Why The Judea/Christian Ethic Is Not Your Enemy
I have a very different take on Putin’s recent op-ed and the many reactions to it that I’ve seen on the TV and heard on the radio. To me, it is another example of historic revisionism; an example of ignorance born from partial or incomplete knowledge and understanding of history; and a perfect example of why the Judea/Christian ethic is not an enemy to those who do not believe in either faith. In fact, it is to and for those who do not subscribe to the Bible that I now write. I believe I have something of value to offer you, and it is my sincere hope that you will stay with me long enough to finish reading this post. If you do, you might find that those who share my faith are allies in the pursuit and defense of individual rights and liberty, not enemies. But, before we can discuss why I believe this to be true, we need to establish some mutual understandings about the position from which I am writing.
First of all, I write this post under the assumption that you are already aware of Putin’s letter to America in the New York Times. I also want to make clear that I write in partial response to Rush Limbaugh’s reaction to Putin’s letter. Politically, whether I mention it or not, I write in general opposition to the Progressive agenda in this nation, and the broader collectivist agenda that increasingly dominates the world. Finally, I write as a Christian who understands that it is not enough to merely believe the tenants of my faith; I have to actually do my best to live them. This means that I must do my best to be kind, patient and tolerant of those who hold different beliefs. This last part is very difficult for me, but, as most Christians who seek to grow in their faith will tell you, it is difficult for everyone who chooses to follow Christ’s Gospel. To the extent that I fail you through mistake, carelessness or failure to think, I apologize in advance. Add all of this together and you will have – if not an understanding – at least an awareness of what motivates me to write this post.
Now, I want to start with a passage from Scripture; then I will explain why I thought of it when I was reading Putin’s letter:
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who [a]substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who [b]substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes And clever in their own sight!
Why did this passage come to mind when I read Putin’s letter? Because of who Putin is and what he represents. For those younger than thirty to thirty-five years old, Communism no longer has an evil stigma attached to it. If you read my posts on education in America, you will know that this is the result of an intentional campaign by Communists and Communist sympathizers inside our government and school system – especially the higher education system (i.e. universities). But the Truth remains: Putin is the product of a godless ideology. The ideological father of Communism, Karl Marx, once said:
My object in life is to dethrone God and destroy capitalism.
This sentiment is directly connected to our nation and our education system. John Dewey, a card-carrying Communist, Progressive and father of the American education system wrote:
“There is nothing left worth preserving in the notions of unseen powers, controlling human destiny, to which obedience and worship are due”
Dewey believed that man could be his own god and that he could create his own utopia on earth. He also believed this was best achieved through education. This is what he was talking about when he wrote:
The teacher is engaged not simply in the training of individuals, but in the formation of the proper social life…. In this way, the teacher always is the prophet of the true God and the usherer-in of the true Kingdom of God.
Now, because I know and understand a little more history than the average American (not much more, certainly not as much as I’d like and hope to, but just a little more), I am also aware of what “American exceptionalism” means. And because I know what it means, I know that Putin is not only wrong, but he was making an assertion that is actually connected directly to the godless origins of Communism. But to explain how these things are connected, and how all of this is related to the Judea/Christian ethic, I have to give you another short history lesson.
Western Civilization was born of the Judea/Christian ethic (see The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization for a good overview on this issue). By in large, Western philosophy is based on the concept of Natural Law (which was largely derived from the Book of Romans, but independently supported by the work of Cicero). However, during the ‘enlightenment,’ Western thinking on Natural Rights split, with the Continental portion heading in the direction represented by the work of Hobbes and the Anglo societies heading in the direction represented by the work of Locke.
For Hobbes (a Deist), rights come from government. This line of reasoning was eventually extended to encompass the notion that man can direct his own evolution and, thus, engineer the ideal society. Essentially, Hobbes represents the unconstrained view of human nature. His thinking is best represented by the French Revolution, and the legacy of his line of reasoning is exhibited today by the steady march toward socialism and the various forms of collective/Statism that has dominated political thinking in Continental Europe ever since.
However, for Locke, our rights come from a Creator who remains actively involved in human events. This line of reasoning is predicated on the flawed and fixed nature of man. Therefore, the best that men can do is to design government to serve man and to do so in a way that accounts for these fixed failings in human nature. Essentially, Locke represents the constrained view of human nature. His thinking is best represented by the American Revolution. However, the key point here is that Locke, and many of his contemporaries (Sir Isaac Newton – physics; Francis Bacon – scientific method; Sir William Blackstone – law) were strong Christians, as were the majority of our founding fathers. And this is the connection between individual rights and liberty and the Jude/Christian ethic.
In his letter, Putin asserts that America is not exceptional. He is wrong, I just don’t know if it is by a deliberate attempt to deceive, or simple ignorance. Unfortunately, many Americans do not understand why Putin is wrong. Why he is wrong is another key connection to the main argument in this post.
Until the American Revolution, the history of man had been the history of tyranny – in one form or another. All of human history had been a record of man’s attempt to dominate, subjugate and control other men. (To the Christian, this is an example of original sin: man’s attempt to replace God with himself and to then remake creation according to his desires and not God’s wisdom and plan.) Up to this point in human history, there was little to no concern or allowance for the rights and liberties of the individual. To what extent these things existed, they applied only to privileged classes of a given society. But all this changed with the founding of America. America was built upon the Judea/Christian notion of the individual being of primary importance and that government should serve the individual – not the other way around. Thus, America was an exception to the general rule that the history of man was the history of domination. This is what American Exceptionalism means (for a better explanation, read The Five Thousand Year Leap).
Limbaugh explained this on his radio program today, but he made a mistake. Limbaugh claims that America is the first nation to have been founded upon the individual and where government was designed to protect and serve the individual. It was not! America was the second nation to do this, but our founders patterned our government according to the first. The first nation to ever found itself on the notion that the individual was the master of government, and held inalienable rights given by the Creator was Israel – under Moses. Benjamin Franklin specifically pointed to Scripture as the source of the founders’ guidance during the Second Constitutional Convention, and Madison said he found the principle of our three branches in the Book of Isaiah.
Our founders repeatedly and forcefully asserted that liberty depends on morality; and morality depends on religion (i.e. faith). The French political observer, Alexis de Tocqueville, observed that America’s greatness, as expressed in terms of individual rights and liberty, was founded in her faith. And if we ever lost our faith, our nation would cease to be great. Recently, a documentary on PBS, put together by Niall Ferguson, a Harvard Professor no less, made the same claim: America became great because of the Judea/Christian ethic of her founding and built into our system of government. The professor also said that, should this nation lose or abandon this faith, we would cease to be great. Well, sadly, we kicked God out of our public life in the 1960’s (not so coincidentally, at the very time the Communists were trying to subvert our society from within – as we now know from KGB records disclosed after the fall of the Berlin Wall).
So, you see, Putin was wrong: this is an exceptional nation. And his reference to God is also reason to question his true motives. But, at the same time, we will listen to and even tolerate his opinion – not because of Continental European influences on our society – but because this nation was founded on the Judea/Christian ethic. At the same time, our society has suffered at the hands of Continental European thinking. The Anti-Colonial sentiment that motivates our President is largely responsible for his disastrous economic policy and – now – most likely motivates his decision to get us involved in the greater Middle Eastern conflict. Our national debt is the result of collectivist thinking which always manifests in the form of a welfare state: an economic system that history has repeatedly and consistently demonstrated does not and can never work for long. Healthcare, and extension of the welfare state, is currently destroying what little is left of our economy. Our population is ignorant to a point where the very people who designed that ignorance now question whether or not people are ‘smart enough’ to vote. And we see government force being used to make society not only tolerate but accept certain lifestyles the majority of our population finds offensive while, at the same time, using that government force to subjugate those who hold to the very Judea/Christian ethic that allowed them to amass the power to do so. And, now, with the war in Syria driving things, many of those who would have formerly opposed the influence of Christians and Jews on our society now find themselves afraid to speak out for fear of becoming victim to the very tactics they used against those Christians and Jews. In short: our society is suffering not because of our Judea/Christian ethic, but because we have rejected it.
Man must be ruled: I believe this to be true. But the key is “ruled by whom?” If you allow government to rule, then we will be locked in a constant struggle to dominate others so we can impose our vision of perfection. However, if we allow the Creator to rule, then we will be subject to the dictates of God. Then the question is which God do you want to live under? The only major religion that actually teaches the tolerance of others in society is the Judea/Christian faith (no, Islam teaches the subjugation of others, so please do not try to go there, I know better – I’ve read the Qur’an and Hadith). This is not to say that there haven’t been people who wrongly claimed to be acting in the name of God while doing wrong. There have been, but all of them were in the wrong. But it does allow us to correct things when they go off course, like Martin Luther did when he led the Reformation.
This is where we come back to Isaiah 5:20-21. So long as we insist on following our own wisdom, we will continue to make heroes out of bad men, like Putin. But if we will follow God’s teachings – like our founders tried to do – things will work out much better for everyone. In this sense, Christianity is not the enemy of those who seek to live in peace and freedom. It is your strongest ally.
[NOTE: Putin’s reference to being an American ally in WW II is also misleading. Until Hitler attacked Russia, the German’s and Russians had been aligned. They had signed and carried out an agreement to “divide” Eastern Europe and the Baltic States. Politically, Russia had much more in common with NAZI Germany than America had with Russia. The only reason they worked with us is because they needed our help, but that didn’t stop them from impounding our men and equipment at various times during the war, or from actually attacking some of our troops. They did both. FDR was also forced to make concessions to Russia by Churchill’s maneuvering behind the scenes. In a very real sense, WW II was a grand Machiavellian play with everyone but the U.S> just trying to stay alive. But the one thing that is certain is this: Russia was never a friend of this nation — not then, not now.]