Value to remembering the past

From a Biblical perspective, what is valuable about looking at and learning from our past? How can the pastor address these issues in their teaching Was the church instrumental in bringing slavery to an end?

Removal of Confederate Statues from Public

Is there any legitimate justification for removing Confederate statues? Is hypocrisy being displayed in taking down some statues and keeping others up?

Danger in ignorance of America’s founding documents

What might happen if Americans don’t know the truth in their founding documents?

America’s first interaction with Islamic thought and ideology

Dan Kistler (Gov’t, history and economics teacher, Islamic scholar) shares the history behind America’s first interaction with Islamic thought and ideology

The Founders' Vision Versus Ours

By Walter E. Williams

The celebration of our founders’ 1776 revolt against King George III and the English Parliament is over. Let’s reflect how the founders might judge today’s Americans and how today’s Americans might judge them.

In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 to assist some French refugees, James Madison, the acknowledged father of our Constitution, stood on the floor of the House to object, saying, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” He later added, “(T)he government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.” Two hundred years later, at least two-thirds of a multi-trillion-dollar federal budget is spent on charity or “objects of benevolence.”

What would the founders think about our respect for democracy and majority rule? Here’s what Thomas Jefferson said: “The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society.” John Adams advised, “Remember democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” The founders envisioned a republican form of government, but as Benjamin Franklin warned, “When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”

What would the founders think about the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo v. City of New London decision where the court sanctioned the taking of private property of one American to hand over to another American? John Adams explained: “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If ‘Thou shalt not covet’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.”

Thomas Jefferson counseled us not to worship the U.S. Supreme Court: “(T)he opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.”

How might our founders have commented about last week’s U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding our rights to keep and bear arms? Justice Samuel Alito, in writing the majority opinion, said, “Individual self-defense is the central component of the Second Amendment.” The founders would have responded “Balderdash!” Jefferson said, “What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.”

George Mason explained, “(T)o disarm the people (is) the best and most effectual way to enslave them.” Noah Webster elaborated: “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed. … The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.”

Contrary to Alito’s assertion, the central component of the Second Amendment is to protect ourselves from U.S. Congress, not street thugs.

Today’s Americans have contempt for our founders’ vision. I’m sure our founders would have contempt for ours.

The War on Poverty at 50

By Cal Thomas

In his State of the Union address on Jan. 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared a “war on poverty.” Today, with roughly the same number of people below the poverty level as in 1964 and with many addicted to government “benefits,” robbing them of a work ethic, it is clear that the poor have mostly lost the war.

In 1964, the poverty rate was about 19 percent. Census data from 2010 indicates that 15.1 percent are in poverty within a much larger population.

The lack of government programs did not cause poverty, and spending vast sums of money has not eliminated it.

A policy analysis by the Cato Institute found that federal and state anti-poverty programs have cost $15 trillion over the last five decades but have had little effect on the number of people living in poverty. That amounts to $20,610 per poor person in America, or $61,830 per poor family of three. If the government had sent them a check they might have been better off.

As Robert Rector and Jennifer Marshall have written for The Heritage Foundation, “President Johnson’s goal was not to create a massive system of ever-increasing welfare benefits for an ever-larger number of beneficiaries. Instead, he sought to increase self-sufficiency, enabling recipients to lift themselves up beyond the need for public assistance.”

Johnson sounded conservative when he said, “(We) want to offer the forgotten fifth of our people opportunity and not doles.”

Unfortunately, the war on poverty neglected a key component: human nature. Substantial numbers of people came to rely on government benefits and thus lost any sense of personal responsibility. Teenage girls knew they could get a check from the government if they had babies and so they had them, often more than one. The law discouraged fathers from living with, much less marrying, the mothers of their children and so legions of “single mothers” became the norm, and the lack of male leadership in the home contributed to additional cycles of poverty, addicting new generations to government.

When President Clinton signed the welfare reform bill in 1996, liberals screamed that people would starve in the streets. They didn’t. Many got jobs when they knew the checks would cease.

Over time, government enacted rules to prevent churches and faith-based groups from sharing their faith if they wanted to receive federal grants, thus removing the reason for their success. These groups, which once were at the center of fighting poverty by offering a transformed life and consequently a change in attitude, retreated to the sidelines.

In public schools, values that once were taught were removed because of lawsuits and the fear of lawsuits, creating a “naked public square” devoid of concepts such as right and wrong, with everyone left to figure it out on their own.

There are two ways to measure poverty. One is the way theCensus Bureau does, by counting income earned by individuals and families without including government benefits. The other is not measurable in a statistical sense. It is a poverty of spirit. People need to be inspired and told they don’t have to settle for whatever circumstances they are in. This used to be the role of faith-based institutions, and it can be again if they refuse government grants and again reach out to the poor.

One condition for maintaining tax-exempt status should be for these faith-based institutions to help people get off government assistance and find jobs, becoming self-sufficient. If people need transitional money for daycare or transportation, it can be provided, either temporarily by government or by the thousands of churches, synagogues and other faith-based groups.

There is no undiscovered truth about the cure for most poverty: Stay in school; get married before having children and stay married; work hard, save and invest.

The “war on poverty” can be won, but it must be fought with different weapons, not the ones that have failed for the last half-century.

What Our Constitution Permits

By Walter E. Williams

Here’s the House of Representatives new rule: “A bill or joint resolution may not be introduced unless the sponsor has submitted for printing in the Congressional Record a statement citing as specifically as practicable the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact the bill or joint resolution.” Unless a congressional bill or resolution meets this requirement, it cannot be introduced.

If the House of Representatives had the courage to follow through on this rule, their ability to spend and confer legislative favors would be virtually eliminated. Also, if the rule were to be applied to existing law, they’d wind up repealing at least two-thirds to three-quarters of congressional spending.

You might think, for example, that there’s constitutional authority for Congress to spend for highway construction and bridges. President James Madison on March 3, 1817 vetoed a public works bill saying: “Having considered the bill this day presented to me entitled ‘An act to set apart and pledge certain funds for internal improvements,’ and which sets apart and pledges funds ‘for constructing roads and canals, and improving the navigation of water courses, in order to facilitate, promote, and give security to internal commerce among the several States, and to render more easy and less expensive the means and provisions for the common defense,’ I am constrained by the insuperable difficulty I feel in reconciling the bill with the Constitution of the United States and to return it with that objection to the House of Representatives, in which it originated.”

Madison, who is sometimes referred to as the father of our Constitution, added to his veto statement, “The legislative powers vested in Congress are specified and enumerated in the eighth section of the first article of the Constitution, and it does not appear that the power proposed to be exercised by the bill is among the enumerated powers.”

Here’s my question to any member of the House who might vote for funds for “constructing roads and canals, and improving the navigation of water courses”: Was Madison just plain constitutionally ignorant or has the Constitution been amended to permit such spending?

What about handouts to poor people, businesses, senior citizens and foreigners?

Madison said, “Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”

In 1854, President Franklin Piece vetoed a bill to help the mentally ill, saying, “I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity. (To approve the measure) would be contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded.”

President Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill for charity relief, saying, “I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit.”

Again, my question to House members who’d vote for handouts is: Were these leaders just plain constitutionally ignorant or mean-spirited, or has our Constitution been amended to authorize charity?

Suppose a congressman attempts to comply with the new rule by asserting that his measure is authorized by the Constitution’s general welfare clause. Here’s what Thomas Jefferson said: “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”

Madison added, “With respect to the two words ‘general welfare,’ I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”

John Adams warned, “A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.” I am all too afraid that’s where our nation stands today and the blame lies with the American people.

Are Guns the Problem?

Every time there’s a shooting tragedy, there are more calls for gun control. Let’s examine a few historical facts. By 1910, the National Rifle Association had succeeded in establishing 73 NRA-affiliated high-school rifle clubs. The 1911 second edition of the Boy Scout Handbook made qualification in NRA’s junior marksmanship program a prerequisite for obtaining a BSA merit badge in marksmanship. In 1918, the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. established its own Winchester Junior Rifle Corps. The program grew to 135,000 members by 1925. In New York City, gun clubs were started at Boys, Curtis, Commercial, Manual Training and Stuyvesant high schools. With so many guns in the hands of youngsters, did we see today’s level of youth violence?

What about gun availability? Catalogs and magazines from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s were full of gun advertisements directed to children and parents. For example, “What Every Parent Should Know When a Boy or Girl Wants a Gun” was published by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The 1902 Sears mail-order catalog had 35 pages of firearm advertisements. People just sent in their money, and a firearm was shipped. For most of our history, a person could simply walk into a hardware store, virtually anywhere in our country, and buy a gun. Few states bothered to have even age restrictions on buying guns.

Those and other historical facts should force us to ask ourselves: Why — at a time in our history when guns were readily available, when a person could just walk into a store or order a gun through the mail, when there were no FBI background checks, no waiting periods, no licensing requirements — was there not the frequency and kind of gun violence that we sometimes see today, when access to guns is more restricted? Guns are guns. If they were capable of behavior, as some people seem to suggest, they should have been doing then what they’re doing now.

Customs, traditions, moral values and rules of etiquette, not just laws and government regulations, are what make for a civilized society, not restraints on inanimate objects. These behavioral norms — transmitted by example, word of mouth and religious teachings — represent a body of wisdom distilled through ages of experience, trial and error, and looking at what works. The benefit of having customs, traditions and moral values as a means of regulating behavior is that people behave themselves even if nobody’s watching. In other words, it’s morality that is society’s first line of defense against uncivilized behavior.

Moral standards of conduct, as well as strict and swift punishment for criminal behaviors, have been under siege in our country for more than a half-century. Moral absolutes have been abandoned as a guiding principle. We’ve been taught not to be judgmental, that one lifestyle or value is just as good as another. More often than not, the attack on moral standards has been orchestrated by the education establishment and progressives. Police and laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct so as to produce a civilized society. At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. The more uncivilized we become the more laws are needed to regulate behavior.

What’s worse is that instead of trying to return to what worked, progressives want to replace what worked with what sounds good or what seems plausible, such as more gun locks, longer waiting periods and stricter gun possession laws. Then there’s progressive mindlessness “cures,” such as “zero tolerance” for schoolyard recess games such as cops and robbers and cowboys and Indians, shouting “bang bang,” drawing a picture of a pistol, making a gun out of Lego pieces, and biting the shape of a gun out of a Pop-Tart. This kind of unadulterated lunacy — which focuses on an inanimate object such as a gun instead of on morality, self-discipline and character — will continue to produce disappointing results.

Reagan in His Own Voice

These recordings on CD of Ronald Reagan’s daily radio addresses were broadcast from 1974 through 1979.

He speaks on issues of national and international concern, and he shares anecdotes of his extraordinary life.

Liberty Council

Faith for All of Life

Faith for All of Life is the bi-monthly magazine of the Chalcedon Foundation committed to “Proclaiming the Authority of God’s Word Over Every Area of Life and Thought.”

Formerly titled the Chalcedon Report, this insightful magazine has consistently put forth the message of the Kingdom of God since 1965.

An online subscription to Faith for All of Life is free. Simply create an account and you can access both the latest issue as well as the archives.

If you’d like to receive a print subscription of Faith for All of Life delivered by mail, click here. It’s a great way to support Chalcedon!