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Saturday, December 31, 2011

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Christian Giving


In this Christmas season, as we celebrate the Greatest Gift the world has ever known, I thought it appropriate to address the issue of giving—especially among those who call themselves Christians. As I have noted before, Americans are the most generous people on earth. Among Americans, Christians are the most generous. Within Christianity, evangelicals are, by a rather wide margin, the most generous—far more generous than mainliners, Catholics, and so on.

According to George Barna, “Evangelical Christians distinguished themselves in their generosity. More than four out of five (83%) gave at least $1000 to churches and non-profit entities during 2007, far surpassing the levels reached by any other population segment studied.”

On average (the mean), in 2007, evangelicals gave $4,260 to all non-profits. Non-evangelical born again Christians gave an average of $1,581, while non-born again Christians gave $865. Overall, all those calling themselves Christians gave $1,426.

However, according to the U.S. Census, the mean household income in 2007 was about $53,000. This means that, though Christians are usually among the most generous Americans, we still give only at a rate of about 2.6%.

Earlier this year in an issue of Christianity Today, several Christian authors and ministers discussed whether Christians are generous enough with their money. Brian Kluth, founder of Maximum Generosity, stated that “While some evangelicals are very generous, many are not. The concept that giving to God's work (local church, ministries/missions, the needy) should be a person's highest financial priority is embraced by very few Christians in today's materialistic, consumer-driven, and debt-ridden society, even though Scripture is clear on this teaching.”

Barna notes that, in 2007, only 5% of Americans tithed (gave 10% of their income). Again, evangelicals led the way here with 24% tithing. Many sincere Christians have taken different views on tithing, but there is no mistaking that those who follow Christ are to be generous, and generally the minimum biblical standard for generosity is 10%.

Christ often used parables involving money and material possessions to teach people about the kingdom of God. In this way, Jesus was using earthly principles that people understood well to teach them spiritual principles which were far more foreign to them. The late Larry Burkett concluded that “2/3 of all parables in the New Testament deal with nothing but money.” I think that it is quite noteworthy that even 2,000 years ago the concept of money and wealth was so common and significant that Christ chose to use it in the majority of His parables to point people to the truth.

Jesus was clear: if you follow Him, if you are a part of His kingdom, you are to be invested in every way. This includes your finances. How people handle their money is a great indicator of where they are spiritually. A look at our checkbook and/or our credit card charges reveals a great deal about us. If you want to know where someone’s heart is, look at how and where they spend their time, and on what they spend their money.

However, make no mistake about it—God does not need our money to accomplish the things He is out to accomplish in this world. What He wants is a relationship with us, and just as within an earthly marriage, a great deal of this relationship revolves around material things, especially money.

As I have also noted before, the bottom line when it comes to money and finances, and the most important financial principle taught in Scripture, is that none of us really “owns” anything. We are merely stewards, or managers, of His property. Until we come to grips with this, we can never truly understand money and wealth, and we will never be as generous as God desires.

Mr. Burkett put it well when he noted that tithing, or giving in general, is recognition of God’s ownership and authority. It is an act of worship, and, as Emerson said, we all worship something.

Last—and this is extremely important—as we give, may we never forget the ultimate goal of our charity. Every good deed that Jesus performed was done with one ultimate goal in mind: to bring people into His kingdom. In other words, God became man not simply to do good deeds and to implore us to do the same, but to make us into new creatures. After all, God “gave” His one and only Son for no other reason.

Have a truly Merry Christmas, and get busy giving.

Copyright 2011, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Obama: The Occupier in Chief

A few weeks ago I detailed some of the differences between the “Occupiers” and the TEA party patriots. Alas, with the deaths, diseases, drug use, rapes, thefts, vandalism and all, the Occupiers have done even more to distinguish themselves, not only from the TEA party, but from decent Americans everywhere.

Even the left-wing media, which have endeavored to persevere when it comes to placing the Occupiers in a positive light, have begun to doubt the movement. As Matthew Continetti of the Weekly Standard reports, liberal journalists who traveled to Zuccotti Park “spewed forth torrents of ink on the value of protest, the creativity and spontaneity of the occupiers, the urgency of redistribution, and the gospel of social justice…Yet, as many a liberal journalist left the park, they lamented the fact that Occupy Wall Street wasn’t more tightly organized. They worried that the demonstration would dissipate without a proper list of demands or a specific policy agenda.”

In other words, despite months of occupation, the Occupiers are still mostly incoherent. Interestingly, some on the left are beginning to realize the same with the current administration. “What are we trying to do in this administration?” laments Mr. “the thrill is gone” Chris Matthews. He adds, “What’s he going to do with his second term? More of this? Is this it? Is this as good as it gets?”

Matthews continues, “He has not said one thing about what he would do in his second term. He never tells us what he’s going to do with reforming our health care systems: Medicare and Medicaid; how he’s going to reform Social Security. Is he going to deal with long-term debt? How? Is he going to reform the tax system? How?...Why are we in this fight with him?...Give us our orders and tell us where we are going.” (The thrill up Matthews’ leg might be gone, but the bias isn’t.)

Democratic pollsters Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal that since Obama cannot run on his record, to save the Democratic Party he should abandon his candidacy for reelection. Simply put, Caddell and Schoen note that, “the president cannot affirmatively make the case that voters are better off now than they were four years ago. He—like everyone else—knows that they are worse off.”

So three years into his term, many on the left are now realizing what most of us on the right suspected all along: Obama was not ready to be President of the United States. As many warned in 2008 (including myself), coming into his presidency, Obama had the weakest résumé of any former president in U.S. history. Not only was he lacking in political experience, but he was sorely lacking in leadership experience. He never ran a business, never served in the military, never did much of anything other than prepare for a career in politics.

Remember, Obama was a professional “community organizer,” so it is little surprise that he identifies with the Occupy mobs. (Obama, himself. declared that he is “on their side.”) Thus, it is also little surprise that the disorganization, incoherence, and general immaturity that mars the Occupy movement also aptly describes the Obama administration.

As Mayor Rudy Giuliani recently pointed out, Obama “owns the Occupy Wall Street movement.” In fact, some of Obama’s most prominent advisors and mentors have themselves knee-deep in the Occupy movement. Jim Wallis, a recent member of President Obama’s White House faith council, and reported spiritual advisor, has called on churches nationwide to provide sanctuary to the Occupy protesters. Obama friend, mentor, and former terrorist Bill Ayers has been teaching the Occupiers in Chicago.

Not to be left out, many prominent democrats, such as Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel, and Maxine Waters have also lent their support to the Occupy movement. Pelosi has gone so far as recently to author a fundraising e-mail for the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee that attempts to channel the Occupy movement’s energy. Therefore, as Obama and the democrats seek reelection in 2012, to best capture the mood of liberals across the country and to paint the clearest picture for the rest of us who will be going to the ballot box, let us label the President with the most apt descriptor: “Occupier in Chief.”

Copyright 2011, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Science vs. Religion Myth

The word “science” is derived from the Latin word “scientia,” meaning “knowledge.” All knowledge is derived from certain governing presuppositions. In other words, as I have noted before, each side of every issue that human beings debate ultimately has certain un-provable assumptions upon which they must eventually rely. As the late philosopher, Dr. Greg Bahnsen, put it, “At the most fundamental level of everyone's thinking and beliefs there are primary convictions about reality, man, the world, knowledge, truth, behavior, and such things. Convictions about which all other experience is organized, interpreted, and applied.”

Likewise, theologian, author, and pastor, R.C. Sproul, recently discussed the “lasting impression” that the book, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science, which he read over 50 years ago, had made upon him. He noted that the book was so influential to him because it “clearly set forth the importance of understanding that all scientific theories presuppose certain philosophical premises.”

The concept of “primary convictions” or presupposed “philosophical premises” is important when it comes to the nonsense that is religion vs. science. The idea that there is some battle between science and religion—especially Christianity—simply won’t go away. Writing in the UK’s Guardian, Julian Baggini recently declared that any religion “that seeks to explain the hows of the universe…is competing with science. In such contests science always wins, hands down, and the only way out is to claim a priority for faith over evidence, or the Bible over the lab.”

Speaking of the “hows of the universe,” some of the most famous and influential founders of what is considered “modern science”—Galileo, Kepler, and Newton—operated from a strict biblical worldview. For example, in 1595, in Kepler’s first major work, he thought that he had discovered “God’s geometrical plan for the universe.” As a Christian, Kepler believed that the universe was designed by a Creator and thus should function in a very logical fashion. He went as far as to define his view of “science” as “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”

Though he made many mistakes, Kepler, led by his faith, was determined to make sense of the motion of the planets in our solar system. The first two of Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion were published in 1609. The third and final law was published in 1619 in his book, “The Harmony of the World.” In this work, Kepler noted “that the geometrical things have provided the Creator with the model for decorating the whole world.” He also praised God, declaring “Great is God our Lord, great is His power and there is no end to His wisdom.”

Kepler had a rather strained relationship with Galileo, but they shared a belief in the Copernican model (planets rotate around the sun, and so on) of the universe. This, of course, is what placed Galileo at odds with the Catholic Church and is what many—especially those who worship at the alter of science—point to for evidence of the backwardness of those who operate from a biblical worldview.

However, just as Kepler, Galileo was a Christian who believed in the trustworthiness of the Bible. As Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher puts it, “[Galileo] was fighting against the contemporary principles of Bible interpretation which, blinded by Aristotelian philosophy, did not do justice to the biblical text.”

Isaac Newton is considered by many to be the greatest scientist who ever lived. He is most famous for his laws of motion and universal gravitation. On gravitation he noted that, “Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done.”

When it comes to the age of the earth—a favorite topic of the science worshippers—both Kepler and Newton calculated the earth to be only a few thousand years old. Kepler calculated a creation date of 3,992 B.C. Newton stated that, “For an educated man…any suggestion that the human past extended back further than 6,000 years was a vain and foolish speculation.”

Now, before anyone accuses me of the fallacy of appealing to authorities, let me say that my views on Creation and the Bible are not correct simply because they are in common with Kepler, Galileo, Newton, et al. That is not the issue here. The point is that anyone can practice good science while operating from a biblical worldview and that everyone who does any kind of science operates from some worldview.

In other words, there is no battle between science and religion. The only competition that exists when it comes to our pursuit of knowledge and truth lies in our worldviews.

Copyright 2011, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

Thursday, October 13, 2011

TEA Party vs. Occupy Wall Street

There are several ways that a person can tell with which of the current popular political movements—the TEA Party or Occupy Wall Street—one most identifies. As a public service, I’ve compiled a set of identifying characteristics to aid you in your discernment.

If you cannot afford to camp out for days or even weeks on end at a rally because: a.) you have a job that requires your presence; b.) you are busy looking for a job; or c.) you are a student who actually attends your classes, you probably support the TEA Party. If you like to defecate on police cars, or paint your nude body in 1960s style psychedelic colors and designs, you probably support the Occupy Wall Street movement.

If you know why you are attending a rally and can reasonably articulate the reason(s), you are probably at a TEA Party rally. If you are (if you are) at a rally (at a rally) where they mindlessly repeat (where they mindlessly repeat) everything spoken (everything spoken) like a moron (like a moron) at a cult gathering (at a cult gathering), you are at the Occupy Atlanta rally. Yes we can! (Yes we can!)

If someone approaches you and hands you a pocket-sized U.S. Constitution or an American flag, you are at a TEA Party event. If someone approaches you offering free condoms or a joint (probably not free), you are at an Occupy event.

If you have bathed in a real bathroom within the last week and if, after your rally, you clean up after yourself, you’re probably a TEA Party supporter. If your protest site “smells like a sewer” (as Britain’s Daily Mail reported), you’re at the Occupy New York protest.

If your protest includes singing the national anthem, reciting the pledge of allegiance and/or the Lord’s Prayer, or Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” being loudly broadcast, you are attending a TEA Party event. If your gathering includes several Hollywood leftists, bussed-in union members, and recruited homeless in order to “swell the ranks” (as reported by the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank), you are at an Occupy rally.

If you and your fellow protestors recognize and celebrate the heroic acts of American soldiers, you are at a TEA Party event. If your camp is infiltrated by party goers celebrating acts of sex and drug abuse (as the Daily Mail reported), you are at an Occupy event.

It is rather refreshing, if not also a bit shocking, to see such liberal values so prominently displayed. It paints a rather clear picture for any American who is in doubt about which movement is more in line with his or her values. What a dilemma for the democrats! On the one hand, they must pay homage and attempt to sympathize with the Occupy loons, who are a significant part of their base, but on the other hand, democrats know (surely they know) that a significant majority of U.S. voters rejects the “values” (forget the ideas, because there really aren’t any) that are flaunted at the Occupy protests.

What’s more, many of the Occupy protestors are hardly what one could consider oppressed or down-trodden. Several were photographed wearing designer clothes and sporting the latest electronic gadgets. Also, as one paper reported, “youngsters…have joined the movement, many of whom study at colleges which cost their parents up to $200,000.”

Another bit of irony that seems to be lost on most of the Occupiers is that Barack Obama received about twice as much in campaign contributions from Wall Street in the 2008 presidential campaign as did John McCain.

However, the most ironic, and moronic, thing about the Occupy movement is that the vast majority of those involved seek to place more power in the hands of those who were most instrumental in our economic collapse: the federal government. As Herman Cain pointed out, “You can demonstrate all you want on Wall Street. The problem is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!”

Copyright 2011, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

Friday, September 23, 2011

Good Samaritans or Bad Government

Spurred on by Wolf Blitzer’s lame attempt at a “Good Samaritan” scenario, liberal pundits all over the country have climbed upon their health-care “high-horses.” Leading the parade of liberals wallowing in self-righteousness, New York Times’ columnist, Paul Krugman, laments the fact that today’s GOP has gone from Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” to Ron Paul’s “free to die.”

He comes to this conclusion as a result of last weeks GOP presidential debate where CNN’s Blitzer presented Paul, and other republicans, with a hypothetical: A 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly finds himself in need of six months of intensive care—Blitzer wants to know what the “compassionate conservative” response would be.

Congressman Paul stated, “That’s what freedom is all about — taking your own risks.” Thrilling liberals everywhere, Blitzer pressed the matter and asked whether “society should just let him die.” A member of the audience shouted “Yeah!” [Though Krugman reported it as a “crowd erupt(ing) with cheers and shouts of “Yeah!”] Krugman then piously concluded that, “The incident highlighted something that I don’t think most political commentators have fully absorbed: at this point, American politics is fundamentally about different moral visions.”

Washington Post columnist and creator of the infamous liberal blog-spot, JournoList, Ezra Klein, stated that, “It’s all well and good to say personal responsibility is the bedrock of liberty, but even the hardest of libertarians has always understood that there are places where your person ends and mine begins…in health care, it has to do with compassion.”

Asking “Where Are the Compassionate Conservatives,” Washington Post columnist, Eugene Robinson, notes that Blitzer next turned to Michele Bachmann, “whose popularity with evangelical Christian voters stems, at least in part, from her own professed born-again faith. Asked what she would do about the man in the coma, Bachmann ignored the question and launched into a canned explanation of why she wants to repeal President Obama's Affordable Care Act.”

Robinson then declares that, “According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus told the Pharisees that God commands us to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’ There is no asterisk making this obligation null and void if circumstances require its fulfillment via government.”

However, the book of Luke records that, when Jesus is asked by “an expert in the Law” what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus asks him what the Law requires. The man answers correctly: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Sounding like a liberal pundit at a GOP debate, or as Scripture puts it, “attempting to justify himself,” the man smugly asked Jesus, “who is my neighbor?” That is when Jesus launches into the Good Samaritan parable. Of course, the parable reveals that, as a true act of love, a Samaritan—whom the Jews of Jesus’ day generally despised—took care of an injured man on his own time and with his own resources. Not quite the picture of Obamacare that today’s liberals would have us believe.

Liberals love to quote Scripture when they think it might help them further their big government social agenda. They also love to talk about compassion and morality but would prefer it if you left Scripture out of it. Perhaps if more liberals were for posting the Ten Commandments in every public school and post office in the U.S., more Americans would feel comfortable putting health care in the hands of the federal government.

Perhaps if more liberals were willing to allow their morality and compassion to move them to protect the most defenseless among us—the unborn—more Americans would take them seriously when they talk in terms of “moral visions” and “compassion.”

Taking a stand against big government—even during a severe economic crisis—President Grover Cleveland denied aid to a very deserving orphanage in New York City. Cleveland, a Democrat, said, “I will not be a party to stealing money from one group of citizens to give to another group of citizens. No matter what the need or apparent justification, once the coffers of the federal government are opened to the public, there will be no shutting them again…”

Of course, later democrats (and republicans) ignored Cleveland’s warnings, and the coffers of the federal government have been wide open for decades. As a result, most of America is suffering as we are now “reaping what we have sown.”

Copyright 2011, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

Friday, August 26, 2011

Are We Too Fat or Too Hungry?

I’m confused (no jokes, please). The Obama administration and the mainstream media really need to work on coordinating their message better. I mean, usually memos and pressers from the White House, the pages of the New York Times, LA Times, and Washington Post (et al), and the broadcasts of ABC, CBS, and NBC are nearly indistinguishable. Thus, this recent piece from ABC news left me rather perplexed.

According to the story, “Every day, children in every county in the United States wake up hungry. They go to school hungry. They turn out the lights at night hungry…To put it another way, one in four children in the (U.S.) is living without consistent access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life.”

Yet, barely a year ago, in February of 2010, the Washington Times revealed that “Nearly one-third of U.S. children are overweight or obese — a rate that has tripled among adolescents and doubled in younger children over the past 30 years. In addition, one-third of children born in 2000 or later eventually will suffer from diabetes, according to the White House.”

Thus we end up with Michelle Obama involved in policy and get bombarded with messages of “Let’s Move!” We also end up with school systems telling children that they can’t bring their own lunch to school.

So, in barely a year we’ve gone from one-third of all U.S. children being overweight or obese, to one-fourth of them continuously being hungry (and three-fourths of all U.S. high school students can’t correctly place in least-to-greatest order the three fractions I just used, but I digress). No wonder C.S. Lewis bemoaned, “Lord! How I loathe great issues…Could one start a Stagnation Party— which at General Elections would boast that during its term of office no event of the least importance had taken place?”

And who is better at creating, or at least dictating, the “great issues” than liberals within the U.S. federal government? The aforementioned report trumpeted by ABC was on the subject of a study funded by ConAgra Foods, which was “based on 2009 statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

If one wants more government, the quickest way to such an end is to create a “crisis” that only government can solve. After all, there is no way that we can fight obesity and hunger without the government, right? Evidently not, because, again according to the ABC report, “a shocking 49 percent of all babies born in the U.S. are born to families receiving food supplements from the WIC program,” which is operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

To qualify for WIC, women, or families, with children under 5 must have a household income that is less than 185% of the federal poverty guidelines. Why not 175% or 150%? What government bean counter decided 185% was the magic number?

Speaking of the federal poverty limit, according to the U.S. census, 30 million Americans are living in poverty. That’s about one in ten Americans. What does it mean to live in poverty in the U.S.? According to a recent Heritage Foundation report, which used the government’s own data, the average household in America that “lives in poverty” has air conditioning, cable TV, a microwave, and a washer and dryer. They also have a car, two color televisions, a DVD player, and if a child is in the home, an electronic game system.

Not quite the emaciated African we’ve often seen in those moving television ads, is it? But that’s what happens when we allow our secular federal government to define things. That’s what happens when we give the purse strings of a trillion dollar kitty to professional politicians. That’s how we end up with the conflicting, confusing, and asinine messages of “fight obesity, but not too hard!” It’s how far too many politicians buy votes and create a perpetual and seemingly unending culture of dependency on government.

I know! Perhaps we need a government agency to prevent contradictory federal programs. We could call it the Washington Institute to Stop Everything Undertaken by Progressives, or W.I.S.E. U.P., for short. To work there, one would have to be able to identify at least 50 oxymoronic federal behaviors. Their motto would be, “The Bucks Stop With Us!”

(See this column on American Thinker.)

Copyright 2011, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

Monday, August 1, 2011

More Consequences of Redefining Marriage

Several recent developments have me thinking again about the consequences of legalized gay—I mean “same-sex”—marriage.

First of all, in the battle to redefine marriage, almost certainly the next step after gay marriage is polygamy. As I noted in 2008, with the attention received by then fugitive Warren Jeffs, president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, polygamy was declared “the next civil rights battle.”

“Reality TV” last year gave us TLC’s “Sister Wives.” The show documents the lives of polygamist Kody Brown, his four wives, and their 16 children. Upon receiving strong ratings, the show was renewed for a second season. The emboldened cast recently declared that they were suing Utah’s governor over the state’s long-standing law against polygamy.

The lawsuit says that, “By criminalizing religious-based plural families and intimate relationships under the criminal bigamy law, Utah officials prosecute private conduct between consenting adults.” (Never mind that laws often govern the behavior between “consenting adults.”)

In 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6 to 3 ruling, overturned the Texas anti-sodomy law, and thus invalidated similar laws in the 12 states that still had them on their books. In his dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote “State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of…laws based on moral choices.”

As late as 1986, in Bowers v. Hardwick, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Georgia’s anti-sodomy law. In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens declared that “the fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice.”

Given that from the Georgia to the Texas ruling the Court reversed itself and embraced Stevens’ conclusions on law and morality, Scalia declared that the Court had effectively decreed “the end of all morals legislation.”

Thus, as Scalia feared, in the U.S. today, “private conduct between consenting adults” often trumps traditional (especially Christian) morality. Never mind that all laws (and behaviors) are governed by some morality.

Secondly, in what seems to be an attempt to stake out a more moderate position on same-sex marriage, potential GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry said of the recent events in NY, “Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me.”

The problem with the “states’ rights” approach is that doesn’t prevent the federal government, especially via the courts, from stepping in, as it has before, when it deems states to be “discriminating” against its own citizens. The states’ rights argument also fails to address how the law should handle same-sex couples who are legally married in one state, but then move (or travel) to a state where same-sex marriage is illegal.

Finally, there is this interesting scenario posed by an American Thinker blogger: “Indeed, ‘gay marriage’ does roll more trippingly off the tongue [than ‘same-sex marriage’], but it's really not ‘gay marriage’ at all. When applying for a marriage license, there is no box to check, no oath to take, no questions about a person's sexual proclivity. Ironically, the very heart of the ‘gay marriage’ movement -- homosexuality -- gets nary a mention on the marriage application.”

Thus, concludes Fred Kopp, “In several states it's now legal for any two people to get married, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual preference. I'm not saying that two straight women or two straight guys are going to rush right out and get married just because they can. I'm sure that would be extremely rare (at first), but the point is that they can, and to leave this little tidbit out of the marriage discussion is disingenuous.”

Now combine the “any two people” scenario with the “any number of people” scenario that polygamy provides. Not only could we could see things like heterosexual friends marrying to provide one with health care, or to allow one to receive the Social Security or Medicare benefits of the other, but we could see an individual marrying multiples to do the same. We could see one couple marrying another couple so that they could file joint tax returns, or three lesbians marrying because they enjoy each other’s company.

Again, as I have noted multiple times before, redefining marriage will have profound consequences. Much of the above may seem absurd, but that’s what happens when one redefines a fundamental truth that lies at the very foundation of our nation.

Copyright 2011, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

Friday, July 15, 2011

“Every Form of Refuge Has Its Price”

Make no mistake about it, the heart of the current (and future) financial crisis lay with entitlements, or what some deem “federal benefits.” Though many point to the collapse of mortgage-backed securities and the real estate market as triggering the Great Recession, ultimately we are where we are as a result of far too much debt in the U.S. economy. In other words, as the current debate over the debt ceiling illustrates, ours is a crisis of debt.

Very early in our marriage, my wife and I learned a valuable and simple lesson when it comes to managing money: how to live on budget. As I have written before, upon making an early commitment never again to be in debt, we have lived the last 12 years of our 13-and-a-half year marriage completely debt free. This includes owning our home, cars, (along with having four children), and so on. (See a video of our financial testimony here.) Our budget discipline played a huge role in achieving this tremendous financial freedom.

Of course, any American with an intellectual capacity greater than that of fans of Jersey Shore understands the lack of budget discipline that has plagued Washington D.C. for decades. One statistic stands out above all others as an illustration of the fiscal folly perpetuated by the federal government: According to the U.S. census, in 2009, nearly 139 million Americans—over 46%--received at least one federal benefit.

Included in these numbers: 46.5 million received Social Security; 42.6 million Medicare; 42.4 million Medicaid; 36.1 million food stamps; 22.2 million WIC; 12.4 million housing subsidies; 6.1 million unemployment. The United States has created an unprecedented culture of dependency.

Sadly, far too many Americans are content with our current welfare state. A recent Wall St Journal-NBC News poll reveals that fewer than 25 percent of Americans favor cutbacks to Social Security or Medicare to reduce the federal deficit. As the Journal noted, “Even tea party supporters, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, declared significant cuts to Social Security ‘unacceptable.’”

For another illustration of how numerous Americans are willing to take us even further down our debt hole, last year, when President Obama spoke to an audience of college students on the subject of health care, he declared that the students will now be able to remain on their parents’ health insurance plan until age 26. Upon hearing this, columnist Dennis Prager noted, “I do not ever recall hearing a louder, more thunderous and sustained applause than I did then. I do not believe that if the president had announced that a cure for cancer had been discovered that the applause would have been louder or longer.”

The Heritage Foundation’s 2010 Index of Dependence on Government, which “is designed to measure the pace at which federal government services and programs have grown in areas in which private or community-based services and programs exist or existed to address the same or similar needs,” had a 2009 measure of 272. In 1990 it was 123. In 1962 it was 19. Thus, in about 50 years, according to this Index, dependence on the federal government has grown by over 1300%.

Republicans and Democrats alike—in other words most Americans—are to blame for the monstrosity that is the U.S. federal government. We like to point fingers, but the sad truth of the matter is that, by and large, our government is simply a reflection of its citizenry. Far too many Americans have decided to look to government to provide for them, with far too few understanding the real price of such a relationship.

“Every form of refuge has its price,” sang the Eagles’ Glen Frey in 1975. The line is from the Eagles’ hit song “Lyin’ Eyes.” Don Henley and Frey wrote the song about a beautiful woman who (seemingly) marries a “rich old man” so “she won’t have to worry.” However, though she has many of the finer things in life, she finds herself rather unfulfilled.

It is time for America to realize the price of having our government provide us with so much. It is a price that we literally cannot afford. To roll things back will not be painless; however, as President Grover Cleveland (a democrat) noted, “It is the responsibility of citizens to support their government. It is not the responsibility of government to support its citizens.”

Copyright 2011, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Cornerstone of Liberty

In 1772, to confront the unjust acts of Great Britain, citizens of Boston formed a Committee of Correspondence to coordinate their efforts with those of the other colonies. The citizens charged the Committee with several tasks, one of which was to create a statement of the rights of the colonists. This duty was given to none other than one of the leaders of the original Tea Party, the “Father of the American Revolution” himself, Samuel Adams.

“Among the natural rights of the Colonists,” began Adams, “are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property.” On liberty, Adams later added that, “‘Just and true liberty, equal and impartial liberty,’ …is a thing that all men are clearly entitled to by the eternal and immutable laws of God and nature, as well as by the law of nations and all well-grounded municipal laws, which must have their foundation in the former.”

Adams was a Congregationalist who was raised by devout Puritans. As the governor of Massachusetts, he was dubbed “the last Puritan.” Adams was quite proud of his Puritan heritage, and rightly so, for more than any other group the Puritans were most responsible for the Christian foundation that America enjoyed.

The Puritans were not the sin-obsessed, witch-hunting, killjoys in tall black hats that many have made them out to be. As David Marshall and Peter Manuel note in The Light and the Glory, “Far from fleeing the persecutions of King and Bishop, they determined to change their society in the only way that could make any lasting difference: by giving it a Christianity that worked.”

In June of 1630, 10 years after the Pilgrims founded the Plymouth Colony, John Winthrop and 700 other Puritans landed in Massachusetts Bay. This was the beginning of the Great Migration, which over 16 years saw more than 20,000 Puritans leave Europe for New England. On June 11, 1630, aboard the Arbella, Winthrop, the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, penned A Model of Christian Charity, which became a model for future constitutional covenants of the Colonies.

Under the leadership of their ministers, the Puritans established a representative government with annual elections. By 1641 they had a “Body of Liberties” (essentially a Bill of Rights), which was penned by the Rev. Nathaniel Ward. This was the first legal code established by the colonists.

In 1636 the Rev. Thomas Hooker, along with other Puritan ministers, founded Connecticut. They also established an elective form of government. In 1638, after hearing a sermon by Hooker, Roger Ludlow wrote the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. This was the first constitution written in America. It served as a model of government for other colonies and, eventually, a union of colonies. It also served as a model for the U.S. Constitution.

However, as historian David Barton notes, “While Connecticut produced America's first written constitution, it definitely had not produced America's first written document of governance, for such written documents had been the norm for every colony founded by Bible-minded Christians… This practice of providing written documents had been the practice of American ministers before the Rev. Hooker's constitution of 1638 and continued long after.”

Like Samuel Adams, another Founding Father understood well who was most responsible for the founding of our great nation, and upon what that foundation rested. America’s Schoolmaster, Noah Webster, noted, “The learned clergy . . . had great influence in founding the first genuine republican governments ever formed and which, with all the faults and defects of the men and their laws, were the best republican governments on earth.”

Webster concluded that “the Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government. . . . and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence.”

This explicitly Christian heritage, more than any other reason, is why the United States stands alone in the world. It is why the U.S. is the world’s longest ongoing constitutional republic, enjoying unprecedented longevity among contemporary nations of the world, with over 220 years under the same documents and the same form of government.

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” wrote the Apostle Paul. Of all the nations of the world, this has never been more evident than with the United States of America. God Bless America.

(See this column on American Thinker.)

Copyright 2011, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com