They say the two things you shouldn’t talk about in polite conversation are religion and politics – but those are the two things that interest me most. So, that’s what I will tend to talk about.
Who am I? I am a Christian – unabashedly, unashamedly, and unapologetically, a Christian. My interests in this blog are the nature of Christian interaction and participation in government and public policy – particularly in a democracy (or a republic, as the case may be) where government is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
What is the meaning of the blog’s name, “freedom at Bethsaida”? The title comes from John 1:43-48:
“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to him, ‘How do you know me?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.'”
The Lord came to set us free (Gal 5:1). Upon their meeting, the Lord declared that there was no deceit in Nathanael. It is this declaration that I hope defines this blog – I am not here to deceive anyone. And, Nathanael had been sitting under a fig tree in Bethsaida before Philip came to fetch him. Thus, the name of the blog is “freedom at Bethsaida” and the URL uses “bethsaidafigtree”.
What is the meaning of the nom de plume, nomasir? In 1926 George Samuel Clason began writing The Richest Man in Babylon. (It actually was a series of pamphlets at first, which is why I say he “began” writing it then.) The book is about sound financial advice, such as saving, investing, and avoiding get-rich-quick schemes or too-good-to-be-true scams. The main character in the story is Arkad, the richest man in Babylon. While the eldest son in the society generally inherited the family’s wealth through no effort, Arkad dealt differently with his eldest son – Nomasir. He dispatched Nomasir to live on his own, giving him only wisdom and financial advice. Years later Nomasir returns, himself a wealthy man, and actually presents financial gifts back to his father, explaining that the wisdom he had received was far greater than mere wealth.
So what do I believe about government and public policy, from a Christian perspective?
First, I want to clarify that I tend to speak particularly of Christian involvement in a representative government, such as a democracy. (Kingdoms are a different matter.) In such a government formulation, it is important to recognize government as the organization of the people for the defense of the rights of the people. We tend to dehumanize government and discuss things that “the government” ought to do. In a representative government, there is no government outside of “the people”. So, when we say “the government should do this or that” what we really ought to consider is whether “my neighbors should do this or that.”
It is at this point that I gladly apply “the Golden Rule.” Ask yourself some simple questions. Do you want your neighbor to tell you whether you can eat fried chicken, or drink soda, or alcohol? Do you want your neighbor to tell you who you can or can’t date, or marry? Do you want your neighbor to tell you how many kids you can have? Do you want your neighbor to lecture you on what charitable enterprises you should undertake, or worse yet to take your money from you and spend them on charitable causes of their choosing? Do you want your neighbor to run your life for you?
If you answered “no” to these questions, then the Golden Rule would dictate that you should not do the same to your neighbor. Whether you encroach upon your neighbor’s freedom directly, or through the federal government is a minor detail.
Therefore, I am opposed to any federal program, federal policy, federal law that takes freedom of movement, freedom of action, or freedom of decision away from the people. I don’t want my neighbor to live my life for me – I’m a big boy and can make my own decisions. Let the government instead serve its true purpose – collective defense of individual human rights. Let the government defend life, liberty, property; and let the people be free to choose the rest for themselves.
Please don’t misconstrue this as an amoral position. I fully support charitable giving to help the poor, needy, elderly, or downtrodden. But It ought to be personal giving – give your own resources to these causes, do not take mine to give away. I seriously doubt that the Lord will reward anybody for the things they stole to help the poor. I am opposed to adultery; but the government’s involvement ought to be no more than enforcing a contract between to people (in this case marriage). I am opposed to drug use; but if it does not involve the direct violation of my neighbor’s rights then the government ought not dictate moral decisions to me. I do not recognize gay marriage as a valid form of marriage before God; but I don’t think the government should be in the marriage definition business.
For too long we have used government to enforce moral decisions. The left has chosen charitable giving as their brand of morality, while the right has chosen personal vices to define their moral code. I say in both cases the government is not the right instrument to affect change. No, let us wage the debates in the hearts and minds of the people, and let the people choose for themselves. Is this not what the Lord would want? People to worship, follow, and love Him by free choice – not by compulsion.
It really is a rather simple extension of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.