Category Archives: government

Bunkum & Boodle: Federal Government Accountants

“Bunkum & Boodle” sounds so much like an accounting firm or maybe a law firm, I just couldn’t resist.

Considering numbers represent finite units of wealth, and so aren’t quite as easily manipulated by abstract principles of interpretation, I’ll go with accounting.

vocabulary, lexicon, bunkum, boodle

Maybe I should call Bunkum & Boodle “Congressional Accountants,” or how about this:

Bunkum & Boodle Congressional Accounting

“Where nonsense guides the theft and expenditure of your money.”

Thanks, Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Day.

Religious liberty and thought crimes

When the mechanism for punishing conscience is established by law, any political power that takes control will use the mechanism to punish those with opposing ideas. The mechanism is neutral, and eventually, you’ll be on the opposite side of the controlling power. You could avoid this by not allowing the mechanisms for punishing conscience to be established by law. Has anyone ever changed another person’s conscience by coercion? Forced underground, conscience eventually re-emerges, angrier and stronger. Beware of well-intended mechanisms that can be turned against you when the center of power shifts. Beware of politically suppressing a group with which you disagree.

A protester wearing breathing gas mask. Photo by Mstyslav Chernov

Lament for the lack of liturgical libertarians

The Pope is visiting during an election year, and that’s got me thinking about the relationship between politics and religion. A NPR reporter this morning said that the Pope and the President like each other, even though they disagree with each other on some issues, especially and most currently Iraq.

Consider that a Christian in politics will tend to err, if he’s on the right, by advocating state power for the enforcement of behavioral codes (moralistic laws); if he’s on the left, by advocating state power to force people to be compassionate with their money (tax code).

Why not have some Christians in politics who advocate freedom?

I think there’s space for Christians, especially those of the old liturgical traditions, to support libertarianism, even in this year of Obama versus McCain (OK, maybe Hillary still has a shot). Not that we can find a candidate representative of liturgical libertarianism.

Think about the ways in which New Testament teachings match up with libertarianism:

1. True morality comes from within, from a person’s character, when an individual has the opportunity to do wrong, yet chooses to do right. When someone cannot choose to do wrong, and therefore does not do wrong, that is no reflection of morality. Jesus criticized people who prided themselves on externally observable rules when their hearts were rotten. The rule-obeying was white-wash. In a related passage — and one that certainly suggests that liberty is a good thing — he condemns the Pharisess by saying, “They pile up back-breaking burdens and lay them on other men’s shoulders, yet they themselves will not raise a finger to move them.” I think of regulations, moralistic laws, and even taxes (reference Exodus 5:6-9 as an example of a state burdening people).

2. Libertarianism teaches that coercion is wrong, and the New Testament would seem to provide ample teaching for that view. In the New Testament, Paul writes that repentance comes from recognizing God’s kindness; God is not forcing people into conversion or submission. At one point in the Gospels, Jesus rebuked his disciples for wanting to call down fire on a city. Plus, we know the familiar phrases “turn the other cheek, bless those who persecute you,” etc., but how many apply that to a view of state power? (I don’t say that to nullify Thomas Aquinas’ just war theory; it seems to me that governments, from time to time, will have to use force to protect people from violent aggressors.) Consider that in terms of victimless crimes and the tax burden of imprisoning people who commit them.

Some will say, “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” but can we really compare the U.S. to ancient Rome? Don’t you think the American people are supposed to be their own Caesar? “We the people,” democracy, and all that ought to de-centralize power, correct? The beneficiaries of de-centralization would be “we the people” in the U.S. For better or worse, we are Caesar. Or, maybe that’s too popular of a view. It’s probably better to say that we’re ruled by law, not by a king, and that the laws are formed within a representative democracy. We have a hand in creating our laws.

Of course, political libertarianism will be hard for many politically-active U.S. Christians to swallow, because whether they advocate state-enforced behavioral codes or state-enforced compassion, they believe the primary goal of the Christian faith is moral and ethical, so any means (including force) by which people will behave properly is good, when the actual goal of Christianity is for each individual to receive grace through faith, and then reflect grace to others.

No force involved, just freedom of conscience and freedom of expression.

-Colin Foote Burch

P.S. The Acton Institute has the right idea. Check out the Web site here.

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Malaysian government confiscates books

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Adding to the furor over whether non-Muslims have the right to use the word “Allah” in their publications and religious practice, on January 11 online news agency Malaysiakini reported that officials confiscated English-language Christian children’s books because they contained images of prophets. 

The government reportedly said Internal Security Ministry officials confiscated the books because their illustrations of prophets offended the sensitivities of Muslims. Islam, which shares some prophets in common with Christianity, prohibits the portrayal of prophets.  

Enforcement officials of the Publications and Al-Quran Texts Control Department under the Internal Security Ministry, headed by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, reportedly confiscated the books from three MPH bookstores in Johor Bahru, Senawang and Ipoh in mid-December.  The books have been sent to the department’s headquarters in Putrajaya for investigation. Managers of the MPH bookstores reportedly said they will wait for the Internal Security Ministry’s decision on the books. 

In a statement released yesterday (January 17) , the Rev. Dr. Hermen Shastri, general-secretary of the Council of Churches Malaysia questioned how the books could be offensive to Muslims when they were not meant for them.  

In the strongly worded statement about the seizures, Shastri said government officials “have no right and have overstepped their bounds by confiscating Christian literature.”  He urged the prime minister and his Cabinet to take immediate action to put a stop to such seizures and to “amend administrative rules and regulations especially in the Internal Security Ministry that give a free hand to enforcement officials to act at their whim and fancies.”  

At the same time, the debate over whether non-Muslims can use the word “Allah” in publications and religious practice was stoked when the Internal Security Ministry told the Sun on Wednesday (January 16) that it had confiscated a total of 163 publications comprising 18 titles from bookshops nationwide.  A ministry official told the daily that the seizures were made because the word “Allah” was used in the books. But Deputy Internal Ministry Minister Johari Baharum reportedly said that the ministry did not target Christian books. 

“We do routine checks all year long,” he said. “We don’t only seize Christian books, but other [religious] books as well.”   

The deputy minister said use of the words, “Allah” (Arabic for God), “baitullah” (mosque in Mecca), “solat” (prayer) and “kaabah” (Islamic shrine in Mecca) are exclusive to Islam, according to Gazette PU (A) 15/82 and circular KKDN S.59/3/6/A dated December 5, 1986.  In a letter to the press, Gayathry Venkiteswaran, executive director of the Centre for Independent Journalism, argued that “seizing more than the needed copies for investigation while the titles are not banned, denies the right of the people to access the book and is clearly high-handed.” 

The right of non-Muslims to use the word “Allah” in their publications and practice of their religion is being tested in two court cases by the publisher of the Herald, a Catholic newspaper, and the Evangelical Church of Borneo (Sidang Injil Borneo).

 -Jasmine Kay, Compass Direct News  

Also see: 

Malaysian government threatens censorship

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – A Catholic newspaper and an evangelical church have brought lawsuits against the government after authorities ruled against use of the word “Allah” in Christian publications. The government had threatened the Herald, a 13-year-old Catholic weekly, with closure. Following protests by the Christian community, the Herald’s printing permit was renewed just two days prior to expiration. At the same time, the Evangelical Church of Borneo (Sidang Injil Borneo, or SIB) has challenged a government decision to prohibit importation of Christian educational materials for children containing the word “Allah.” A court hearing on the case scheduled for December 27 was postponed until January 16 pending efforts by outside parties to resolve the matter. In its lawsuit, SIB argues that Christian use of “Allah” predates Islam, as the word is used for God in the old as well as modern Arabic Bibles.

-Compass Direct News

India grants adoption rights to non-Hindus; law could help 56 million orphaned & destitute children

NEW DELHI — Ending a long era of absence of adoption rights for non-Hindus, the government has cleared the way for all religious communities in all Indian states to adopt legally. The government of the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance on October 26 gave notice of new rules under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act or JJA of 2006, making room for all communities to adopt. The Rev. Dr. Richard Howell, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, said his group welcomed “the significant move” by the federal government “to enhance the legal rights of adopted children and the couples who adopt them.” It is estimated that barely 5,000 children a year are adopted in the country, though there are more than 56 million orphaned and destitute children.

-Compass Direct News