The Blessed Path

Home » Posts tagged 'civil magistrate'

Tag Archives: civil magistrate

Advertisements

Biblical Voting in the Age of Trump

There are several things fascinating about this Presidential election. As someone who has virtually given up on National politics, for me to say that is not an easy statement. The effect of the Donald Trump phenomenon has influenced far more than just his candidacy for the highest office in our nation. The most important aspect that I have noticed is that Christians, who have traditionally voted Republican, have been forced to deal with an identity crisis. Can they vote for a man like Donald Trump who barely pretends to hold to the true faith?[1]  On the heels of this dilemma, they are questioning the basis for voting and the role their faith has in that decision.  wtrump_0425There is no doubt that Trump has said and done things that are too depraved to be repeated here, but so has Hillary Clinton, his opponent in this race for the White House. Isn’t she the greater evil and therefore Trump would be the better choice, the lesser evil?   Is it acceptable for a Christian to vote for a man like Trump for President? This brings up the case of voting for the lesser of two evils.  I have yet to meet anyone that actually believes Trump is an upstanding man of character. As for me personally, I have never been forced to wrestle with the ethical implications of my vote in any previous elections like I have in this one. This is in large part due to my role as being elected as a Republican Presidential Elector in the State of Texas. I have had to weigh what are the obligations of my personal vote in the ballot box and how do they differ from my representative vote as an Elector for the Electoral College.

Before answering these questions we must first agree on the standard we appeal to, to decide such matters. I firmly believe that the Christian must always turn to the Bible as the revealed Word of God. If the Bible says we ought not to do something, then we ought not to do it. If it commands us to do something, then we had better well do it. This should seem like an obvious statement that doesn’t need to be written, but in the world of politics the obvious sometimes isn’t. The Bible has a lot to say about civil rulers and the standard He holds both them and us to.

Qualifications

What are the qualifications for someone who desires to serve in civil office in the Bible?  There are many passages in scripture that have shaped my understanding of the biblical qualifications for civil office. Here is a brief glance at a few of them.[2]

The God of Israel said,

The Rock of Israel spoke to me:

He who rules over men must be just,

Ruling in the fear of God. ~ 2 Sam 23:3

These are the parting words of King David to the children of Israel. He gives them the minimum requirements, as evident by the must, for civil rulers.  Dr. Phillip Kayser summarizes this passage well, “it appears that the absolute minimum is that he be male (‘he”), that he be subject to God’s law (“just”), and that he be a believer who rules in the fear of God. The ‘must’ indicates to me that this is God’s minimum standard.” God spoke through King David, a civil ruler, and gave an authoritative command (imperative) about what type of man a ruler must be. He must fear God and be just according to God’s law. We can also look to the qualifications Moses was given by Jethro for selecting judges that would help him rule on smaller cases.

Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. ~ Exodus 18:21

These are the same quality of men we see described in 2 Samuel. They are men who fear God and will rule justly according to God’s law.  Moses repeats similar instructions to the Israelites before they are to enter the Promised Land,

Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you. ~ Deut 1:13

Since to be wise starts with fearing the Lord (Prov 1:7), it becomes clear that these are consistent qualifications throughout the Bible. God has given us a standard for our civil rulers.  They are to be men that fear Him and are to rule justly according His law. This has implications for both the rulers and those choosing them.

Interpretative Objections

For those that disagree with this interpretation of scripture these are some common objections I hear most often.  First, “doesn’t that only apply to Old Testament (theocratic) Israel?”  It is a reasonable objection, but there are other passages that make it clear that this was not a one-time standard that only applied to one nation.  Psalm 2 address all nations and kings of the earth.

Why do the nations rage,

And the people plot a vain thing?

The kings of the earth set themselves,

And the rulers take counsel together,

Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,

“Let us break Their bonds in pieces

And cast away Their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;

The Lord shall hold them in derision.

Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,

And distress them in His deep displeasure:

“Yet I have set My King

On My holy hill of Zion.”

“I will declare the decree:

The Lord has said to Me,

‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.

Ask of Me, and I will give You

The nations for Your inheritance,

And the ends of the earth for Your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron;

You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”

Now therefore, be wise, O kings;

Be instructed, you judges of the earth.

Serve the Lord with fear,

And rejoice with trembling.

Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,

And you perish in the way,

When His wrath is kindled but a little.

Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

It is obvious with references to “nations, kings of the earth, and judges of the earth” that the plain reading of this text is the calling of ALL civil leaders to submit to Christ’s law, rule justly, and serve Him or suffer the consequences. Again Dr. Kayser writes “Psalm 2 confirms this view. It prophesies concerning the New Testament era that any Gentile ruler that casts off God’s laws (v. 3), who rejects Christ’s Lordship (vv. 1-9), who fails to serve the Lord with fear (v. 11), and who refuses to ‘kiss the Son’ will have God angry with him and Christ will dash him with His rod of iron (judgment).” Christ has absolute authority over every person, church and nation. All government is upon His shoulders (Isa 9:6) and all civil authority is delegated by and from Him (John 19:11).  Consider all of the pagan nations that God judged for their disobedience and it is evident that God holds all nations and their rulers to His standard of righteousness.

A second objection is to reject that it applies to voting. The basic assumption in this objection is that Israel didn’t vote for their civil leaders therefore 2 Samuel can’t be an absolute binding standard upon voters. I believe the Bible presents a different picture, but before we turn to some examples we must first understand what exactly a vote is. We tend to think of voting only in terms of our personal experiences. However, a vote is simply the expression of who we desire to represent us in any elected position. To vote doesn’t require any set number of candidates or political parties. It only requires one person making a choice and expressing it in some recognizable action (Ex. ballot, raised hand, or voice).  With that in mind, we find several examples of voting for civil office in the Bible. Here are a few.[3]

We already looked at the passages relevant to Israel’s selection of judges under Moses. “Moreover you shall select from all the people, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens” (Exod 18:21) and “Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men…” (Deut 1:13).  E.C. Wines writes, “No fact can be plainer, or more certain, than that the judges, instituted at the suggestion of Jethro, were chosen by the suffrages (voting) of all Israel. The direction of Moses to the people, upon that occasion, is very explicit.”[4]

The people clearly voted verbally for Jephthan in the book of Judges:

It came to pass after a time that the people of Ammon made war against Israel. And so it was, when the people of Ammon made war against Israel, that the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. Then they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our commander, that we may fight against the people of Ammon.” So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me, and expel me from my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?” And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned again to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the people of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you take me back home to fight against the people of Ammon, and the Lord delivers them to me, shall I be your head?” And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord will be a witness between us, if we do not do according to your words.” Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them; and Jephthah spoke all his words before the Lord in Mizpah. ~ Judges 11:4-11

Then there is the story of Israel choosing Saul to be their king as recorded from 1 Samuel in chapters 8-11. It concludes with this:

So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they made sacrifices of peace offerings before the Lord, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly. ~ 1 Samuel 11:15

The most famous of kings in the biblical record, David, is another example of a civil ruler being elected. It is noteworthy that David had been anointed by Samuel to be king years before he was willing to take the throne. He refused to take it himself. He waited until the men of Judah came to him. He waited until he was chosen by the people.

So David went up there, and his two wives also, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. And David brought up the men who were with him, every man with his household. So they dwelt in the cities of Hebron. Then the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. 2 Samuel 2:2-3

The last example we will look at of the people choosing their leader is King Solomon.

Then David said to all the assembly, “Now bless the Lord your God.” So all the assembly blessed the Lord God of their fathers, and bowed their heads and prostrated themselves before the Lord and the king. And they made sacrifices to the Lord and offered burnt offerings to the Lord on the next day: a thousand bulls, a thousand rams, a thousand lambs, with their drink offerings, and sacrifices in abundance for all Israel. So they ate and drank before the Lord with great gladness on that day. And they made Solomon the son of David king the second time, and anointed him before the Lord to be the leader, and Zadok to be priest. ~ 1 Chronicles 29:20-22

In each of these examples the people chose their leaders in some form or fashion. While the kings of Israel had certainly been anointed by God to serve in those positions that in no way discounts the role the people had in the selection process. For Daniel makes it clear that God always “removes and raises up kings.”[5] The biblical example is that the people are to choose, that is vote, for their civil leaders.

5-saul-attacking-david-guercinoThe third objection to the application of these biblical qualifications for voting is that several of the kings already mentioned did not rule according this standard. In others words, they would say “we can’t look for perfectionism in our candidates because if that is the case Saul, David, and Solomon all failed the test. They were not men who feared God and ruled justly according to His law. If God raised them up to be kings than either a) God broke His own standard or b) the standard isn’t applicable.”

First we have to understand the difference between the revealed will and secret will of God.[6]  God can command His people to vote one way (revealed will) and hold them accountable for that vote. He can also at the same time use their disobedience to raise up an evil king according to His (secret) will.  The fact that God uses people’s voting to bring both good and bad kings to power according to His will is not a contradiction and is perfectly consistent with His nature.  Having said that, I do not think that Israel disobeyed these qualifications in these examples. To fear God and rule justly does not mean to be perfect. If we look at each of these men at the time they were put into office it appears they were all qualified. Saul is said to have “the Spirit of the Lord depart”[7] from him which necessarily means he had the Spirit early on in his administration. David was a “man after God’s own heart, who would do His will.”[8] When Solomon came to power it was said of him that “the Lord his God was with him and exalted him exceedingly.”[9] Each of these men sinned greatly against the Lord during their administration, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t qualified at the time they were chosen.  The qualifications of being godly men who fear the Lord and are able to rule justly does not require perfection.  It only requires what it states. They must have a discernable fear of God and appear to rule in light of that fear.

Pragmatic Objections

I now want to address the three objections to these qualifications that I consider more pragmatic in nature than interpretive.  The first objection is that we don’t have anyone biblically qualified by this standard in the race for President.  “If we are commanded to choose, then we must choose the least evil candidate.”  There is a case to be made that we must do all that we can to stop the greatest evil. However, in that process we must still vote for qualified candidates.  Remember “must” was the term scripture used. We can not use a means that God disapproves of to bring about an end that will please Him.  He doesn’t honor rebellion.  Furthermore, it is just not true that we don’t have anyone qualified.  There are hundreds of people running for President in 2016, many of which meet these qualifications. What people generally mean when they offer this objection is that there isn’t anyone in the Republican or Democratic Parties, and therefore anyone that “has a chance at winning”, that meet these qualifications.  This is absolutely correct that there isn’t anyone in either of those parties that are biblically qualified.  However, I have yet to find anywhere in God’s Word a command for us to only choose men that have a path to victory.

The second objection is that a 3rd party vote is a vote for the Democratic candidate. The presumption in this objection is that Republican candidate deserves our vote and therefore if we do not vote for him, we have essentially withdrawn a vote that belongs to him. If we recall that a vote is simply the expression of who we desire to represent us in any elected position, then this becomes an illogical statement.  If my choice is candidate X, then my choice doesn’t magically become candidate D by virtue of the fact that I didn’t chose candidate R. If I choose candidate X, then candidate X is my choice and only candidate X.

The third objection is that the righteous thing to do is to stop the greater evil.  First, this assumes that the Democratic Party is the greater evil therefore we must do everything we can to stop Hillary Clinton from winning. I can understand this position for there is no doubt that Hillary Clinton would be an evil President, but would she really be more evil than Trump in policy?  Rather than going to the talking points of the political parties and inside operatives let’s look at the biggest issues that actually matter. If we look at where they stand on the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve, murdering of unborn children, undeclared wars, the complete disregard for private property, or our national debt; the only difference between the two is in style and rhetoric.  Where it matters most, they will both pursue the same wicked policies.  Even if I am wrong about their policies, and one is slightly better than the other, it still would not make it an ethically righteous decision to suddenly throw off the qualifications in hope of possibly having a slightly less evil government. Theologians and philosophers refer to this as situational ethics.  Situational ethics says the morally right and wrong thing to do change based on the situation.  The Bible knows nothing of situational ethics, God and His Word do not change. If God tells us we must choose (vote for) a righteous man that fears Him, we are not free to attach an “unless” to the end of that command.  May we boldly proclaim that “God be true and every man a liar” (Rom 3:4). We must fear God, not man… or woman!

Conclusion

If civil leaders are expected to rule according this standard and they are judged when they do not (Psalm 2), then what can we expect as voters when we dismiss these qualifications that God has given us? My biggest concern as a Christian is what God expects of me as revealed in the Bible. I have yet to have anyone address these passages in satisfactory way that convinces me otherwise.  It seems clear to me that God both calls me to vote and directs me to only vote for men who fear Him and are just according to God’s law.  He doesn’t expect or allow me to add to his qualifications and seek for perfection. He also doesn’t hold me accountable for all the sins that these qualified men commit once in office.  He does, however, give me clear commands for who is qualified and expects me to be obedient with my calling as a voter.  Therefore, I can not in good conscience vote for Donald Trump for President. The lingering question that remains is: what does that mean for my role as Republican Presidential Elector?  That is the topic for another article.

Art Sisneros


[1] I acknowledge he claims to be a person of faith, but his denial of basic Christian tenets like the need for forgiveness make his claim laughable and believed by nobody.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=80&v=A3l0e6nS9oI

[2] For a more comprehensive list see http://fortifyingthekingdom.com/scriptural-qualifications-for-civic-office/

[3] For a more complete study on this subject I recommend Roots of the American Republic by E.C. Wines

[4] E.C. Wines, Roots of the American Republic, P18

[5] Daniel 2:21

[6] Theologians refer to the revealed/prescriptive will vs. the secret/descriptive will of God. For more information see Appendix I in The Sovereignty of God by Arthur Pink.  https://books.google.com/books?id=p3OOU3wL9YIC&pg=PA152&lpg=PA152&dq=god%27s+secret+will+vs.+revealed+will&source=bl&ots=l7WglX2zw6&sig=7lTlmHAZurEUeTT5cpU_dEYvMig&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi6jLnrsZPQAhVpslQKHS–Dqo4ChDoAQhEMAc#v=onepage&q=god’s%20secret%20will%20vs.%20revealed%20will&f=false

[7] 1 Samuel 16:14

[8] 1 Samuel 13:14, Act 13:22

[9] 2 Chronicles 1:1

Advertisements

The Light from Asia

While most Americans have their political thoughts focused on the Presidential campaigns, or are trying to forget them by pretending to care about sports they otherwise didn’t know existed before the Olympics, something very big happened over thAhoke weekend. Some 10,000 miles away in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, a Christian church held a conference on politics.  The Christian Faith, Democracy and Prosperous Nation conference was significant for multiple reasons, but the biggest was one of the guest speakers they hosted and the speech that he gave.  Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, affectionately known as Ahok, is the Governor of Jakarta.  What makes Ahok unique is that he is the first ever Christian governor serving in Indonesia.  While there is a lot of background information that is fascinating in how he reached this position, the short version is: God has had favor on him. God has clearly honored the 20+ years of fasting and prayer that the Christian church in Indonesia has been dedicated to.  Not only is Ahok bold in his testimony, but he has proven to govern Jakarta with the wisdom and integrity that prove his faith is what guides him in governing.  He has earned a reputation for being unrelenting in fighting corruption and practical when dealing with the problems facing Jakarta.  I share this as both an encouragement and admonition.  May we rejoice and pray for our brothers in Asia.  May we be prepared for decades of fasting while being ruled by wicked. Below is an excerpt of his speech from an attendee of the event.

Speech given by Ahok:

In being in politics, my Reformed Christian faith is what influenced me. At first I did not know who Calvin was, I only knew about Pastor Stephen Tong. When I was serving as a Representative in the House Parliament in Belitung, I had plenty of opportunity to watch Stephen Tong’s sermons. I also participated in a seminar by him, there, Pastor Tong always said, “After you complete this seminar, you must all return to your own church, ok?”_ I am also not a member of the GRII church.

I read a book by Calvin in 2009, and I compared Calvin’s teachings to Pastor Tong’s, to see if pastor Tong is making stuff up or not. According to Calvin it is most difficult to serve as a public official (civil magistrate), because they are supposed to be a model in the public eye.

Initially, in my heart I did not feel encouraged to go into politics because I am a Chinese descendant in a large Chinese church that the congregation do not like and do not want to be involved in politics.

There is one Bible verse that I hold in governing:

Proverbs 29:4  (NKJV) “The king establishes the land by justice,
But he who receives bribes overthrows it.”

As a human being, I can falter, and that is why I need God at my side.

In the past, I was offered to be Governor of Babylon by way of bribes, but then my wife said “It’s up to you, do you want to be a disciple of Jesus or a disciple of Barabas?”
At the end, I did not become governor of Babylon, but I did become the Governor of Jakarta.

In 2012, actually, I wanted to return to Babylon. But God showed me His will, I felt several times God strongly showing me what I should do.   One of them when I read the book by Calvin it says, our duty is to become a showcase, showing the transformation of reformation of God to the society, showing the glory of God through our actions and Jakarta is a good showcase in Indonesia, as the capital, Jakarta is a big city, the city is right for God to display His work.

The Bible also speaks about the official task of the civil magistrate is to provide social justice for the people and not social assistance.

I agree when Pastor Tong said that the foundation of a democratic government that is true, is what John Calvin speaks about. Real democracy is applied with the foundation of the law of love and justice from God’s Word.

In the Book by Calvin, when beggars beg for money to the church, they are not given money, but they are sent to work. That is social justice, not social assistance. Social justice means self-responsibility.  People who are lacking must be helped, but we also have to remain firm.

I also once said _ “You who are poor need to realize your position” _. In the “Rusun case” (where Ahok provided government apartment housing to homeless so they don’t live in the streets – a program to clean up the city), if you are caught selling your housing to someone else, it will definitely upset me and you will be expelled from the program, we must be firm. It does not mean that if you are poor and you do not know your place, you demand and blackmail the State for assistance in the name of human rights. Point number 5 of “Pancasila” (the Indonesian Ideology) speaks about social justice, not social assistance. Social assistance will only damage people and make them unproductive.

Paul (in the Bible) also said, “He who does not work, does not eat.”
Democracy without True faith, will be anarchist and chauvinist.

There is this story about my son who was going to face an exam in high school.

I asked, “What subject is the exam tomorrow?”

My son answered, “Bahasa Indonesia” language.

“Then now, you should study Physics instead of Language,” I said.

“Papa, the exam on language, how is it you tell me to study physics?”

“If your teacher did not tell you what subject is the exam tomorrow, what would you study?”

“I will learn everything, language, physics, mathematics, etc. to be ready.”_

“If in school, we always know what the exam is tomorrow so we can prepare and can learn. You can be smart in school, yes. But because we already know what we will face during the exam. Then how can we be smart in life? Life is like an exam, the difference is, we do not know what exam God gives us tomorrow, we do not know what problems we face. Every moment of our life is a test, without knowing what subject. That is why we should be thankful we have the Bible. The Bible is what we have to hold on to prepare for “exams” in life.  That is why I read my Bible every morning, to prepare for life exams.”

Many times God has made it clear His will to me through God’s Word. Spiritual experiences can be in various forms, and each person is different. I used to struggle when finished my bachelor’s degree,  I wanted to be a pastor and further into theological school. But my dad in Belitung was very broke, I am the oldest son . I wrestled and asked the Lord if I should become a minister or a businessman. One day, while at a church youth event, on the event handout, there is a verse written:

1 Timothy 5: 8 (NKJV) “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

After reading it I felt that rhema of God, I immediately decided to return to Belitung to be a businessman. I want to be a businessman whose characteristics is just like a pastor.

*Question and answer session*
Q: Why did you choose the path of political party and not the independent path?

A: I want to mention, I believe in God’s providence.

Through the independent path, if I win, I will immediately become a superhero in Indonesia. If I win this way then I will destroy all political parties. I’ll be the first man in Indonesia who could win an election without political parties. I will be a great man.  Wiranto and Surya Paloh, said to me, “If no party support you, and you win, it is  finished for all political parties.”

Politics is perception. If Ahok can not go forward because of KPU (the election committee), people would say _ “Too bad, if Ahok move forward,  we will have an advanced Jakarta.”  Pillar of our democracy is the political parties. We should correct the way of the political parties and not do away with the political parties.

My vision is in accordance with my Christian faith: my goal is the building up of people (reconstruction of society). I was struggling for this, and this time the Lord answered through President Jokowi. Mr.Jokowi really know me. When I met with him, he asked, “Have you understood the risk of not being selected if you are going through an independent path?”  I answered, “My wife and I believe, if I do not selected, it means this is the end , our task of our service to the community, we end our service honorably.” Then Mr.Jokowi answered with a very smooth, very meaningful way, “Mr. Governor,  my wife had four months of stress when I wanted to be president.”  More or less, what he is saying is, “Don’t listen to your wife in this case.”

Finally I decided to take the path of political parties, and many people were disappointed, they judge I am inconsistent. I also wrestled, like David in the Psalms, I also pray to God in my quiet times.  I said to God, “I’m embarrassed God, just yesterday I confidently said in front of the crowd that I will progress to go through independent path, but now I actually joined a political party.  People are saying I am inconsistent.” And the Lord spoke to me, God answered when I read Isaiah 60. I feel the verses were addressed to me,

Isiah 60:1-4 (NKJV)

“Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the Lord will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you.
The Gentiles shall come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.

“Lift up your eyes all around, and see:
They all gather together, they come to you;
Your sons shall come from afar,
And your daughters shall be nursed at your side.

I told God, “I feel like I’m buying rice and is exchanged with a potato, Lord ”

But the Lord answered me Isaiah 60:17-22

“Instead of bronze I will bring gold,
Instead of iron I will bring silver,
Instead of wood, bronze,
And instead of stones, iron.
I will also make your officers peace,
And your magistrates righteousness.
18 Violence shall no longer be heard in your land,
Neither wasting nor destruction within your borders;
But you shall call your walls Salvation,
And your gates Praise.

19 “The sun shall no longer be your light by day,
Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you;
But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light,
And your God your glory.
20 Your sun shall no longer go down,
Nor shall your moon withdraw itself;
For the Lord will be your everlasting light,
And the days of your mourning shall be ended.
21 Also your people shall all be righteous;
They shall inherit the land forever,
The branch of My planting,
The work of My hands,
That I may be glorified.
22 A little one shall become a thousand,
And a small one a strong nation.
I, the Lord, will hasten it in its time.”

I am even more firmly that it is the right thing to go through political party path. Political parties have been willing to support me with my condition and little money etc. By using this path, I just finished a peacemaker. If I use an independent path, going feud between political parties, others will blame other political parties who supported me. God also reminded me to be humble. If I go forward as a candidate by an independent path, then I have a higher position in the public eye compared to other candidates who weresubmitted from political parties. But now, if I go ahead with a political party, then my position is equal to candidates of other political parties, it is fair. God wants to remind me not to rely on my own ability. Now I do not care about people trying to tell me I was being inconsistent, etc., which I believe my purpose of running is according to my Christian faith.  God is the one guiding me.

<End of Ahok speech>


I hope you were encouraged as I  was by these words from Ahok.

Art Sisneros

Faux Resistance from Texas

In the wake of the recent Supreme Court rulings, I have noticed a lot of buzz about the government leaders in Texas, Governor Abbot and Attorney General Paxton.  I have heard of their courage for standing up in defiance of our overlords in Washington.  As one who has been paying attentioresistance to kingn to what happens in Austin, I do not believe this is the case, at least not yet.  Their language has changed a little (not nearly enough), but their policy has not.  The courage to defend the people of Texas against the wicked tyrant known as the Supreme Court apparently didn’t get the memo that now is the time.  Paxton’s own words right after the Court’s ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, the same sex “marriage” case, betray the rumors about Texas.  In his opinion (found here) he wrote,

The United States Supreme Court again ignored the text and spirit of the Constitution to manufacture a right that simply does not exist. In so doing, the Court weakened itself and weakened the rule of law..” and

“​Pursuant to the Court’s flawed ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas issued an injunction against the enforcement of Texas marriage laws that define marriage as one man and one woman and therefore those laws currently are enjoined from being enforced by county clerks and justices of the peace. There is not, however, a court order in place in Texas to issue any particular license whatsoever – only the flawed direction by the U.S. Supreme Court on Constitutionality and applicable state laws.”

​It is clear the Attorney General believes the Court has stepped outside of the confines of the law in this case.  That should be enough for him to defy their ruling.  He doesn’t though.  The best he can do is to recommend those that may be forced to issue licenses or perform weddings to refuse on the basis of personal religious conviction.  That and get a good lawyer.

“It is important to note that any clerk who wishes to defend their religious objections and who chooses not to issue licenses may well face litigation and/or a fine. But, numerous lawyers stand ready to assist clerks defending their religious belief.”​

The proper action would have been for him to employ interposition as defined in the “lesser magistrate doctrine.”  For those unfamiliar with this doctrine I recommend Matt Trewhella’s article.  He explains,

“The lesser magistrate doctrine states that when a higher-ranking civil authority makes unjust or immoral laws, policies, or court opinions, the lower or lesser-ranking civil authority has the God-given right and duty not to obey the higher authority. If necessary, the lower authority may even actively resist the superior authority.

The interposition of the lower magistrates is not subjective or lawless. There are only three reasons for open defiance to the higher civil authority. First, they are to oppose and resist any laws or edicts from the higher authority that contravene — violate, oppose, or contradict — the law or Word of God. Second, they are to protect the person and property of those who reside within their jurisdiction from any unjust or immoral laws or actions by the higher authority. Third, they are not to implement any laws or decrees made by the higher authority that violate the U.S. Constitution or their state constitution–and if necessary, resist them.”

The recent ruling of the Supreme Court in this particular case violate every one of these principles.  The lower magistrates in Texas know it.  They are not prepared or willing to do what they ought.  As Matt plainly stated they should “refuse to implement any federal court opinion that tramples the state’s constitution and imposes homosexual marriage upon the people. Unfortunately, all of the governors who have had their state’s constitutions trampled have hidden behind the common lie of the lower authorities, namely: ‘A federal court has ruled; we must obey.”  

So where does this all leave us?  We live in a unique time in our country.  Many of the issues that the progressives and “conservative” statists have been cooperatively working on for decades are finally coming to fruition.   This has culminated into an obnoxious amount of influence that a handful of people hold over the rest of this nation.  All of this leads us to ask, how long will the people take it?  When will the people rise up?  And, what exactly can they do about it?  To be able to accurately identify when the people have reached their maximum level of allowable tyranny, we need to understand the first thing they do when they are upset.  We need to look for a marker.  They will first turn to the politicians they elected.  Some will call, some will write, and the serious ones make their way to the offices of their magistrates.  They demand to be heard and expect their rulers to change things.  We can know that enough people are starting to do this, when the language of the politicians change.  If he thinks enough people are upset enough to change politicians, his actions will match his new found language.  He will rise up with the people.

When the government leaders in Texas become lesser magistrates standing up to National Government, then we will know they mean business.  When they defiantly stand up to the rulings of the SCOTUS and nullifying laws that contradict the Texas Constitution, then all the buzz will be newsworthy.  When they start interposing on behalf of their lower magistrates and citizens, then we can know the people and their officials have had enough.  Until then it is all sound bites, press releases, and meaningless bills intended to quiet the noise.  In other words, business as usual.

Criminalization of the Creation

Monday and Tuesday of this week some friends and I went to Austin to visit the Texas Legislature while they were in session.  We had the opportunity to meet with some of the best State Representatives in Texas, get a glimpse of the behind the scenes of the Texas Supreme Court, and visit House Committee hearings.  We purposed to testify before the Public Health committee to speak on behalf of decriminalization of medical marijuana.  Unfortunately, the bill we were testifying for was bumped and didn’t get a hearing until late Tuesday evening long after we were headed home.  It was a great experience I plan to repeat often.  Below is my testimony that I never got speak.  It is intentionally short because of the 2 minutes time limit.
___MARIJUANA_2_LA-600x427_________
My name is Art Sisneros and I am speaking in favor of Texas House Bill HB837.  First I would to thank you all for allowing us the time to come and testify before this  committee.  As a citizen of this state, I appreciate the  opportunity to be a part of this process.  As I Christian, I  firmly believe that God ordains all things that happen  including allowing each of you to serve currently as state representatives in the great state of TX and particularly as members of this committee.  Being that He is the one that has put you in office, I ask you to consider the possibility that you will be held accountable to Him, even more than your constituency, for the work that you do here.
As one who bears the name of Christ, I believe we are to turn to the Bible to decide what is right and wrong, what is sinful and what is criminal.  Regarding marijuana, the Bible is clear in the creation account found in Genesis 1:12, “And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” As the Creator, He made everything for a reason and to serve a purpose.  While many people may take something that God has made declared as good and misuse it in a harmful way.  This doesn’t mean that it suddenly becomes a bad thing.  Marijuana is often used in harmful and sinful ways, but that doesn’t cancel God’s purpose for it.  It doesn’t make it bad.  To the contrary we live in a time when we have evidence of many good and proper uses for it today.  We have this plant that God has put here for us to use to help sick and hurting people, often children, but unfortunately the law prevents us from using it without taking great legal risks.  I ask, why?  What have we become that our fears drive us to setting policy that literally prevents hurting people from finding relief in a natural plant?  This doesn’t make any sense. Do we really want to be a society that makes criminals out of those that are seeking relief for themselves or their children?

 

It is in this light, that I ask you to vote in favor of moving this legislation out of this committee and to the House floor.  I ask you to do the right thing so you can stand with a clean conscience knowing that you have set aside political posturing in order allow those citizens that in this state to find relief in that which God has created for our good.  Thank you!

Loving the Kids: School Bonds or Bondage

We have officially entered into a change of seasons.  If you are like me you can appreciate almost everything that comes with fall; from the cooler weather, to the anticipation of the holidays, or to thosebeloved November elections….hey, I said almost.  As much as I hate to admit it even the political cycle seems to return every fall.  Sadly, it doesn’t matter who wins for nothing seems to change.  After some reflection about what difference any investment of my precious time was making, I decided this year to pay closer attention to local politics.  For me, this meant focusing my attention on what was happening from Liberty to Austin, TX.  Changing Washington is beyond me and probably beyond changing outside of an act of Providence.  It is in this mindset that I recently stumbled across the wickedness of a school bond that will be on our local ballot in November.  This bond is not only fiscally ignorant, but morally evil.  Lest you think I am being too harsh in my opinion of this bond allow me to make my case.    

First we need to ask, “what exactly is a bond?” According to Wikipedia, “a bond is an instrument of indebtedness of the bond issuer to the holders. Thus a bond is a form of loan: the holder of the bond is the lender (creditor), the issuer of the bond is the borrower (debtor), and the coupon is the interest.”[1]  In short, a bond is a loan or new debt.  In this case, the bond being sought after is the school district seeking to borrow money they do not have on behalf of the citizens upon the promise of future taxation.  Allow that statement to sink in for a minute.  The fact that most school districts regularly take advantage of bond debt should not cloud our understanding to the dangerous nature of taking on new debt.  Any household, business or community that wants to financially survive would be wise to consider the full implications of taking a loan before making their decision.  A few questions to ask might include: what do we need so urgently that we must take a loan to get?  What is it going to cost us?  Do we have the ability to repay this loan?  What happens if we can’t afford to repay it?  For Dayton ISD the urgent needs include 6 lighted tennis courts, concrete parking for buses, a new auditorium, a new practice gym, and a roof for the rodeo arena, etc.[2]   This particular loan for the citizens of the small rural community of Dayton, TX is to the tune of $87 million.  Once the interest is accounted for the total debt climbs up to neighborhood of $150 million.  Apparently the “community advisors” for Dayton ISD either didn’t ask these questions or came up with answers not based in reality.   Either way, they were led to the conclusion that this was indeed a wise decision for the community to get this loan.  One has to wonder if these folks would make the same decision on a personal level if it was exclusively their money being spent.  Would they personally take a loan to pay for lighted tennis courts?  Not likely.  So why do they think this community should?  One answer they give is because of the projected future growth.  What happens in the likely scenario[3] that the projected growth doesn’t reach their expectations?  Will the debt be forgiven? No!  The taxpayers and businesses of this rural community will be faced with a financial train wreck that is unavoidable.  They’ll be forced to split the bill.                

 Aside from being an unwise decision it is also an immoral one.[4]  While the Bible does allow for debt under certain circumstances, it is always to be done God’s way.  This means following the restrictions and limitations He has put in place when taking on debt.  Taking a loan is a voluntary act of submission that shouldn’t be taken lightly. As Proverbs 22 states, “the borrower is the servant to the lender.”[5]  To voluntarily take on debt is to make oneself a servant or slave to the debt and debt holder.   Paul said to the slave “if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.”[6] The inspired Word of God is clear that when there is a choice between economic freedom or slavery we ought to choose freedom.  God never expects His people to go into debt for their desires.  Extreme debt should only to be taken on in an extreme need.  I am confident in my assertion that tennis courts do not fall into the category of extreme need, but are rather a desire.  Another limitation on debt is: it must be a voluntary act.  It can never be forced on people that don’t want it.  How anyone could think that God would be pleased with people forcing their neighbors to take a loan is beyond me.  The fact that a local pastor would advocate such a position reveals his poor understanding of scripture.  To forcibly take something from your neighbor that he is unwilling to give is theft.  It is a violation of the 8th commandment.  For any group of people to vote to take other people’s money for their own purposes is simply theft by mob.  It is disregarding Christ’s command to “love our neighbor as ourselves”[7]  Sure it may be legal, but it is against God’s law and therefore is wrong.  The legality of abortion never made it the right thing to do.  This debt is not being sought on behalf of the school board, but instead on behalf of the taxpayers and their children.  Remember our description from earlier, “the bond loan being asked is the school district borrowing money they do not have on behalf of the citizens upon the promise of future taxation.” 

What about the children?  Do we not have a moral obligation to our children?  Yes, actually we do and this bondage is not it.  The Bible states that “a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.”[8]  Those that are pushing for this debt are literally leaving an inheritance of economic slavery to the kids all while doing it in the name of “for the kids.”  Shouldn’t we love our children?  Of course, but one has to ask, “what does that look like?”  Romans 13:8 says we are to “owe nothing to any man, but to love one another.”  Here is a two fold instruction.  First owe nothing (i.e; avoid debt) with the exception of love.  What is love?  The passage continues, “for he that loves another, has fulfilled the Law.”  To love is to keep God’s law in regards to your neighbor or your children.  To break God’s law by forcing debt upon them, robbing their inheritance, stealing their future income, and inheriting to them an economic slavery is anything but love.  It is in fact a wicked act.  

Will the people of this community consider this debt in light of God’s Word?  I truly hope so, but if their pastors don’t know better they probably don’t either.  We will try our best to change minds, but chances are things will remain the same until people return to God’s Word as the true source of all knowledge and wisdom.  I look forward to that season with a greater anticipation than I do towards fall.                                    


[3] 2003-2013 has shown decrease in population by 1.8 %

[4] As a Christian I base all morality on the Bible

[5] Proverbs 22:7

[6] 1 Corinthians 7:21

[7] Matthew 22:39

[8] Proverbs 13:22

Disqualified Civil Rulers

The last few months have been an awakening of sorts for me in a variety of ways. In early January, the primary election season in Texas began to kick into second gear.  It was at this point I began to become awakened to how much, dare I say it, evil was in my midst.  As a Christian, I knew I was to be a light to the world.  What was new to me, however, was the realm in which I was entering into, to shine my light.  I was venturing into the realm of politics.  Fully aware of the adage “politics is dirty”, I knew there was truth to it.  What I did not know was the source, depth, and acceptance of this “dirtiness”.  I say “dirtiness” but that actually is not the right word.  Dirt doesn’t sin.  It isn’t incompetent, dishonest or corrupt in practice.  Many of those in or seeking places of power are much worse.  They are, in fact, engaged in evil.

Lest you think I am over exaggerating, allow me to explain. Evil is, by definition, that which is immoral or wicked. In other words, evil is that which is contrary to righteousness, justice or truth. Now evil can be manifested in a variety of forms and degrees.  It can be diabolical, which leads to mass murder and such.  We immediately conjure up images in our heads of Stalin, Hitler or even millions of aborted fetuses.  This type of evil is usually obvious to spot or rather it should be.  But there is a much more subtle form of evil, the kind that masks itself under the guise of good.  This is the form employed far more frequently in my local political scene.  The corruption, lawlessness, and depravity that are seemingly on every level to one degree or another are nothing short of well… evil.  “This is politics”, you say, “of course there is corruption in politics.”  Yes, but the most surprising and offensive part of this corruption is that it is coming from the very people who claim to be “unashamed of their Christian faith” or even “the conscience” of their party, and on and on, ad nauseam.

Here are just a few examples though plenty more could be listed.

– The County Clerk requiring filings that the law does not require.  I’m not sure if it’s incompetence or otherwise, but it took under 30 minutes of research to discover the law.  Upon bringing this to the clerk’s attention, she persisted in “adding to” the law by continuing to require more than the law states.

– Republican Party Chairman intimidating my wife and kids at the polling places because she was promoting his opponent.  She was harshly warned of a supposed rule (not a violation of any law) that had been continuously broken by all the other candidates while she was complying with the rule 100%.  It was a passive aggressive intimidation move, plain and simple.

– US Senatorial Candidate and current US Representative, Steve Stockman, using manipulative polling, deceitful surveys, fake newspapers, crony endorsements, and several possible ethics violations all in his quest for another office.  This is documented here and here and here.

– A grassroots organization claiming to be the “conscience of the party” and the group standing up for “principles” decides to honor their endorsement of Rep. Stockman.  They did so even after becoming aware of his shenanigans and sleazy political schemes.  Apparently their “principles” include overlooking deception for a good old fashion back-scratching session.  After all, the ends always justify the means, right?

I know this to be the “standard operating procedures” for political campaigning, but that does not make it right.  Not only do these candidates reveal their hypocrisy, but they have actually disqualified themselves, Biblically, from the very offices they are seeking.  The Bible gives specific instructions when electing men as civil magistrates.  According to Exodus 18:21 it says you shall “look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of the thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.”  Note these simple requirements carefully.

1. Able men (competence)

2. Godly men (righteous character)

3. Trustworthiness (honesty)

4. Men who hate a bribe (i.e. not for sale)

We could stop right here and have enough to condemn most of the candidates that are seeking political office. However, the Bible has much more to say about our civil rulers.  When giving a clear explanation of the purpose for civil government and its rulers[1], Paul refers to civil rulers as “a minister of God to you for good.”[2]  Civil rulers (i.e. legislators, judges, etc) are ministers.  There is an important principle here that we need to understand.  We expect a certain quality of character in our ministers.  We should expect the same in our civil rulers for they are also ministers of a different jurisdiction.  We don’t though.  We expect them to cheat, lie, steal, and everything else that is contrary to righteousness.  What we ought to expect of them are the same qualifications that the Bible expects of ministers and deacons.  We should expect them to be above reproach, temperate, prudent, respectable, dignified, not double-tongued or greedy and so forth.[3]  God has a certain standard for men that serve in this ministerial role of civil ruler, however small or large.  Notice the qualifications are focused far more on character and worldview than on pedigree or privilege.  We should do the same.

While I don’t expect any candidates to remove themselves from any races or even offices, there is one thing we can do.  We can start raising the standards on the quality of men we are willing to put in positions of power.  We can find those candidates that are qualified and offer them our support.  We can dedicate our time, money, and energies to getting these men in office.  We can and must have the courage to call out those that have disqualified themselves.  We must be willing to call evil, “evil.”  We must refuse to vote for the “lesser of two evils” just because they are our friends, in our party, or benefit us the most.  We must stop sacrificing our principles on the altar of pragmatism.

This may lead some to the all too common conclusion that “Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics.”  This is the wrong conclusion.  What we must remember is that light is far more powerful than the darkness.  Light overcomes darkness.  What we need are more brave men willing to step down into darkness in order to expose it.  We must be willing to get our hands dirty and keep our souls clean before God and men.


[1] Romans 13:1-6

[2] Romans 13:4

[3] 1 Timothy 3:1-10