Doubting our civil religion

There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the Night of Depression, singing songs to freedom. -Garet Garrett, 1954

I was at a children’s function a month or two ago at a Lutheran church (ELCA). During it, they did the Pledge of Allegiance. I didn’t join in.

Have you ever thought about the pledge? Joe Sobran once noted that the phrase many want to remove– “under God”– is the only good part of it. The Pledge was written by a 19th-century socialist. It speaks against secession (“indivisible”), which is something that the Founders saw as a necessary bulwark against Federal tyranny. Unlike the National Anthem, the pledge calls on us to… make a pledge. It’s not a binding oath in the sense that I will be prosecuted for disobeying it, but why would I want to say something I do not necessarily believe? Christians believe that kingdom of Christ supersedes the state. Why would a man leave a wayward denomination (where he may have once given membership vows) and yet pledge unqualified allegiance to his country?

I admire the soldiers who risk their lives overseas. However, the U.S. is broke. We need these kids here in America. We need them producing stuff instead of consuming resources. All government employees, soldiers included, are consuming resources. Peter Schiff once created an illustration to explain America’s interaction with foreigners since the end of World War II. Consider an island, he said, where a couple of foreigners and an American are stranded. One foreigner’s job is to gather the wood. Another creates the fire. Another obtains the food. They come to the American and ask what his job will be. His answer: He’ll eat the food.

Government employees are eating the food.

Military spending is a key contributor to what is likely to be more calamitous for this country: a currency crisis caused by overspending. Conservatives rail about government spending, and yet unflinchingly support massive military spending. This defeats the purpose. If even 20% of the populace denied legitimacy to 99% of federal spending (and that includes Medicare, social security, and war spending), I’m guessing that would be a huge problem for the legitimacy of the federal government. Things would change. Among those who should know better (including me a few years ago), the military is the best possible propaganda for federal legitimacy and overreach. People believe dubious claims that soldiers in, say, Iraq, are “fighting for our freedoms.” I don’t question our soldiers’ motives. I do question the government’s motives and the real effect of interventions like this.

The government isn’t “protecting our freedoms” overseas. They are ticking off people who do not want foreign troops in their country. Foreigners may strike back repulsively, but in the same way that you don’t flash jewels in a bad neighborhood and expect to come out unscathed, you shouldn’t blow things up in pagan lands.

Joe Sobran once quipped that the Constitution poses no threat to our current form of government. Other than setting terms of office, the Constitution has been a dead letter for generations. It isn’t even a small speed bump for Congress. The massive entitlements that are far and away the greatest financial threat to the country are all unconstitutional. Every war since World War II has been undeclared. The federal bureaucracy has over 14 million (the figure is probably much larger by now) employees and/or contractors. The Constitution hasn’t changed in the past 50 years, but federal spending has risen steeply. So much for “limited, constitutional government.” Were they still celebrating the republic in imperial Rome?

The older I get, the more I’m questioning “first things” when it comes to politics. Pundits debate who should run the Fed. Better to debate why the Fed should exist in the first place. People debate what the president is or is not doing. It’d be better if people were questioning whether the presidency itself is really a good idea.

The government wants us to believe that it protects our freedoms and rights. It’s easier to prove that government works to restrict our God-given rights. By spending our money and issuing regulations, they take our fields and redistribute them (c.f. 1 Sam 8:14). I think it was Milton Friedman who correctly noted that all government spending is taxation. Politicians are simply connected people who administer goodies to others for political and financial benefit. Congressmen parlay their connections into quite lucrative careers after leaving office, in areas like banking and lobbying that benefit lavishly from political connections.

One way to consider fighting back against the government is to stop, as much as legally possible, feeding it. Stop buying its bonds, use Fedex instead of the post office, don’t join the military, avoid funding public schools as much as possible, etc. Stop feeding into the legitimacy of the current American state as if it is run by anything other than corrupt power-mongers. Don’t buy the lie that a Republican takeover is the answer.

Yes, I know, we live in a fallen world. However, the Bible doesn’t get sentimental about Rome. Paul used his prerogatives as a Roman citizen, but his letters are bereft of state worship. Jesus steered clear of Judean politics. He and John the Baptist knew who Herod was.

Maybe Christians should take a hint from this.

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