Tag Archives: Religion

The Man Who Should Be President

From: Chuck Baldwin

Today, I am going to do something that I have never done: I am going to devote virtually my entire column to posting another man’s words. That man is the man who should be President of the United States: Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. The following is a written transcript of a speech Dr. Paul gave on the floor of the US House of Representatives back in 2007. Had Congressman Paul been elected President in 2008, the country would be four years into the greatest economic, political, and, yes, spiritual recovery in the history of America. As it is, the US is on the brink of totalitarianism and economic ruin. And you can mark it down, four years from now it won’t matter to a tinker’s dam whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney was elected President this November. Neither man has the remotest understanding of America’s real problems nor the courage and backbone to do anything about it if they did understand.

Read the following. This is a man who understands the Constitution. This is a man who understands sound economic principles. This is a man who understands liberty and freedom. This is a man who has the guts to tell the truth. This is a man who has put his life and career on the line for the principles of liberty for more than two decades. This is a man who has returned every dollar that he has been paid as a US congressman to the taxpayers. This is the man who should be President of the United States.

[Ron Paul’s speech begins here]

 For some, patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. For others, it means dissent against a government’s abuse of the people’s rights.

I have never met a politician in Washington or any American, for that matter, who chose to be called unpatriotic. Nor have I met anyone who did not believe he wholeheartedly supported our troops, wherever they may be.

What I have heard all too frequently from various individuals are sharp accusations that, because their political opponents disagree with them on the need for foreign military entanglements, they were unpatriotic, un-American evildoers deserving contempt.

The original American patriots were those individuals brave enough to resist with force the oppressive power of King George. I accept the definition of patriotism as that effort to resist oppressive state power.

The true patriot is motivated by a sense of responsibility and out of self-interest for himself, his family, and the future of his country to resist government abuse of power. He rejects the notion that patriotism means obedience to the state. Resistance need not be violent, but the civil disobedience that might be required involves confrontation with the state and invites possible imprisonment.

Peaceful, nonviolent revolutions against tyranny have been every bit as successful as those involving military confrontation. Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., achieved great political successes by practicing nonviolence, and yet they suffered physically at the hands of the state. But whether the resistance against government tyrants is nonviolent or physically violent, the effort to overthrow state oppression qualifies as true patriotism.

True patriotism today has gotten a bad name, at least from the government and the press. Those who now challenge the unconstitutional methods of imposing an income tax on us, or force us to use a monetary system designed to serve the rich at the expense of the poor are routinely condemned. These American patriots are sadly looked down upon by many. They are never praised as champions of liberty as Gandhi and Martin Luther King have been.

Liberals, who withhold their taxes as a protest against war, are vilified as well, especially by conservatives. Unquestioned loyalty to the state is especially demanded in times of war. Lack of support for a war policy is said to be unpatriotic. Arguments against a particular policy that endorses a war, once it is started, are always said to be endangering the troops in the field. This, they blatantly claim, is unpatriotic, and all dissent must stop. Yet, it is dissent from government policies that defines the true patriot and champion of liberty.

It is conveniently ignored that the only authentic way to best support the troops is to keep them out of dangerous undeclared no-win wars that are politically inspired. Sending troops off to war for reasons that are not truly related to national security and, for that matter, may even damage our security, is hardly a way to patriotically support the troops.

Who are the true patriots, those who conform or those who protest against wars without purpose? How can it be said that blind support for a war, no matter how misdirected the policy, is the duty of a patriot?

Randolph Bourne said that, “War is the health of the state.” With war, he argued, the state thrives. Those who believe in the powerful state see war as an opportunity. Those who mistrust the people and the market for solving problems have no trouble promoting a “war psychology” to justify the expansive role of the state. This includes the role the Federal Government plays in our lives, as well as in our economic transactions.

Certainly, the neoconservative belief that we have a moral obligation to spread American values worldwide through force justifies the conditions of war in order to rally support at home for the heavy hand of government. It is through this policy, it should surprise no one, that our liberties are undermined. The economy becomes overextended, and our involvement worldwide becomes prohibited. Out of fear of being labeled unpatriotic, most of the citizens become compliant and accept the argument that some loss of liberty is required to fight the war in order to remain safe.

This is a bad trade-off, in my estimation, especially when done in the name of patriotism. Loyalty to the state and to autocratic leaders is substituted for true patriotism; that is, a willingness to challenge the state and defend the country, the people and the culture. The more difficult the times, the stronger the admonition comes that the leaders be not criticized.

Because the crisis atmosphere of war supports the growth of the state, any problem invites an answer by declaring war, even on social and economic issues. This elicits patriotism in support of various government solutions, while enhancing the power of the state. Faith in government coercion and a lack of understanding of how free societies operate encourages big-government liberals and big-government conservatives to manufacture a war psychology to demand political loyalty for domestic policy just as is required in foreign affairs.

The long-term cost in dollars spent and liberties lost is neglected as immediate needs are emphasized. It is for this reason that we have multiple perpetual wars going on simultaneously. Thus, the war on drugs, the war against gun ownership, the war against poverty, the war against illiteracy, the war against terrorism, as well as our foreign military entanglements are endless.

All this effort promotes the growth of statism at the expense of liberty. A government designed for a free society should do the opposite, prevent the growth of statism and preserve liberty.

Once a war of any sort is declared, the message is sent out not to object or you will be declared unpatriotic. Yet, we must not forget that the true patriot is the one who protests in spite of the consequences. Condemnation or ostracism or even imprisonment may result.

Nonviolent protesters of the Tax Code are frequently imprisoned, whether they are protesting the code’s unconstitutionality or the war that the tax revenues are funding. Resisters to the military draft or even to Selective Service registration are threatened and imprisoned for challenging this threat to liberty.

Statism depends on the idea that the government owns us and citizens must obey. Confiscating the fruits of our labor through the income tax is crucial to the health of the state. The draft, or even the mere existence of the Selective Service, emphasizes that we will march off to war at the state’s pleasure.

A free society rejects all notions of involuntary servitude, whether by draft or the confiscation of the fruits of our labor through the personal income tax. A more sophisticated and less well-known technique for enhancing the state is the manipulation and transfer of wealth through the fiat monetary system operated by the secretive Federal Reserve.

Protesters against this unconstitutional system of paper money are considered unpatriotic criminals and at times are imprisoned for their beliefs. The fact that, according to the Constitution, only gold and silver are legal tender and paper money outlawed matters little. The principle of patriotism is turned on its head. Whether it’s with regard to the defense of welfare spending at home, confiscatory income tax, or an immoral monetary system or support for a war fought under false pretense without a legal declaration, the defenders of liberty and the Constitution are portrayed as unpatriotic, while those who support these programs are seen as the patriots.

If there is a war going on, supporting the state’s effort to win the war is expected at all costs, no dissent. The real problem is that those who love the state too often advocate policies that lead to military action. At home, they are quite willing to produce a crisis atmosphere and claim a war is needed to solve the problem. Under these conditions, the people are more willing to bear the burden of paying for the war and to carelessly sacrifice liberties, which they are told is necessary.

The last 6 years have been quite beneficial to the health of the state, which comes at the expense of personal liberty. Every enhanced unconstitutional power of the state can only be achieved at the expense of individual liberty. Even though in every war in which we have been engaged civil liberties have suffered, some have been restored after the war ended, but never completely. That has resulted in a steady erosion of our liberties over the past 200 years. Our government was originally designed to protect our liberties, but it has now, instead, become the usurper of those liberties.

We currently live in the most difficult of times for guarding against an expanding central government with a steady erosion of our freedoms. We are continually being reminded that 9/11 has changed everything.

Unfortunately, the policy that needed most to be changed, that is, our policy of foreign interventionism, has only been expanded. There is no pretense any longer that a policy of humility in foreign affairs, without being the world’s policemen and engaging in nation building, is worthy of consideration.

We now live in a post-9/11 America where our government is going to make us safe no matter what it takes. We are expected to grin and bear it and adjust to every loss of our liberties in the name of patriotism and security.

Though the majority of Americans initially welcomed the declared effort to make us safe, and we are willing to sacrifice for the cause, more and more Americans are now becoming concerned about civil liberties being needlessly and dangerously sacrificed.

The problem is that the Iraq war continues to drag on, and a real danger of it spreading exists. There is no evidence that a truce will soon be signed in Iraq or in the war on terror or the war on drugs. Victory is not even definable. If Congress is incapable of declaring an official war, it is impossible to know when it will end. We have been fully forewarned that the world conflict in which we are now engaged will last a long, long time.

The war mentality and the pervasive fear of an unidentified enemy allows for a steady erosion of our liberties, and, with this, our respect for self-reliance and confidence is lost. Just think of the self-sacrifice and the humiliation we go through at the airport screening process on a routine basis. Though there is no scientific evidence of any likelihood of liquids and gels being mixed on an airplane to make a bomb, billions of dollars are wasted throwing away toothpaste and hair spray, and searching old women in wheelchairs.

Our enemies say boo, and we jump, we panic, and then we punish ourselves. We are worse than a child being afraid of the dark. But in a way, the fear of indefinable terrorism is based on our inability to admit the truth about why there is a desire by a small number of angry radical Islamists to kill Americans. It is certainly not because they are jealous of our wealth and freedoms.

We fail to realize that the extremists, willing to sacrifice their own lives to kill their enemies, do so out of a sense of weakness and desperation over real and perceived attacks on their way of life, their religion, their country, and their natural resources. Without the conventional diplomatic or military means to retaliate against these attacks, and an unwillingness of their own government to address the issue, they resort to the desperation tactic of suicide terrorism. Their anger toward their own governments, which they believe are coconspirators with the American Government, is equal to or greater than that directed toward us.

These errors in judgment in understanding the motive of the enemy and the constant fear that is generated have brought us to this crisis where our civil liberties and privacy are being steadily eroded in the name of preserving national security.

We may be the economic and the military giant of the world, but the effort to stop this war on our liberties here at home in the name of patriotism is being lost.

The erosion of our personal liberties started long before 9/11, but 9/11 accelerated the process. There are many things that motivate those who pursue this course, both well-intentioned and malevolent, but it would not happen if the people remained vigilant, understood the importance of individual rights, and were unpersuaded that a need for security justifies the sacrifice for liberty, even if it is just now and then.

The true patriot challenges the state when the state embarks on enhancing its power at the expense of the individual. Without a better understanding and a greater determination to rein in the state, the rights of Americans that resulted from the revolutionary break from the British and the writing of the Constitution will disappear.

The record since September 11th is dismal. Respect for liberty has rapidly deteriorated. Many of the new laws passed after 9/11 had, in fact, been proposed long before that attack. The political atmosphere after that attack simply made it more possible to pass such legislation. The fear generated by 9/11 became an opportunity for those seeking to promote the power of the state domestically, just as it served to falsely justify the long-planned invasion of Iraq.

The war mentality was generated by the Iraq war in combination with the constant drumbeat of fear at home. Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, who is now likely residing in Pakistan, our supposed ally, are ignored, as our troops fight and die in Iraq and are made easier targets for the terrorists in their backyard. While our leaders constantly use the mess we created to further justify the erosion of our constitutional rights here at home, we forget about our own borders and support the inexorable move toward global government, hardly a good plan for America.

The accelerated attacks on liberty started quickly after 9/11. Within weeks, the PATRIOT Act was overwhelmingly passed by Congress. Though the final version was unavailable up to a few hours before the vote, no Member had sufficient time to study it. Political fear of not doing something, even something harmful, drove the Members of Congress to not question the contents, and just voted for it. A little less freedom for a little more perceived safety was considered a fair trade-off, and the majority of Americans applauded.

The PATRIOT Act, though, severely eroded the system of checks and balances by giving the government the power to spy on law-abiding citizens without judicial supervision. The several provisions that undermine the liberties of all Americans include sneak-and-peek searches, a broadened and more vague definition of domestic terrorism, allowing the FBI access to library and bookstore records without search warrants or probable cause, easier FBI initiation of wiretaps and searches, as well as roving wiretaps, easier access to information on American citizens’ use of the Internet, and easier access to e-mail and financial records of all American citizens.

The attack on privacy has not relented over the past 6 years. The Military Commissions Act is a particularly egregious piece of legislation and, if not repealed, will change America for the worse as the powers unconstitutionally granted to the executive branch are used and abused. This act grants excessive authority to use secretive military commissions outside of places where active hostilities are going on. The Military Commissions Act permits torture, arbitrary detention of American citizens as unlawful enemy combatants at the full discretion of the President and without the right of habeas corpus, and warrantless searches by the NSA. It also gives to the President the power to imprison individuals based on secret testimony.

Since 9/11, Presidential signing statements designating portions of legislation that the President does not intend to follow, though not legal under the Constitution, have enormously multiplied. Unconstitutional Executive Orders are numerous and mischievous and need to be curtailed.

Extraordinary rendition to secret prisons around the world have been widely engaged in, though obviously extralegal.

A growing concern in the post-9/11 environment is the Federal Government’s list of potential terrorists based on secret evidence. Mistakes are made, and sometimes it is virtually impossible to get one’s name removed even though the accused is totally innocent of any wrongdoing.

A national ID card is now in the process of being implemented. It is called the REAL ID card, and it is tied to our Social Security numbers and our State driver’s license. If REAL ID is not stopped, it will become a national driver’s license ID for all Americans. We will be required to carry our papers.

Some of the least-noticed and least-discussed changes in the law were the changes made to the Insurrection Act of 1807 and to posse comitatus by the Defense Authorization Act of 2007. These changes pose a threat to the survival of our Republic by giving the President the power to declare martial law for as little reason as to restore public order. The 1807 act severely restricted the President in his use of the military within the United States borders, and the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 strengthened these restrictions with strict oversight by Congress. The new law allows the President to circumvent the restrictions of both laws. The Insurrection Act has now become the “Enforcement of the Laws to Restore Public Order Act.” This is hardly a title that suggests that the authors cared about or understood the nature of a constitutional Republic.

Now, martial law can be declared not just for insurrection, but also for natural disasters, public health reasons, terrorist attacks or incidents, or for the vague reason called “other conditions.” The President can call up the National Guard without congressional approval or the Governors’ approval, and even send these State Guard troops into other States.

The American Republic is in remnant status. The stage is set for our country eventually devolving into a military dictatorship, and few seem to care. These precedent-setting changes in the law are extremely dangerous and will change American jurisprudence forever if not revised. The beneficial results of our revolt against the King’s abuses are about to be eliminated, and few Members of Congress and few Americans are aware of the seriousness of the situation. Complacency and fear drive our legislation without any serious objection by our elected leaders. Sadly, though, those few who do object to this self-evident trend away from personal liberty and empire-building overseas are portrayed as unpatriotic and uncaring.

Though welfare and socialism always fails, opponents of them are said to lack compassion. Though opposition to totally unnecessary war should be the only moral position, the rhetoric is twisted to claim that patriots who oppose the war are not supporting the troops. The cliché “Support the Troops” is incessantly used as a substitute for the unacceptable notion of supporting the policy, no matter how flawed it may be.

Unsound policy can never help the troops. Keeping the troops out of harm’s way and out of wars unrelated to our national security is the only real way of protecting the troops. With this understanding, just who can claim the title of “patriot”?

Before the war in the Middle East spreads and becomes a world conflict for which we will be held responsible, or the liberties of all Americans become so suppressed we can no longer resist, much has to be done. Time is short, but our course of action should be clear. Resistance to illegal and unconstitutional usurpation of our rights is required. Each of us must choose which course of action we should take: education, conventional political action, or even peaceful civil disobedience to bring about necessary changes.

But let it not be said that we did nothing. Let not those who love the power of the welfare/warfare state label the dissenters of authoritarianism as unpatriotic or uncaring. Patriotism is more closely linked to dissent than it is to conformity and a blind desire for safety and security. Understanding the magnificent rewards of a free society makes us unbashful in its promotion, fully realizing that maximum wealth is created and the greatest chance for peace comes from a society respectful of individual liberty.

 [Ron Paul’s speech ends here]

There it is. The speech Dr. Paul gave in 2007 seems even more relevant today than it did then. Don’t you think?

You want to elect a real American statesman? You want to elect a man who would preserve liberty and freedom in America? You want to elect a man who would resist the devilish New World Order? You want to elect a man who would reestablish sound economic principles? If so, you will vote to elect Ron Paul as President of the United States. (And, no, no one has paid me a penny to post his speech or make this endorsement.)

Forget all the smoke and mirrors and the dog and pony shows that you see and hear from the other Presidential candidates. The issues that Dr. Paul addressed in this speech are the issues that are going to determine our country’s future. Again, this is the man who should be President of the United States.

And please visit my web site for past columns and much more at:

http://chuckbaldwinlive.com

© Chuck Baldwin


‘The Pure Rendition of How You Yourself Are’


Kierkegaard on the Mosque at Ground Zero and Quran book burning

by Jeff Snyder

One of the many reasons I enjoy reading pre-20th Century western literature is because Christianity – or more accurately, the teachings of Christ – still laid sufficient claims on people that it was commonplace to find discussions of questions of conscience in opposition to the passions, needs and dictates of the moment. For example, it is far from unusual to find even the heroines of the works of Jane Austen, occupied as they are with the pressing questions of maintaining a suitable station in life and whom one should marry, nevertheless remarking upon, or mulling, questions of Christian charity and duty.Questions of conscience are largely banished from public discourse on current affairs, which almost exclusively adopt and develop a purely utilitarian, goal-driven, desire-based, everything’s relative, man-is-the-measure-of-all-things perspective. What we ask are questions like, “Are the Iraq and Afghanistan wars making us safer? Are we establishing stable, democratic regimes there that will respect individual rights?” Not, “Is it wrong to murder people to make ourselves safer from possible future attacks, or in order to establish what we believe will be a good political system for the survivors of our beneficence?” It is very clear from public discourse and debate about such things that both the initial choice of action, and our persistence in carrying it out, depend on the answers to our very own goal-driven assessments and utilitarian calculations.

Recently, Rev. Terry Jones caused an international brouhaha by announcement of plans to burn Qurans during services at his Dove (yes, you read that right, the symbol of peace) World Outreach Center on September 11th, the ninth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Towers and Pentagon. Modern man generally responded in typical fashion. General Petraeus (reflecting the utilitarian, our well-being and pain are paramount standard) asked this not to be done because it would inflame the passions of our enemies and thereby endanger our troops. The Religion News Service attacked the Rev. Jones’ – personality. (It’s too much, you really can’t make this stuff up.) Appeals for tolerance abounded.

While the planned book burning fizzled out, many Americans are still outraged and preoccupied with the proposed plan to build an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero, and a dedicated segment of the media rides that wave. I realize that many, many people who may be reading this are not Christians, or even despise Christianity. I do not count myself as a Christian, though raised in that faith. Regardless, the Rev. Terry Jones, and many who denounce the building of the Islamic civic center and mosque are people who consider themselves Christians. Fred Reed had a really excellent article the other day endeavoring to explain why some Muslims might be angry with the West. But even if those considerations fail to defuse the anger that the book burners and building denouncers feel towards Muslims or Islam by illustrating that these outraged Christians are like the man who decries the splinter in his brother’s eye and sees not the beam in his own, even if they persist in seeing some or all Muslims as their enemies, well, they are still commanded by the one they call Lord to love and forgive their enemies. So it seems they might want to consider an old-school sermon on this subject, from a time when these things still meant something to some people, before religious news services offered personality assessments, before so much of Christianity, in self-righteous assurance of its own grace and personal relationship with God, turned away from self-examination and the commandment to love one’s neighbor, toward partnering themselves, the great, Moral Majority, with princes and principalities in the calling: “Come, let us make a world that is well pleasing to us.”

Christians, should, theoretically, have a reason, therefore, to think of these things. But even for us non-Christians, I think it worthwhile and instructive to hark back to a time when writers still knew both the demands, and language, of conscience, so different from the passivity of tolerance, so much more demanding than the utilitarian, needs-based, self-serving standards given free rein today.

In time-honored fashion, therefore, I select, for our reading today, a passage that is ever timely, from the conclusion of Søren Kierkegaard’s Works of Love:

It is said, “Forgive, then you will also be forgiven.”1 Someone, however, might manage to misinterpret these words in such a way that he imagined that it was possible to receive forgiveness himself although he did not forgive. Truly this is a misinterpretation. Christianity’s view is: forgiveness is forgiveness; your forgiveness is your forgiveness; your forgiveness of another is your own forgiveness; the forgiveness you give is the forgiveness you receive, not the reverse, that the forgiveness you receive is the forgiveness you give. It is as if Christianity would say: Pray to God humbly and trustingly about your forgiveness, because he is indeed merciful in a way no human being is; but if you want to make a test of how it is with forgiveness, then observe yourself. If honestly before God you wholeheartedly forgive your enemy (but if you do, remember that God sees it), then you may also dare to hope for your forgiveness, because they are one and the same. God forgives you neither more nor less nor otherwise than as you forgive those who have sinned against you. It is only an illusion to imagine that one oneself has forgiveness although one is reluctant to forgive others. No, there is not a more exact agreement between the sky above and its reflection in the sea, which is just as deep as the distance is high, than there is between forgiveness and forgiveness. It is also a delusion to believe in one’s own forgiveness when one refuses to forgive, for how could a person truly believe in forgiveness if his own life is an objection against the existence of forgiveness! But a person deludes himself into thinking that he himself for his part relates himself to God and on the other hand that with regard to another person he relates himself only to the other person rather than that in everything he relates himself to God.

Therefore to accuse another person before God is to accuse oneself, like for like. If someone is actually wronged, humanly speaking, then may he take care lest he be carried away in accusing the guilty one before God. Ah, we are so willing to deceive ourselves, we are so willing to deceive ourselves into thinking that a person for his part should have a private relation to God. But the relation to God is like the relation to the authorities; you cannot speak privately with a public authority about something that is his business – but God’s business is to be God. Suppose a domestic servant, to whom perhaps you are otherwise well disposed, has committed a crime, a theft, for example, and you do not know what to do about the matter. Then above all you do not privately approach the highest public authority, because he does not know of anything private in matters of theft. He will promptly have the guilty party arrested and initiate proceedings. Similarly, if you want to pretend that you are completely outside the matter at hand and now privately want to complain to God about your enemies, God will make short shrift of it and bring charges against you, because before God you yourself are a guilty party – to accuse another is to accuse yourself.2 In your opinion, God should, so to speak, take your side, God and you together should turn against your enemy, against the one who did you wrong. But this is a misunderstanding. God looks impartially at all and is wholly and completely what you want to make him only in part. If you address him in his capacity as judge – yes, it is leniency on his part that he warns you to desist, because he is well aware of the consequences for you, how rigorous it will become for you; but if you refuse to listen, if you address him in his capacity as judge, it does not help that you mean he is supposed to judge someone else, because you yourself have made him into your judge, and he is, like for like, simultaneously your judge – that is, he judges you also. But if you do not engage in accusing someone before God or in making God into a judge, then God is the gracious God.

Let me illustrate this by an incident. There was once a criminal who had stolen some money, including a hundred-rix-dollar bill. He wanted to change this bill and turned to another criminal at the latter’s house. The second criminal took the bill, went into the next room as if to change it, came out again, acted as if nothing had happened, and greeted the waiting visitor as if they were seeing each other the first time – in short, he defrauded him out of the hundred-rix-dollar bill. The first criminal became so furious over this that in his resentment he notified the authorities of the matter, how shamefully he had been defrauded. The second criminal was of course imprisoned and charged with fraud – but alas, the first question the authorities raised in this case was: How did the plaintiff get the money? Thus there were two cases. The first criminal understood quite correctly that he was in the right in the case of the fraud; now he wanted to be the honest man, the good citizen who appeals to the authorities to obtain his rights. Ah, but the authorities do not function privately or take up any isolated matter it pleases someone to lay before them, nor do they always give the case the turn the plaintiff and the informer give it – the authorities look more deeply into the circumstances. So it is also with the relation to God. If you accuse another person before God, two actions are instituted immediately; precisely when you come and inform on the other person, God begins to think about how you are involved.

Like for like; indeed, Christianity is so rigorous that it even asserts a heightened inequality. It is written, “Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s eye but not see the log that is in your own?” A pious man has piously interpreted these words as follows: The log in your own eye is neither more nor less than the seeing and condemning the splinter in your brother’s eye. But the most rigorous like for like would of course be that seeing the splinter in someone else’s eye becomes a splinter in one’s own eye. But Christianity is even more rigorous: this splinter, or seeing it judgingly, is a log. And even if you do not see the log, and even if no human being sees it, God sees it. Therefore a splinter is a log! Is this not a rigorousness that makes a mosquito into an elephant! Ah, but if you bear in mind that from the point of view of Christianity and truth God is always present in everything, that it is solely around him that everything revolves, then you will certainly be able to understand this rigorousness; you will understand that to see the splinter in your brother’s eye in the presence of God (and God is indeed always present) is high treason. If only you could avail yourself, in order to look at the splinter, of a place and a moment in which God is absent. But, in the Christian sense, this is the very thing that you must learn to hold fast, that God is always present; and if he is present, he is also looking at you. At a moment when you really think God is present, it surely would not occur to you to see any splinter in your brother’s eye or occur to you to apply this dreadfully rigorous criterion – you who are guilty yourself. But the point is, even if all better persons, as far as their own lives are concerned, do their best to have the thought of God’s omnipresence present (and nothing more preposterous can be imagined than to think of God’s omnipresence at a distance), they still often forget God’s omnipresence as they relate themselves to other people, forget that God is present in the relationship, and are satisfied with a purely human comparison. Then one has security and quiet to discover the splinter. What then is the guilt? This, that you forget yourself, forget that God is present (and he is indeed always present), or that you forget yourself in his presence. How uncircumspect to judge so rigorously in God’s presence that a splinter comes to be judged – like for like; if you want to be that rigorous, then God can outbid you – it is a log in your own eye. The authorities certainly have already regarded it as a kind of brazenness on the part of that criminal we mentioned to want to play the righteous man who pursues his rights legally and judicially, alas, a criminal who himself must be prosecuted legally and judicially – but God regards it as presumptuousness for a human being to pretend purity and to judge the splinter in his brother’s eye.

How rigorous this Christian like for like is! The Jewish, the worldly, the bustling like for like is: as others do unto you, by all means take care that you also do likewise unto them. But the Christian like for like is: God will do unto you exactly as you do unto others. In the Christian sense, you have nothing at all to do with what others do unto you – it does not concern you; it is a curiosity, an impertinence, a lack of good sense on your part to meddle in things that are absolutely no more your concern than if you were not present. You have to do only with what you do unto others, or how you take what others do unto you. The direction is inward; essentially you have to do only with yourself before God. This world of inwardness, this rendition of what other people call actuality, this is actuality. The Christian like for like belongs to this world of inwardness. It turns itself away and will turn you away from externality (but without taking you out of the world), will turn you upward or inward. In the Christian sense, to love people is to love God, and to love God is to love people – what you do unto people, you do unto God, and therefore what you do unto people God does unto you. If you are indignant with people who do you wrong, you actually are indignant with God, since ultimately it is still God who permits wrong to be done to you. But if you gratefully accept the wrong from God’s hand “as a good and perfect gift,”3 then you are not indignant with people either. If you refuse to forgive, then you actually want something else: you want to make God hard-hearted so that he, too, would not forgive – how then would this hard-hearted God forgive you? If you cannot bear people’s faults against you, how then should God be able to bear your sins against him? No, like for like. God is actually himself this pure like for like, the pure rendition of how you yourself are. If there is anger in you, then God is anger in you; if there is leniency and mercifulness in you, then God is mercifulness in you. It is infinite loving that he will have anything to do with you at all and that no one, no one, so lovingly discovers the slightest love in you as God does. God’s relation to a human being is at every moment to infinitize what is in that human being at every moment.

Endnotes:

  1. Matthew 6:14: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
  2. See, e.g., Luke 6: 37: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven,” and Matthew 7:2: “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
  3. James 1:17.

September 16, 2010

Jeff Snyder [send him mail] is an attorney who works in Manhattan. He is the author of Nation of Cowards – Essays on the Ethics of Gun Control, which examines the American character as revealed by the gun control debate.

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The Best of Jeff Snyder



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