Monday, March 22, 2010

Charity Does Not Belong to Government

In the Preamble to the U. S. Constitution, the term welfare as used by our founding fathers, in the vernacular of that day, meant the "well being" or "soundness" of our nation i. e. " promote the general welfare..." It did not mean charity in the form of a monthly check from the Federal Government.

Regarding the protion of the pre-amble to the U. S. Constitution--"promote the general Welfare..." For the authors of the Constitution, it was limited ONLY to the acts necessary to maintain the citizens' rights to life, liberty, and property under Natural Law, not distribution of charities. The 10th Amendment limits the scope of activities allowed by both the "General Welfare" and "Necessary and Proper" Clauses. Unfortunately, Courts and some presidents have expanded the federal government's authority to subjects not enumerated under the Constitution through individual Judges' loose interpretations of the "spirit" of the Constitution. However, when comparing the rulings with the official records from the original, Constitutional Convention, it becomes plain that any ruling expanding the role of the Federal Government beyond its intended scope is in direct conflict with our Founders' vision. The Founders repeatedly voted down language that would have allowed presidents or Congress to determine the scope of their own responsibilities because it defeats the purpose of enumerated powers and checks and balances in the first place!

Thomas Jefferson wrote much on the limits intentionally imposed on federal power. Quotes, for example::

"The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits." -Thomas Jefferson

“Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.” – Thomas Jefferson, 1798

Thomas Jefferson insisted the Tenth Amendment was “the foundation of the Constitution” and added, “to take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn … is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.”

“With respect to the 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.”
– James Madison, Letter to James Robertson April 20, 1831

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined . . . to be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.” – James Madison, Federalist 45

“If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every State, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision of the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress…. Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for, it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America.”
— James Madison, remarks on the House floor, debates on Cod Fishery bill, (February 1792)

Madison; “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on the article in the federal constitution which granted a right of the congress of expending on objects of benevolence the money of their constituents.” - Annals of Congress house of representatives 3rd Congress, first session, page170 (1794)

James Madison, objected to loose interpretations of the General Welfare Clause, arguing that it was inconsistent with a concept of government of limited powers and that it rendered the list of enumerated powers redundant. He argued that the General Welfare clause did NOT grant Congress additional powers other than those enumerated. So, in the Founders' view, the words themselves served no practical purpose other than to avoid repeating the enumerated powers.

“This specification of particulars [the 18 enumerated powers of Article I, Section 8] evidently excludes all pretension to a general legislative authority, because an affirmative grant of special powers would be absurd as well as useless if a general authority was intended.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 83

“No legislative act … contrary to the Constitution can be valid. To deny this would be to affirm that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 78

In short, Hamilton tells us that since the powers of Congress are enumerated and limit Congress to those powers, any assumed authority outside those specified that don’t have a direct relation to those explicit powers must be contrary to the Constitution and therefore — unconstitutional.

"I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer."  -Ben Franklin

It is also not an enumerated power. It states the purpose for the Union and US Constitution in the preamble as well as the purpose of raising taxes, but the phrase itself does not create any power itself. If ‘general welfare’ was carte blanche authority, it would render the limits of the Federal government to the enumerated powers meaningless. Article 1, Section 8 is not a list of suggestions of power, it is a list of delegated authority. If a power is not listed, congress is not authorized to write a law requiring an unlisted power and would need to seek amendment to the US Constitution.

I don't know if The Federalist Papers are still required reading in school. It's the Founders' own words that answers this and many other modern definitions people like to erroneously poor into that phrase.

Charity is NOT the primary job nor first job of government. Again, the preamble tells us that the first job is Defense of our nation's sovereignty, "...provide for the common defense..." The primary job of our President is as Commander & Chief, not social activist and chief executive of government charity. By the same token, Congress in this regard, has the duty to declare wars, help negotiate or ratify treaties, deal with foreign trade issues, etc. and insure funding for our military, and regulate interstate commerce. THESE are it's prime, enumerated duties and powers as outlined in the Constitution.

By the same token, one of the primary jobs of the Church, from the beginning, was to care for the sick and poor. This is why so many churches over the last two centuries or so, established hundreds and hundreds of hospitals, orphanages, shelters and soup kitchens across this nation. Increasingly, over the past few decades, the government has seen fit to take upon itself the primary job of the Church. Why? Because, many leading the government have despised the Lord and his Church and believe government can do a better job. And, to be honest, many churches have dropped the ball in this realm, favoring bigger buildings, dead religious programs and materialism over the mandates of Christ and the Apostles. Thus, the Church bears some of the blame in this disastrous trend. As well, the government knows there is great political influence in being seen as benign and helpful rather than the dangerous threat to Liberty that our founders viewed it as. Government uses this perception of itself by many of our citizenry to expand its powers and grow itself larger. I find it deliciously ironic that those who scream the loudest for the separation of Church & State now want the State to be the chief provider of charity! If the State hi-jacks the duties of charity from the Church/faith based organizations, isn't this a violation of the heart of the Separation Clause of the 1st Amendment? I say, YES!

According to that clause, Congress is not supposed to establish a religion. Yet, they have taken over the primary functions of religion via legislation. By default they have made themselves a church and your tithe to this government charity is more taxes. Now Caesar is asking not simply for what is his his, but also God's! In pure Communism, the State is the religion. Most Communists and Socialists believe that the State can do a better job than the Church at these programs of charity. However, one essential ingredient is missing; the love of God. This is why it never works and why so many former Communist nations and dictatorships are now clamoring for help from religious organizations. This is a lesson we have not learned yet in this nation. Brace yourself because the Lord is about to teach this to those who would play God. Our Federal government has set itself up as a religion, of sorts, with an attending faithful who think government can solve and help all. The Lord will have no Gods before Him.

With higher taxes and high unemployment, it will be more difficult for Christians to support charities, ministries and their brother or sister in the pew who is struggling. Yet, we must still give to those in need despite the heavy burdens Caesar now lays upon us. If we dedicate our giving and finances to the Lord, He will give us discernment on who to share our daily bread with. He will also fulfill his promises to provide for us, no matter what!

The Church in the New Testament was largely a self contained economic system. The early Christians not only worked for a living, but for a giving! The Apostle Paul told the Ephesians he coveted no man's gold or silver, but how he worked night and day at his tent making job, not only to provide for his needs and his ministry team, but to help those in the Ephesus Church who were in desperate need. He said he did this as an example for the Ephesian Church. He desired that they would do as he did and he led by example. This is still a good example for us today.

When the government charity system fails, and it will because God and his love are not in it, the Church of Jesus Christ will be standing tall by contrast. But, only if we get back to the Early Church model of giving and caring for one another as Christ Commanded us. We will put the broke, government programs of health care and welfare to shame. Just as with most of our founding fathers, Americans will once again put their trust in the Divine and distrust the schemes of Liberty eroding governments.

"We recognize no sovereign but God, and no king but Jesus! -John Adams and John Hancock (April 18, 1775) *a requote of Oliver Cromwell

Richie L.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Christians in Politics

It is a question that has come up again and again in many fellowships of Christians. How far do we dare tread into the murky waters of politics and government? Aren't we members of a Heavenly Kingdom? Aren't we, as the Apostle Paul urged, as soldiers in God's army to avoid "civilian affairs?" Isn't Christ returning one day to establish or, more accurately, claim his earthly throne? Consequently, wouldn't that make the governments of man obsolete and mute? The simple answers to these questions is, yes. However, the full orb ed answer is a little more complex. I will not attempt in the confines of a simple blog to delve into the the complexities or minutia of this issue. Volumes have been written on this very question and subject. Instead, I'll attempt to hit on a few pertinent and practical points for those who feel they must no longer sit on the sidelines and remain inactive or silent. Or, you may be a Christian who is unsure about even being involved in the political process at all.

Let's begin with a good working definition of the word politics. In our modern, American vernacular, we tend to think of it as the business of dealing with the issues of governance, policy, rule making, etc. and those who become appointed or elected to govern us, along with their particular social and governmental philosophies. In recent years, Conservative talk show hosts have codified categories of politicians and their supporters into to distinct camps of "Liberal" and "Conservative." More recently, other talking heads, commentators and authors have defined these groups in the terms of "Progressives" and "Traditionalists" or even "Constitutionalists." Then we have the two party breakdown of Democrat generally means Liberal or Progressive and Republican usually means Conservative or Traditionalist, though there are sometimes exceptions to these rules too. Then, there are those pesky Independents who choose to have no real affiliationwith the two major parties. Some are rather Conservative or "Right" leaning. Others are Libertarians who probably have more in common philosophically with Conservatives and Constitutionalists, yet, who are as close to anarchists as they can safely get. Still, other Independents may lean "Left" or Liberal but, are disenfranchised with their particular party. Many of these diverse independents make up the TEA Party movement. TEA is an an acronym for Taxed Enough Already. In general terms, Democrats/Liberals/Progressives tend to want bigger government, tend to look to government to solve many problems and believe that certain socio-economic ills should be solved primarily by the efforts of government. Republicans/Libertarians/Conservatives/Traditionalists/Constitutionalists, on the other hand, generally want less government at all levels and believe that private enterprise, capitalism and faith based organizations should be primarily involved in the solutions to socio-economic ills. These are the primary groups and their agendas now clamoring for control and influence in our Nation. Some would argue that the divide between most of these two main camps is turning into a gulf with the potential to divide us along the lines of secular humanism vs. Judeo-Christian ethos. Alas, it is very difficult and perhaps impossible to separate a belief system from politics because one tends to influence the other!

Given that these are the main players on the political game board in America, Christians must realize the immense influence and power these groups of folks have on our everyday lives to the point of affecting, potentially, how and where we are allowed to express our faith, conduct our ministries and even our enterprises. Yet, here in America, we enjoy a certain personal power that many in the rest of the world don't and, that, is the power to vote. The majority of the people who govern us can only do so with our permission. This is the genius of our Constitutional Republic. That permission slip is the ballot. When we vote for an individual running for public office, we are basically granting that person permission above the other choices of persons, to govern over us. If more people give one person that permission over the others asking for it, then that person with the most "permission slips" wins the election. Politicians in this democratic republic of ours are really asking for that permission when they ask for our vote. They do not demand it.
Since our system of a Constitutional Republic requires the citizens to vote for those who will be "Caesar," then when we vote, are we not rendering to Caesar what is Caesar's in a sense? Jesus said that we are to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's i. e. pay your taxes. But, Caesar also wanted worship which Christians, by the very nature of our faith, could not do. So, clearly there is a line as to how far we go in our service to Caesar and we should resist Caesar when he asks for that which is not his to take nor ours to give. By the same token, we as Christians should be involved in performing our duties as good citizens, which scripture exhorts us to be, and vote. That, by default, makes us a part of the political process whether we like it our not. As we render our vote for one Caesar over another we at least send a message to all the other Caesars sitting in office that we are a portion of the community that they must, to some extent, deal with. It at least gives us a chance to have a place at the table for our voices and concerns to be heard.

It has been said that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to sit back and do nothing. If we as Christians sit back and do nothing with regards to the political process in this country, then we have lost our standing to justly complain about the ills and hazards of our society and its governmental policies that may undermine morality, justice and virtue. As Americans, we have all been given stewardship of our Democratic Republic. We are charged by Scripture to be good stewards of things which we are given. We are also admonished in the Bible that to whom much is given, much is required. Therefore, since we have been blessed with such tremendous liberties, which by the way, our founders proclaimed came from God and not men, shouldn't we all the more be diligent in our efforts to maintain and preserve these liberties? Don't we have a moral obligation not only to ourselves but, to to our children and grand-children to pass on to them this precious, heirloom of freedom? If your answer to this is yes, then my friend, you must involve yourself, at least to some extent, in the gritty game of American politics. Understand this, the preservation of liberty is a constant and sometimes hazardous job. It is not for the faint-of-heart.
While I recognize that our nation will NOT be saved by political entities, and that God is not spelled GOP, I would contend that in our Republic, Christians must stand at the ready to engage in their civic duties, be informed and involved until Christ returns. You can consider this training for the day "we reign with Him."
Richie L.