Pres. Ronald Reagan

A great man passed away yesterday. President Ronald Reagan oversaw the collapse of the Communist tyranny of the last century. Reagan, along with Pope John Paul II, may be seen as two of the most influential men of our generation. Reagan is a controversial man, as all great leaders are, but even his detractors have come to give him a grudging respect. A personal friend of mine, retired from active politics now, worked closely with Reagan during his campaigns. He recounted that during the dark days of the campaign, after the defeat of the Iowa primary in particular, Reagan summoned his staff and promised them if he were ever elected, he would force the dismantling of the Soviet Communist regime. He fulfilled the promise.

Reagan, like many of the clearer thinkers who came of age in the days before many of us were born, saw Communism for what it was: a horrible oppression of human life and dignity. Reagan correctly called it an "evil empire." He went on to win the presidency and we saw the dismantling of the Berlin Wall (a piece of it sits on my desk). Eastern Europe began to breath free. I’ll have more on this down the road. You might also find Dr. John Mark Reynolds reflections worth reading.


34 thoughts on “Pres. Ronald Reagan”

  1. Writing from Greensboro, NC..

    Make sure to check out the link Christian provided. It’a beautiful tribute.

  2. The Reagan Presidency had a mixture of both positive and negative features, and its important to be aware of both.

    During the Reagan presidency I saw crime, homelessness and poverty explode in the American city I was living in. I will never forget Ronald Reagan’s indifference to the suffering of the poor, his contempt for environmental protection, his ignorance of the AIDS epidemic, and his extremist belief that government can never play any positive role in society.

    Reagan’s contempt for the concept of government was best exemplified by the abuse of government he allowed under his watch. The Reagan presidency was marred by a series of finacial scandals, such as the WedTech military procurement scandal, the HUD contracts award scandal, and the questionable loans to Ed Meese by people Meese appointed to government position. During the Contragate scandal Reagan violated his own promise that we would never negotiate with terrorists when he paid ransom for hostages to Iraq. Reagan then used the proceeds from the Iran transactions to buy weapons for the Nicaraguan Contras, violating an act of Congress, the Boland Amendment that he himself signed. Under Reagan America gave financial and logistical assistance to the El Salvadoran death squads that murdered Archbisop Oscar Romero and raped four Roman Catholic Nuns.

    On the positive side, Reagan can be credited with bringing some fresh ideas to Washington, foremost of which was his belief that Communism could be challenged and defeated. I was a Political Science and History major in the late seventies and I remember that Soviet Studies had nearly become its own academic discipline; serious people expected that the Soviet Union would never go away. Reagan challenged that notion and gave the rottting and decrepit Soviet structure a much needed shove.

    Reagan was probably correct that some federal responsibilities needed to be devolved to the States, that the federal regulatory bureaucracy was becoming unwieldy, and that the US tax structure had created an inhospitable climate for business. The changes he introduced there are probably for the better.

    Give Reagan credit for realism and good people skills as well. Unlike GW Bush, Ronald Reagan maintained good working relationships with the top Democrats in Congress, Tip O’Niell and Dan Rostenkowski. Unlike Bush, Reagan made adjustments to his tax policies to mitigate the effects of rising budget deficits and Reagan signed the Alternative Minimum Tax to insure that the wealthy could not escape their tax paying responsibilities.

  3. Dean,

    Reagan, and by extension conservatives like myself, are in no way “indifferent to the suffering of the poor”. We just do not agree with leftist/collectivist philosophy as to what to do about it. We also do not agree on the cause of the suffering. You believe in external causes, we believe it to be mostly internal – which is of course the classical Christian view (original sin and all that). Now, as a “political science and history major” you should know this. In fact, even though the quality of your education was certainly bad (given the state of the American academy today), I think it is safe to assume that you know that the left and the right disagree on means, not ends. Thus, for you to say that Reagan was “indifferent to the suffering of the poor” is either very ignorant or a purposeful rhetoric/outright lie.

    Dean, you bear false witness against your brother by saying such things. It is a lie, and you know it. Shame on you Dean, for willfully breaking the commandments. Shame on you Dean…

  4. “Despite the sea of happy children’s faces that graced the “feel-good” commercials, poverty exploded in the inner cities of America during the Reagan years, claiming children as its principal victims. The reason for this suffering was that programs targeted to low-income families, such as AFDC, were cut back far more than programs such as Social Security. As a result of cuts in such targeted programs-including school lunches and subsidized housing-federal benefit programs for households with incomes of less than $10,000 a year declined nearly 8% during the Reagan first term while federal aid for households with more than $40,000 income was almost unchanged.”
    Source: The Role of a Lifetime, by Lou Cannon, p. 516-17 Jul 2, 1991

    It was Reagan’s cutting of funding for school lunch programs, and the subsequent announcement by his Agriculture department that henceforth ketchup and relish would be considered vegetables for the purpose of evaulating children’s nutitional needs, that caused my mother, a school-teacher and life-long Republican, to change her party affiliation. She believed that such meanness towards poor children was completely incompatible with Christianity, (see Matthew 25) and as a Christian woman she could no longer support Reagan or the Republican party.

  5. To Christopher:
    You said: “You believe in external causes, we believe it to be mostly internal”.

    So most people who are poor are so by choice? While I personally don’t believe in a welfare program that gives hand-outs while ignoring the importance of personal responsibility, I also think you neglect the plight of the “working poor”. It’s easy to tell them to just get an education when there are numerous single mothers or fathers working low-paying jobs and trying to raise three kids. Where are your “family values”?

    Thankfully, my own income is well above the average, yet I recall barely being able to survive as a single person on what some of these families are trying to live on.

    So the Catholic Church keeps pushing people to not use birth control and have kids, have more kids, yet they complain when these same people require government assistance to feed the thirteen children they can’t support on $10-15/hour. Insanity.

  6. James asks:

    “So most people who are poor are so by choice?”

    The short answer is yes! Now, you are no doubt wondering how any sane person could believe such a thing. To be more clear about terms, allow me to be specific about a couple of important ones, namely the word “poor” and the word “choice”

    I have a question which I think needs to be asked by all serious Christians, politicians, “activists” and others who are called to be concerned about the poor: Are there any poor in America? Really, just who are these poor we keep hearing about? A single mother, making $5 hour, living in a run down apartment with no health insurance for her or her 4 illegitimate children, is by historical standards richer than 99.9% of all mankind!! She has a better roof over her head, has better quality/quantity of food, has incredible health care (Her local ER by law has to treat her) than at least 1/2 of mankind currently living and almost all of mankind that has ever lived. She is rich beyond the dreams of your average Indian, Chinese peasant, or African. I simply do not accept the label of “poor” for her. This person is NOT, I repeat NOT, the “poor” whom we are commanded by our Lord to feed (statistically, both her and her children have a good chance of being obese!). This person may be part of a “plight”, but it is not a “plight” of material needs. She may or may not be “poor” spiritually, or socially – she might be (probably not) very rich in those areas. Our society is so unbelievably rich, so spoiled, we have lost perspective on the meaning of the word “poor”.

    This hypothetical women has made choices in her life. Many, many choices have lead her down the path where she finds herself. I of course in no way doubt the heavy burden of family and societal pressures that have not her. She probably does not believe in her own freedom even in her situation. As Christians, can we deny her freedom? James, do you give sufficient weight “personal responsibility” or do you in the final analysis believe that she has been compelled to her position (and not only that, that I am compelled by Love to give her a portion of my labor – and by extension I must compel my neighbor by the power of government).

    So, obviously I don’t buy that those who activists, politicians, and the left in general point to and label “poor” are truly poor. Certainly not the majority of them. Let’s assume I did for a moment. Does it necessarily follow that huge government bureaucracies and statist income redistribution is a proper response? Is that really what our Lord has in mind, the modern welfare state? To the Christian and non-Christian left, it seems so. Reagan tried to limit (and improve) the modern welfare state and he is labeled a Devil. That, is what is truly insane…

  7. James: The indisputable fact, supported by all emprical data is that since 1980 the gap between rich and poor as widened dramatically. The impact of the Reagan and Bush tax cuts has been an intentional redistribution of national wealth from the por and middle class and towards the rich. Reagan and Bush also sought to close off the major channels of economic upward mobility by reducing federal college grants and scholarships and allowing university tuition fees to skyrocket beyond the means of the poor and most of the middle class. Its ludicrous to deny that structural, systemic causes of poverty exist, or that people “choose” to be poor. Lack of jobs, health care, a decent education and skills pose formidible barriers to social advancement.

    I would urge you to reread Matthew 25. Read it slowly and carefully. Christ does not instruct us to ask why the least of our brothers is without food or shelter or is held in captivity. He just asks whether we hhelped, or did not help. The clear message of Matthew 25 is that those who turn their backs on the poor will go into the eternal fires prepared for the devil. Not a lot of wiggle room for interprtation there. Christ says must help the poor, or burn.

  8. Dean: Are your comments for me or Christopher? (I think the latter).

    Christopher: Point taken on “relative” poverty. It is quite true that we are a country of excess. I do hope that you are speaking from experience in regards to what is a tolerable degree of poverty, however. (if you can happily live in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat or air, have no medical or dental benefits, have to clothe, feed and educate two children and maintain a steady diet of Ramen noodles, kudos to you).

    In regards to social justice, this is admittedly hard to regulate. Ethically, there is a danger in attributing to “irresponsibility” the lives of those who have from day one been without the financial, emotional and spiritual support that we may have had. I can look back and see the major role that those gifts have played in my own successes.

  9. Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean Dean:

    The Bible says that each of us INDIVIDUALLY will be judged by what we did for those in poverty, etc., not what our government did or what we were able to coerce from our fellow citizens by the police power of government. There is absoultely no constitutional authority for the Federal Government to tax anybody to redistribute it for the poor or run social programs of any kind.

    There is a constitutional mandate to protect the lives of the citizens of this country which is violated in the extreme when abortion is allowed and promoted.

    And just because our government does take care of folks, it does not relieve us from our Christian responsibility at all.

    To expect the government to take our place for our Christian resposibilities is a form of heresy.

    I am amazed that your mother is more concerned about governement taking care of the poor than she about it’s not protecting the lives of its most vulnerable citizens by allowing and promoting abortion.

  10. Thank you Mr. Bauman. I had meant to address Mr. Scourtes’ usage of Matt. 25 last night, but I must have gotten sidetracked. Dean urges us to read that passage “slowly and carefully,” but I would argue that a slow and careful reading nowhere yields any basis for the belief that the words of Christ are applicable to what governments do or don’t do. Rather, as you correctly note, the passage applies to what we as individuals do or don’t do.

  11. James,

    While I can’t claim I have experienced such a life (though I have experienced all the above except I had heat, and I did not have children), the claim that I have to experience it to recognize/understand it morally is a fallacy (even has a name, cant think of it at the moment). I don’t have to stick my hand in the flame to know it’s hot, and I don’t have to have a million dollars to imagine the pleasures it would buy. I do agree with your caution however. You point to the real poverty that many face, the lack of loving family, spiritual education, etc seems right on. I have never seen a government program that can make up for these deficiencies however. Of course, I would reject the argument that the current welfare state is effects these acquisition of these other more necessary gifts – often it is a hindrance…

  12. Since this thread is supposed to be about Ronald Reagan,I offer the following:

    I was quite opposed to Pres. Reagan when he was President in much the same manner that Dean still is. I was deeply confused by what seemed to be a genuine moral clarity regarding the evil of the Soviet Union and Communisim and a deep moral blindness to the suffering of the citizens of the United States. A seeming dicotomy that only now do I believe I can understand. I believe the seeming dicotomy arose from Reagan’s vision of what government should and should not do constitutionally, politically, economically, and morally:
    A. Constitutionally he felt an absolute mandate to protect and defend the people of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. He saw no constitutional authority for the federal government to tax its citizens for the sole individual benefit of those citizens, no matter how real and deep the need. To the extent that government had any role at all in meeting those needs, state govrnments were given the authority, not the federal government.
    B. Politically he had seen the threat of Communismgrow and he felt that the policies of the Democrat party contributed to that growth. At the same time, he saw a moral and social decline in the United States that he felt was directly linked to an increasing dependency on government for everything. A dependence that mirrored to some degree the Communism to which he was so opposed. He also saw a decline in the confidence of this country to be self reliant at home or abroad. A virture which he felt was uniquely and importantly American.
    C. Economically-a commitment to the free market capitalist system that had at its core a belief that in that market, enlightend self interest would over come greed coupled with a rock hard belief that those who created wealth should have the right to dispose of it as they saw fit.
    D. Morally–freedom was a moral absoulte. Inherent in freedom is the real possibility of failure, even death, but to the extent we give up our freedom, we give up our humanity.

    I still do not agree with many of the policies implemented by the Reagan administration, but I do more fully appreciate his vision and acknowledge his greatness. Great leaders have vision and the will to carry it out. Reagan had both.

  13. Michael: Its a very narrow and pinched reading of Matthew 25 indeed that says we can only assist the poor individually, but never as a collective entity. Such an intrepetation is tantamount to saying we may only address the symptoms of poverty and never the causes. We know that people are trapped in poverty by lack of access to a quality education, decent health care, jobs that pay a living wage, and affordable day care for children.

    These are structural and systemic causes of poverty. How can one person remove them? One person acting individually cannot, (although their own individual contribution is still important and required). Addressing the structural and systemic cause of poverty in a meaningful and comprehensive manner requires the power of government.

    It was truly ignorant and wrong for Ronald Reagan to say that “Government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem. Government is neither solution or problem, it is just a tool. Sometimes it works well, and sometimes it doesn’t. As citizens of a democracy it is our job to pressure our leaders to keep the things that Government does well, and to improve upon or dispense with those activities it performs poorly. If Governnment performs poorly the blame rests with ourselves for continuing to elect the same worthless bunch.

    When I was a child I was taught to never let one crumb of the communion bread I was given by the Priest fall to the floor, because we believe that Christ is present in the elements of the Eucharist. But in Matthew 25 Christ told us that He is also present in the face of every poor person we encounter. “What you did for the least of your brothers, you did for me.” Why therefore would I not want my government catch the poor (in whom Christ resides) and hold them up, rather than letting them fall further?

  14. Since Dean’s response is directed to Michael and not me, I’ll stand aside and wait for Mr. Bauman’s answer. I would just point out the obvious, which is that Dean continues to beg the exegetical question.

  15. Not only that, Dean does not seem a bit interested in clear and logical thinking. He does not discuss, he seemingly is an Orwelian propaganda machine. Here is an example:

    “We know that people are trapped in poverty by lack of access to a quality education, decent health care, jobs that pay a living wage, and affordable day care for children.”

    We do not know that – in fact we have explicitly disagreed with that. Dean ignores these uncomfortable disagreements and rolls on like Soviet state radio. I personally will not be reading any more of his post’s…

  16. In regards to Ronald Reagan, this illustrates why I would never choose to run for high office: yes, some of his policies probably did lead to cuts in certain social programs and benefits. Just as a CEO must make the difficult choice of laying off employees when the “bottom line” is in danger, the President must carefully allocate funds where he feels they will best provide for the overall health of the nation, even if that means some will be on the short end of the stick. This is certainly no blanket endorsement of Reagan of course.

    However, it’s interesting to note what effect personality and charisma can have on the tone of the nation. This is something Clinton understood as well.

  17. For Mr. Scourtes,

    A few comments, you write:
    These are structural and systemic causes of poverty. How can one person remove them? One person acting individually cannot, (although their own individual contribution is still important and required). Addressing the structural and systemic cause of poverty in a meaningful and comprehensive manner requires the power of government.

    You seem to be assuming that poverty can be eliminated as a theoretical matter. However, we know that because of original sin, we will always have the poor with us. The notion that if government does enough and does it right, poverty will be eliminated has no basis in history. Certainly, there are things that government can do to reduce material hardship, but we must always remember that there is a price for this, paid by everyone, and that there is a point where increased government makes things worse–perhaps disasterously or tyrannically worse.

    In thinking about poverty, and in light of the truth that there will always be the poor this side of the parousia, we should understand why one should try to alleviate it. There are two reasons. The first is to uphold the dignity of the human person. It seems to me that there is some objective level of misery at which neglect of the sufferer’s material wellbeing becomes the denial of his humanity. Remember though this is an objective measure. I am talking about basic human needs like enough food to not starve, or access to basic sanitation. I do not mean stuff like whether or not one has internet access or whether one can attend college with minimal financial hardship The current level of American handout programmes certainly meets this “human dignity” level. The second reason to alleviate poverty is because charity is a virtue. To use Matt. 25, a call to charity, to support a government entitlement programme misunderstands the essence of charity. Like all virtues, charity cannot be coerced (otherwise it ceases to be charitable). Charity is not primarily about the object of charity, it is firstly about the interior disposition of the giver. When it is the government that is giving the handout, there is no interior disposition because there is no person. What we have is the state entity taking money, in the form of taxes, from some and giving it to others. Now where this is done, as I wrote above, to prevent starvation this redistribution is required, where it is done to quell envy of the rich by the poor or to provide a social safety net or something, it may be prudential as a utilitarian matter and as such should be subject to the normal cost benefit analysis of public policy. However, it is never charitable. Charity can come only from the more or less deified heart of the individual human person. Acting collecively to engage in charitable works, the coporeal (sp?) works of mercy is only truly charity if every single participant chooses to participate. Where participation is coerced in any way (e.g. taxes) it is the equivalent of stealing from Bob to give to Joe.

    You also write:
    When I was a child I was taught to never let one crumb of the communion bread I was given by the Priest fall to the floor, because we believe that Christ is present in the elements of the Eucharist. But in Matthew 25 Christ told us that He is also present in the face of every poor person we encounter. “What you did for the least of your brothers, you did for me.” Why therefore would I not want my government catch the poor (in whom Christ resides) and hold them up, rather than letting them fall further?

    The presence of Christ in the Eucharist is something quite different from seeing Christ in every person. I do not know if you actually fail to understand this or if you are trying to employ rhetorical acrobatics. The presence of Christ in every person is similar to the presence of Christ in the pantokrator icon. Because we are made in the image and likeness of God, we can be said to be icons of Christ. Obviously, the more deified the individual soul, the better the icon, or in cases of the heirarchy, a specific type of icon. However, as we all should know, the icon is not Christ. In contrast, Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is real. The Eucharist is not an image of Christ it is Christ Himself. The respect we show for the Eucharist is a consequence of the recognition of this truth. To suggest that the same recognition applies to an icon of Christ is to imply that the mere icon is Christ Himself. This of course was the error of the pagans. When one starts to assert that honour due to a created image of God should be the same as the honour due to God Himself, one has stepped onto the road of idolatry. The worship due to God in the Eucharist cannot be made equivalent to the charity owed to other people without either becoming idolatry or without denying the real presence of God in the Eucharist.

  18. The Last Attempt(ation) of Dean

    Dean, while I am almost to the point Christopher has reached, I guess I’m just stubborn enough and arrogant enough, maybe even hopeful enough to try one more time to penetrate the illogical morass of vitriol, propaganda, political ideology, and near heresy that you typically post. I know that somewhere there must be a human, thinking person.

    To wit:

     Matt 25 explicitly concerns judgement and salvation
     We are NOT judged or saved based on corporate activity
     Even if we were judged or saved based on corporate activity, the corporate entity would be the Church, not any government
     One of the many radical postulates of Christianity is that each of us INDIVIDUALLY has specific worth in the eyes of God, we are each INDIVIDUALLY known by God. Our group just does not matter, our tribe does not matter, and our social status does not matter. It is the neo-pagan; communist influence in our culture that continues to emphasize that corporate identity (race, religion, social status, etc) trumps the individual.
     Christianity is not socialism, or capitalist, or any other –ism or –ist. Christianity is the Truth. As Fr. Seraphim Rose put it, “Truth is not just an abstract idea, sought and known with the mind, but something personal—even a Person—sought and loved with the heart, Jesus Christ.”
     Our participation in the Life of Christ and obedience to Him is always voluntary, never coerced. Love is the way
     Taxation is always coerced, never voluntary, power and control is the end (remember, we fought a Revolution over that)

    Consequently, government cannot be, should not be the primary tool used to address the suffering of our fellow humans. We as Christians must respond out of our own resources of love, money, etc and work within the Church as well. Our primary goal is not to “help” but to save and to glorify God (see Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s book, For the Life of the World). The sacramental union of God and man is our primary tool.

    Of course, it is easy to ignore the plight and suffering of those who are in need, but to require everyone to pay taxes into a system that strips individuals of life, liberty and dignity in order to get their few crumbs of bread, is about as un-Christian as it gets. It is also un-Constitutional which makes it illegal and immoral.

  19. To Michael:
    I’m having a hard time understanding why the government should be used as a heavy-handed tool to prevent everything considered “immoral” (whether it be gay marriage, drunkenness, adultery, gambling, whatever) but NOT be used as a tool to encourage moral behavior (charity).

    (Also, any arguments for Bible instruction in public schools would fall apart based on your argument as I understand it, then, as it is a “corporate activity” being “imposed” on children, yes? Same thing with marriage laws. )

    What I’m seeing is that government can say “We will punish ‘bad’ behavior whether it affects anyone else or not, but we will refrain from encouraging ‘good’ behavior, even though that same behavior may benefit society.”

    Is this a consistent use of civil law? (Check out for an extreme example)

  20. Michael and Han: Don’t you see the glaring inconsistency in your own comments? In one post you are writing “My religion teaches me that abortion is wrong and I want my government to stop it”, in another you say, “My religion tells me poverty is wrong, but I don’t want my government to stop it”

    Well which one is it? Do you want your government’s actions to reflect your religious beliefs or not?

    The Jewish phrophet Amos warned the Isaelites that they were all about to be punished by God for their indifference to the suffering of the poor. If charity towards the poor is only an individual responsibility, why didn’t God only punish individual Israelites? God judges Nations as well as people. If the American people collectively turn their backs on the poor by asking their governent to follow the principles of Social Darwinism rather than the dictates of Christian compassion are we not incurring a similar response for Our Heavenly Father?

  21. James,

    No doubt Michael will give you a full answer, but let me point out a basic distinction between punishing bad behavior and compelling charity. If a man decides to do me wrong, the state will intervene mostly with punishment. This punishment takes nothing away from me – my freedom is not limited, in fact it is expanded. The state is only compelling the actor in this case, not the victim. However, with state “charity”, the state has to compel both the beneficiary and benefactor. The state has to limit my freedom (by taking the fruit of my labor) to allegedly benefit someone else…

  22. For Mr. Scourtes,

    You wrote:
    Michael and Han: Don’t you see the glaring inconsistency in your own comments? In one post you are writing “My religion teaches me that abortion is wrong and I want my government to stop it”, in another you say, “My religion tells me poverty is wrong, but I don’t want my government to stop it”

    Actually, neither of us said that Christianity in general or Orthodoxy in particular tells us the “poverty is wrong.” If anything, it tells us the poverty is blessed (e.g. Sermon on the Mount, Luke version–sorry don’t have Bible on me). While you properly characterise our (Mr. Bauman, let me know if I do not speak for you) belief that abortion is wrong, that is evil because it is murder, I get the feeling that the notion that poverty is evil is something that you hold, that you may have projected onto us. This may be the difference of assumption that is causing the dispute. Naturally, we are right and you are a wicked heretic.

    In all seriousness though, Christianity does not hold that poverty, or the existence of poverty in the world, is evil. If poverty is a consequence of scarcity, and scarcity is a consequence of the fall, then certainly poverty is the result of original sin, but that does not make it evil. Poverty is a permanent condition of existence that will only go away when Christ returns. If it were otherwise, Christ would not have told Judas that “the poor you will always have with you.”

    Obviously, this is why there is a difference between criminalising abortion and wealth redistribution. In the former, there is a objective evil that exists, the tolerance of which is, because of the nature of murder, no different than the endoresment of the same. In the latter case, there is no evil in existence (except perhaps if the poverty is so dire such that it is causing death–q.v. North Korea). There is a virtue, namely charity, that the government should promote. However, because charity exists only if one chooses to give, and “compelled charity,” i.e. tax and spend on social programmes, is not actually charitable. However one might want to justify such programmes, charity cannot be amongst the rationales offered in defence since compulsion is repugnant to charity. Certainly, if a whole nation hardens their hearts and stops caring for their neighbours, God is displeased. The obvious solution is to encourage people to open themselves to God’s love by preaching the Gospel. Taking from some to give to others is not a solution because, this is for you Mr. Scourtes, it fails to address root causes, and because it lulls the population into thinking that social problems are the government’s business rather than their own, and as history demonstres, makes people more selfish.

  23. Poverty in America is largely a function of family stability (single motherhood is the most reliable indicator of poverty). The more unstable the family, the more likely that family is poor. The Moynihan Report published in 1965 warned how the erosion of male authority in the black community would lead to the failure of families to socialize the future generations. Well, it is exactly what happened. (See: Issues and Views: Reporting the Frontlines of Dissent Since 1985.)

    Elizabeth Wright, a black thinker, writes about this breakdown in more detail through the analysis of George Gilder. It’s worth a read.

    Education is a close second, which is why school vouchers is a good way to introduce competition into the urban school systems. The Washington pols who oppose vouchers (guess which party), all sent their children to private schools. Black parents in particular overwhemlingly support vouchers. They want their children to go to better schools.

    There is a role for government in eradicating poverty: eliminate legislation and programs that stand in the way of real progress, just as the laws against segregation were eliminated. Be wary of those who promote the poverty lobby (race hustlers they are called by conservative black thinkers), rather than aid the poor in any concrete way.

    Poverty can be overcome, and in many ways poor people were well on their way, until the government took on the role of grand benefactor, a role that government is unsuited to play. This is not to say some programs are not necessary, they are. It is to say that from the Great Society forward, the ideas presented (and still defended by many on the radical left) were tested and failed.

    See Issues and Views, a site run by black intellectuals that tackles these issues with depth and clarity, and thankfully not bound to the winds of politically correct thinking.

    The question is not should we aid the poor. The question is what kind of aid can we give that will alleviate, rather than exacerbate, their poverty.

  24. James:

    You ask an excellent question. Let me try to clarify:

    I am not really for government punishment for immoral acts just because they are immoral acts. That is not a proper function of government. Government is the guarantor of social order. Since all immoral behaviors negatively impact proper social order, government has an interest in controlling immoral behavior. The debate as to the degree and extent to which government should act in these instances is as old as America itself. Right now, there seems to be little consensus (the political aspect of the culture war). Let me address each of your specific examples in turn (plus the big one you didn’t mention)

    1. Abortion: It is murder. It is the pre-meditated, cold-blooded murder of the most helpless people in our society, unborn children. It is, in fact, already illegal. Only because unborn children have been declared as non-persons, is abortion allowed. Any time a government or society starts creating classes of non-persons, and permitting all kinds of illegal acts against those non-people, the foundation for terrible tyranny is laid.

    2. Homosexual marriage: I have no problem with two people entering into legally protected contracts to exchange property, allow visitation, etc. Those are already available to everyone. Perhaps, the laws in relation to the enforcement of those contracts need to be strengthened, but they already exist. So, what is the real agenda of the homosexual rights activists? They want to have government and societal approval for their immoral and destructive way of life. Marriage is not a “right”. Marriage is both the legal and spiritual foundation of proper societal treatment of women and children and the primary tool to maintain a culture. As such, there is a societal and governmental interest in defining it and regulating it. Such definition and regulation is not automatically a denial of human rights. A denial of human rights only occurs when the underlying societal order is a denial of human rights, e.g., the miscegenation laws. Obviously, the prohibition of homosexual marriage has no such problem since the legal position of homosexuals is fully protected.

    3. Drunkenness: The prohibition of public drunkenness is primarily an issue of public safety, not morality.

    4. Adultery/Fornication: Neither of these, to my knowledge, have any legal prohibitions anymore. I personally see no compelling reason to make them illegal again. There is and should be civil remedies for the often tragic consequences that ensue such as illegitimate children, disease, etc. Also, the illegal acts of assault, blackmail, murder, etc that are frequently engendered by adultery and fornication are usually punished when discovered.

    5. Gambling: Gambling appeals to and encourages all of the seven deadly sins. As such, it is spiritually deadly. Activities that are spiritually deadly always have negative social consequences. Lotteries are really the most regressive taxes government has ever instituted as the majority of people who spend their money on the lottery come from the lower income populations—those who can least afford it. Most locations that have begun casino gambling have seen a large increase in crimes against women, assault, etc. Because of the social cost of large scale commercial gambling, government has a legitimate interest in controlling it. The vision of large amounts of money coming into state coffers is why they don’t. Unfortunately, the income projections have never proved to be accurate.

    6. There is a real social cost to poverty. Because of that social cost, government has a legitimate interest in promoting charity, but not in compelling it. The best way that I can think of to promote that charity is to reduce the overall tax burden and creating a tax credit for charitable donations that can be used by everybody, not just those that itemize. The use of the police power of government to collect taxes to redistribute is seldom justified.

    7. Biblical instruction in public schools and mandatory prayers should not be allowed. However, the individual expression of faith (any faith) by students as long as it does not directly interfere with classes, etc should be protected. Just because someone is offended does not qualify as an excuse to deny appropriate religious expression. What is appropriate should be generally codified to exclude public proselytizing, but anything else should be dealt with on a case by case basis. Same rules for teachers although they will have somewhat less leeway because of their position. Unfortunately, our courts seem to ignore the second half of the 1st Amendment, which prohibits any restriction on the free exercise of religion.

    As Christopher noted, any government action that compels behavior should be limited to only the most urgent reasons such as public safety, national emergencies, and national defense. The existence of poverty does not fall into that class for reasons others have explained in their posts. Government action to inculcate virtue should be limited to giving positive recognition to those virtues and rewarding the behavior.

  25. Dean:

    There is no evidence for your assertion that God judges nations as He did Israel. Israel was His choose vessel. To the extent that any generalization can be made from your example, the judgement would apply to the Church, not any civil government. Christ’s Incarnation, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the destruction of the Temple, drastically changed the way in which God communes with and directs His people. Will some form of judgement fall on a nation if it is committed to evil, of course? However, from a worldly, historical perspective, the United States is the most generous, self-aware and therefor most self-correcting nation ever. We are a long way from perfect and commit many sins. However, it is clear that those sins are in violation of our laws and our culture. As a student of history, you should be aware of that. The existence of this blog and the nature of the conversations that occur here and thousands of other places on the net bear witness to my statement.

    Do I want my government to reflect my religious beliefs? Not in the sense you suggest. Christianity reveals the truth about the nature of man and how best to live. To the extent that each of us practices our faith, society and government will reflect the truth, becoming more just and peaceful. It is a common misconception that just because a person stands on religious principals in making decisions, that person wants to “force his faith down others throats”. While that may be the case with some, it is not with me. However, I find the campaigns of the left to radically secularize our culture and our government to be in fact forcing their lack of faith down my throat. I am not a very good Christian, but I do want to be allowed to work out my salvation with fear and trembling as I am directed and called to do. Often that means expressing the realities of the faith in a public fashion. Given the existence of sin and of people’s unwillingness to confront our own sins, offense will be taken. I expect that.

    Dean I also offer you a sincere and heartfelt warning is the spirit of brotherly love. The substitution of government for the Church and the desire to use government to create a “heaven on earth” is condemned by the Orthodox Church as a heresy (unfortunately, I can’t think of the name). The Church recognizes such belief as a heresy because such belief is a denial of both the reason for and the effect of the Incarnation of our Lord and the mission of His visible body on Earth, the Church. Many of your statements seem to be leading you in that direction. If I am mistaken, as I hope I am, please forgive.

  26. To Michael:
    I find your positions on all of these issues mostly similar to my own (though I support “civil unions”), and perhaps have better stated than I my own view of government’s proper role in enforcing morality. However, I have been wary of groups like the FRC and CWFA whose organizers have not only been pushing for the creation of stricter laws punishing non-public “immorality” but have, in the case of Robert Knight of CWFA, stated their support for a complete ban on women in the military out of “moral” consideration.

    One columnist even suggested to me that ALL immoral acts should be punishable by law, including the sport of boxing. (Though I find the sport repugnant, I can’t say I’d support its being outlawed.)

    Such an approach is very close to the establishment of a theocracy which is really just a deification of Big Government, if you think about it (Government takes the role of God).

  27. As a former amateur boxer and current competitive jui jitsu player (Japanese wrestling), I obviously believe that the sport of boxing and the martial arts in general are consistent with Christian living (I can expand on this if anyone wishes). I can say that I find no reason why women in the military should be in consistently placed in harm’s way as they now seem to be. Besides the obvious physical, there are psychological and even spiritual differences between men and women and I think the burden of proof is on those who support women in combat roles. I do find that the media tends to mis-represent groups like the FRC, so I would be careful of your sources James. Also, I find the left cries “theocracy” way to soon, so I would want specifics when about exactly what is the “approach” that is allegedly the “establishment of a theocracy”…

  28. Christopher:

    In regards to Robert Knight’s comments, see this World Net Daily article.

    In regards to boxing, conservative columnist Mark Landsbaum is quoted as saying: “Boxing is a vile, dehumanizing sport because it’s goal is to beat the opponent into submission, and almost always creates long-term physical and mental problems, even unto death. Moreover, it’s 180 degrees counter to the concept of seeking what is best for another, the Christian agape love. I’ve no problem outlawing boxing. Your argument for not outlawing it is based on??? Yes, your argument must be based on the fact that this evil is consensual. But we’ve dealt with that. Agreeing to do evil isn’t an argument for doing evil. It’s merely an acknowledgement of the widespread tolerance of evil.”

    An interesting comment, though I’m not sure I agree.

  29. I touched on the role of the state as the final arbiter of good and evil in a piece I wrote for Frontpage on the desecration of religious art (The Artist as Vandal on my site, Desecration as a Political Weapon on Frontpage).

    Culture drives politics, and a healthy polity requires a virtuous citizenry. In modern English this means that a government that champions political freedom requires citizens that live moral lives. The Founding Fathers remind us of this over and over again.

    When morality is shorn from its Judeo/Christian moorings however, political freedom and moral license begin to mean the same thing. Any law that previously conformed to the moral tradition (restrictions on abortion, marriage only between heterosexuals, etc.), is inevitably seen as an abridgement of freedom.

    We see this happening in Canada, where the government has outlawed criticism of homosexuality as “hate speech.” If it’s a crime to say something, then it must be wrong to think it, is the logical conclusion of such laws. Orwellian thought control is alive and well. These initiatives come from the radical left, who, failing to convince the majority, use the machinery of state in ways that bypass free and open debate, much like the Massachussets Supreme Court decree that legalized same-sex marriage.

    The reason we hear cries of “theocracy” is two-fold, in my opinion. First, the appeal to the moral tradition of western culture is stronger than most of us traditionalists realize. We should make the appeal more often.

    Second, it masks the fact that secularism is a moral system. For secularism to succeed, the Judeo/Christian tradition that shaped western culture has to be erased from the cultural memory. This is why the ACLU wants the cross removed from the seal of the city of Los Angeles, for example. Erase the memory, and history can be rewritten. Rewrite history, and you shape the future.

    Yet I saw something today that gives me hope. A 35 year old man I know is dying of cancer. It’s a tragedy, but meaningful nevertheless. His suffering is bringing many to salvation. He shares in the sufferings of Christ. I’ll write about the theological implications some other time, but he knows as I know that his disease is causing many to return to faith in God. He sees it happening with his friends and aquaintances.

    Under the radar, far out of the sight of the media and most cultural commentators, there is, I believe, the deep stirring in the hearts of many Americans for a return to God that bodes well for the future of our country.

    The secularists know this too in that way that adversaries sense the strength of their antagonists. This explains the aggression, and relentless push of the secularist agenda. The culture wars will get more heated I think, and we who value freedom, human dignity, and the moral values that, even though imperfectly applied at times, elevate man to a higher rank, must remain vigilant.

  30. James:

    The question of theocracy is an interesting one. The radical left tends to take the position that any expression of faith as a foundation for decision making in the public arena is theocracy which is absurd.

    Historically, the Orthodox have often been accused of being theocratically inclined. However, in my studies it is the Protestants that have been most willing and able to establish governments that are theocratic in nature. The two groups you mention have deep roots in the Protestant Evangelical community. The theocratic approach does more harm than good in the culture wars. We Orthodox and the Catholics would be just as outside the pale of a Protestant theocracy as the heathen.

    Our founding fathers, enlightenment Deists that many of them were, knew the afront to freedom that theocracy was. We need to follow Christ–Know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

  31. The difficulty as I see it is in deciding which behavior to criminalize and which behavior to “tolerate” or allow. What measure or standard is to be used in making these decisions? It’s not consent, since we punish prostitution and drug use. Is it the societal “effects” of the behavior? In that case, we should probably ban gambling at the federal level. I honestly don’t have an answer!

    However, I will agree that it’s impossible for one’s faith to NOT affect one’s decision making (whatever that faith may be). I think the faith of the “Founding Fathers” may be overstated to a degree however. Check out

  32. There were several of the Founding Fathers who had sincere faith in Jesus Christ,but none of them would fit very well in any of the Protestant demonations of today. The two I am aware of that were most devout were John Adams and George Mason. Most however seem to have a more or less Deist approach. Such was certainly the case with Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

    I think what they did recognize, whether consciously or not, were patterns of action that were consonent with God’s way of working.

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