Bushwhacked: Why the Evangelical Right Was Wrong

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It
is done. The secular sacrament of voting, the hallmark of the modern
day religious orgy known as elections, has come and gone through
its cyclical four-year presidential cycle. The nearly insatiable
gorging at the trough of Leviathan by true political believers and
neophytes alike has temporarily run its course.

Hanging
in the balance is the quality of life (and possibly lives) not only
of millions of Americans but of many citizens around the world,
most notably those in Iraq.

What
is interesting is that our President actually holds office as the
result of the favoritism of only about 20%
of the “qualified” voting public.
Americans turned out in record
numbers to vote, yet when all is said and done only a very small
proportion of our citizens is responsible for the occupant of arguably
the most powerful political office the world has ever known.

In
light of such numbers, clearly most people hate, dislike or are
indifferent to George W. Bush. Many people apparently voted for
Bush because they feared a Kerry presidency. Others hated Bush and
would have voted for anyone but him. Has it escaped notice that
upwards of 80% of "qualified" residents didn't vote for
him?

One
can hardly blame them. Never in my adulthood have I seen two presidential
candidates who at bottom were so startlingly similar as regards
the issues. Yes, the packaging, style, and temperament
were different, and, no doubt, in some politically correct DC sort
of way, that kind of stuff really matters.

But
on the issues it seems we were choosing between Bud or Miller,
McDonalds or Wendy's, Delta or American, Tweedle Dum or Tweedle
Dee. Each side had its staunch adherents, but in the end it came
down to a matter of taste not substance.

The
standard libertarian argument has been that while the buildings
are different, the foundation of the parties are the same; both
statist to the core, using Leviathan for their own personal ideological
aggrandizement, if for somewhat, at least rhetorically, different
ends.

This
election struck me not only with its foundational homogeneity, but
rather the extent in which the buildings were nearly the same as
well, just with different color paint. The emotion and passion displayed
on both sides might lead the average observer to believe there was
a vast chasm separating the two candidates. Unfortunately there
was not.

For
example, on that great evil, the war in Iraq, both candidates espoused
essentially the same position. Yet the anti-war left was firmly
in Kerry's camp.

As
regards the issue of homosexual marriage, both candidates essentially
said the same thing, despite public perception. Yet the anti-homosexual
marriage right was firmly ensconced in Bush's camp.

And
if there was a difference regarding the treatment of our civil liberties
la that freedom-stealing piece of legislation known as the Patriot
Act, I surely could not discern it.

On
nearly every major issue of consequence, you would find the exact
same thing. Two virtually identical candidates parsed only by the
difference in verbiage, not substance.

The
constituents of either side, drunk with the giddiness of coercive
power, are simply blind to the galling acts of their own political
machinery when it is calling the shots, even when their own party's
position is nearly identical to the opposition they so vehemently
oppose.

Remember
the Republicans stirring opposition to the imperialistic moves of
the American Empire during the Clinton Administration?
Where are they now? Beholden to the political teat of their own
party leadership, and confronted with even worse imperialistic moves
of the Bush Administration, it seems the only wars
they don't like are the one's pressed by the Democrats.

Both
sides think, wrongly, their party's acts of political thuggery are
okay, while the other side can't be entrusted with such power. Yet
the critique by some within the parties is often profound. When
you listen to the radical left critique the establishment
right and left, it is pretty good stuff, save for a few major1
potholes here and there. And ditto for the radical right
critique of the establishment left and right.

Nonetheless,
both sides seem oblivious to how their concerns are mobilized during
the election process and then shunted aside when victory is assured.
What other explanation can there be for the radical left and right
to continue to participate in a process which over and over again
absorbs them into the political center so that for all practical
purposes there is no distinguishing them from that which they so
often critique?

Then
there is the curious issue of moral values. The press has spun it
a certain way, and perhaps the Evangelical Right, which has been
bushwhacked for a long time by Shrub and company, did have
some impact in certain areas (although I'm not quite convinced that
is why all those states voted red).

The
election certainly points out a split in the electorate regarding
these issues. The problem of course is not so much the split, but
that these issues are a part of the political process, allowing
one group to lord it over the other as to the imposition of their
particular moral ethic. Imagine if the state was out of the relationship
business entirely. Then the issue of marriage, homosexual or otherwise,
would carry no political water whatsoever.

They
(the Left) know it wasn't just whacked out rightists who voted against
homosexual unions being recognized as marriages, and they know a
similar fate would befall the issue of abortion if it were put up
to a vote. Most people in this country do not believe that such
positions should enjoy protection by the law, much to the chagrin
of our educational and media establishments. I have no doubt that
most modern leftists just don't get it on this point, and after
hearing a steady dose of NPR over the last two months I am led to
believe probably never will.

On
the other hand, the Evangelical or Religious right doesn't get it
either, albeit for different reasons. Despite George Bush's profession
of faith, they have no friends in high places. They are useful to
the powers that be because when mobilized they can be counted on
to vote on the basis of rhetoric, not substance. Sharing the same
statist presuppositions as the Republicans, they are easily duped
into believing that Bush and company share their cultural concerns
and that such will translate into political reality. It never does
but apparently hope springs eternal in the Evangelical mindset.

Think
about it for a moment. We have a president who is ostensibly pro-life
and committed to defending the lives of innocent pre-born babies,
yet seems to have no compulsion against destroying innocent adult
lives. Amazingly, the Evangelical Right seems to be totally unaware
of the problem with such a moral bifurcation.

It
is not as if Evangelicals believe that pre-born babies are just
pieces of tissue, somehow automatically infused with life just because
they move from their mother's womb to a few inches outside of it,
which ironically makes their position even more appalling.

Such
hardheartedness at the most basic level goes a long way towards
explaining hardheartedness at a later level, and should be expected
of the pro-abortion Left, given their position of elevating abortion
to the level of a sacrament (which is what distinguishes their abortion
position from that of most pro-choice Libertarians).

Yet
for some reason the tenderheartedness of Evangelicals for innocent
babies does not translate into tenderheartedness for innocent
adults. They condemn the death of innocents (babies) on the one
hand while sanctioning the deaths of innocents (adults) on the other
hand.

The
historic Christian confessions simply do not make such a fundamental
error. Catholic or Orthodox, ancient or modern, they are consistently
pro-life and anti-war, short of self-defense. Listening to
Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Bob Jones, to name only a few "leading
lights" of the Religious Right, such considerations seem to
have no meaning whatsoever. I doubt they are even aware of the historic
teachings of the Church regarding war which were honed long before
the famous schism of 1054.

Here
is what the Evangelical Right doesn't understand and why they continue
to be bushwhacked by the lure of politics.

  1. The
    killing of any innocent life is a crime
    . The taking
    of innocent life is never a "necessary" sin parading
    under the language of "collateral damage." Crimes
    are a special subset of sins that our Creator has deemed so
    notorious to the peace and commonwealth of society that they
    have special and relatively immediate punishments attached to
    them, i.e. they are subject to civil sanction. Both the Right
    and Left rhetorically value life in one arena while sanctioning
    the taking of life in another arena. For the Left, it is abortion.
    For the Right, it is imperialistic war. In actual practice both
    sides can be quite imperialistic when it suits their purpose.
    This shouldn't surprise us with the Left as they have turned
    their hearts against the most innocent among us, but it is a
    point of shame with those who identify themselves with the Religious
    Right.
  2. The
    forcible appropriation of the fruit of a man's labor is robbery
    .
    To put it bluntly, taxation is theft. Involuntarily separating
    a man from his money is robbery, whether it is done directly
    or by proxy. Lysander Spooner pointed this out long ago:

[i]t is true
that the theory of our Constitution is, that all taxes are paid
voluntary; that our government is a mutual insurance company,
voluntarily entered into by the people with each other….

But this
theory of our government is wholly different from the practical
fact. The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says
to a man: “Your money or your life.” And many, if not most, taxes
are paid under the compulsion of that threat.

The government
does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon
him from the roadside, and holding a pistol to his head, proceed
to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is nonetheless a robbery
on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.

The highwayman
takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime
of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim
to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit.
He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired
impudence enough to profess to be merely a “protector,” and that
he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him
to “protect” those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able
to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system
of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions
as these.

Furthermore,
having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do.
He does not persist in following you on the road, against your
will, assuming to be your rightful ‘sovereign’; on account of
the ‘protection’ he affords you.

He does not
keep ‘protecting’ you, by commanding you to bow down and serve
him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that;
by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest
or pleasure to do so; and by branding you a rebel, a traitor,
and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy,
if you dispute his authority, or resists his demands.

He is too
much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults,
and villainies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to
robbing you attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.

The proceedings
of those robbers and murderers, who call themselves ‘the government,’
are directly the opposite of those of the single highwayman.2

One
argument advanced in favor of limited fiscal coercion is that tithing
is a model for civil financing, and derives its legitimacy from
that model as long as total taxation does not exceed 10%. Now there
is a certain aura of plausibility to such an assertion since the
tithe provided for more than just worship functions in the Old Testament.

But
there is one crucial difference. With the tithe we are giving to
God a portion of what rightfully belongs to Him. He owns everything
and the corollary is that the state owns nothing. Since as individuals
we are only stewards, God could rightly demand it all, but the state
in its demands must appropriate what it never owned in the first
place.

God
has not given the state stewardship over anything. All activities,
law, economics, defense, etc. can exist without the state. Thus
the only way the state can procure funds for its operations is by
predation among those involved in private actions. There can be
no other way, unless everyone willingly subject to a given
state voluntarily chooses to fund it.

  1. The
    anatomy of the state is such that it is born out of violence
    .
    The state is a group of people who have garnered an aggressive
    monopoly of force over a given geographical area. Taxation is
    the means by which they finance this monopoly. Force is the
    means by which they maintain it. In other words the state is
    an organized crime ring living off stolen monies. Think of the
    spectacle of having the Church, God's people, seeking protection
    from a group whose first principles are founded on theft and
    violence. How can those who profess to be followers of the Prince
    of Peace countenance such a relationship?

If
the first principle of government is lawlessness made legal, should
it surprise anyone when this very entity turns against the Church
which is fundamentally opposed to such a thing? Would a thief seek
shelter amongst those who think his thieving grievous and an affront
to freedom and liberty? I think not. So what in the heck are Evangelicals
doing seeking a mess of pottage from a group of thugs?

  1. The
    future of humankind does not lie in politics
    . Huh? Don't
    Evangelicals believe that Jesus is Lord of all and the future
    of humankind resides in finding salvation only through Him?
    Of course they do. But that is for the bye and bye either in
    heaven or in some distant millennial reign. Here and now they
    seek alliances with the powers that be, seemingly unaware of
    their own theology which teaches that the powers that be are
    dominated not by the Prince of Peace but rather by the prince
    of darkness.

Some
seek to transform civil government that it might act as a force
for godliness in the land by only restricting legitimate acts of
evil. I can appreciate their sentiments. But when someone is speaking
of God and civil government and is not referring to the inherent
antagonism between the two, we best pray such a worldview never
succeeds.

Lovers
of freedom do not have friends in government. That spigot will always
turn ugly. Some think we can change or limit it. I do not. Civil
government has its own internal dynamic. This side of heaven it
will never remain limited. Its foundation is flawed therefore all
the fruit it produces will be poisoned.

This
is a war, the Evangelicals tell us. Therefore we must fight with
all the tools at hand, including politics. They are right in one
sense. There is a huge divide in this country culturally
among the electorate. That much is certainly evident in the blue
state/red state dichotomy. But there is no divide politically
in this country. On the issues they are all statist. As Anthony
Gregory has recently pointed out, Leviathan
rules from the center
, with very little movement either right
or left.

Given
the current state of affairs, let's ask a broader question in light
of the Religious Right’s involvement in the political process. That
is, as a Christian, Evangelical or otherwise, what is my obligation
to the state? How should I relate to civil government? Is it my
duty to be involved in the affairs of the state?

My
answer: no. I believe there are only a few things that should concern
a follower of the Prince of Peace when it comes to the machinations
of the political beast. I am aware that this is not the only response,
and there are many that differ, but I can think of only three duties
when it comes to the state.

One
is to stay out of its hairs as much as possible, unless gospel duty
conflicts with secular law; in which case our duty is to obey God
and not men. This position is basic to all those who name the name
of Christ.

Acts
4

19But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether
it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to
God, you judge.

Two
is to evangelize its subjects by preaching the gospel which brings
spiritual liberty and then teaching the implications of that liberty
for all of life.

John
8

32And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall
make you free.

Last,
given the fact that civil government is not our friend and liable
to hurt those we love most (conscripting our children) and tend
to outcomes we despise (stealing our money), as Samuel
the Prophet
warned us, we should pray unequivocally and with
much fervor for its demise. In light of the Prophetu2018s warning those
many centuries ago, I have no doubt that such an outcome would prove
a blessing
to both saints and sinners alike.

Notes

  1. The radical
    left’s rejection of property rights is one of the major flaws
    of its position.
  2. Lysander
    Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority, No.
    VI (Boston, 1870), pp.12–13, as quoted in Murray Rothbard’s
    essay, “The Spooner-Tucker Doctrine: An Economist’s View” in Egalitarianism
    as a Revolt against Nature (Auburn, Alabama: Mises Institute,
    2000), pp. 206–207.

December
6, 2004

Michael
Miles [send him mail]
writes from Seattle, WA.

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