The name of this blog is from a speech by John Philpot Curran, given in Dublin in 1790.
The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance
said Curran. The shorter form of the original quote is variously attributed to the likes of Wendell Phillips and Thomas Jefferson, but no one really knows who first came up with the exact phrase. Here it is in the Virginia Free Press and Farmers’ Repository, May 2, 1833.
Sadly, the sentinels on the watch-tower slumbered long ago. We’re still not free, we never have been, and likely never will be. Eternal vigilance is a big ask.
Just as well we’re not commies and we never had a first five-year plan!
So what’s the good news?
One issue close to the hearts of libertarians in general and at least two Eternal Vigilance bloggers is cannabis law reform. I’d like to take this opportunity to review the dramatic progress made towards sane, sensible and just cannabis laws in the last 5 years. Not here in New Zealand (not yet), but in the original land of the free, the United States of America.
For example, in Colorado, fatalities and injuries on the road attributed to DUI dropped after legalisation but are trending up again. And, although arrests are down, the racial disparity in marijuana-related arrests hasn’t changed.
These things have occurred. And it is a true adage that, “what has happened once, may happen again.”
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” (NIV)
I wonder and worry about what frightful bureaucracies may supplant cannabis prohibition in New Zealand once it is finally driven out.
The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another, and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (NIV)
Life is what happens … while you’re busy making other plans.
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ (ESV)
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines?
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. (NIV)
Make a new plan, Stan! … Just get yourself free.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (KJV)
Leave the sorrow and heartache before it takes you away from your mind. When sadness fills your days, it’s time to turn away. And then tomorrow’s dreams become reality.
And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King. (KJV)
It is both a political right and an epistemic duty to change one’s mind. Well, I’ve been thinking. And I’ve changed my mind. I no longer think that Romans 13 is libertarianism’s last bastion against the unrule of the godless. Nor do I any longer think that anarchy is the unrule of the godless. That’s not anarchy, that’s totalitarian chaos. Anarchy is libertopian order and the only moral system of government.
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. (KJV)
Here’s the first question for conservative Christians. Do you think that the Founding Fathers of the United States received to themselves damnation?
And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him. (KJV)
Note that to render means to give back.
Here’s the second question for conservative Christians. What belongings of Caesar’s did those whom Jesus addressed have in their possession that they could return?
I hereby declare that I am a governing authority. Send me your money.
I missed the deadline for an Easter Sunday blog post, partly because, unlike Jesus, I’m not an early riser, and partly because I got a bit carried away studying scripture. I might have to lay off the Bible study for a while, because I’m starting to see things that aren’t really there. Or are they? Incipient psychosis or hidden meanings in scripture?
So I was listening to my favourite metal band, Slayer. In particular I was listening to my favourite track on their Christ Illusion album, Skeleton Christ. And reading the lyrics. And I got to wondering, is Slayer, in fact, a crypto-Christian band and their lyrics also the product of supernatural engineering?
Psychosis. That’s what you’re thinking. But bear with me. The idea is not as crazy as it might at first seem. A strong case can be made that the band who gave birth to the entire heavy metal genre, Black Sabbath, was the first Christian rock band. If Black Sabbath is a crypto-Christian band, then why not too the undisputed (by me) masters of the genre, Slayer?
Here’s a verse from the Second Epistle of John.
many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. (NIV)
And here’s an excerpt from the lyrics to Skeleton Christ.
You’ll never touch God’s hand
You’ll never taste God’s breath
Because you’ll never see the Second Coming
It’s all a fuckin’ mockery
No grasp upon reality
It’s mind control for compulsory religion
And the Skeleton Christ
What if this song is not the attack on Christianity it superficially appears to be, but an attack on corrupt organised religion (“mind control for compulsory religion”) and the false gospel of the antichrist and those he’s deceived into worshipping a false Skeleton Christ? A skeleton, you see, is not “coming in the flesh”, it’s all dead bones, such as you might find in a whited sepulchre. It’s worth a thought, don’t you think? Feel free to take it cum grano salis.
Speaking of sepulchres, back to the main story.
I got to pondering the symbolism of stone in the Bible, and found this verse.
Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ (NIV)
You see where I’m going with this? Jesus is the stone. It’s no wonder the women couldn’t find Jesus in the tomb. He’d been rolled away! But by whom?
As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. (NIV)
Please understand that I do not deny that it was “an angel of the Lord came down from heaven” who rolled away the stone. That is the plain meaning of this passage from the Gospel of Matthew.
But please do consider the possible hidden meaning in the possible alternative scenario I’m sketching.
Who would roll Jesus out of the way, so that his own disciples couldn’t find him, finding instead a decaying soon-to-be-Skeleton Christ? One of the Devil’s angels, for sure, if not the Devil himself.
Here are a couple of clues.
[Jesus] replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (NIV)
And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. (NIV)
The angel’s appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow … like an angel of light or, indeed, Jesus himself transfigured. And, in a final coup de disgrâce, the angel then sits on the stone, making the Devil’s most feared enemy a buttstool for his sulfurous butt.
It’s a complete inversion of Bible truth. Which is, of course, the Devil’s calling card.
Beware of false prophets and false messiahs. And the Skeleton Christ.
According to Ken Joblin, Press 12 March, voluntary euthanasia quote, ‘makes people with disabilities feel less valued’. The arrogance of that remark is breath-taking: no person can judge another’s unhappiness. To say an individual must die in agony against their will because a total stranger might feel ‘devalued’ is non-sequitur, offensive and selfish; and this applies even if that stranger is living in similar circumstances of pain they yet find acceptable. The apt word in voluntary euthanasia is ‘voluntary’: it’s only for those who want that option, as many do. Every argument against voluntary euthanasia is the busy-body argument an individual must be left no volition over their own life. Adults self-manage health issues throughout their lives: managing one’s death is merely the end of that grown-up process. The disabled rightly tell the able-bodied to see issues from their point of view: well I’m afraid the opinion voluntary euthanasia devalues the life of a disabled person is as blind as Mr Joblin is partially sighted. No disrespect Mr Joblin, but please remove your opinion from those who have died or are dying in circumstances, sometimes appalling, against their wishes; just over last 12 months to put names to this issue: Rosie Mott, Faye Clark, lawyer Lecretia Searles – who still argues superbly for her right to that option as she manages life with brain tumours – Clare Richards and the list continues to grow, as long as we have no civilised euthanasia law.
Let’s be clear. It’s wrong to torture people to death. And
To say an individual must die in agony against their will
is to condone torturing people to death. And those who oppose assisted suicide in the sort of cases where it is typically requested are really no different from would-be torturers. It really is that simple.
Of course, you may say that I ride roughshod over the distinction between actively bringing something about and passively allowing something to happen. That I ignore the distinction between killing and merely letting die. That I fail to differentiate between causing suffering and allowing suffering simply by failing to prevent it when one could.
It’s an important distinction, to be sure. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, should we lump the priest and the Levite in with the robbers? Or, morally speaking, do they stand apart as somehow less deserving of our condemnation?
But no. The distinction here is between actively bringing something about and actively preventing those who would otherwise prevent something from happening from doing so. (Think of an embellished parable in which the Samaritan is impeded and threatened by bureaucrats when he goes to the aid of the man attacked by robbers.)
Current NZ law makes it a criminal offence to assist suicide under any circumstances.
Aiding and abetting suicide
Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years who—
(a) incites, counsels, or procures any person to commit suicide, if that person commits or attempts to commit suicide in consequence thereof; or
(b) aids or abets any person in the commission of suicide.
A prison term not exceeding 14 years? Bit harsh, just for complying with a loved one’s wishes to help hasten the end to their terminal suffering. (Could be worse though. Consider the case of Aldous Huxley. On his deathbed, he asked to be given LSD. His wife obligingly injected him with LSD. She could have faced life imprisonment for that!)
Make them suffer? Hell no! That’s just the name of the Cannibal Corpse song below, and the implicit maxim of sadists, psychopaths and assorted Parliamentarians. (Also clickbait.) If it’s not abundantly clear by now, I’m with Mark Hubbard on this one. In principle, I support legislative changes to legalise voluntary euthanasia. My lingering concern is with the form such legislative change might take. If the Psychoactive Substances Act is Parliament’s idea of drug law reform, then we could be in trouble. I don’t want my legal end-of-life choices limited to bureaucrat-approved modes of dying!
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. (ESV)
Should Christians kill all the homosexuals? (Let’s be clear. The answer is NO.)
Not even Pastor Logan Robertson thinks that Christians should kill all the homosexuals. He thinks that’s a job for the government.
I believe every single one of them should be put to death. Obviously Christians shouldn’t be doing it. I’m not going to do it. It’s the government’s job to be doing it.
Which is worse? Pastor Logan Robertson’s appalling homophobia or his abject statism? (Let’s be absolutely clear. It’s NOT the government’s job to kill homosexuals. It’s no one’s job. No one should kill anyone. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.)
Presumably Robertson is somewhat cynical about the government’s ability to do whatever it is they’re supposed to do, and that’s why he says he’ll pray that Marjoram tops himself, rather than patiently wait for the state to embark on genocide.
I’m downgrading my assessment of Pastor Logan Robertson from stooge to sitting duck.
I was by no means the only one to suspect that Marjoram and Robertson were colluding and that it was all a set-up to gain publicity for and sell Marjoram’s book. Or, worse, that it was a cunning plan by new atheists to discredit Christianity. Investigative journalist Ian Wishart says
Maybe it’s the investigative journalist in me, and the sceptic in someone else who shall remain nameless, but something seems fishy about this story of the pastor abusing the gay author.
Logan Robertson does not seem to have much of a digital footprint pre-dating this. In fact, his “church” is so obscure it runs from a house and its website was only established a matter of weeks ago. Frankly, I’m surprised Jim Marjoram was able to find so obscure a church to send an email to…because I couldn’t find it in the usual church email directories he would ordinarily have used..
Maybe I missed something…
What Wishart missed, and what I missed, is that Robertson has a history of serious mental illness.
Here ends the short sad sorry saga of Pastor Logan Robertson and his Westcity Bible Baptist Church with its congregation of three.
Or does it?
What about the elephant in the room?
Let’s grab it by the tail and look the facts in the face. The Bible quite clearly tells us, as Pastor Logan Robertson reminds us in his email, to kill all the homosexuals.
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. (KJV)
So shouldn’t Bible-believing Christians be coming out and putting homosexuals up against the wall?
There’s a standard form of reply to this last question, which has to do with covenants and/or dispensations. A typical reply goes something like this.
The prohibition on homosexuality in Leviticus is part of what Bible scholars often call the ‘Holiness Code’. Its purpose was to maintain the distinctiveness of the Israelites from the Canaanites.
So we’re no longer required to kill homosexuals? Well, that’s nice and all, but I just don’t swallow the dispensationalist defence. Do I worship a God who, at one time, commanded the Israelites to stone their gay brethren to buggery? Or not? That’s the question I ask myself and my answer is NO.
I suggest that the repository of bigotry and bans that is the Book of Leviticus isn’t God’s word and doesn’t belong in the Bible. It’s canon fodder, i.e., expendable. (I leave everyone free to hold his own opinions. I would not have anyone bound to my opinion or judgment. I say what I feel. Let everyone think of it as his own spirit leads him. My spirit cannot accommodate itself to this book.)
The terms ‘libertarian’ and ‘libertarianism’ mean different things to different people. In a broad sense, a libertarian is anyone who favours more freedom and less government. In a narrower sense, libertarianism is minarchism.
Minarchism (also known as minimal statism) is a political philosophy. It is variously defined by sources. In the strictest sense, it holds that states ought to exist (as opposed to anarchy), that their only legitimate function is the protection of individuals from aggression, theft, breach of contract, and fraud, and that the only legitimate governmental institutions are the military, police, and courts.
The libertarianism on which I cut my teeth is libertarianism in the latter sense. It’s the libertarianism that was espoused by the now deregistered Libertarianz Party and is promoted by Objectivists such as Lindsay Perigo. In what follows, I’ll use the term ‘libertarianism’ in the minarchist sense.
Sadly, in today’s Western world we are very far from a minarchist libertopia. The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground. Our government departments ever increase in both size and number. Our surfeit of statism won’t be gone any time soon, let alone gone by lunchtime.
In a libertarian state, all government departments—save for the military, police and courts—would be gone. There would be no public health system. There would be no state welfare. There would be no state schools. Even the roads would be privatised.
But persuading most people—who are thoroughly inculcated in statism by the very state education system that libertarians seek to dismantle—that we should roll back the state is difficult. How can libertarians possibly justify getting rid of government-run hospitals? How can libertarians possibly justify ending state education? And how can we even envisage life without state highways? Muh roads!
How can we justify paring back the state to the barest minarchist minimum?
Actually, it’s the wrong question. The right question to ask is this. How can we justify even the barest minarchist minimum? How can we justify having any state at all?
There are plenty of problems with libertarianism. Underlying philosophical problems. I called attention to a couple of them here, here and here. And I’m about to present another problem. It’s a compelling argument for anarchism and against minarchism. (I’m not going to go into all the reasons why I think anarchism, rather than minarchism, looks set to win the day. For that, I suggest readers follow the arguments of anarchist thinkers such as Stephan Kinsella. See, e.g., his paper What It Means To Be an Anarcho-Capitalist.)
Here’s the problem. Libertarians think that taxation is theft, and that all giving, including the giving of money to the government, should be voluntary. Libertarians (of the minarchist/Randian variety) think that the (only) legitimate functions of government are providing defence and police forces and a judiciary, and that these functions should be funded voluntarily by the citizenry. But what if the citizenry don’t want to fund a minarchist state voluntarily? What then?
“Now, which one of you punks is going to pay me to investigate this crime?” No one spoke up.
“Come on,” I said. “Don’t you all understand that the protection of private property is the foundation of all personal liberty?”
It didn’t seem like they did.
“Seriously, guys. Without a strong economic motivator, I’m just going to stand here and not solve this case. Cash is fine, but I prefer being paid in gold bullion or autographed Penn Jillette posters.”
Nothing. These people were stonewalling me. It almost seemed like they didn’t care …
Elsewhere I presented the case for compulsory taxation. In the comments section to that post, a battle erupted between Damian Grant, a libertarian in the loose “More Freedom, Less Government” sense, and Mark Hubbard, a devout minarchist. Damian didn’t manage to better my case for compulsory taxation, but Mark didn’t score any points either. The whole thing was left hanging.
When Christian libertarians confront statists, statists just love to throw the Good Book at them! There are two Bible passages commonly mentioned.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been confronted with Jesus’s injunction to render unto Caesar. But this objection is easily demolished. To render is to give back. Jesus tells us to give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give back to God what is God’s. But what do we have that is Caesar’s? What have the Romans ever done for us?
Elsewhere, of course, the Bible tells us that all things belong to God. So the objection is easily dealt with.
Seemingly more difficult to deal with is the second objection, viz., Romans 13.
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (NIV)
This objection is taken so seriously by Christian libertarians that the Facebook group of the same name deals with this passage (and only this passage) specifically in its “About” section.
Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. (ESV)