple was dealing with constant threat of national extinction, either through genocide or assimilation.  (For some reason the author uses the term “holocaust” for just about every disaster the Jews encounter, even when genocide isn’t the whole discussion.)  In doing so Simmons extensively explores the intertestamental period, a portion of time that many Evangelicals look upon with the same inchoate dread as Muslims do al-jahiliya.  That, in turn, is due to the fact that those books referred to by Protestants as “apocryphal” and Catholics as “deuterocanonical” (specifically 1 and 2 Maccabees, but also Sirach and Wisdom) are key references for this period, which is the immediate prologue of the New Testament era.  But Simmons is unafraid of using and discussing these sources, along with other classical sources, chief among which is Josephus.

The Jews’ response to their existential threat varied from religious resistance and exclusivity (the Pharisees and Essenes) to political accommodation (the Sadducees and Herodians) to political revolt (the Zealots).  Some of these make up the people groups he reviews, which are as follows:

  • The Pharisees
  • The Sadducees
  • The Scribes, an excellent section which shows how literacy empowered this group in a world where it was the exception
  • The Zealots
  • The Tax Collectors, with an overview of the Roman system of tax farming and how the Jews were paying taxes both to the Romans (and their clients) and the Temple
  • The Sinners
  • The “People of the Land” who clashed with the Jewish establishment from Ezra’s return from exile onwards.  This whole subject engenders a discussion of Ezra’s exclusivistic standards, why they were brought into being and how they conflicted with other Jewish and semi-Jewish groups.
  • The Samaritans
  • John the Baptist and his disciples, which is where Simmons brings in the Essenes and Qumran.
  • The Hebrews and the Hellenists.  In his coverage of these two groups, he deals with one of the knottiest problems in studying the Acts of the Apostles: the whole rationale behind the appointment of Stephen and the other deacons, and the nature of these two groups both within Judaism and the Jerusalem church.  Simmons’ idea is that the Hellenists, being Jewish by religion but largely Greek in culture, were the vanguard of the church’s outreach to the Gentile world, and also the chief sufferers of the persecution unleashed by the Sanhedrin.
  • Charlatans, Exorcists and Magicians
  • The Herodians
  • The Roman Imperial Rulers, which includes a description of every emperor from Augustus to Domitian, including the most detailed description I have seen of the lives of the three emperors of Tacitus’ “one and long year” (69 A.D.) namely Galba, Otho and Vitellius
  • The Centurions
  • Patrons, Clients and Trade Guilds.  Patronage drove the whole Roman system and made it work for a millennium, but this is a subject that gets almost no coverage in Christian literature.  Simmons discusses patronage in general, how it affected the church from the outside, and how the patronage mentality, engrained in the people, entered the church.
  • The Greek Philosophers.  Another subject that Evangelicals tend to shy away from, Simmons concentrates on two schools: the Epicureans and the Stoics.
  • Slaves and Freed Persons, where he discusses the whole institution in its Roman (not American) context and why the church probably did not openly advocate its abolition at the beginning

Simmons’ narrative is generally clear.  He tries to avoid the academic jargon that seminary scholars are famous for, but many of his topics are complex.  Lighting the way are his illustrations, which are numerous and attractive.  In particular his use of the artwork of J.-J. Tissot is proof that, as long as copyright laws are what they are, Christian authors will continue to profit from their nineteenth century predecessors, although there’s no question that Tissot’s work (he spent extensive time in the Holy Land) does add to the book.

The editing needs some touching up in spots.  If there’s one aspect of the content that in my opinion could use some enhancement, it’s his use of his sources and context after the New Testament era, which needs to be brought up to par with his use of intertestamental information.  For example, his depiction of the brutality of the Julio-Claudian emperors should be set against, say, the Severans and their third century successors, whose damage to the Empire was far more extensive and ultimately proved to be fatal in the West.  Some discussion of the effects of the Roman world on the development of Christian theology wouldn’t hurt either.  For example, he discusses the “graces” that came from patrons, but that reality in turn influenced Augustine’s concept of justification, so important for Reformed theology.  In the reverse, he mentions the proper client response of being eucharistos (grateful) without really dealing with the relationship between that and the Lord’s Supper.

But perhaps much of this is beyond the scope of the book, which is broad enough.  It’s hard to think of a book where one can get “up to speed” more readily on the world of Jesus and the Apostles than Peoples of the New Testament World: An Illustrated Guide, and as such it is an essential reference for those who wish to really know what it was like to walk and live in the world of Jesus and his Apostles.

The book’s author furnished the review copy.

Have Pentecostals (and Others) Got the Idea of the Calling to Ministry Backwards?

In his interesting study as to why Church of England women ministers tend to be older than their male counterparts, the Ugley Vicar makes a very profound observation:

But this then raises a question in my mind, which has actually been there for some time, as to whether we have really got it right when it comes to ‘calling’.

The selection process, and indeed the Book of Common Prayer, lays a great deal of stress on the ‘inwardness’ of calling: “Do you think in your heart that you be truly called, according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the order of this Church of England, to the Order and Ministry of Priesthood?”

But what is a ‘true calling’? In my own day it was understood to be a special sense from God that this was what he wanted me to do. In Scripture, however, I find very little emphasis on inward feelings and an awful lot on outward, observable, competence and the decision of the Church to recognize that (eg Titus 1:6-9). Jesus’s ‘calling’ of the disciples, in particular, seemed to owe nothing to them feeling they should become apostles, and everything on his appointment of them (John 6:70).

Arguably, then, the Church should be fingering people and telling them they jolly well ought to be considering the ordained ministry, not waiting while they wait to see if they have ‘a call’. And that being the case, I would have thought we want to get people in their prime, when they are young enough, and free enough of other ties, to be able to give time to training, and then themselves to ministry wherever they might be needed. (That, at least, was something we were getting right forty years ago.)

Pentecostal churches and those like them are even more explicit about the idea of getting “the call”.  In my early years in the Church of God, I got the distinct impression from our ministers that, unless the heavens opened up and the finger of God pointed straight at you and a voice sounded your call, you weren’t.  (Or something along those lines…later, I found that family connections loosened that requirement, but that’s another post).

But Richardson is right: the New Testament doesn’t support the “Isaiah 6” concept of calling as normative for ministers.  Since the church issues the credentials, his idea that the church should do the recruiting is entirely sensible.

It seems to me that this is one more example of our attempt (and you can see that “we” covers a broad range of ecclesiastical structures and concepts) to be Biblical when we end up missing the boat.

Month of Sundays: Servanthood

No, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to take the first place among you, must be your slave; Just as the Son of Man came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:27-28)

The disciples were looking for the big payout at the end. They had endured the rejection that came with following Jesus, and it was time to check out the rewards. But who would get the greatest reward?

James and John were too timid to ask them for themselves, but their mother was not. “‘I want you to say,’ she replied, ‘that in your Kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on your right, and the other on your left.’” (Matthew 20:21) Needless to say, the rest of the disciples were furious. Who were these guys to get the greatest place of honour?

Instead of rearranging the heavenly organizational chart, however, Jesus threw it out altogether. He started by inverting the pyramid, so to speak, and putting those who wanted to be on the “top” to do so by being on the “bottom” of the heap.

Needless to say, that took the wind out of everyone’s sails.

Jesus’ purpose on this earth wasn’t to come and make a career possible for his disciples and those who came after them. It wasn’t to give pride of place to the likes of Diotrophes, “who loves to be first among them” (3 John 1:9). It was for all of us who profess and call ourselves Christians to humble ourselves and follow Jesus in being the servant of all.

“But (Jesus) impoverished himself by taking the nature of a servant and becoming like men, He appeared among us as a man, and still further humbled himself by submitting even to death–to death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8). Leaving sinlessly perfect heaven to do that was major. Are we willing to make major sacrifices to do his will and achieve his purpose? Are we willing to come as he did, “not to be served, but to serve?”

New York Owes the Cohabiters an Apology

Now that New York, financially struggling and seeing its people bail to avoid its high taxes, has legalised same sex civil marriage, they need to do one more thing to complete the act.  When Governor Cuomo signs this bill, he should issue an apology to everyone–heterosexual and homosexual alike–who are cohabiting without civil marriage, especially those who are doing so on a long term basis (and they are out there, trust me).  It is the least he can do in this situation.

Why?  Some of us, having eschewed brain-cell destroying substances, have long memories.  We remember the days when marriage was considered a bourgeois, sexist and feudal institution, and good people shacked up.  We remember being told that we were judgemental to even note–let alone object–when our friends and family lived together without civil marriage.   We’ve watched as marriage rates have declined as a result of the aforementioned sexual revolution, to say nothing of the practice of serial monogamy that permeates our society and enriches our divorce lawyers.

Yet behind this face of triumphant social liberalism there’s “backfield in motion” going on.  The desire of at least some of the LGBT community for same sex civil marriage dates back to the Stonewall years, ridiculous as that sounds in view of what heterosexuals were going through at the time.  And marriage’s decline is most pronounced in the lower socio-economic strata of our society.  Civil marriage is still very much alive in the upper reaches.  Our elites learned their lesson from the likes of Russell Firestone and John Cleese not to marry those below their station and get taken to the cleaners when things didn’t work out.  Today they celebrate the fact that cross-class marriages have all but vanished (a major shift from the “Greatest Generation”) as part of the “equality” of marriage.  Such equality further divorces them from the realities of the rest of society, to say nothing of accelerating the general inequality of income and wealth (sorry, progressives, it’s more than tax increases on the rich).

But if this is their idea of equality, I want no part of it.  A sexual revolution worth starting is worth finishing, and the spread of same sex civil marriage is a tacit admission that it was neither.  In our tonier suburbs we’ve replaced the cries of “judgemental” with subtle–and sometimes unsubtle–pressure to those who live without civil marriage to “tie the knot”, even when tying that knot is punished by our tax code and government benefit structure.  It’s a classic case of “voting left and living right”, and it should be called for what it is: hypocrisy.

It is for all this and more why I think civil marriage should be abolished.  It’s time to return marriage to the civil part of our society rather than leaving it in the political one.  It’s time to admit once and for all that our pursuit of “rights” like same sex civil marriage–to say nothing of the sexual revolution that preceded it–are just mutable games in a society where changing the rules for the convenience of a few is the principal objective of just about every movement out there.  As for me, I’d rather stick with my Saviour’s high standard of marriage rather than gamble on the state’s low one.

It’s unlikely that Governor Cuomo will issue the apology to the cohabiters or anyone else.  But he should.  It nothing else, it would be good practice for the day when he throws many of his base groups over the side to keep the state which acts as God each time it marries someone from going broke.

When the Pathfinder Gets Lost

Most people are familiar with the America’s Cup, the sailboat race which has attracted prominent competitors such as Sir Thomas Lipton and Ted Turner.  What most people don’t know is that there is a fresh water counterpart to that race, the Canada’s Cup, sailed on the Great Lakes.  The genesis of that race, how the Americans lost it the first time and gained it back the second, is one of the most interesting in yachting history.

In 1896 the Lincoln Park Yacht Club in Chicago challenged the Royal Canadian Yacht Club in Toronto to a cross-Great Lakes race.  The first race was held that year in Toledo, OH.  The Canadians were victorious, thus they named the race the Canada’s Cup.

In the same year, another member of the Lincoln Park club, Chicago rubber magnate Fred W. Morgan, commisioned the building of his new yacht, the Pathfinder.  Built in Racine, WI, its maiden voyage to Chicago was “the event of the season,” and people gathered on the docks to watch it glide into the harbour.  The Pathfinder was 140′ long (a sizeable yacht then or now) and resembled the U.S. Navy’s battleships of the day.   It had telephones and electric lighting in an era when the vast majority of American homes had neither.

Below: the Pathfinder, under way on the Great Lakes.

Two years later the Chicago Yacht Club, with Fred Morgan as its Commodore and the Pathfinder the club’s flagship, issued a challenge to the RCYC for the Canada’s Cup.  The following year the Pathfinder steamed from Chicago to Toronto for the rematch.

The first day of racing was 21 August 1899.  The object was to start near the RCYC, round two buoys, and return to the club.  The Canadians’ yacht, the Beaver, had an accident right at the start and was out of the race.   The American yacht, the Genessee, had a chance for a default for the first race (it was two out of three to win.)

But such was not to be.  The Pathfinder was acting as a kind of “pace yacht” for the race, but in the haze on Lake Ontario itself got lost and missed the first buoy.  Behind it was not only the Genessee but steam yachts Siren and Canada!  The entire entourage mistook another buoy for the first official one, where the judges’ ship waited in vain.

Because of this the Americans missed the chance for a forfeit.  We eventually (and when I say “we” I mean not only the Americans but the Chicago Yacht Club, where my great-grandfather was Commodore the following year) won the race, but only by 31 seconds on a five hour course.

In those days it was easy for everyone to follow the largest, most magnificent yacht on the Great Lakes.  But they still got lost.  Unfortunately things haven’t changed as much as we would like to think.

Our country and our world is directed by those who are supposedly the most educated and enlightened among us.  Yet we still experienced the crash of 2008 and its aftermath.  Many of us were participants in that by virtue of taking out loans on our houses and just about everything else we owned (and didn’t in some cases) because were were informed by “knowledgeable” people that we could afford it.  That’s little comfort now that those homes and possessions are going away in foreclosure and repossession, especially since many of us are without income.

We have also been directed for the last forty years by a “knowledge class” that assured us that our “old ways” were hopelessly passé and that we would be happier in our new family structures.  In a country with high divorce and incarceration rates and single-parent poverty, their self-confident assurances aren’t much comfort either.

In the end the only one we can trust for the truth is he that is the truth, Jesus Christ.   Through him all things were created, so he is most knowledgeable as to what we need.  And, of course, he is the real “pathfinder” from the ultimate challenge of life, death itself, as we walked out of the tomb after those who didn’t care for his challenge of their authority had him executed.

It’s time for all of us who have followed what looked to be the biggest and most magnificent thing “on the water” to turn to he who actually walked on it.

If you’re tired of being misled, click here

FPL’s Port of Palm Beach Smokestacks: Another South Florida Landmark Bites the Dust

Literally, in this case:

Dozens came to the Lake Trail on the north end of Palm Beach begin their Father’s Day with a bang. The 8:30 a.m. Sunday demolition of the 300 foot smokestacks and the boilers at the Florida Power and Light power plant across the Intercoastal Waterway in Riviera Beach drew curious families and bike riders. The blast came quickly and was met with applause and shouts from the audience.

Other than give residents of the north end of Palm Beach something to do, it evidently was a desired result to some:

Palm Beach resident Neil Kozokoff waited 15 years for this occasion. He attended the demolition with his wife and daughter.

“I think it’s a great sign of progress that this plant is being replaced by a cleaner, more efficient power source,” Kozokoff said….

“I’m expecting this eyesore to disappear,” said Jeffrey Thompson, of West Palm Beach, who came with his six-year-old daughter Ashley.

Below: a closer view of both smokestacks and boilers.  While loading one of my family business’ pile drivers for export, both appear in the background of this 1975 photo taken at the Port of Palm Beach.  (The power plant even appeared on our product literature in the early 1960’s, before we moved to Florida.)

But others have a different view of these “eyesores”:

The smokestacks had an important purpose and would be missed by diver John Krayeski, of West Palm Beach. “Mariners look for them as a kind of lighthouse in general as an aide to navigation. Divers use it for the place for their exact drops. With them gone, divers are going to have to get more creative with their alignments.”

I’m with the divers and mariners on this one.  Unlike Jupiter and Hillsboro Inlets, Palm Beach Inlet lacks a lighthouse.  The smokestacks were something of a substitute for them.  When we returned from the Bahamas and came back into the Port of Palm Beach (which we didn’t always do), they were the first visible sign that we were, as Grand Funk Railroad used to sing, closer to home.

Month of Sundays: Provision

And my God, out of the greatness of his wealth, will, in glory, fully satisfy your every need, through your union with Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

It was time to go home. We had experienced another good cruise in the Bahamas, but it was time to get back to the good old U.S.A. So we left the harbour at Chubb Cay and set our course for South Florida.

Unfortunately we hadn’t checked the weather very carefully. North-east of Bimini we ran into a squall line that put us in high winds and a driving rain. Our boat was beautiful but rolled dreadfully in the high seas.

Although all of the lamps and other furniture you take for granted on land were secured at all times, everything else went flying, including the food in the galley. My mother turned green with motion sickness; I thought the cat would, too. The more of this we chopped through, the less likely it seemed we would make it back across the Straits of Florida.

But make it we did. As we approached Port Everglades (the port for Fort Lauderdale, a port of call for many cruise ships) my father realized that his ship’s wheel didn’t change the course of the boat. He used the dual diesel engines we had, one then the other, to keep us on course and we finally, mercifully make it to the dock.

A trip below revealed the problem: the steering cable had snapped. It seemed that we had gone through the worst storm of our yachting career with a few threads holding the steering cable—and thus our ability to set a course into the wind and prevent capsizing of the boat.

When you’re going through a storm in life, it’s sometimes hard to know that God is still in control and keeping you safe. Sometimes that’s not apparent until it’s all over. But it’s good to know that, in times of crisis, our God is there to bring us through to the safe harbour, if we’ll only set the course he’s charted for us.

Christian Militants Don’t Need to Bring Down the Country

Rep. Shelia Jackson-Lee misses the point:

In an exchange with witness Patrick Dunleavy, the former deputy inspector of the criminal intelligence unit, New York Department of Correctional Services, Rep. Jackson Lee mentioned the case of a man who blew up an abortion clinic and proposed that this perhaps was an attempt to undermine U.S. law that allows a woman to procure an abortion.

Rep. Lee then said, “As we look to be informational, we should include an analysis of how Christian militants or others might bring down the country. We have to look broadly, do we not?”

Dunleavy answered: “I don’t know that Christian militants have foreign country backing or foreign country financing.”

Lee then said, “I don’t think that’s the issue. The issue is whether or not their intent is to undermine the laws of this nation. And I think it is clear that that is the case. So it’s not — your distinction is not answering the question.”

The simple truth is that Christian militants–or others who profess or call themselves Christians–don’t need to work at bringing down the country.  With a government that spends itself silly, regulates and taxes its productive sector into oblivion, dillies in expensive wars it either has no intention or concept of winning, and is directed by an elite which does not live in reality, it’s only a matter of time before the “country” brings itself down.  Once this is accomplished, all the “Christian militants” or others need to do is to move in and pick up the pieces.

That last point is the tricky part.  Most conservatives and Christians refuse to play that kind of waiting game, but continue to attempt to fix things in their current state, which in the short term only lets the present state of affairs roll on.  Jackson-Lee and others of her idea are not only foolish for refusing to see this; they are also consummate ingrates.