Outtakes
11.23.07

Outtakes — By on November 23, 2007 at 12:33 am

Stem Cell Silence — Neither Clinton nor Obama commented on the recent news about the stem cell breakthrough. Mark I. at RedState thinks he knows why they remained silent:

These Democrats are the ones who claim to have so much compassion for the suffering and afflicted and who label their political opponents as heartless and cruel. So, why the silence on this advancement? In some cases it could be because the campaigns are seeking a way to appear to praise the announcement while not offending embryonic stem cell research advocates among the their supporters. For Sen. Hillary!™ Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, it may be because in a crucial vote for ethical stem cell alternatives taken earlier this year, they voted no.

Although I follow this issue fairly closely, I wasn’t aware these Senators had voted against the HOPE Act. Democratic voters should ask why their leading Presidential nominees voted against funding such promising research.

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Christians & Government — Matt Kaufman has a very good article at Boundless that provides a basic understanding of the biblical role of government and how it should affect our vote. Kaufman contends that the primary purpose of government is protection of its citizens.
On Boundless’s blog, The Line, Motte Brown adds some useful thoughts on the subject:

We see elsewhere (Proverbs 8:15,16; Romans 13:4) that God established government to make and enforce laws specifically so “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives.” Beyond protection, there’s no clear mandate for governmental responsibility found in Scripture, even when it comes to the physically poor. Proverbs 29 and Psalm 72 speak of rulers dealing justly with the poor. So the government has some responsibility. But not much. According to the Bible, the needy are to be cared for first by the family, and then the church.

Both Kaufman and Brown appear to take the “conservative” view of the Biblical mandate for government, a position on which I largely agree. I’d be interested to hear how politically liberal Christians use Scripture to justify the expansion of the role of government.

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Politics as Vocation — At Theolog, the blog of The Christian Century magazine, David Heim has an excellent post on Christian engagement in politics. He begins by noting that some “significant voices on the right that are disillusioned about political engagement.”

Skepticism about politics is always healthy. But it strikes me that [David] Kuo’s and [Gregory] Boyd’s comments reflect a broad, unhelpful tendency in American Christianity to oscillate between two poles: either a fervent engagement in politics for the sake of the gospel and the world, or an equally fervent detachment for the sake of the purity of the gospel and the health of the church. Isn’t there something between the two poles?

Calling Greg Boyd a “voice on the right” will surely raise a few eyebrows. But aside from that minor quibble, Heim makes an important point worth considering:

Meanwhile, however, individual Christians have their particular vocations. In a democracy, all people have the vocation of citizen and so are in some degree called to the work of politics. Beyond that, a certain number of individual Christians are called to a more specific vocation: to study, analyze or participate in the day-to-day workings of politics. They make arguments and pay attention to data. They look for affinities between the gospel and political philosophies and programs. They listen to what constituents say and arguments other people make. Their work is fallible, limited, pervaded by sin, always subject to revision—but so are lots of vocations.

I think this is exactly right. My particular vocation (both my career and, to some extent, this blog) focuses on politics and public policy. And while I think it is important work, I certainly don’t think it is any more or less important than most other vocations (though it can certainly be much duller than other fields, such as business or ministry). I also agree with Heim that the work is fallible, limited, pervaded by sin, and always subject to revision. If only we could be reminded of that fact every day before we begin our work, the world would be much better off.
(HT: A Thinking Reed, which also adds some useful thoughts to the discussion.

°°°°°°

The Full Bard — The BBC is planning to produce new versions of all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays:

[The BBC] has enlisted Sam Mendes, Oscar-winning director of American Beauty and Road to Perdition, and his Neal Street company to produce the entire canon over a 12-year period.
Some of the country’s biggest stars – including Kate Winslet, who is married to Mendes, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, Jude Law, Dame Helen Mirren, and James McAvoy – are being tipped to take part in what will be one of the BBC’s most expensive and ambitious drama series.
With quality television drama costing up to £900,000 an hour, the final bill could touch £100?million.



  • Tim L

    Once again, people stating what Greg Boyd “says” and stating it wrong or taking it out of context
    He has NOT said to NOT be involved in politics. He has only said to not call this involvement Christian or as part of the Kingdom. Politics is ultimately (no matter how hard a person tries, power over people, while as Christians we are to only serve (power under).
    So, be involved in politics all you want. Just don’t call it Christian.

  • http://www.jemisonthorsby.blogspot.com Jemison Thorsby

    I find the second section of your post interesting — if you agree with the “conservative, biblical” view of government, why all the harping against “minarchism” lately? I tend to agree that government exists to protect citizens–largely from external threats to society, but also from abusing one another (through enforcement of contracts, restraints against fraud, etc). Anything else–provision of social services, etc–starts to tread into areas for which government is not best suited to meet the need.
    (pardon the misposting just now — haloscan strikes again!)

  • http://conwayhwong.blogspot.com Conway Wong

    I hope the Democratic candidates say something about the stem cell “reprogramming” breakthrough. Otherwise, I’ll have to agree with Mark I. at Redstate that they don’t really care all that much about helping sick people. Ironic isn’t it. Embryonic stem cell research advocates like Obama and Clinton can’t praise truly ethical stem cell research. There are no ethical problems with “reprogramming.” Why not get behind it?

  • http://theconnexion.net/wp/ Richard Hall

    ‘There are no ethical problems with “reprogramming.”‘
    Except, of course, that this work would have been impossible without embryonic stem cell research.

  • JohnW

    Actually Joe, these last few years it’s been the “conservative” and not the liberal Christians using Scripture to justify the expansion of the role of government. The “conservative” christians have strongly supported the current administration, which has dramatically expanded government and eroded civil liberty.
    Myself, I don’t have a particular scripture basis for it, but I’d simply be happy if the government would start representing the interests of the average citizen and not just the wealthy or corporate interests. I’d say generally speaking the bible shows God has concern for the poor and oppressed and is not overly concerned with preserving the status quo for the wealthy elites.
    Christ does say this in Luke chapter 4 when he discribes his ministry:
    The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty them that are bruised, To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord [in other words, land reform].
    I don’t know if one should characterize this as a liberal christian viewpoint or not, but I’d say currently our government serves the rich/elites and not the middle or lower classes. This is unjust and there are a number of scriptures discussing seeking justice and showing concern for the poor.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    I think there’s a very good reason Clinton and Obama have not jumped on the stem cell developments, namely ‘cold fusion’. Remember how exciting that was until it turned out that whatever those scientists did couldn’t seem to be replicated and whether or not they were honest in their reports it wasn’t what it had first appeared.
    Since the actual science here is beyond any of us we are just spectators to this game. We will have no idea if this breakthrough is as amazing as the hype until more time has passed. So jumping into the mix right now hyping this science leaves the candidate open to looking like a fool if later research deflates the bubble dramatically.
    Both Kaufman and Brown appear to take the “conservative” view of the Biblical mandate for government, a position on which I largely agree. I’d be interested to hear how politically liberal Christians use Scripture to justify the expansion of the role of government.
    What’s strange is that gov’t has never been limited to just keeping the peace and providing for common defense. Monarchs have almost always provided some type of assistance to the poor. Granted they never had New Deal style programs but they were hardly some type of libertarian fantasyland. Needless to say, until the Reformation Catholic Europe had gov’t that included not only enforcing some type of giving to the poor but also regulating the religious lives of everyone who lived in it. When Martin Luther started leading a breakaway from Catholic domination he hardly followed the Cato Institute’s model.
    So many of you ere will not be surprised to hear my command of Scripture is not sufficient to hit you with any citations but I’ll observe if the Bible really did present a view of gov’t as limited to just law enforcement and defense it certainly took a long time for any of you to notice it.

  • http://www.cabarruscheapseats.com Justin Thibault

    Thanks for bring back the Outtakes – I like the new format

  • Marcus

    I’ll take a stab at it.
    I’ll distinguish the function of the visible church to preach the word, adminster the sacraments and pursue discipline from the work of the kingdom of God, which is what believers do in their everyday lives (you know, living lives worthy of the gospel, fully pleasing to God, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God). Every Christian is a member of this kingdom and engaged in the work of the kingdom.
    With that distinction in mind, it seems clear enough to me that part of taking care of my neighbor and the poor involves decisions about how tax money is spent by the government. That’s part of the work of the kingdom, whether you’re a politician or a voter.
    We’ve spent hundreds of billions on war against a nation that never attacked us. We can spend hundreds of billions to take care of the poor.
    American Christians need to consider that some systemic problems require systemic solutions. Universal health care is one. Say you get sick or are injured and can’t work, you run up medical bills, then go bankrupt, lose your home, possibly your marriage and family. Local churches aren’t equipped to handle the financial hardships astronomical health care costs impose. While they can and should attempt to address those problems, government programs are run much more efficiently than private programs. Government programs aren’t the whole solution, obviously, but they can certainly be part of the solution.
    Jesus calls us to take care of the poor. He illustrates this with the story of the Good Samaritan. We don’t normally run across folks who’ve been beaten and lying in a ditch on the side of the road. But read about something like that every day.
    Every Christian in every age must heed the call to care for the poor. And the answer to that call depends on the circumstances in which they find themselves. We live in a country where our votes matter. We should consider how government policy can better the plight of our fellow man.
    So I’d say that government can play a much larger role than conservative christians (who don’t like to part with “their” money) envision. It’s just a question of how much. It’s not an either or proposition, it’s just that Jesus has called us to care for the poor, we live in a country where we can decide that government should play a role in meeting the needs of the poor. It’s not really a question of whether the poor deserve our care. Jesus already answered that one.

  • jd

    Marcus wrote:
    government programs are run much more efficiently than private programs.
    What planet are you from? Please tell me you don’t vote.
    Incredible.

  • jd

    Again Marcus wrote:
    We can spend hundreds of billions to take care of the poor.
    And again, what planet have you been living on the last 60 years?
    We HAVE spent much more than hundreds of billions of dollars to take care of the poor. The case has already been made that this spending has done more harm than good.
    Please don’t vote.

  • JohnW

    Marcus, I hope you vote and your like-minded friends are voting too.

  • JohnW

    Well JD, if we follow your reasoning, we would drastically reduce defense spending, dismantle the military, and depend on neighborhood militia organized by local churches to defend our country…

  • jd

    JohnW:
    You claim to be a constitutionalist–a real Ron Paul-constitution-is-God constitutionalist. Don’t you know that the only spending that is mentioned in the constitution is for defense?
    Unfortunately, you are not quite as innocent as Marcus. Any vote that you cast is intentionally ignorant.
    I would prefer that YOU not vote as well.

  • JohnW

    JD,
    Thanks for your seal of approval.
    Perhaps we could both just skip voting on the Presidential election as we are just going to cancel each other’s votes….

  • smmtheory

    JohnW,
    How are you going to cancel out his vote when I’m going to cancel out yours?

  • JohnW

    smmtheory, Good Point. I’m sure someone else out there will be voting like me, so the vote won’t be cancelled out.
    Maybe someone could put together a database of voting preferences, so only a few of us will have to go vote….on the other hand, that might be too complicated, so I’ll have to go out an vote…
    hehehehheheh

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Neither Clinton nor Obama commented on the recent news about the stem cell breakthrough.
    I’m not privy to any of the candidates’ thoughts on this, but I can think of several perfectly plausible reasons why they wouldn’t want to comment on the issue at this time:
    1) The politicians, being politicians and all, are busy concentrating on political issues, like the war in Iraq, and don’t want to inject their political views into a scientific issue.
    2) Like most liberals, including myself, they believe that a woman’s right to control what goes on in her own body is totally independent of the usefulness of embryonic stem-cells. The idea that a woman has a right to choose whether or not she gets pregnant predates stem-cell research by several decades, at least; and in our opinion, this new development does not diminish this, or any other, basic individual right.
    3) The candidates may simply feel — justifiably, IMHO — that it’s just too soon to tell what benefits, if any, might come from this breakthrough. I, for one, would not want to stake a political position on the initial news, only to see the whole thing blow away when further research indicates the “breakthrough” isn’t as significant as we had first thought.

  • Raging Bee

    Wow, Marcus made a perfectly plausible and well-thought-out comment, and jd responded with three posts, none of which rose above the level of “juvenile.”
    The case has already been made that this spending has done more harm than good.
    Which program(s) are you talking about? There’s more than one, you know.
    Don’t you know that the only spending that is mentioned in the constitution is for defense?
    Um…actually, there’s a bit about promoting the general welfare, which sometimes means government spending; and enforcing the Constitution and laws, which always means government spending.
    And after all that senseless blithering, you’re calling JohnW “intentionally ignorant?” Perhaps you’re the one who should stay home on Election Day.

  • jd

    Which program(s) are you talking about? There’s more than one, you know.
    Let’s start with welfare reform which your hero, Slick Willie, signed into law. Getting people OFF welfare has done more good than keeping them on.
    How about the fact that we’ve transferred billions and billions (dare I say tillions?) of dollars from the “rich” to the “poor” and yet there has been no noticeable improvement in their lot? (at least if you believe those who say the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.)
    How about the fact that there is a whole class of people that has been dependent on government handouts for generations? And this culture has become virulently poor–almost evil–like no other poor culture in any other country.
    Um…actually, there’s a bit about promoting the general welfare, which sometimes means government spending; and enforcing the Constitution and laws, which always means government spending.
    Like I said, defense is the only thing specifically mentioned in the constitution. General welfare has been, shall we say, “expanded” beyond anything that the founders could imagine. Like, perhaps, Hillary’s baby bonds or her “hippie museum?”
    Wow, Marcus made a perfectly plausible and well-thought-out comment, and jd responded with three posts, none of which rose above the level of “juvenile.”
    I guess that means you agree with the idiotic statement that government is more “efficient” than the private sector.
    As for JohnW, he is blinded by the authoritarianism of Ron Paul as well as being afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome.
    So what’s your excuse?

  • Raging Bee

    How about the fact that there is a whole class of people that has been dependent on government handouts for generations? And this culture has become virulently poor–almost evil–like no other poor culture in any other country.
    This statement proves that you know absolutely nothing about poverty in “any other country,” such as Bangladesh, China, Sumatra, Darfur, Somalia, etc.
    Furthermore, there are plenty of people who have made good use of government handouts to educate themselves, get opportunities, and grow up to become healthy, contented, productive, responsible, tax-paying citizens. If you weren’t such a shameless bigot, you’d see that people in general — yes, even those whose skin is darker than yours — actually WANT to be independent and lead good lives.

  • Marcus

    JD: I can’t say you’re a shameless bigot but I can say that you haven’t really addressed my case for a larger governmental role in addressing society’s problems, from a Christian perspective. I focus especially on health care since the provision of health care doesn’t make people dependent on the government dole. And Medicare and Medicaid ARE much more efficient than the private sector with respect to administrative overhead as a percentage of total costs of the program.
    I am always astonished that my Calvinist friends think that God has somehow roped off the private sector from the snares of the devil and that only in the public sector does he have free reign. Every morning you can read about some greedy soul that has yet again raped his company, or gutted a pension account, or cooked the books and left its employees without a retirement. And it takes government to regulate the SOBs because we live in a fallen world. Why Christians think unregulated businesses will do the right thing is beyond me. I’m a businessman and I practice capitalism everyday but I have no illusions about my fellow man, whether he labors in government or in a company. The temptations are the same in either place.
    I’m a little surprised by your criticism that the constitution limits the role of government since the question you posed had to do with how scripture supports expansion of the governmental role. Clearly the Constitution allows for it, as you must concede, but I think I’ve made a reasonable argument that the Lord himself would not frame the question as an either/or proposition–either government supplies the need or the church supplioes the need, but never both. It seems clear to me that both have a role to play, and in the face of systemic problems, Christians should be the first to be willing to part with the money God has given them to help those who can’t afford health care.
    So the original point, that there is a role for the Christian in politics and there is a role for government in taking care of the Samaritans among us, is perfectly reasonable and imminently biblical. It’s a fallen world with broken people in it. Wouldn’t it be an incredible witness to the love God has for the poor and the hungry if Christians demanded universal health care for the least among us? Can you imagine what that would do to the lefty satanists who have you in the all-they-care-about-is-sex box? You’d just be following the call of God as it is played out in a unique time and place in 21st century America.
    But perhaps we aren’t yet willing to let go of what is “ours.”

  • jd

    Raging Bee
    This statement proves that you know absolutely nothing about poverty in “any other country,” such as Bangladesh, China, Sumatra, Darfur, Somalia, etc.
    It doesn’t surprise me, you ignorant troll, that you don’t understand the difference between the poverty in this country and all those other horrible places you mentioned. Aside from the fact that the poor in this country are not poor compared to those in other countries, it’s the attitude of the poor in this country. It’s called entitlement mentality, meaning a complete and total lack of gratitude for everything that has been given to them by legalized stealing from those who have worked hard for it. You won’t find tenement housing absolutely destroyed and trashed in those other countries. But what I say doesn’t matter because you come in with trollish prejudices firmly entrenched. We Christians aren’t just ignorant, or stupid, or just plain wrong. No, according to you, we’re EEEVVILLL…we’re bigots. It’s the same old story with creeps like you.
    Furthermore, there are plenty of people who have made good use of government handouts to educate themselves, get opportunities, and grow up to become healthy, contented, productive, responsible, tax-paying citizens.
    I put the question back at you. Which ones? And see if you can come up with some that are not either GI bill related or student loans, both of which have some notion of payback involved.
    If you weren’t such a shameless bigot, you’d see that people in general — yes, even those whose skin is darker than yours — actually WANT to be independent and lead good lives.
    You moron. I have an adopted son. He’s Mexican. If I didn’t know better, I’d guess you feel stupid now.

  • Raging Bee

    It’s called entitlement mentality…
    Something we can observe in ALL classes, not just the poor. Why are you only complaining about it when it comes from the poor?
    (Also, you show a bit of “entitlement mentality” yourself when you call taxation “legalized stealing” without regard to the benefits you get from the programs funded by tax revenue (i.e., laws, cops, roads, the military, etc.))

  • jd

    Marcus
    On principle, I’m against government involvement in almost everything. That’s because, contrary to your belief, government is NOT more efficient than the private sector.
    I used to be a liberal. I used to believe I was compassionate, too, because I cared and I voted for others who cared. And we all showed how much we cared by voting for people who would take other people’s money and give it to those who didn’t have “enough.”
    It’s a long journey from there to where I am now and I could say all kinds of things about government spending. But let’s look at this from the Christian perspective. As a deacon, one of my duties (and it’s something I take seriously) is to give money away. We collect money for many things, but the single most difficult decisions regarding money involve giving it to people who, for whatever reason, are in need. It is also the most satisfying part of being a deacon. In my experience, we almost always give money the first time someone asks. If there is an emergency, we give the money. If there is a continued true need we give the money. However, if it becomes apparent we are being used by someone who, for whatever reason, keeps making bad decisions, we will cut off the financial support and address the underlying problem. Cutting off the financial support serves to add a little incentive to make better decisions. (and yes, Raging Bee, it’s a form of torture)
    Do you not see that it is wrong, unbiblical, unGodly, NOT COMPASSIONATE to keep on giving money to someone who is not taking responsibility for his actions?
    That is what government does.
    And government does it at the direction of people who are simply buying votes by giving taxpayer’s money away.
    As to capitalists and capitalism: Do you think it’s news to us “Calvinists” that capitalists are not to be trusted? Please. What’s amazing to me is that YOU still seem to trust government, as if government workers are somehow more responsible.
    There are millions of examples, but let’s just bring up one…And it’s right up your line of questioning, i.e., health care. Do you want the people who are in charge of the Veteran’s Administration running your health care? I didn’t think so. You’d probably prefer the kind of care that Congressmen have for themselves, a kind of Health Saving Account.
    No, we’re way beyond hoping for the government to do the efficient or right thing, in spite of all our good intentions.
    Your whole notion that Christians who oppose taxpayer funded health care are somehow not following Jesus’ example is offensive to me. You don’t know how much money I give, or how large a percentage of my income goes to help those who are in need. Christians are much more generous with their money than anyone will ever know, because we are commanded to hide from the left hand what we are giving with the right.
    I’m sorry, but a government that has already spent trillions of dollars on social programs is large enough.

  • smmtheory

    There is a large difference between taxes that pay for roads, military, or law enforcement and taxes that pay for income re-distribution Raging Bee.

  • jd

    Something we can observe in ALL classes, not just the poor. Why are you only complaining about it when it comes from the poor?
    Well, you’ve already given us the answer. It’s because I, like all Christian conservatives, am a bigot.
    (Also, you show a bit of “entitlement mentality” yourself when you call taxation “legalized stealing” without regard to the benefits you get from the programs funded by tax revenue (i.e., laws, cops, roads, the military, etc.))
    Tell you what. The next time I’m being mugged, I’ll just tell the officers that I really don’t feel entitled to their protection anymore and that they should just move on. I’LL TAKE CARE OF THE PROBLEM MYSELF, OFFICER. I think that would entitle me to an entitlement offset credit, don’t you?

  • Raging Bee

    smmtheory: in all cases, the people, by lawful majority vote, decided to spend money on certain government programs and levy taxes to pay for them. The only difference is that you agree with one and not the other.

  • smmtheory

    smmtheory: in all cases, the people, by lawful majority vote, decided to spend money on certain government programs and levy taxes to pay for them. The only difference is that you agree with one and not the other.

    No, not the people, the representatives they elected by lawful majority vote in most cases. It’s a minor quibble, but let’s keep the proper perspective here. Still, that doesn’t alter the point that it is legalized theft. Whether legal or illegal, theft is theft. When the runner at first base advances to second base even though the batter hasn’t gotten a hit from the pitch, it’s legal, but it’s still a stolen base. The only way I would demonstrate an entitlement mentality would be if I expected paved roads, police and military protection without paying for it.

  • Marcus

    Your whole notion that Christians who oppose taxpayer funded health care are somehow not following Jesus’ example is offensive to me.
    JD: When did I say that? You asked a question about how “liberal” Christians find biblical support for involvement in politics, and I gave it to you. I never said that another interpretation isn’t reasonable or that you aren’t following Jesus’s example. Ask yourself if you despise those who, in good faith, believe something you used to believe. I find this judgmental attitude in myself sometimes, and it’s something we both need to fight against.
    I too serve a church, as an elder. It’s a reformed conservative church and our deaconate is faced with the same decisions you face as a deacon. However, you are still operating from an either/or mentality. I didn’t say that government is good and business is evil. I said sinners work in both realms. I don’t “trust” government any more than I “trust” business. As citizens, we make choices about when government makes more sense than the private sector in addressing a problem. I’m sure there are many places where you and I agree that government is not the answer. But in the case of health care, we simply disagree. I see a biblical mandate, given our circumstances in 21st century america, where you see none. Fine if you disagree, but the biblical foundation for government involvement is sound.
    I do think that health care is a systemic problem and that in light of the devastation catastrophic illness and injury causes (I see this in my work everyday), churches are not equipped to deal with it. Your analogy to people using the deacon’s fund doesn’t fit very well in the health care context.
    Finally, I don’t think I said a word about how much you or any other Christian gives. I have no reason to doubt you give generously or that others do to. But, as I said here and in my earlier post, this is not a zero sum game. There is a role for churches and a role for government and we just disagree about what the government’s role should be in 21st century America. But, interestingly, not on biblical grounds.

  • jd

    First of all, I wasn’t the one who asked you a question about the roles of government. You’re confusing me with Joe Carter or with some other commenter.
    Secondly, the notion that you can even say the words, “government is more efficient than the private sector” is disturbing. That puts you in a place I do not understand.
    Third, as to health care. The fact is that anyone who needs health care can get it. If you go to a med center or an emergency room, you have to get treated, by law. If there is a catastrophic problem, even moreso.
    This is not to say that our system is perfect. It is screwed up big time. However, a case can be easily made that our system has gotten much more expensive and unwieldy ever since government became involved in it, back in the 60s.
    Universal health care shows that we all have “good intentions” and we care. But it is not the answer, and it is certainly not even close to the best answer. Even the Europeans are starting to pull away from their systems.

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