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What Can I Do? Two Options for Non-Partisan Political Activism

People ask me questions--most often about eschatology--because I solicit such questions.

But since the 2008 presidential election, things have changed. While President Obama remains personally popular, polls show his policies (as well as those of the democrat congress) are not.  The economy has not turned around and shows no signs of doing so.  In fact, one more unforeseen crisis--like an oil shortage caused by some interruption in supply--would surely push us into deep recession (if we are not already there).

In my circle, layoffs have hit hard and many people are struggling to make ends meet.  And since most Christians (even Reformed Christians) tend to be social and economic conservatives, more and more people believe that America is now well along the path to socialism.  People are worried.  Rightly so.  And they come to me with questions.  And I'm not much help.

As a pastor committed to a two-kingdom theology, I make every effort to keep my political opinions to myself.  My close friends, who know and understand how I view the two kingdoms, have heard my political rants.  But many who don't know me as well assume that my reticence to speak about partisan politics in public means I don't have strong political views--or that my views tend left.  Whatever.  I will tell you that I've come to despise partisan politics and am saddened that far too many people whom I love and respect vote to elect people to office about on the same basis that they vote for their favorite on "American Idol."  "I really like them."  "They gave such a good speech."  "They care about me."  "They'll bring about change"   In other words, people naively believe all those political sound-bites designed to create precisely this reaction.

My calling as a pastor demands that I not confuse my personal politics with preaching the law and gospel to all political partisans. I take that calling very seriously. Yet I do feel some sense of obligation to answer honest questions, even if those questions go to the political . . .

So, here are two things I urge all my readers to consider. These are non-partisan, but get to the heart of what is wrong with the American political process as it currently functions.

First, support Ron Paul's HRES 216 IH. OK, I realize that the mere mention of Ron Paul's name will send some of you over the edge--but read this first, and then react.  This procedural resolution simply calls for any bill coming up for a vote to be published (on-line) for ten days before the vote can take place in the Congress.  This gives both the public and the members of Congress time to actually read and debate all proposed legislation before Congress votes on said legisltation.  Paul's resolution is but one paragraph long.  Read it!  Click here: Search Results - THOMAS (Library of Congress)

The House of Representatives just passed one of the most far-reaching bills in American history (the so-called "Cap and Trade"), and that bill had not yet even been finalized when it was voted upon!  Not to mention a 300 page amendment was submitted at 3:00 AM on the day of the vote.  In other words, this monumental bill was passed by members of our Congress who had not even read it!  This is irresponsible in the extreme.

What can you do?  Ask your congress person to support this resolution.  Don't vote for them again if they don't.  Call, or email their office and ask where they stand on this.  In my mind, members of Congress who vote for legislation they have not read disqualify themselves from holding future office.

Second, repealing the seventeenth amendment would knock the legs out from under the pompous partisan hacks we know as a "US Senator."  The US Constitution, as written, assumed that the states would each send two state legislators to Washington to represent the interests of their state before the US Senate.  The senators represented the states which sent them (primarily), not their respective political parties which now control them.

The seveneenth amendment called for the direct election of senators, and this created a year-round resident of the Washington beltway, who now does the business of his or her political party, not their respective states.

Here's blog devoted to the repeal of the seventeenth amendment (it is a mixed bag--Click here: Repeal the 17th Amendment).  Here's a great FAQ explaining why the seventeenth amendment was passed and what the ramifications would be if it was repealed.  Click here: Why Repeal 17th Amendment?

What can you do?  Talk this up.  Whenever the subject of the behavior of our Senate comes up in a discussion, raise repealing the seventeenth amendment as an option.  If repealing this amendment ever catches on in the popular imagination, the sheer terror of what this might do to the pompous political hacks living in the Beltway, might bring about more responsible behavior.

In any case, the seventeenth amendment has brought about distarous consequences and needs to be repealed.  Start the ball rolling by talking about this whenever you can!

Reader Comments (18)

I completely agree with the repeal of the 17th Amendment. It is one of the causes lying at the bottom of our present national problems.

This article ( from Wikipedia (disclaimer: always read Wiki with discernment) explains why A17 was passed: Primarily because of the irresponsibility of state legislatures. The real question is this: can we trust our legislators to do any better in selecting Senators than the populace? - and if we can’t why is that? Exactly how do STATE senators and representatives make it into office?

If there is a real change in our country it really needs to begin on the local level -- in our towns, and counties, and in our state governments. Actually it wouldn't hurt for each of us to consider what responsibilities we have as citizens beyond the obligation to vote.

Change can come through talking to our neighbors and our elected leaders (albeit slowly). Of course, without making the error of presenting political reform as a "christian movement", or even worse as a program of the church.

Good civil government is a blessing from God intended to benefit everyone (Christian and non-Christian alike). Praise God for Common Grace!
July 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDB
I like it, Kim!

Kline is right: civil government is bestial but legitimate; simultaneously an expression of common grace and the common curse.

So Rod is right, too: we need to be protected from the government.
July 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChris
I think term limits for all elected office both federal and state and local would do more to improve the system than any other remedy. The problem is people get elected and never leave, no matter how much they act like the office is their personal entitlement. 8 or 10 years in office should be the limit. Voters tend to reelect incumbents for various reasons. There is therefor no fresh air. They rail against incumbents from other areas, but keep voting their own back in over and over again. For example here in Massachusetts Ted and Kerry have been our senators since the revolution and the civil war respectively. Absent a major scandal (no, lets make that a major felony- in this state simple scandal does nothing -see Ted and Barney Frank and years ago Gerry "turn the page" Studds who all got reelected after simple scandals), incumbents keep going back.
July 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterreg
Reg is right...if our legislature here in MA is any indication, having Senators appointed by state legislatures would be no improvement at all and possibly would make things even worse.
July 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpb
>Kline is right: civil government is bestial but legitimate; simultaneously an expression of common grace and the common curse.

My fundamental political sympathies are libertarian/ancap. But it is utopian. A fundamental realization is that In this age, there may very well be no good solutions. Everything they say about the state is true, but the alternative is worse.

So, my political self identification has been tweaked and nuanced to the point that it will please noone, and confuse most. "Pessimistic Calvinist with libertarian sympathies."
July 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter"lee n. field"
"And since most Christians (even Reformed Christians) tend to be social and economic conservatives, more and more people believe that America is now well along the path to socialism. People are worried. Rightly so."

Wasn't it just a few years ago, under the previous administration, that we were supposed to be on the path to fascism? Maybe it's just my die-hard inner skeptic and under-realized politico, but these sorts of claims are just a little much to take seriously.
July 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterZrim

You can be a skeptic, but I wonder what it would take to convince you.

For starters, here's how Merriam Webster's defines "fascism":

" a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition"

If that doesn't describe George W. Bush's reign, I don't know what does. The NSA wiretapping, secret rendition, stimulus packages and bailouts account for the "severe economic and social regimentation and forcible suppression of opposition." The entire "War on Terror" is an exercise in exalting nation and race above the individual, complete with a centralized, autocratic government headed by a leader who admitted he wished he were a dictator.

If you're still unconvinced, pull out a copy of the Constitution (that ancient relic Bush called a "$%* d@mn piece of paper"). Find the article and section that authorize the president to declare war. How about the article and section that authorize the funding of government projects and programs using fiat currency issued by a central bank? Where is the authority to have U.S. military bases in over 130 countries around the world? Does it give the government ownership of the fruit of our labor? Does it specify who can immigrate here? What we can put in our bodies? Did it give the military the right to go door to door in New Orleans after Katrina and confiscate guns?

Obama is simply aping Bush's policies, but this time, they're on steroids. Plus, Obama admits that he doesn't want big businesses to succeed: he wants to confiscate their profits with cap and trade penalties. If that's not communism, I don't know what is.

Be a skeptic if you want. But I think a comparison of the Consititution (plus the advice of wise unbelievers like Jefferson and Washington: friendship and free trade with all, entangling alliances with none) with the way American government has been operating for decades says it all.
July 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Chris is right on. Zrim, is it skepticism or naivete?
July 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteven Carr
Be careful about big business and equating government involvement with regulations and antitrust legislation with socialism. While going to Calvin College in the early 90's (I was in the Business and Economics progam there) I took a Money and Banking class and a class that analyzed the structure, management behavior and efficiency of various industries in the economy. These were the most interesting classes I took at Calvin and are very relevant to what is happening in todays economy. Back then the American Auto industry was making a comeback due to finally implemting manufacturing techniques (Just-In-Time, Quality Management and Constraint management techniques) that the Japanese had learned from Americans who had tried to bring to American manufacturers but who rejected them in the late 70's and 80's- it came back to bite them). GM was the last to finally try to implement these techniques but it turned out to be too late. Now the government has to deal with this behemoth as best it can. These issues get quite complex and to just rely on the markets to correct the problem gets very problematic. The government can do things if they do it with intelligence and break up some of the power relations that develope which mess up the industries and cause the markets not to function like they should. There is a role for government but it should be a very limited role used in only the most dysfunctional markets. This is a big issue in business schools these days and is the most interesting to watch. The behavior of big business executives is also a big issue which can do much damage in the ecomony. Much of this is misunderstood in the publics eye and there is much misrepresentation in the media. My point is be careful about becoming too entrenched in certain economic theories and political ideologies. Our understanding in these area's is always evolving and growing and there is no "word of God" in these realms. These realms are the realms of reason and some unbelievers have much more thought out ideas then those whom we may agree with theologically. It gets to be tricky business.
July 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Y
John Y,

Point well taken about unbelievers having put much more thought into these things than we. But I think unbelievers like Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, Murray Rothbard and others of the Austrian School understand economics much better than Keynes and other interventionists. As a brother in Christ, I'm more than willing to agree to disagree. This is not a hill to die on. I'm just convinced that a truly free market is preferable to government's threat of violent intervention.
July 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChris
I agree that "violent" intervention speaks more of socialism than capitalism. My point was that there is a role for government in the economic realm that the Austrian types reject. I have also found that a lot of Austrian types get entrenched in their ideological beliefs and will not give the time of day to other economic viewpoints. Like I said, there is no "word of God" in the economic and political realms. I have found it is best to always hold economic and political beliefs lightly- always looking for clearer and better insight from wherever it may come. I do not take this view theologically in critical issues where the accurate Gospel is concerned. It is sometimes difficult for those who hold strong theological convictions to change their mentality in the economic and political realms. This is where two-kingdom theology becomes critical.
July 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Y
John Y,

I know you'll probably just roll your eyes when I ask this, but which instance of government intervention DOESN'T come with the *threat* of violence? Isn't violent force (or at least the threat of it) the hallmark of the State?
July 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChris

The major presupposition of Austrian economics is that markets cannot be manipulated and eventually by creative destruction will thwart all those who seek to manipulate markets to their advantage (a guy named Joseph Schumpater made this argument quite forcefully many years ago). Many empirical studies have been done to show that Schumpeter (the Chicago school of economics and the Austrians agree with Schumpeter) may have been wrong. Major players in certain markets can do things to manipulate markets to their advantage and the detriment of everyone else in a particular society. This is the argument used for the purpose of government intervention.

Granted, the government has often not been wise in how it has tried to regulate some markets but there are also cases when it can be shown it has done a good job at it. There is ongoing study which goes on in this field called Industrial Organization. They get better at it as time goes on and try to learn from the mistakes of the past. Good empirical studies are constantly being done so the field is growing and learning all the time. Most people are unaware of this and simply comment according to their political and economic ideologies.

Sometimes, it could be argued that government intervention should be violent. This is just man trying to regulate his public life according to principles of justice as they define justice. Sometimes, it seems, God in his providence will raise up those with particular insight in the economic realm to deal with the current issues which arise in the realm. Again, my point is do not get too entrenched in a particular ideology.
July 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Y

My problem is that I don't trust the CA Legislature. It could be that Boxer and Feinstein are conservative compared to the radical socialists and moral derelicts that would get appointed to the Senate. I think direct election means many pols are forced to espouse moderate views in order to hold office, while their personal views are less normal. I can see the CA Legislature appointing the CEO of NAMBLA followed by a afro-transgendered wiccan priestess.
July 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbeon
How would the people that voted for "Cap and Trade" respond to the charge that they did not read the bill? Was it something of which they were already aware, like a previously failed and identical bill?
July 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlberto
Hey I just must say this. Ron Paul is my Pres. Support HR1207 to audit the fed! Call your congressmen and women. S604 is the senate verison. Call your senator. First audit then end the Fed. All it takes for the goverment to turn to evil is for good people to sit and do nothing.

Here is my question how does activism and God's complete control over nation, His decree, interrelate. Whenever discussing politics with anyone it always seems to end with a "OOO well God is in control." Which I do not disagree with, but why do we use it as an excuse to grumble and do nothing. Enough ramblin, happy 4th.

"Liberty will reing in America"
Grace and peace to all!
July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKyleinWI
Spelled reign wrong sorry
July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKyleinWI
Pastors today are reluctant to risk their non profit status which LBJ initiated as a Senator to solidify his chances of winning in 1954. Now all churchs are non profits. They have basically been bought off!
July 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrobert

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