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The Biblical Foundations of Small Government


Boogalou

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So, over in "FRC: 'Nothing More Christian' Than Massive Food Stamp Cut" thread Ken Blackwell, a FRC representative, basically said that cutting food stamps and small government was Christian and biblical. I asked him in that thread if he could point me to those bible verses I would appreciate it. However, I'm not holding my breath so I decided to do a bit of research myself!

 

I went to The Google and found "The Biblical Case for Limited Government" from a publication called First Things which I have never heard of before. Their about us says:

 

 

Quote
First Things is published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life, an interreligious, nonpartisan research and education institute whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society.

 

So, ok then. That's pretty vague and I can't find a whole lot about them so I will move on to the article.

 

They babble on a bit then get to the start of their argument. The Hebrew Scripture is fundamentally suspicious of the state. Abraham votes in politicians who want to intrude on the lives of everyone else to follow his exact moral code leaves the cities of Mesopotamia and Egypt and heads out into the wilderness (take not modern fundamentalists). They say:

 

 

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The point of such a departure from civilization is apparently to free oneself from the rule of men, that one may properly turn one’s heart to God.

 

Fair enough, but it sounds like they are reading a lot into Abraham's motivations. I think it is also worth noting that there is a huge difference in modern nation states, especially democracies, and living under biblical monarchies.

 

Anyway, biblical states continue to be terrible places to live in. The biblical Israelites were enslaved by the biblical Egyptians (please ignore the lack of historical evidence for this outside the Bible) and they responded by small acts of resistance. How being enslaved and living in a democracy are analogous remains unclear at this point. Anyway, Moses goes out and sees the Hebrews suffering at the hands of the Egyptian by getting food stamps so they don't go hungry an Egyptian beating a Hebrew man. Moses then kills the Egyptian.

 

 

Quote
In this scene, as in the others, there is no pretense of anyone’s being under some kind of obligation to obey Pharaoh, his law, or the agents of his state.

 

I would argue here that Moses saw something terrible happened and he stepped in to stop it. I'm not sure if this one incident is enough to justify that government must be small.

 

But, alas, Moses carries on and flees from Egypt and becomes a shepherd out in the boonies. It is here that God reveals himself to Moses, apparently because God doesn't like cities even though God would reveal Godself in cities later on. So far their argument works out to slavery and monarchies are bad, nomadic pastoralism is good. Maybe we should all go buy some sheep and start wandering the countryside.

 

We now jump ahead to Passover where everyone who is to be delivered from Egypt has to put lamb's blood around their door. The price of delivery is an act of civil disobedience (because Amun was represented by a ram -- I learned something today!)

 

And now we begin to get somewhere:

 

 

Quote
It is to a condition of anarchic liberty that the Israelites hope to return in Canaan. This is a hope famously expressed by Gideon after the people press him to be their king: “And Gideon said to them, ‘I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. God will rule over you.’†Similar sentiments are given powerful expression by Samuel, the greatest of the judges of Israel, who repeatedly inveighs against the establishment of a permanent state. .

 

However, the article says there can't literally be anarchy, that would be disastrous as shown in the Book of Judges.

 

 

Quote
Thus while the biblical narrative presents enslavement to the Egyptian state as having been an evil of unfathomable proportions, its judgment is no less harsh concerning an anarchy in which “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.†Without a state to maintain order, we are to understand, nothing stands in the way of a descent into ever-greater depravity, until finally the people find themselves reenacting the corruptions of Sodom, whose perversity was so great that it was purged from the face of the earth.

 

See, from this I would read that the idea is we need a just state. I would say there are several other forms of state/government than just one that supports enslavement and one that does not exist. The idea they glean from this is:

 

 

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The only alternative to anarchy is the establishment of a standing political and military power that will be strong enough to maintain order internally and protect the people from the predations of foreigners

 

Anyway, at this point in the narrative Saul becomes king and he turns out to be just as bad as the Egyptians.

 

And here we get to the crux of the argument. In the book of Samuel the stat of Israel is formed. Unlike modern states this is not an agreement between the individuals who make up the state. This is an agreement between the individuals who make up the state on one side and God on the other side. They then go on to say that the Bible is more in favour of democracy than any Greek text because God said to Samuel "listen to the voice of the people in everything that they say to you". How this one line goes "further in the direction of endorsing democratic principles than any of the classical texts of Greek philosophy" is beyond me, but there you have it.

 

Now, they say this is not to be interpreted as the government needing only the consent of the people, because the government also needs the consent of (the one version of) God (they deem to be the correct one).

 

What's that now? We are like three quarters of the way into this article and they haven't really said much of anything about limited government?? Well get ready, because here it is! They cite a verse in Deuteronomy:

 

 

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[The king] shall not multiply horses to himself. . . . Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his thoughts not be turned away. Neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. . . . He shall write for himself a copy of this teaching [tora] . . . and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life, that . . . his thoughts not be lifted above his brothers.

 

Which they take to mean there should be no large standing armies to wage constant warfare, not too many foreign alliances, and not accumulating a lot of gold apparently means there should be no heavy taxation. Reading that I would think that not greatly multiplying silver and gold to himself would refer more to being a lot more wealthy than the people one is ruling over, but the authors disagree. This ONE verse means there should be a limited state!

 

 

Quote
A limited state, then, involves restraining the appetites of rulers for territories and instruments of war, for wives, and for wealth.

 

This, obviously, also means no welfare and food stamps, amirite?

 

The article goes on talking about people accumulating a lot of wealth on the backs of people under them (what does this sound like, I wonder??) and the legitimacy of revolutions.

 

They then go back to how states oscialte between rules like the Egyptians and anarchy. The only happy medium is an imperial government.

 

THEN NAZIS!!!!1!! Because no good analysis of anything ever forgets to discuss the Nazis.

 

And end scene.

 

There you have it folks. We need a specific version of limited government so that people are not enslaved. Good thing that the time fundies hold up as a paragon a Christian limited government had no slavery... oh, wait ..... And this limited government should have the consent of God. I guess only one god's consent. I'm guessing if Vishnu gave his consent that wouldn't go over so well.

 

TL;DR: limited government because slavery! Or something

 

firstthings.com/article/2012/09/the-biblical-case-for-limited-government

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As someone from SW Ohio, can I just say - some of us are quite relieved that Ken Blackwell has moved on to "greener pastures".

Of course, the same city that elected Blackwell mayor also once elected Jerry Springer mayor...

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Uhhhhh...There was no "state" in the days of Abraham. They were a bunch of xenophobic tribes wandering around the desert.

Exactly. Here's the thing about trying to justify every single thing about modern day life with randmon snippets from the Bible. As is so often the case they get things about the Bible wrong, like your point above. Abraham probably didn't just make up his own rules for everything, he was part of a group. If people do get something about the Bible right it could be that the Bible itself is wrong, like the idea that the Hebrews were enslaved by the Egyptians. And then, if they get the Bible right and the Bible gets it right whose to say that those things should be applied today? To everyone? Like, it's nice that all these people in the Bible were shepherds but it doesn't mean that everyone today should quit their jobs and buy some sheep.

It's one thing to base your own life on all these assumptions but when you start trying to apply that to everyone else it enters a whole other category.

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"First Things" was founded by Richard John Neuhas, a former radical Lutheran pastor turned Catholic priest:

[link=]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_John_Neuhaus[/link]

(link not broken because it's wikipedia)

Neuhas was a conservative, but not a rad-trad, so he was always slavishly devoted to whatever the pope said on sexual matters, but ignored papal teachings on economic issues. "First Things" is a very "American" publication, meaning its view on Catholic matters looks an awful lot like Puritanism with Mary and stained glass windows, so there are a lot of articles that purport to show how capitalism is the most Catholic economic system or how low taxes are mandated by the Church. What you won't see is anything about Catholicism in traditionally Catholic countries, where people informally canonize individuals like this:

[link=]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gauchito_Gil[/link]

[link=]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Soldado[/link]

[link=]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximón[/link]

(links not broken, because it's all wikipedia)

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"First Things" was founded by Richard John Neuhas, a former radical Lutheran pastor turned Catholic priest:

[link=]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_John_Neuhaus[/link]

(link not broken because it's wikipedia)

Neuhas was a conservative, but not a rad-trad, so he was always slavishly devoted to whatever the pope said on sexual matters, but ignored papal teachings on economic issues. "First Things" is a very "American" publication, meaning its view on Catholic matters looks an awful lot like Puritanism with Mary and stained glass windows, so there are a lot of articles that purport to show how capitalism is the most Catholic economic system or how low taxes are mandated by the Church. What you won't see is anything about Catholicism in traditionally Catholic countries, where people informally canonize individuals like this:

[link=]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gauchito_Gil[/link]

[link=]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Soldado[/link]

[link=]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximón[/link]

(links not broken, because it's all wikipedia)

Thanks for that much fuller explanation of First Things, Cleopatra7. I think my organic chemistry prof was reading a copy during our final in the mid-90s.

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It's also worth mentioning that the Catholic church has always been ambivalent about capitalism. In this past, this was mostly due to the fact that capitalism threatened the church's power as a traditional elite. Advocates of free trade in the 18th and 19th century were fiercely anticlerical and wanted to seize church lands and redevelop them into modern industries, in addition to creating secular, co-ed educational institutes. The migration of peasants to cities weakened its base in the countryside. Today this ambivalence is mostly due to the fact that the European bishops are all some flavor of social democrat (libertarianism seems to mostly be an Anglo-American fascination), and the bishops from the developing world know first-hand how the fruits of capitalism are seldom distributed in an equitable manner. If you got all of your ideas about the Catholic church from "First Things," you'd think all Catholics were white American libertarians, which is rather depressing, given the real-life diversity of global Catholicism.

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