Friday, August 30, 2013

The War Powers Act and the Constitution

Secretary of State John Kerry moments ago finished making his case for President Obama to launch an attack on Syria to punish Bashar Assad for alleged use of chemical weapons. In my previous post, I noted the ironic reversal of roles from George W. Bush and the Iraq War to Barack Obama and Syria. What Obama, Kerry and their ilk were so vociferously opposed to then, they're basically doing a carbon copy now. And with much, much less national and international support than George W. Bush had for the Iraq strike in the wake of 9/11.

On top of all this, the war powers of the presidency under the Constitution are being debated again. Linked here is an interesting article by Robert Turner about this issue, with some historical evidence of how this subject began and evolved in our Constitutional history. The United States Congress has not declared war (its sole prerogative under the Constitution) since World War II, and after Vietnam, tried to restrict presidents' use of the military under the War Powers Act. Presidents since then have declared this act unconstitutional, but it's never been tested in court. Perhaps it should be.

Regardless of how you might feel about whether it's appropriate to intervene in Syria, I think most European nations with the exception of France (itself a peculiarity) are wary of getting involved in this. And I have a strong suspicion that this wariness is largely due to Obama himself being perceived as weak, incompetent and unreliable. Some (including commentators here in America) feel that Obama is pushing this less for humanitarian reasons and more because of his own credibility. If that's true, it's both tragic and criminal.

And on the note of credibility, that is one area where I disagree with the author of the linked article. He said that future presidents would be constrained if Obama's credibility ended up in tatters. (It's already there, largely). I don't think so. I don't think other national leaders would be either. After all, consider the administration of Jimmy Carter, and his failure in Iran at the time. Carter was perceived as weak and feckless. Enter Ronald Reagan, and the situation changed markedly. When Reagan said "Back off!!" - he meant it, and I think most nations knew it. Bush the elder and Bush the younger also meant what they said and backed it up with force.

It would be no different here. A new president could make it clear that a new sheriff is in town. And if they wasted no time in backing their warning up with action, the message would be received very quickly.

Unfortunately, we don't have that right now. And our next president is going to have an enormous mess to clean up thanks to the knotheads we have running the store right now.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Syria, War, and Hypocrisy?

I've been, as usual, keeping a fairly close eye on the news these days, especially anything pertaining to the Middle East. I try to pay less attention these days to politics, largely because I find it so infuriating. But try as I may, I can't neglect it altogether. We as Christian believers need to be up to speed on what's going on in the world, hopefully projecting it all through a biblical lens.

One thing I'm curious about—does anyone notice the eerie reversal of roles now that the Obama Administration is sending signals that it's going to attack Syria over the Bashar Assad regime's alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people? Let's go back 10 years when the Iraq war was ignited by then-Republican President George W. Bush. What was the hue and cry from the left? "We went into Iraq on bogus pretenses...we attacked a country that had not attacked us...Bush is doing this for revenge because Saddam tried to kill his daddy....yada yada." That's only a small sample.

Barack Obama was vocally against the Iraq war. Current Vice President Joe Biden said that if Bush went to war without getting permission from Congress, he would lead a move to impeach the president. What a difference a decade makes, and what a difference when you're the ones in power instead of your opponents. Consider this observation from Russia's foreign ministry spokesman, borrowed from Chuck Missler's newsletter and other published news accounts:


Alexander Lukashevich recounted the current situation:
“…brings to mind the events of 10 years ago, when, on the pretext of false information about the Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction, the United States outside the U.N. went on an adventure, the consequences of which are well known.”
Russia stands behind its remarks that the evidence pointing to the Syrian military being responsible for the attack was prefabricated in order to frame the government.
Lukashevich urged the U.S. and its allies to look into all of the facts before drawing a conclusion. Russia took credit for the Syrian government allowing U.N. weapons inspectors to investigate the site of the alleged chemical attack outside of Damascus.
“This is, in our [Russia’s] view an opportunity for a thorough, impartial and objective investigation of all the circumstances of what happened,” Lukashevich said.

Obama and his Democratic allies were swearing up and down that Bush lied and people died, although most Western intelligence agencies were agreed on Saddam having chemical weapons etc. Now, what are we hearing about Syria? We're hearing about Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons, and also accusations that Assad ordered their use against his own people, just like Saddam gassed the Kurds in the north of Iraq. If indeed the war button gets pushed, will the new slogan be "Obama lied and people died?" Probably not from the Democrats.

Of course, we can watch the appointed talking heads of right and left yell at each other on the cable news talk shows, shouting over each other, refusing to answer questions put to them that are inconvenient to answer, gabbling on and on with prefab talking points. Childish, and oh, so tiresome.

But what about the humanitarian crisis? Don't you care? Of course I care. I also care about the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution. I feel now as I did 10 years ago—I wish that "we the people" would force our elected leaders to follow the supreme law of the land. The president does not need Congressional approval to order military action in the face of a direct threat to our country or an attack against our country. However, he may not order a military attack on another nation in the absence of a Congressional declaration of war. Don't give me the "it's not practical in this day and age" nonsense. We have a law, we have a Constitution. Let's follow it and do it right.

As an aside, I don't believe that the U.S. is called to be the world's policeman. National sovereignty means something. That's my ideal. But in the real world, it gets quite complicated. Let me give you an example of the twists and turns of national interest, geopolitics, and convoluted reasoning. Isn't it interesting that we only seem to find intervention proper to do against small nations who can't defend themselves against our armed might? We never tried to intervene in Russia or China when the atheistic, communist governments committed mass killings, did we? But little Serbia was bombed by Bill Clinton, like Bush ordered the bombing of Iraq. If Serbia or Iraq had deliverable nuclear warheads like Russia or China, perhaps the calculus used to attack would have been different.

Of course, when this is debated, you'll hear all the reasons and justifications. We can judge for ourselves whether these reasons and justifications are specious. President (and General) Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about the military industrial complex for a reason. He was right then, and he's right now. Now, if our elected leaders in concert with other concerned nations think it proper to intervene in the affairs of other nations for true humanitarian reasons, fine. But let's do it lawfully and not by diktat. But to me, it seems like leaders of all parties—no matter how much they claim to revere the Constitution—really find the Constitution more of an impediment than anything else. Some days, I wonder if it even matters anymore. Is it worth the paper on which it is printed? I think it is, but unless "we the people" decide to hold our leaders feet to the fire over it, it will be de facto worthless. And that is a tragedy.

In the meantime, innocent men, women, and children continue to die horrible deaths for the benefit of a few to maintain their power, control, and wealth. Over and over again. It grieves the heart, but it's as predictable as clockwork. Time marches on toward its ultimate denouement, just as Scripture says. And that is the one comfort I take in it all— we as believers serve a sovereign God who does not slumber or sleep. He has fixed a day when He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). The Bashar Assads, Saddam Husseins, and yes, even a few American presidents, will stand before Him and give an account.

And there will be final justice.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Take Off the Surplice!"

I've been re-reading Dr. Harold Lindsell's classic "The Battle for the Bible," first published in the mid-1970s. For those unfamiliar with the book, it documents how heresy, doctrinal compromise and false teaching rots churches and theological institutions from within, and over time. Sadly, it's a pattern that seems to repeat itself over and over again. That is why Lindsell's book will never be outdated, should the Lord tarry in His coming.

The pattern is fairly predictable. A movement begins within a segment of the church, desirous of reform, returning the church to its biblical, historic moorings in God's Word and sound doctrine. A new fellowship begins, new seminaries and Bible schools are opened to accompany the fellowship and provide leadership for the churches. Things go swimmingly for a while, and then sooner or later, things begin to drift. People—laypeople, teachers or pastors—come in with different ideas than the founding principles or doctrines. Or through being influenced by outside sources, folks within the fellowship begin to drift, fulfilling the Apostle Peter's warning . . . But false prophets also arose among the people, as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves (2 Peter 2:1). And then there arises a period where the remnant recognizes the danger, and either manages to pull their fellowships back from the brink, or they end up having to leave and begin anew again. It's hard to watch. It grieves the heart, and most certainly grieves the Master.

In one of the chapters of "The Battle for the Bible," Dr. Lindsell discusses the sad case of Episcopalian Bishop James A. Pike. Over time, Bishop Pike denied "his belief in the doctrine of the Trinity, the virgin birth of Christ, and the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Of course, he denied biblical inerrancy. He was so blatant in his views that the Episcopal Church was forced to act in his case." Lindsell goes on . . .

The Roman Catholic magazine, Triumph, had this to say: "The Episcopalians appointed an Advisory Committee on Theological Freedom and Social Responsibilities with instructions to study 'the theological situation faced by the Episcopal Church,' and concretely, to answer the question: 'What is heresy?' How should the church define, detect, and deal with it." The Committee's verdict was that the word 'heresy' should be abandoned. 'It too often conjures up a picture of a static fortress of propositional theology that requires to be, and can be defended by appeal to the letter of a theological statement. It presumes to a measure of theological pre-judgment (that is a belief that the Bible is true and can prejudge doctrinal views) which is inappropriate to the mature Christian community. It too often implies a set of theological categories unconditioned by their historical and cultural period'"—in other words, such an approach refuses to use and apply the historical-critical methodology that always ends up denigrating Scripture.

As recorded by Dr. Lindsell, the writers of the Triumph article noted a meeting of 90 Episcopal priests at New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where they stated that homosexuality is neither right nor wrong. The article followed up with a devastating and accurate observation: "These two incidents in the recent history of the Episcopal Church unavoidably raise the question of whether the body is tending toward an official position of neutrality on matters of faith and morals—whether, that is, Episcopalians are capable of loving Truth sufficiently to recognize its opposite."

Having quoted this lengthy passage from "The Battle for the Bible," it must be noted that the theological issues being addressed hit way beyond the Episcopal Church. Rome has its agitators. Baptists have their agitators. Evangelical Free Churches have their agitators. As Dr. Lindsell demonstrated recounting changes at Fuller Theological Seminary (of which he was a founding professor), there would be professors who would officially sign the doctrinal statement of the school while laughing up their sleeve—they really didn't agree with all of the doctrinal statement that they were signing. That's a Christian integrity issue if you ask me. How many pastors out there from whatever fellowship affirm the official doctrine of their churches on paper, but then work quietly to systematically destruct them from the pulpit over time?

I have to agree with what Anglican C.S. Lewis said in 1963, during his interview with Sherwood Wirt. It would turn out to be Lewis' last published interview:

"A great deal of what is being published by writers in the religious tradition is a scandal and is actually turning people away from the church. The liberal writers who are continually accommodating and whittling down the truth of the Gospel are responsible. I cannot understand how a man can appear in print claiming to disbelieve everything he presupposes when he puts on the surplice. I feel it is a form of prostitution."


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Al Mohler: The Center of Biblical Worship

Readers of this blog know how much I enjoy Dr. Al Mohler. With this article on the necessity of exposition, Al hits another one out of the park!

Amen, amen, and amen again!

Monday, August 19, 2013

What Really Happened in Egypt

One of the many news services to which I subscribe is Dan Wooding's excellent ASSIST news service. Among other reports, ASSIST monitors the plight of Christians around the world who live under oppression and danger.

I am linking here a recent ASSIST article that discusses the ongoing violence in Egypt from the perspective of Egyptian Christians who recently had to flee the country. This article got me thinking about some points that I have wanted to make for a long time.

First, it passes understanding why the Obama Administration would want to back ousted president Mohammed Morsi. Please spare me the "democratically elected" nonsense. Adolf Hitler was "democratically elected" also, with a minority of the vote under the German electoral system of the day. He subsequently abolished true democracy and established a fascist dictatorship. As the ASSIST article relates, Mohammed Morsi was silent for the first few months, then wasted no time in moving toward establishing an Islamic dictatorship, which most of the Egyptian people seem NOT to want.

So more months go by, and the army—generally once pretty trusted by the people—moved in to remove Morsi from power, rightly I believe seeing the direction that lay ahead in making Egypt a place for Islamic radicals in the vein of Iran. And now our administration and much of the West—stupidly— is raising a hue and cry over the army's actions.

Now, don't get me wrong. I take no joy in bloodshed and military coups in general. But I also understand Islamic radicalism. The Western world seems to not understand it, and naively thinks that chanting Kumbayah will tame them down. They really don't care about death, especially when they're killing someone else. They're brilliant at agitating violence, and then blaming others for the violence that they agitate. You either give in to their demands, or there will be hell to pay. They may not realize they are following the Alinsky playbook by that name, but they're following it and doing so brilliantly. The media seems to swallow it hook line and sinker for the most part.

The fact of the matter is that outside of direct divine intervention to change their hearts through the Gospel, there is no other way of dealing with Islamic radicals than defeating them in toto. And at times, that requires a hard crackdown. Anwar Sadat understood that, and they ended up assassinating him. Mubarak took over and the army swept the floor, banning the Muslim Brotherhood, which really wants an Islamic caliphate. I hate it that deadly force has to be used, and it rightly ought to grieve our hearts. But such is the reality of living in a fallen world with wicked men and wicked systems. Romans 13 says the state bears the sword for a purpose. To restrain evildoers and the lawless.

There is no doubt that the Mubarak regime was not democratic by Western standards. There are many areas where we could find fault. But it did largely keep things stable, was at peace with Israel, and kept the radicals in check. But Western governments seem intent on allowing and encouraging things that will lead to the worst possible outcome, and that is having another Iran right on Israel's borders.

I would like to see some of these moderate Muslims I hear so much about speak out forcefully and call their fellow Muslims in Egypt to lay down the weapons and violence, and work together to arrive at a peaceful, truly democratic Egypt with true freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc. But it seems many do not understand that radical Islam will never offer those freedoms.

As an aside, we'd best think very carefully about how the United States government under the current administration is handling the issue of keeping an eye out for Islamic radicals here on the home front. Given their actions thus far, I am not encouraged that they're watching closely enough. I'd hate to think that they were giving it a wink and a nod. A few drone strikes overseas make for good politics, but the proof is in the pudding. I'm watching the foreign and domestic policy OUTSIDE of the drone strikes. And the administration's handling of the Middle East and tacit betrayal of Israel does not inspire much confidence.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! (Psalm 122:6)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Snake: "I think it's dead." "No, I'm not!"

This linked video needs little description or explanation. Not for the faint of heart. 

Moral of the story - stay away from poisonous snakes. Cutting their head off doesn't matter. The head can still bite. Unbelievable but true, as today's "viral video" shows.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Fixing the "Debates"

Interesting little political item linked in the Drudge Report and other places today. Looks like GOP chairman Reince Priebus (pictured right) is threatening to shut NBC and CNN out of the Republican debates if the networks continue on with what are purported to be gush films for Hillary Clinton. You can read up on it here at Politico.

For what it's worth, this is a great time to fix the major jokes that pass for "debates" these days. They aren't debates. They're glorified press conferences "moderated" (read that controlled) by biased reporters.

Get the media out of it except for coverage and airing. Have two genuinely neutral moderators from the poly sci departments of some colleges or universities, or even a forensics professor. And then, make it a real DEBATE by debate rules. Have the candidates genuinely debate issues instead of responding to questions. Pick the subjects and let them go at it, with the only rules being that a certain amount of time is given for each subject, and that candidates are not allowed to interrupt each other. Do it like Lincoln-Douglas, even. We could ditch "moderators."

I know the media will howl. The consultants will say "everyone will be bored to death. We can't take the time for a real debate in this sound-bite age.

Bull. Yes we can. It's important for the country. And trust me. More people will pay attention than you think. And we just might be able to weed out the weeds and get someone in office who is worthy of the position.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

O: Flying the Economic Plane into the Ground

I've said for quite a long time now that I think folks who say Barack Obama is "in over his head" and "doesn't know what he's doing" are missing the mark by a long shot. He knows PRECISELY what he is doing. It's intentional.

If I may, allow me to show you this little "go figure" story from earlier today, thanks to The Weekly Standard and other sources. Looks like the president's um, brilliant, latest (actually regurgitated) proposal is to lower the taxes on corporations and substantially HIKE the taxes on SMALL BUSINESS. Amazing to anyone with even a modicum of economic reason.

Small businesses are one of the key engines that drive our country, not large corporations, although to be sure such corporations have their place in the economic pie. But O has been running around hither and thither yapping about wanting to "help the middle class," to "get the economy moving again," to "help small business." Yeah, right. He's going to help small businesses by laying on them a big tax increase in the middle of a moribund economy that only demonstrated 1 percent growth in recent months, and even that figure is suspect.

A significant hunk of small businesses fail in their first year or two. They don't need more taxes just when they're trying to get going again. Join all this with what the cancerous health care law is doing to businesses and non-profits across the country. More and more establishments are cutting staff, cutting hours to part-time, incomes are dropping or at best stagnant. It's not a pretty picture, folks.

But realize this. What's going on right now is precisely what Barack Obama and his acolytes want. When the private sector strangles to death, the governmental sector gains more power. We all know that command economies eventually collapse and die in toto. But he's not worried about that. He's worried about fundamentally transforming the United States into socialism. Even if he isn't the one to personally see the complete transformation through, he's happy to lay the groundwork for those who come along afterward to carry on.

Sadly for the United States, the only ones who can stop him seem to be more intent on eating each other alive instead of focusing their energy on where it belongs.