Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Bad!

Someone who appreciated my book and quoted it on his blog, D.X. Turner from Texas, has alerted me to this informative juxtaposition. The first graphic is a quote from Vermont Independent (socialist) Senator, Bernie Sanders.

Turner adds: " The truth is that entitlement spending, what Bernie conveniently labels as "the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor" is the primary driver behind the deficit." He then supplies this telling chart.

That little ball way over on the left hand side is virtually all federal spending that you can think of. You know, the departments of this, that, and the other thing. If President Rick Perry forgets to eliminate one, it won't make much difference.

The obvious conclusion is that our problem centers around two words: benefits and entitlements. Unless we unite around a plan to bring these under control, we are soon to be Greece, Italy, and the rest of them.

D.X. Turner blogs at Arguing with a Fencepost.

Our Latest Authoritarian Temptation

Everyone's approval ratings are scraping the ground. People are talking about a third party candidate. People have a low view not only of politicians, but of politics itself. But that means a low view of the mechanics and possibility of self-government.

In my column at last week ("Doubting Democracy at the Impasse"), I recount some recent developments that has turned people off in this way, and I give some shocking examples of some prominent people who toy with the idea of autocracy--just for a while--and who should know better.

North Carolina’s Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue suggested that we suspend the upcoming election cycle so that congressional leaders would be free simply to do what is right for the country without having to worry about political consequences:

I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that. You want people who don’t worry about the next election.

This brought to mind the public nostalgie du fascism of another prominent political liberal, multiple Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman, who just 18 months ago repeated ever so cautiously what he boldly published in his 2008 book, Hot, Flat and Crowded, that if we could just have Chinese government for a day, we could nicely Obamafy the country into proper shape, then go back to our usual gridlock.

I conclude, "In 1944, Judge Learned Hand described the 'spirit of liberty' as 'the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.' That is the democratic republican spirit. It is humble regarding oneself and respectful of one’s neighbor. Living by the rule of law is one way we express that spirit. The answer to political paralysis is not less politics, but more: political discussion, political involvement, and political accountability on Election Day."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Black and Tired

It is not liberal to be concerned about racism and about the problems of one particular race. Here is Anthony Bradley's promotional video for his book, Black and Tired (Wipf & Stock, 2011).

Anthony Bradley is associate professor of theology and ethics at The King's College in New Yorki City where I teach.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Failing Their Political Oral Exams

Here, Herman Cain fails his political oral exam. It is not a matter of failing an ideological litmus test. It's not a matter of tripping up on an obscure question, like, "Who is the president of Uzbekistan?" He is clearly not qualified for the job. He doesn't need to know what a president needs to know. He doesn't have the requisite experience.

He didn't know that China has nuclear weapons, though they have had them since 1964.

Now this obvious ignorance of what's been going on in Libya in 2011.

This follows Rick Perry's disqualifying performance last week.

That would get you bounced from America's Got Talent. Why not also the race for the presidency?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Big Government Inevitably Bad Government

The debate between the left and right in our politics today is a debate over the size and roll of government. Lisa Sharon Harper and I have the same debate.

Lisa dismisses this as a "mantra" and as a false dichotomy between big and small government. She claims that the real choice is between good and bad big government. But where is this good big government apart from in the imaginations of liberals?

In his review of Left, Right and Christ in World magazine, "Left, Right, Fight, Fight, Fight," Marvin Olasky tells us why.

Centers of power attract power-seekers who then attract money-seekers, and the result is a new ruling class: In a fallen world, equality of result is an ever-receding horizon. ... Most evangelicals also favor limited government and political decentralization, because we know both from the Bible and from history that concentrations of political power lead to oppression.

I am deeply grateful to Marvin for writing the foreword (with Jim Wallis) to this book. In his review, he has nailed the issue separating the two of us, drawing attention to why the tragically misguided Evangelical left is not just biblically wrong but morally dangerous.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Cupp of Blessing

There are certain shows that authors pray will invite them to be guests. Oprah etc. The Glenn Beck Show is one of them. If Beck holds up a book and says, "Buy this!," sales shoot to the moon.

Well, thanks to the good offices of my friend Dinesh D'Souza, my co-author and I got onto the show on GBTV, Beck's highly successful Internet-based network. Beck himself was out of town, so SE Cupp hosted, and sales indeed catapulted. We went from #200,000 on the Amazon list to #7,800 just 24 hours later.

They even played the promotional video beforehand.

Lisa says the darnedest things in these situations, and does not realize just how problematic her views are. At the AEI event, she dropped jaws by saying that the Republicans take from the poor and give to the rich, whereas the Democrats take back from the rich and give to the poor. Yes, Robin Hood is the model for good government.

At the book launch we organized at Union Theological Seminary, she claimed that the high rate of single motherhood among black families is because black men are simply unavailable. They are either in prison or we have killed them in our wars because recruiters "target" minority communities. (Hmm. How then are the babies conceived?) That got more than a few people upset and bewildered.

At this event, it was her views on abortion which showcase her contorted attempts to remain in good standing in the Democratic Party and with her Democratic friends.

Here are some responses I have encountered:

1. "Does she always pull that bait and switch on abortion? One minute you are talking about when life begins, the next moment she introduces the “scientific standard” of viability, and then third she equates viability with when life begins."

2. "Fascinating discussion on abortion. I’ve never heard anyone say, essentially, 'I think abortion is murder, but if scientists tell us it’s not…well, what can we do?'"

3. "Some modest philosophical confusion: "Life begins before conception!" Ummm... And, the "legislate according to the lowest common denominator, which is science" argument was a really weird version of it. I have no idea what she was arguing there. She started by explaining how she needed to win the argument...and then ended up saying we ought to leave "religious" premises aside but lose the argument anyway (with life beginning at viability)."

4. "Lisa's "faith committment" in the public square on economic equality but not the protection of life in which she turns to "science" as the lowest common denominator is telling. First, science tells us that the human being is a human being. Second, we all were prevented from making such a case in the public square because the matter was taken out of our hands by robed men in R v. W. Third, would she be willing to use the standard of science on economic matters? No, because science (particularly social science) shows us the devestation brought on by the welfare state."

5. "Lisa Sharon Harper was confused about when life begins? Every medical book or biology book will tell you that life begins at conception. Lisa Sharon Harper said we should look to science when talking about this subject then ignores what science says. Lisa, life begins at conception. Science says so!"

Friday, November 11, 2011


As I was preparing to despair of having anything to offer as a column this week, I remember something that crossed my mind regarding presidential narratives. We put a lot of emphasis on it when choosing a president. Perhaps it's our democratic character. "Tell me how you're just like me." Or, "How American are you? Can you show how you've embodies the hope we all share as Americans? Perhaps a log cabin story?"

But hwere are the stories in this cycle of candidates?

So where are the narratives in the current Republican field? Mitt Romney? Fighting your way up from being the son of a Michigan governor to being co-founder and CEO at Bain Capital just doesn’t sing well. Herman Cain has a good story, working his way from po’ boy (his term) in Georgia to restaurant magnate and chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City. But his problem these days is too many stories.

So I review all the recent ones. Mostly the successful ones. It is interesting how many of them involve the abuse of alcohol. One might think that if you want your kid to be president you should start drinking heavily.

Read "Presidential Narratives" in

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Borger on my Book

Byron Borger at Hearts and Minds Books, gives this review of Left, Right and Christ. Actually, it's more of a notice than a critical review.

Left, Right & Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics Lisa Sharon Harper & D.C. Innes (Russell Media) $22.99 As the election season proceeds I am sure I will revisit this often, drawing on each author's important points as I write, teach, and talk about a Christian perspectives on politics. Perhaps it will serve you in such a way as well. As you might guess, this is a co-authored debate-style book, with a Christian who is a committed Democrat and a Christian who is a committed Republican each explaining how their faith and Biblical insights compel them to align themselves (even if always provisionally, as they both insist) towards more-or-less liberal or conservative public policies. D.C. Innes is a popular professor of political science at The Kings College in New York (and an Orthodox Presbyterian minister) while Ms Harper is an activist for Sojourners in DC who has worked with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

Marvin Olasky writes one forward to the LR&C; he is known for his insistence on a stauchly conservative Christian worldview (he writes often for World magazine) and he writes here "If this isn't a conversation starter for Christians, than nothing else will be." Jim Wallis of Sojourners has another forward, again noting that this book will certainly stimulate good discussion and deep thinking. I hope to write more carefully about this book in the future but don't wait for my input. You get the point: this is ideal for book clubs, conversation-starters, to tweak our ideas by reading more than just one viewpoint, to give to that person who just doesn't get your viewpoint.

There are six or seven endorsements on the inside, each by folks I really respect (who hold to pretty diverse socio-political viewpoints, in fact, from Carl Trueman and John Armstrong to Jonathan Merritt and Nicole Baker Fulgham. David Gushee says "One might have thought there was nothing new to say in or about this burnt-over disctrict, but in their sharp, yet civil, dialogue Innes and Harper offer provocative and creative new reflections." Thanks to Mark Russell for his good work in shepherding this project and for designing such an attractive, clear, fair-minded, interesting, contemporary book. Here's a fun video piece they did to capture the usefulness of this vibrant conversation. Enjoy.

Notice how the advertisement at the end says something like "wherever fine books are sold." We would be one of those places. As I hope you know we care about these very fine books and stock them because we think they will helpful to you and yours. Let us know what you think, and use the handy link to the order page.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Theology, Philosophy and Policy

The full, hour-long video of my American Enterprise Institute "Values and Capitalism" luncheon event for Left, Right and Christ has been posted.

Along with it is a nice article by Elise Amyx describing the exchange between Lisa and me. She has this nice reflection on the wild leaps that Lisa Sharon Harper makes from which she finds in Scripture to the public policies she confidently advocates.

Political philosophy is where theology and policy meet; it is where the two worlds are reconciled, yet Harper jumps the gun and avoids the “high level battle of ideas.” Her argument is seemingly aligned, but not soundly intertwined. Because she approaches policy from a consequentialist view, she has failed to recognize the political philosophy implied by the policies she supports, which is not solely theological but rather one of “big government.”

Clearly, her James Madison University education has served her well.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cain's Truth Issue

The aspect of the Herman Cain controversy that concerns me most at this point, since nothing is proven and accusers are anonymous, is the candidate's lying responses.

Cain told the National Press Association—with cameras running and with the nation watching—“I am not aware of a settlement.” But later he described in detail the legal and financial settlement the National Restaurant Association reached with a particular woman on his behalf. It didn’t sound like the sort of thing you’d forget. Defending himself against the contradiction, Cain quibbled over specific terms, like settlement as opposed to agreement. It seemed unsettlingly Clintonian.

In "Trusting Cain" (Worldmag, November 3, 2011), I argue that the civic relationship, like any relationship--like friendship, marriage, or even business--has trust at its center. Politicians should guard it like gold. Few of them do.

If Cain were a good politician, which he prides himself on not being, he would understand that the American people are a very forgiving people. If from the start he had said that he did some terrible things back then and that he has repented of those things and God has forgiven him, and then called voters also to forgive them, I have no doubt they would. But instead he went the usual lies and cover-up route.

I'm not impressed. But I have never been impressed.