Thursday, January 28, 2016

"An Evangelical Voter's Guide"

Arminian NT scholar Ben Witherington recently posted "An Evangelical Voter's Guide". 

I'm going to comment on his criteria. Before assessing the specifics, a basic problem is that he acts as though voting is like a dating service or mail order catalogue (or designer babies) where you list your preferences and then pick the person or item that matches your preferences. But in real life, we can only choose from the available options. 

1) if the candidate regularly lies or deliberately exaggerates just to get attention and for rhetorical effect, then he or she should not be supported by anyone who pledges allegiance to Christ who is the Truth, and does not put up with prevaricators. There’s already too much truth decay in our country.

Given how he frames the issue, I agree. But that's a rather slanted way to cast the issue. For instance, there are situations in which an official might rightly lie to protect national security. Indeed, he might have a duty to lie in that situation. 

2) if the candidate is totally inconsistent in his or her life ethic, that person should not be supported. By this I mean they should be totally pro life…opposing not only abortion except in cases where the life of the mother is truly threatened, but also opposing capital punishment except in extreme cases ( e.g serial killers, mass murdering terrorists etc.

i) For starters, Ben needs to level with the reader. He's a pacifist. 

ii) His definition of "totally prolife" is morally confused. He disregards the fundamental distinction between taking innocent life and punishing murderers. 

and absolutely opposing war as a go to solution to solve our problems. It should be a very last resort, as violence only begets violence. 

i) Why should war be a last resort rather than a best resort? If you make war a last resort, you may end up with a far bloodier conflict, because you gave the enemy so much lead-time to prepare. Had you engaged the enemy sooner, the war might end sooner, with less carnage, because the enemy was ill-equipped at that stage to persevere. To delay war until all other options are exhausted can give the enemy a chance to stall for time. War will still be inevitable, but it will now be far more destructive because you were reluctant to intervene when it was advantageous for you rather than the enemy.

ii) The "violence only begets violence" trope is such a brainless claim. Evidently, Ben didn't pause to consider all the obvious counterexamples. Take a sniper in the clock tower who's gunning down pedestrians. One well-placed bullet by a police sharpshooter and the violence ends.  

The same life ethic should lead to strong opposition to the proliferation of guns, especially military hard wear capable of being used for rapid killing of many persons. No one needs an ak 47 for hunting or personal protection. 

What if you're a rancher in a border state where your property is overrun by well-armed narco traffickers? And that's not hypothetical. 

Being pro life also means stricter background checks not merely on immigrants entering the country, but also on those wanting to buy guns in the country. More guns in civilian hands will not make us any safer. On the contrary it will lead to more atrocities and accidental deaths. 

i) Guns are both offensive and defensive weapons. So you have an inevitable tradeoff. 

ii) Ben sidesteps the question of whether people have a right to self-defense. 

Stricter gun control in Australia and in Scotland reduced gun violence in those countries.

That's disputable:

It would help here as well. Ask your local police chief if you doubt it. 

i) So the police can be trusted with guns, but private citizens cannot? To begin with, the police have a vested interest in touting their crime-fighting success. And since they keep records, they can cook the books. That isn't hypothetical. For instance:

So, no, you can't just take their word for it. 

ii) Likewise, you have examples of rampant police corruption. For instance: 

And that's not an isolated incident, unfortunately. 

It is the height of insanity to suggest that as more and more people are mentally disturbed in our land, we need more guns regularly available.

Okay, but what does that mean? Consider how many Americans take prescription antidepressants. Is that "mentally disturbed"? Do background checks mean giving the gov't access to your medical records? 

3) no candidate who whips up xenophobia or plays on people’s fears of foreigners and others who are not like them should be supported. 

i) Of course, if you put it that way, I agree. In part, he's probably alluding to people like Donal Trump and Ann Coulter. I doubt Trump and Coulter are actually racist–although Trump is surely elitist. Rather, I think they are amoral opportunists who tap into and exploit racist and xenophobic sentiments. In a way, that's worse than racism. At least a racist is sincere, whereas Trump and Coulter know better.

I recall reading that George Wallace, during his first campaign, ran as a moderate on race relations–and lost. Next time around, he ran as a hardline segregationist–and won.

If so, he wasn't a deep-dyed racist. It was just pragmatic. Yet that's just as evil in a different way–maybe even more so. 

ii) However, I suspect Ben is insinuating that anyone who's opposed to illegal immigration or Muslim immigration is a xenophobe or bigot. So that's a tendentious synonym or code language for immigration policies he frowns on. If that's what he means, I disagree.

What part of love your neighbor and love your enemy don’t you understand? 

i) So he's suggesting that we shouldn't have a screening process to filter out unmistakable enemies of the USA? 

ii) Loving your neighbor involves protecting your neighbor from harm. What part of that don't you understand, Ben? 

For instance, should immigration policy knowingly admit immigrants with culturally pathological social mores? And, yes, I'm alluding to Muslims. Consider the imported rape culture in Europe. That's not alarmism. That's a fact. An ugly fact. 

Christians in any case should make decisions not on the basis of anger or fear but on the basis of faith.

i) To begin with, isn't his position on gun control driven by anger and fear? "More guns in civilian hands will not make us any safer. On the contrary it will lead to more atrocities and accidental deaths."

Why is it faithful for him to view access to guns as a threat, but faithless to regard unrestricted immigration as a threat? 

ii) Does he think we should repeal health and safety regulations? Repeal building codes? Disdain medical checkups? Defund the CDC? Ignore weather alerts about hurricanes and tsunamis? After all, Christians shouldn't make decisions on the basis of "fear". Taking precautions is "fearful". Safety measures are "faithless". 

4) no candidate should be supported who is the opposite in character of what Christ calls for….namely humble, courteous, kind, gentle, forgiving, even loving, self sacrificial, not an ego maniac or blowhard promoting him or herself. You get the picture.

If that's an allusion to Trump, I agree. But Ben is operating with a pacifist definition of Christian character. By that criterion, we shouldn't support a candidate like Eisenhower. 

5). No candidate should be supported that ignores or promotes the abuse of the poor, in favor of enhancing the riches of the richest 2% of all Americans. No more tax breaks for the rich, for Agrabusiness, for major companies who hide their assets in off shore banks, for companies that pollute our air, foul our streams, blow up our mountains, and basically destroy the health of their employees.
7) no candidate should be supported who supports a business model that continually ships blue collar jobs overseas just for the sake of more profits for the rich. We have lost major industries like the making of textiles and furniture all because of our lust for cheap goods. We need to repent of all that, and be willing to pay for American made products that keep Americans working.

i) The whole notion of "tax breaks" for business is upside down. In general, businesses are producers, not consumers. They provide goods and services, as well as jobs. It's not as though gov't is giving businesses anything, or that corporations are taking anything. To the contrary, gov't is a consumer rather than producer. And it's monopolistic. 

ii) I think it would be good to produce more stuff domestically. But you can't expect other countries to buy your goods if you boycott their goods. Import/export is a two-way street. 

iii) Yes, corporations hide their assets. Why not? Aren't corporate taxes just a disguised sales tax? Imagine how much cheaper goods and services would be without corporate taxes. 

iv) He whines about outsourcing and corporate tax evasion, yet outsourcing is caused by uncompetitive corporate tax rates. 

v) You can't have energy consumers without energy producers. Ben isn't living in a shack without electricity. Ben doesn't ride a horse to work. 

6) no candidate should be supported who refuses to work with others with whom they disagree in order to work out compromises. Politics is the art of compromise, not my way or the highway approaches. This is what has produced gridlock in Washington.

Gridlock is far better that destructive bipartisan legislation. 

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