Category Archives: freedom

From Noon to Three

Today is Good Friday on the Western Christian calendar. Our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters will celebrate the same in a few days.

After the show trials before religious and secular authorities, the beatings by soldiers who will gamble for his garment and the ravings of a rent-a-crowd, Jesus of Nazareth in crucified between two criminals on a small hill outside the walls of Jerusalem.

Even in his death his detractors dare him to perform miracles to save himself while his followers either scatter in fear or watch in incredulity and sorrow as he experiences unspeakable agony.

While suffering, Jesus asks his Father to forgive the perpetrators of this heinous crime and finds time to offer absolution to a repentant thief.

From noon to three, a veil of darkness shrouds the scene as the One called the King of the Jews endures unutterable agony and alienation, the bearing the pain and penalty, alienation from God and humankind, and, in the end, a peace as he declares, “It is finished!”

What just happened?

According to the earliest Christian confessions in both the New Testament and first-centur literature, Jesus died for the sins of the world, bearing the judgment of God for humankind’s rebellion. Jesus is both the sinless representative and atoning substitute of guilty humanity. In his death is satisfaction of divine justice and the expression of unconditional love. His death bears all the deserved and undeserved suffering of humankind, from Adam to the Apocalypse. In his cry of, “Why?” are all the unanswered questions of our circumstances. And in his words of comfort to the humble thief are the seeds of hope as we already glimpse that death itself is defeated in the death of Jesus. And when Jesus declares, “it is finished” and “into you hands I commit my spirit” we see the triumph of hope over despair, mercy over wrath and love over all.

From noon to three the world is reconciled, an amnesty offered a race of rebels as uncompromising holiness and unconditional love embrace on a wooden stake. These hours do not explain evil – the Cross defeats its. These hours do not remove us from challenges – they offer strength to endure, knowing that Easter Sunday is coming.

This is the Good News of Good Friday, the cruciform heart of the Christian faith. All the “red letters” – the words and works of Jesus of Nazareth – are proclaimed and performed with this moment in mind. From Advent to Trinity, from a babe in the creche to a man on a Cross, all of the divine search for lost humankind culminates in this moment of passionate embrace.

May we receive this love once again…and share it across the street and around the world with boldness, humility and wisdom.

A Great Reversal is Possible

Endless federal deficits. Porous borders and immigration chaos. Selective enforcement of oversight laws and regulations in the EPA and IRS. Health care for all that includes 2400+ exemptions, including government employees. A foreign policy without direction. Serious scandals dismissed as phony and a media that is rarely investigating those currently in power.

These and other problems are not five years in the making, though the current Administration has done little to resolve and much to exacerbate this state of affairs. Our current crises are a century in the making, beginning with some of the unintended consequences of the Roosevelt Administration in the first decade of the 1900s, continuing through the elitism of the Wilson years, accelerated by the policies of FDR and codified by LBJ’s Great Society in the 1960s. Neither Democratic or Republican leaders have been able to reverse the trends that are presently carrying our American experiment toward oblivion.

The fundamental issue for over a century is the disempowerment of individuals and local government by the Leviathan of ever-increasing federal power. It is important to note that this essay is not a nostalgic foray into a mythical past. We need federal agencies for everything from protecting civil rights to decent food and a clean environment. The ethical and social oversight that ensures freedom and opportunity is a vital part of the original intention of the founders. What was never in their minds and must be altered in ours was the federal administration of so much public money! The corruption, bad stewardship and inefficiencies of federal power hinder the good intentions of most citizens that want compassion, safety and reasonable public services.

We must begin a reversal today and re-empower local and state governments and restore the dignity of personal virtue as the critical foundation for liberty. This will not happen overnight and will call upon every moral and spiritual resource we possess. We can begin by taking ownership of our decisions and votes and calling upon public servants to serve rather than be enriched at our expense. We must not allow collectivist or libertarian extremists or social elites to control the public conversations critical to our future.

We can reverse a century of malfeasance in less than a decade if we will find the courage to stop over-promising and under-delivering largess and call upon the better natures our citizens to contribute to the common good through their business and charitable enterprises. We must welcome people of all faiths (or none) into the civil-political discourse and stop pretending that religious values have no place in public life. Coercion of conscience has no place in a free society, but faith convictions are not restricted to the private sphere. Polite and robust debate is good for freedom and we must not permit one political party or religious tradition to impose their will and stifle dissent.

Wealth can be created while caring for the environment and compensating employees fairly. The tax code needs complete transformation – and some folks will need to find other employment. Military readiness and care for veterans are important priorities. Our policies must stop rewarding irresponsible behavior. Our management of the public purse needs an overhaul, releasing some local, state and federal workers to the private sector. Immigration policy requires courage and decriminalizing drugs is a social folly.

All these words are easy to write – and extremely hard to practice because our system discourages disrupting current norms that might displace voters. When enough citizens find courage and their elected officials discover integrity, we can reverse the tides and uncover new wellsprings of potential and prosperity.

Ready to Vote?

In twelve days, Americans go to the voting booths. We will participate in both continuity an change as we cast our ballots. Some officials will be re-elected; others will find new work. Some ordinances and propositions will become law; others will await the next cycle or become a memory. It is good for us to pause in our celebration and recognize that the American Experiment is both exceptional and hard-won.  Our founders’ vision was extraordinary and the stability bequeathed to subsequent generations remains unprecedented in world history. This experiment in virtue-based liberty built on First Principles is something to celebrate.

This liberty has come with much suffering as well. It took a Civil War and Civil Rights to grant the franchise to millions of African-American citizens. Women were finally accorded the vote in 1920, after decades of petition and protest. Our soldiers suffering in Vietnam were the catalysts for opening this opportunity to 18 year old women and men. As we approach this election, we can rejoice that millions have the opportunity to shape the continuities and changes in local, state and national direction. We must also be vigilant that every legitimate vote is counted, from our military overseas to absentees at at home. We must reject all attempts to intimidate citizens as they express their freedom. At the same time, voting is the privilege of citizens, not documented or undocumented guests.

Are we ready to vote? I offer the following as a “The Twelve Days of Voting” preparation strategy that will make our nation stronger. Whether my readers agree with my opinions is less important than adhering to precepts of excellent preparation. Here are Twelve Questions, one for each day, as we prepare to cast our ballots:

Day One: Are we getting informed about our local and state issues as well as the Presidential race? Are we reading about the ordinances and propositions for our city, county and state? Are we aware of the positions of local and state candidates on issues that are important to us?

Day Two: Are we thinking about the Public Checkbook and electing men and women that will be good stewards our OUR money? We can and should argue how to spend public funds – there is much room for important debate here. But we must end the red ink at all levels.

Day Three: Are we investigating the voting records of incumbents and their connections with various special interests, regardless of party?

Day Four: Will we pause and pray for Almighty God to show mercy to a nation absorbed in her own pleasure, captivated by image, numbed by information overload and too eager to receive largess without considering its sources?

Day Five: After this pause, will we make friends with people outside our self-congratulatory circles, engage in civil dialogue and encourage others to vote?

Day Six: Will we focus on the local issues, asking ourselves which issues matter for future flourishing?

Day Seven: Will we concentrate on state issues, remembering the names of our assembly and senate leaders, evaluate their ideals and positions and prepare to cast our ballots intelligently?

Day Eight: Let’s look at the larger world as we examine our choices for Congress and the President. Which leaders do we trust the most to represent America well, both in our economic and safety interests as well as our ideals of freedom? What leaders will show courage in the face of Islamicist terrorism?

Day Nine: Which congressional and presidential candidates will balance the federal checkbook better? Which women and men will consider future generations in the budgets they pass?

Day Ten: Today we pause and consider the visions and values of the candidates and how they resonate with our own. We want character and competence, but ideals matter and we hope they have some humility as well, remembering that they serve us and not the reverse.

Day Eleven: Time for a final review and much more prayer and we implore the Lord for grace, love and truth in all things. This is a good day to read some quotes from Washington, Madison, John Quincy Adams, Lincoln and others.

Day Twelve: We vote, open our homes and stay up too late watching the results, celebrating peaceful transitions and preparing to hold all officials accountable.

Let’s be ready to vote with wisdom.