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Archive for May 2011

The Great Awakening As a Case For Intellectual Honesty

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By Alex Couch

My post was inspired from one of the comments made by Jesse Philips earlier where he mentioned the “Great Awakening.” I have spent a lot of time researching the Great Awakening, mostly focusing on the theoretical impact it had in Virginia. My attempt here will be to share some of that knowledge and discuss the significance of such a topic in relation to intellectual honesty.

One of the cannons or pillars of American history has been the idea of a Great Awakening. It has been at the very least discussed and is usually given an entire chapter by almost every U.S history text book ever published. Being a history major, I was a little bothered by the fact that I didn’t understand what it really was other than the basics and knew very little about it and so when I was assigned the task of writing a research paper in a Colonial American class I made up my mind to find out more and write about it.

Before I go on, let me give the basic information usually associated with the Great Awakening. It usually goes something like this: In the 18th century there were wide-spread revivals where many people received salvation. The theory goes that those series of revivals had a marked effect on the cultural and political landscape and some would go as far as to claim that they were one of the major causes of the American Revolution.

So that was my basic understanding of what the Great Awakening was as I went to gather research. My first attempts at sifting through the vast amounts of information proved discouraging as I struggled to find a narrow enough topic to base my thesis on within the framework of the Great Awakening.  My professor encouraged me to focus on the impact of a specific colony. My research guided me toward Virginia were religion seemed to have the most impact.

As I read many articles and some books I came across an article by Jon Butler entitled “Described and Decried: The Great Awakening as Interpretative Fiction”Butlers essay challenged the prevailing understanding of what the Great Awakening was. Butler credited Joseph Tracy as the first person to use the term “Great Awakening” to “evaluate all the prerevolutionary revivals” in his 1842 book, The Great Awakening. Butler argued that historians “should abandon the term…because it distorts the character of eighteenth-century American religious life and misinterprets its relationship to prerevolutionary American society and politics.” He noted the fact that, other than Tracy’s book, there had not been a true “comprehensive general history” written on the subject and that all the studies were regional or local in nature. His main argument against the term was that he viewed the revivals as unconnected and unrelated. His evidence included the large gaps in time between revivals and the regions and cities that were unaffected or did not experience any revivals at all. Furthermore, he found no evidence of organization or leadership that directed revivals.[1]

Butler’s argument was well deserved.  More evaluation and discussion was needed to better understand something that had become a “familiar feature of the American historical landscape.”  Tracy may have been trying to tie an event that was theoretically happening around his time, known today as the “Second Great Awakening,” thus making his event more significant.

There exists a general consensus among the scholars that New England did have a unique experience with revivals during the early 1740’s. Butler wrote that “no one would seriously question the existence of ‘the Great Awakening’ if historians only described it as a short-lived Calvinist revival in New England during the early 1740s.” However, this event by itself is not significant or great in historical terms. In order to be significant there are two prerequisites that must be satisfied. First, there needs be a connection made that relates the revivals in New England to the revivals in other colonies and regions. Second, in order to be significant, the connections between the various revivals must be traceable and measurable both quantitatively and qualitatively.

The revivals under the umbrella of the Great Awakening were diverse in style, content, and theology. There are few characteristics that easily be presented that unite the different awakenings. Furthermore, the distance between the revivals was great in both time and location lasting about 100 years and taking almost 30 years to spread to Virginia from New England with any significance.

In the end, I concluded two things. First, the Great Awakening has been and continues to be over exaggerated in terms of historical impact and significance. Secondly, despite the hyperbole, the Great Awakening was historically important and great. For the sake of time I won’t go into all the evidence here but would love to share it with anyone who is interested.

The Great Awakening as an idea has been under attack for the last 30 years because many historians failed to do their due diligence.  There were few if any serious historical works on the Great Awakening as a whole and yet historians and publishers put it in text books like there was. Furthermore, it became common place to mention it when talking about the road to the Revolution and it was often considered one of the major causes. This was and is intellectually dishonest. Many historians have responded to Butler’s request that more attention be paid to the subject.[2] These historians have started to repair the damage done by the exaggeration and lack of research. The Great Awakening can once again be great.

A lesson can be learned here for our blog. We need to not be too quick in our judgments so that we exaggerate our claim. I myself am often too quick to respond to something I am passionate about and I am totally guilty of hyperbole and overstating my point at times. The worst part is that my main point is usually the true victim of my crime even if it is valid.  Let us be fair in our criticism and be intellectually honest in our posts and comments.

[1]Jon Butler, “Described and Decried: The Great Awakening as Interpretative Fiction,” The Journal of American History 69, no. 2 (Sept. 1982), 307. Found online at http://www.jstor.org/stable/1893821

[2] For examples see:

Thomas S. Kidd, The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007) and Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York: Harper Perennial, 1999), 113-118 and Frank Lambert, “‘Pedlar in Divinity’: George Whitefield and the Great Awakening, 1737-1745,” The Journal of American History 77, no. 3 (Dec. 1990). Found online at http://www.jstor.org/stable/2078987.

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Written by Jake Phillips

May 27, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

More on Terrorism

with 12 comments

Posted by Joey Phillips:

Briefly, while we are on the topic of terrorism, I wanted to talk about how a Christian should respond to the killing of Usama bin Laden (Jason, he really is dead right?). There was an outbreak of joy in America at the news of his death. There were immediately people taking to the streets in celebration. Social media exploded with triumphant quips, congratulatory comments, and celebratory exclamations from Christian and non-Christian alike. There were a few, however, who drew attention by criticizing the celebrations and triumphal comments. The implication being that celebrating someone’s death is wrong.

David Sirota at salon.com condemned the popular react, as did a couple columnists for the Washington Post (Petula Dvorak and Courtland Milloy). Katy Perry (she is a pop singer, Alex) said she was unsure about the whole thing. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers running back, asked what kind of person could celebrate death…etc.

Is it ok for a Christian, who is supposed to love his enemies, to celebrate the demise of an enemy?

I think the answer is easy. Yes….and no. Let me explain. Scripture seems to indicate that it is ok to rejoice at the demise of the wicked. Proverbs 11:10 says that “when the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish there are shouts of joy.” Proverbs 21:15 says “when justice is done it brings joy to the righteous but terror to the evildoers.” The Israelites would certainly rejoice when they defeated their enemies in battle. It doesn’t seem to me that you can argue that it is immoral to rejoice at the demise of an evildoer. When Hitler died I don’t think anyone would begrudge the Allies a little celebration. So on one hand, yes it is ok.

On the other hand it says in Ezekiel that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, but would rather they turn from their evil ways. Jesus says to love our enemies. Is this a contradiction? I don’t think so. I think that there is a difference between rejoicing that evil has been defeated, that justice has been done…and taking pleasure in the destruction of an individual. This can seem like a distinction without a difference in the case of Usama, or any individual evildoer who is killed. But there is one. It’s the difference between someone who is thrilled that Usama is no longer a threat, that our military achieved a victory that helps defeat a crafty foe, and is relieved we don’t have to worry about attacks from him anymore…and someone who says “haha rot in hell you $%$&#^$^#*^*$%&#&$.” The first person is legitimately celebrating justice over evil, and the second is self-righteously ignoring the fact that they deserve to rot in hell as well, and are taking pleasure in the destruction of an individual, which is contrary to Christian ethics.

Written by Jake Phillips

May 26, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Afraid of the Dark: Terrorism, Nuclear Bombs, and Prevention Strategies

with 25 comments

This is a paper I wrote for a Strategic Weapons and Warfare class.  I am re-posting it here, since it is less controversial than Jesse’s topic :), and is a nice stop-gap until James and Alex post.  I probably went overboard in this paper, but I had to defend a position strongly, so I am unashamed.  Sorry for how long it is.  Congratulations if you finish it.

Terrorism, according to the Department of Defense, is the biggest security threat to the United States.[1] Terrorism is also the biggest threat to Germany.[2] It’s also the biggest threat to the United Kingdom.[3]  The threat that a non-state, terrorist organization could acquire nuclear weaponry has exponentially horrified state officials from every country.  However, there is also scholarly opinion that terroristic organizations wouldn’t even use nuclear weaponry even if they could acquire them.  The goal of this paper is to answer the following questions.  How great is the possibility that terroristic organizations would deploy nuclear weaponry if they could acquire it? And if so, what is the best strategy for stopping this threat from ever actualizing?

            William C. Potter, one of the leading scholars regarding nonproliferation, writes that “the conventional wisdom about terrorists…is that few would be inclined to carry out an attacking using WMD’s even if they had the capability to do so.”[4]  Not only is it a debatable subject, but Potter claims that research shows that, especially throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, most scholars and state officials believed that terroristic organizations would not use WMD’s.  Brian Jenkins wrote in 1987 that “terrorists want a lot of people watching, but not a lot of people dead.”[5] Further, some argue that the potential for blackmail, among other things, mean that nuclear weapons would be too useful to detonate.  This line of thinking goes on to argue that the ideology of any terrorist organizations powerful and equipped enough to possibly acquire WMD’s, any sort of nuclear weapon, would be inconsistent with a massive killing of civilians.[6] Additionally, terrorists organizations, and the possession of nuclear capability (by states) has coexisted for decades.  There has been no nuclear attack to date.  States have thus far not given nuclear information, or at least any significant nuclear information, to terrorist organizations, and there is no indication that they would change their minds.  The potential negatives, in this scenario, far outweigh any potential positives.[7]

            There are, however, many problems with the idea that terrorist organizations would not deploy nuclear bombs upon acquisition.  The first reason is the growing amounts of high-casualty attacks.[8] From the sarin attack in Japan to the bombing of USS Cole to the attacks on 9/11 and many more recent examples, the existence of high-casualty attacks proves that terrorist organizations are willing to go to extreme lengths to present whatever message they believe in, even if to this point they haven’t actually deployed nuclear weapons.  The argument that it would be difficult for them to acquire such weapons due to reluctance by those who have nuclear programs or information to give those programs or that information up, is irrelevant given this evidence.  The argument is not about the ease of acquisition; clearly, acquiring the weapons is difficult.  The argument is about whether they would deploy them should they acquire them. 

The shift from largely political motivations for terrorism to largely religious motivations for terrorism is parallel to the growing belief by state officials and scholars alike that terrorist organizations would deploy WMD’s with acquisition of them.[9]  This opinion is proven correct by a cursory glance at the words of the terrorists themselves.  The Al Qaeda American spokesmen wrote that “You…will experience things that will make you forget the horrors of 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq, and Virginia Tech.”  One terrorist organization spokesmen justified the use of nuclear weapons by saying that the Koran stated that it was permissible to “chastise as you have been chastised.”  Another Al Qaeda terrorist said that using nuclear weapons should be sought because it would “prove Al Qaeda’s influence to the whole world.” A Muslim cleric issued a fatwa stating that the use of nuclear weapons against infidels is consistent with the teachings of the Koran.  Osama bin Laden stated that it is “a religious duty to acquire nuclear weapons.”[10]

Coupled with the fact that there is evidence that Al Qaeda has sought nuclear weapons[11] and the linking of numerous terrorist organizations to Pakistani scientists, it becomes clear that any academic or political argument that terrorists organizations would not use nuclear weapons, or any sort of WMD, is hopeful and naïve at best, disingenuous at worst.  Historical and ongoing mass-casualty attacks, the desire to acquire nuclear weapons, the evidence that attempts have been made, and the rhetoric of the terrorists themselves prove that the answer to the debate as to whether terrorists would use nuclear weapons should they acquire them is an emphatic ‘yes’.

The next question, then, is what is the best strategy to deter this from happening? This question assumes, philosophically, that non-terrorists desire to prevent terrorists from coming into possession of nuclear weapons, and are taking the obvious, physical steps to avoid giving away or leaking nuclear weapons or information to said terrorists. 

Beyond that, there is one major obstacle to deterring terrorist organizations from deploying WMD’s and nuclear weapons; this theoretical terrorist organization’s lack of rationality.  Traditional strategies of deterrence are “based on an assumption of the enemy’s rationality.”[12] How can we make an inherently irrational enemy see that the deployment of nuclear weapons goes against his own cost-benefit ratio, an inherently rational consideration? There are literally hundreds of factors that go into any large-scale, consistent, thorough policy regarding the deterring of terrorist organizations from using nuclear weapons, and some of these factors can differentiate and are somewhat dependent on the scope and differing abilities of those who are implementing the strategy.  This theoretical “best strategy” has been thoroughly argued and debated, and has changed based upon the presumption as to whether they would use nuclear weapons or would limit themselves to less casualty-heavy attacks. However, built upon the presumption that terrorist organizations would deploy nuclear weapons if they could acquire them, there are three non-negotiable, foundational factors that must be present in any strategy.

The first is the realization that there are no significant bridges that can be built with an enemy that is willing to use nuclear weapons against civilians for some twisted religious or political conviction, with no greater life-saving rationale.  Deterrence in this case, then, depends upon pre-emptive military attack.[13] Proponents of soft power, the belief that building bridges and appealing to those who may not be terrorists but have a voice of influence over terrorist (moderate Muslims, for instance), only perpetuate terrorist organizations by installing confidence in them that we will not attack back in kind, and certainly won’t attack them before they attack us.  Some claim that such bridge-building actions as eliminating poverty would work better than the threat of preemptive attacks.  However, terrorist are far more likely to be middle or upper class than to be lower class.[14] With each soft-power or bridge-building thesis comes a convincing response that these issues (such as poverty) are merely the talking points of terrorist, and they change as soon as we take steps to address their supposed complaints.  Land reform in Pakistan is an excellent example; Hillary Clinton attempted to address this talking point, but terrorist organizations dropped it as soon as she began addressing it.[15] The facts are that the only thing that has continued to be shown to be successful is the threat of dropping bombs, not building bridges.  Colonel Gadaffi in Libya did not give up his chemical and biological program, and his attempts to acquire nuclear weapons, until the United States responded to terroristic threats by invading Iraq.[16] This is just one of countless examples that the key to reducing the threat of chemical, biological and thus nuclear attack is to raise the price of engagement so that terrorists would be committing organization, and not just individual, suicide by going forth in their deployment.  An irrational enemy might be willing to die, or even to suffer some greater loss, in order to deploy a nuclear weapon.  But their cause, whatever it may be, depends on those who believe in it.  A threat to the existence of that cause is foundational to the prevention of the deployment of any WMD, including nuclear.

The second foundation to the prevention of nuclear deployment by terrorist organizations is the promotion of democracy.  Democratization will help address the foundational conditions that allow terrorist organizations to grow and flourish in the first place.[17] If terrorist organization are not allowed to have the environment in which they can grow and flourish, or continue to exist where they current do, than the acquisition or deployment of nuclear weapons becomes a moot point.  Democracy provides an outlet in which disagreements can be aired, and the redress of grievances can be peaceably sought.  Repressive regimes and systems do not allow such democratic and peaceful options.  They cut off dissent and allow no public debate.  They therefore create an “enabling environment for violent extremism.”[18] The spread of democracy, then, eliminates such repressive systems and the terrorist organizations it spawns.  It eliminates the environment that enables terrorists, and therefore destroys the possibility of nuclear deployment by terrorist organizations that, within democracies, would not exist.

The third and final foundational factor necessary to any strategy of preventing the deployment of nuclear bombs is that it is necessary to, at times, trade civil liberty to acquire security.  “The threats of the modern age, most notably the threat of catastrophic terrorism,” i.e. nuclear weapons, “…require tremendous executive flexibility.”[19]  I have gone back and forth on this issue, and would be easily convinced, probably, by a contradicting viewpoint, but I believe that my current opinion is borne out by American history.  Abraham Lincoln invoked massive executive powers, and restricted civil liberties, and the result was the emancipation of slaves without Congress approval, as well as victory in the Civil War.  Franklin Roosevelt invoked massive executive power, and restricted civil liberties, and the result was victory in World War II.  To those that cite Richard Nixon, and other examples of when civil liberties were restricted with no real gain, the question is begged; is it worth it to prevent these cases, and the relative lack of cost, and in doing so also prevent the possibility of winning wars such as the Civil War and World War II, while also making the prevention of nuclear deployment by terrorist organizations less likely.[20] That is a risk that no strategy of deterrence of deployment of a nuclear bomb should be willing to take.

In conclusion, the answer to both questions has been convincingly given.  Terrorist organizations would indeed be willing to deploy nuclear weapons at their acquisition, as shown by the growing amount of high-casualty attacks; the attempts to acquire nuclear weapons and the rhetoric that there is a continuing desire to both acquire and use nuclear weapons by the terrorists themselves.  The best strategy for deterring this theoretical deployment has been spelled out; the willingness to drop bombs rather than build bridges (hard power over soft power), the spreading of democracy, and the willingness to exchange civil liberties for security must be foundational to this strategy.  Greek philosopher Plato once said “We can easily forgive a child for being afraid of the dark.  The greatest tragedy is men who are afraid of the light.”  Terrorism exists, and the threat they could potentially use devastating nuclear weaponry is real.  We could forgive a child afraid of that dark possibility.  We must not, however, be afraid of doing what is necessary to confront it.


[1] United States Department of Defense News Release, 2008.

[2] Office for the Protection of the Constitution Report, 2008.

[3] Robin Simcox “Islamist Terrorism: the British Connection” The Centre for Social Cohesion: 2010

[4] William C. Potter “Nuclear Threats From Non-State Actors,” in Arms Control After Iraq: Normative and Operational Challenges, ed. Ramesh Thakur et al. (New York: United Nations University Press, 2006), 384.

[5] Brian Jenkins “The Future Course of International Terrorism,” The Futurist (July-August 1987), 8.

[6] Lewis Dunn, Can Al Qaeda Be Deterred from Using Nuclear Weapons?” Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction Occasional Paper No. 3 (Washington D.C.: National Defense University Press, July 2005).

[7] Matthew Kroenig, Exporting the Bomb: Technology Transfer and the Spread of Nuclear Weapons (London: Cornell University Press, 2010) 182-183.

[8] Charles D. Ferguson et al. The Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism (London: Routledge Press, 2005) 14-19

[9] Gordon Corera Shopping For Bombs (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006) 34-36.

[10] David Aaron In Their Own Words: Voices of Jihad (Arlington: Rand Publishing, 2008) 292-295

[11] Bob Woodward “U.S. Fears Bin Laden Made Nuclear Strides,” Washington Post, December 4th.

[12] Boaz Ganor The Counter-Terrorism Puzzle (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2005) 74.

[13] Michael Rubin “Military Attacks Are Essential to Fighting Terrorism,” in Debating Terrorism and Counterterrorism ed. Stuart Gottlieb (Washington D.C., CQ Press, 2010) 219.

[14] Corera, Shopping For Bombs, 57-60.

[15] Ibid, 61.

[16] Ibid, 171.

[17] Jessica Stern Terror in the Name of God (New York: Harper Collins, 2003) 11-13.

[18] Ibid, 51-52.

[19] John Yoo “Limit Civil Liberties and Bolster Executive Power” in Debating Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism (Washington D.C., CQ Press, 2010) 352.

[20] Ibid, 348.

Written by Jake Phillips

May 25, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

Is the tea party libertarian?

Over the last two years, a remarkable phenomenon has occurred, known popularly as the tea party movement. Ignited by the Bush administration’s TARP bill, and fanned into flame by the Obama administration’s bailout agenda, patriots who are disenfranchised by both political parties have taken to the streets in an effort to stop the liberal-progressive movement in its tracks.

It’s a fascinating political study for sure, regardless of what you think about it. In a time when protesters in Europe are defacing public property and waging protests because their entitlements are being taken away, Americans are taking to the streets to protest the government because it’s promising too many entitlements.

Of course, not all of America is on the same page. Scott Walker knows that first hand. All it takes is a little removal of collective bargaining and sharing of health care costs and chaos breaks out.

I’ve been part of this movement from its inception, ever since the original planning meetings for the first wave of Orlando, FL tea party events. I’m also part of two major tea party networks statewide, representing around 200 tea party and 9/12 groups in every county throughout the state.

There are a number of media perceptions of the tea party, which cloud the issue, and need to be addressed even before answering the original question regarding libertarians and the tea party.

1. “You’re just Republican operatives:” Well, the tea party started as protest of Bush’s policies, and probably cost the Republicans the majority in the Senate (Christine O’Donnell and Sharon Angle, anyone?).

We certainly are pretty vocal in our criticism of Republicans for being secret operatives. For instance, the tea party actually agrees with Obama when he says he inherited Bush’s mess. Of course we also think he’s made the mess worse, not better.

2. “As a Christian, you’re compromising your morals since the tea party’s fiscally-minded”: This one’s even easier to answer. Ever since the tea party fueled conservative route last November of congress and state legislatures, over one-thousand pro-life bills have been past in state legislatures nationwide. By winning populist support, I knew we’d open the floodgates to a pro-life agenda even without talking about it publicly.

This gets to the heart of the question: is the tea party a libertarian movement?

My simple answer to this is “no,” first because the tea party movement’s strength is that it defies traditional analysis. Any way you look at it, the tea party is hard to analyze, probably because it is so fiercely principled, something America hasn’t seen for a while. We’re not a Republican movement because they’ve become so progressive. We’re not a socially conservative movement because we’re focusing on fiscal issues.

But are we a libertarian movement? I would say no for the following reasons: We see debt as a moral issue, not just a fiscal one. If a father, for example, lived an outlandish lifestyle, racked up millions of dollars in debt, and then abandoned his children and left this debt for them to pay, I think that man would be a moral failure, not just a guy who had some back luck financially. The primary concern of many (not all) tea partiers is the moral implications of the progressive agenda.

The media misses this component entirely. To the media, we’re just an angry white mob that feel’s we’ve been “taxed enough already.” The economic view of history and politics has been well-established, unfortunately, and has blinded much of the media to some of our truest motives.

What’s hilarious about this misconception is the reality that I don’t pay any taxes. Most of the tea party movement is middle class, which pays very limited taxes. In America, 86% of taxes are paid by the top 25% wage earners. In 2 years of hanging out with tea party activists, I haven’t met anyone in this top bracket yet.

So why would I protest the fact that Uncle Sam writes me a $5k check every year? Why would I give up so much of my time and money complaining that I’m taxed too much, to purposefully advocate positions that will actually result in me getting less tax money in return? Is it because I’ve been “taxed enough already?” No, it’s because of an entitlement, what’s-in-it-for-me-now mentality that passes the bill to my kids to pay a 14+ trillion dollar debt that is greater than the GDP, devaluing their currency and the ability to prosper, is flat-out immoral and irresponsible and unlike the unions in Wisconsin and Europe, I’m not going to advocate for the government to do the same or more for me, I’m going to advocate the government do less for me.

I would argue that this attitude is what sets America apart from the rest of the world, both today and in the past.

Now in as much as I’ve said, the libertarians will probably agree with most of it, and certainly with the sentiment expressed. Where we differ is in how the issue of morality and personal liberty play themselves out once the federal government is removed from the picture. For morally conscious tea party members like myself, I see the tea party as a great tool to limit size of government in a way that will return power to the states, where advocacy battles on social issues can be fought and won, as the pro-life sweep over the last 3-4 months has proven.

Libertarians have a different value system. They are opposed to big government because it limits their personal freedoms. They see the tea party as an opportunity to limit government at the federal level, with an eye to advance the legalization of everything from pot to prostitution.

Let’s look at Obamacare, for example:

For me, Obamacare is so dangerous, not simply because it’s a terrible fiscal policy (which it is), and because it paves the way for the government to regulate every aspect of our lives from the type of food we eat to the beds we sleep on (which it does). It’s also terrible because it institutionalizes a value system that emphasizes money over life and creates federal bureaucracies and regulations that mandate health care options be biased toward people with greater potential to contribute financially into a tax system rather than that person’s value as a human being.

Obama put it best, when describing his advice to a woman who asked if any consideration should be given to a persons “joy of life” in making health care decisions, rather than their age and economic vitality. He described the main purpose of the new law was to eliminate waste by counseling them, saying, “Maybe you’re better off not having the surgery, but taking the pain killer.”

Liberals have always devalued life. Unborn children are killed because they represent financial hardship for mothers who can’t afford them. Now they’re trying to eliminate the “waste” of caring for the elderly, figuring that pumping them full of medication is the cheapest way to tolerate them while they’re alive. After all, if we can’t legally kill them, let’s just dampen their will to live. Why should we give them a new hip replacement just so they can walk around their house, when a wheel chair will get them around their house just fine?

That unfathomable hypocrisy from a group of liberals that purports to care for the elderly is much more offensive than the fiscal irresponsibility used to accomplish their institutionalization of the culture of death they’ve been advocating for since the sixties.

The tea party movement is a unique partnership between social conservatives who are motivated by the sentiments I just described, and libertarians who seek other freedoms. What we agree on is the fact that socialist or pseudo-socialist government is evil. Where we differ is in our motives and what we’re trying to protect.

Libertarians can try to use this tea party movement to get their freedom to smoke pot and pay for sex all they want. As someone who’s in the prime of life, on the lower end of the middle class, the epicenter of all of Uncle Sam’s greatest promises and benefits, I’ll continue to advocate policies that deny myself freebies, not so that I can smoke pot, but so that I can look myself in the mirror knowing I haven’t taken a few dishonest bucks at the expense of my parents quality of life and then left my kids to foot the bill.

Written by Jesse Phillips

May 23, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Elitism of the Founding Fathers

with 9 comments

The Elitism of the Founding Fathers

Jake Phillips

 Before I begin, I want to point out that this is an argument that is very narrow in scope.  As someone who is generally against big government, this is not meant to be read as pro-beaucracy and anti-democracy.  Thanks.  My bridge-building is done.

A comment made by Jesse, and the popular argument that it represents, inspired this post. The argument goes something like this; the founding fathers overthrew a tyrannical government and implemented a government in which the power is given to the people at large, rather than concentrated in government, which just can’t help but be tyrannical. The depravity of man (or some secular equivalent) requires that we try to spread out the power as much as possible.

Certainly the argument is probably presented more eloquently, but that’s the thrust of it. There are several problems, beyond the foundational problem that 100 men are just as capable of being tyrannical or depraved as 10. The problem is that the argument, from beginning to end, is historically inaccurate to varying degrees. What I am not interested in is to put forth ten quotes from various founding fathers and say “See! I’m right! The founding fathers agree with me!” For one thing, the group of men known as the “founding fathers” had enough ideological differences that either side could do that easily. Heck, either side could do that and only use quotes from Thomas Jefferson. What is important is what’s actually true, and what actually happened. I therefore have two points. One is that the British government was perhaps not technically tyrannical (which is unimportant, I guess, in that I’m still glad we overthrew them. God Bless America) and the second is that the founding fathers were largely skeptical of the mob, or the people, and didn’t scatter the power among them, at least not in the sense that modern revisionists pretend that they did.

 The lack of tyranny from the British government is fairly easy to prove, and I think would be more generally accepted than my second point. No taxation without representation is a valid, political argument, but it’s hardly an argument for tyranny. Colonists, after all, were taxed less than any other British citizen of any colony or even in the Motherland(1). The issue was clearly more about the autonomy that the colonists had gained because of England was distracted with other issues, issues that eventually led to them needing more revenue, causing them to more heavily tax the colonists, who, as I said at the beginning of this run-on sentence, had become used to economic autonomy(2). The political science argument was a valid one; the accusation of tyranny was probably not.

 The bigger point, though, is that the founding fathers, if their intention was to avoid tyranny by distribute the power among the people, were not very good at it. They were much better at avoiding tyranny setting up checks and balances within government. State governments and the federal government. Judicial, executive and legislative branches. Tyranny not avoided by taking power from 1,000 depraved people and distributing it among a huge number of equally depraved people. Tyranny is avoided through checks and balances(3). Of those three branches, ½ of 1 of them (the legislative branch) was elected by the people. They gave enough power to the people to avoid a 19th century mob revolt (as France, Spain, Germany etc. would all see) but they restricted those rights enough to avoid empowering mob rule. When it comes to political theory, the founding fathers were generally elitist.

[1] S.L. Engermen, “American Taxation, American Slavery” Journal of American History (1980.)

[2] Ben Baack “The Economics of the American Revolutionary War” Economic History (2003).

[3] John Philip Reid, Constitutional History of American Rights: the Authority of Rights (UW Press, 2003).

Written by Jake Phillips

May 20, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Ayn Rand and the Conservative Christian Response: Politics Vs. Ethics

with 40 comments

A Critique of Ayn Rand’s Politics

By Joey Phillips

My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live. – Ayn Rand

It is not confusing why conservatives are attracted to the writings of Ayn Rand. If you compare and contrast conservative ideology and liberal ideology today, Rand would fall on the side of conservatives most every time. Conservatives, like Rand, worship individual freedom; liberals tend to elevate equality. Rand was also extreme in her view of a limited government.  She basically argued that its job was to protect its citizens from the forceful loss of life or property. It is easy to see why conservatives, who are generally advocates of smaller government, would find that view appealing, if extreme. Rand was an advocate of free market capitalism. Overall, it is easy to see why libertarians and conservatives would be attracted to the writings of Rand.

The interesting thing to me is that her politics went hand in hand with her ethics, which brings up an interesting problem for conservative Christians who are Rand fans. Rand’s Objectivism isn’t exactly compatible with Christian ethics. So either her ethics need to be divorced from her politics (which is unnatural since her politics are based in her ethics, which are based in her epistemology) or we need to acknowledge that her politics are badly flawed. The only other option is arguing that she was not logically consistent, and thus got to the right answers the wrong way. That, to her, would be the greatest insult.

Now I am sure some of you (that’s right, our readers, I am talking to the two of you) might argue that Objectivism isn’t really incompatible with Christianity, that just because she wasn’t a Christian doesn’t mean her philosophy can’t be. That would be silly of you. Objectivism says that selfishness can be rational, and argues that humanity’s mutual interests dictate that rational people need not gain at another’s expense.  This is a utopian view, to put it nicely. It completely ignores what Chesterton called the one undisputed fact of Christianity; the sinful nature of man. Christianity recognizes that men are naturally inclined to not be rational in our selfishness, and to pursue our own interests regardless of its interference with another’s good.   Christianity is about self-sacrifice, selflessness, and charity. Each of these go against Rand’s Objectivism because they are irrational.

Ok, so her philosophy and ethics aren’t exactly Christian, but why should we then dismiss her politics? Her politics, after all, aren’t unchristian. Aren’t they though?  Like I said a second ago, her politics are based in her philosophy, which is antithetical to Christianity. So unless she was inconsistent, or Christianity is, than her politics shouldn’t really line up with a Christian’s politics. (Let’s forget for a second that Christians are all over the map politically because we are incredibly inconsistent.) It shouldn’t be surprisingn, then, that that her idea of a completely free market capitalism would never work for the same reason her ethics of rational selfishness doesn’t work. It ignores the depravity of man. Markets will always need some measure of regulation and oversight for the same reason government needs checks and balances. It’s being run by people, and people can be stupid, selfish, lying, greedy, cheating individuals. Her view of an extremely limited government is nice, if you don’t mind a society where any drug  is legal, and any vice, unless it forcefully physically harms another, is tolerated. Unless you take the view that “restraining the evildoer” just means punishing murders and thieves, it would be hard to argue a government this limited would be biblical.

For those of you who would argue that a Christians politics don’t have to line up with, or flow out of, their ethics because the government has a separate and divinely appointed role that falls outside the scope of Christianity and so government isn’t supposed to be ‘Christian’ per se, I would agree. But I would argue that when we find ourselves in a country that allows us to have a say in how it operates, we should do everything we can to try and influence it to operate according to Christian principles. I can unpack what I think that would look like in today’s political world in a later post , but suffice to say, we shouldn’t want it to operate like Rand would have it operate; completely blind to sin and naively thinking that selfishness and freedom are bosom buddies. Politics cannot be separated from ethics, nor should it be.  As conservative Christians, we can agree that Rand’s ethics are flawed.  We should agree that her politics are as well.

Written by Jake Phillips

May 19, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Welcome to the Site

with 3 comments

Welcome to Number Fifty-One, where you’ll find Tealiberasophoterianistic Perspectives..  I’m Jake Phillips, and I’m pleased to be joined by my brothers Jesse and Joey Phillips, as well as Alex Couch and James Tschannen, and hopefully other guest contributors.  We have started this site with the hopes that it will help you formulate your opinions about politics, philosophy, history, and maybe even some theological issues.  We don’t expect you to always agree (especially with James); however, we hope that it at least will make you think about the importance of the issues we discuss, and the opinions that you hold about them.

In Romans 14:5, Paul writes that each of us should be “convinced in our own minds” about issues.  He, of course, wasn’t neccessarily talking about the same things that we will be talking about.  However, we believe that the principle applies generally.  Whether it’s Joey trying to convince you that the fact that Hume destroyed Anselm’s argument is actually a good thing, or James opining that American exceptionalism is dangerous to true patriotism, or Alex arguing that sermons that last longer than 25 minutes are ungodly, or Jesse declaring charity is the key to health care, or Jake attempting to prove gangsta rap is the neccessary conclusion of the radical Civil Rights movement, we hope that, at the very least, it will be entertaining and thought-provoking.  Feel free to join the discussion.  Not the conversation.  The only thing that we aren’t is Emergent.

Written by Jake Phillips

May 10, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized