The Problem of Tiffany Sugartoes

Scripture refers to that kind of ruler who frames “mischief with a law” (Ps. 94:20). Those who do this kind of thing are men who sit on thrones of iniquity, and God refuses His fellowship with any such thrones.

There are many ways to frame mischief with a law. Everyone grants that one example would be when a despot pillages all the poor peasants in order to fund his Belshazzarian kegger tomorrow night. That would be one example. That would be the big E on the eye chart.

But are there other examples of thieving mischief? While some established thieves are debauched, others are a bit more clever. If Suleiman the Magnificent takes 20K from me in order to beef up the personnel department of his seraglio, then that is both tacky and theft. But if Obama the Magnificent takes 20K from me in order to provide loan guarantees to Goldman Sachs, and they use it to provide a holiday bonus for a rising junior executive, who uses it on a weekend blowout in the Hamptons with a girl named Tiffany Sugartoes, then this is just as tacky, and just as much theft, but we can say that they cover their tracks better these days.

So let’s spend a bit of time distinguishing sins from crimes. When dealing with individuals, sins that ought not be crimes are either contained entirely within the person’s motives, or they are actual behaviors for which no scriptural case for attaching civil penalties can be made. An example of the former would be bitterness or lust. An example of the latter would be speaking rudely to someone in a crowded elevator.

A sin becomes a crime when we can make a scriptural case for attaching civil penalties to a particular behavior. Murder is a crime; hatred is a sin. Adultery is a crime; lust is a sin. With individuals, the distinction is relatively easy to make.

A ruler is not subject to the same applications of civil penalties, at least not in the same way. In a well-ordered biblical republic, it should be possible in principle to hold anyone accountable for their behavior, regardless of the office they hold. But even in a healthy society, bringing justice to bear in such cases is more challenging because rulers have supporters, and they often appoint their supporters to positions of influence over investigations of injustice. But enough about Eric Holder.

The “civil penalties” for rulers are not limited to the one process shared by all the citizens — indictment, trial, verdict, and so on. To whom much is given much is required. God holds rulers accountable by other means as well. He can do it by other means, such as natural disasters (1 Kings 18:17-19), military invasion (Dt. 28:48), a civil war (2 Sam. 15:10), or a coup (2 Kings 11:14). An average citizen can be punished for his crimes, and so can a ruler be. But when it happens to a ruler, there is a good deal more mayhem.

When Faithfulness is Visible

“Sara appropriated the blessing of the promise through faith. Her faith consisted precisely of this — “she judged him faithful who had promised.” So this then is faith; faith is the natural response to the perceived faithfulness of God. Faith is “judging Him faithful” . . . A man with wobbly faith can get on an airliner but his wobbly faith won’t make the plane crash. And a man with great faith can strap on a couple of wings and jump off the barn but his faith can’t make him fly. Sound faith is what places us in the care of a faithful object” (From To You and Your Children, p. 197).

Property and Love for the Poor

I have written a great deal on how the framework provided by biblical ethics honors and preserves the institution of private property. The argument is not complex. Just as “thou shalt not commit adultery” presupposes and honors the institution of marriage, so also “thou shalt not steal” presupposes and honors the institution of private property.

The private property that is honored is that which comes to a man through the ordinary processes. “Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope” (1 Cor. 9:10). God is the one who gives us the power to get wealth (Dt. 8:18), and it comes up to us from the ground. It does not float down upon us from the state.

We learn the principle when learning to love the haves — but it applies even more to the have nots. When a people are being liberated from covetousness, envy, and the larceny resident in every socialist scheme, they need to learn to mortify this sin in the presence of a neighbor who has manicured lawns, a red convertible, and a beautiful wife (Ex. 20:17). Learning what love means in this instance means learning how to hate the covetousness that arises so easily under every human sternum. Love that is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13:10) is a love that does no harm to its neighbor. Listed among the things that are harmful and destructive to our neighbor is covetousness (Rom. 13:9). This is why it is so necessary to elect men who fear God and hate covetousness (Ex. 18:21). And it should go without saying that you can’t hate covetousness if you don’t even know what it is.

But we must insist on something else. Mortifying covetousness is not just a blessing to the fat cats. In his magnificent book The Mystery of Capital, Hernando de Soto demonstrates how a societal refusal to recognize property rights by means of honoring and protecting clear title is one of the central reasons why poor people are locked in grinding poverty. Where property is not respected, property (whenever it is acquired) hides. And when property hides, it cannot come out into the daylight and do useful work. The useful work it could do is that of lifting the people involved out of poverty. But in order for property to be able to do this most beneficent thing, it has to be able to come out into public view and not be assaulted or confiscated. In short, property must be safe, and it cannot be safe whenever the people are envious and covetous. Perfectly Legal

This is why we must love liberty and hate every form of coercive theft. Making that coercive theft “legal” by sanctioning it society-wide only serves to make everything far worse. Legalizing activities prohibited by the Ten Commandments does not successfully whitewash the sin. If something is perfectly appalling, we do not fix it by nodding sagely and saying, “You know, the ways their laws are structured . . .”

Masculinity at College

The following represents the gist of the remarks I made at NSA’s weekly Disputatio last Friday, September 19, 2014.

What does it mean when NSA makes a point of emphasizing guy things? What is the point of that? I am referring to the presence of rugby and dirt on the NSA web page, the martial language used in the NSA promotional video, and so on. What’s going on?

I want to explain what is going on, not with the assumption that you would necessarily agree with all of it (although of course you should), but rather so that you might know that what we are doing is the result of a thought-through strategy by the board, and not simply the result of some haphazard and unexamined bigotries we found lying around in the basement.

In the late 1970’s, the number of women on college campuses passed the number of men. Today, in private institutions of higher learning, the women outnumber the men by a factor of 3 to 2. You don’t need a doctorate in punditry to see that some demographic trouble is brewing.

The Masculine Emphasis

First, let me tell you what the vision of NSA actually is on this topic. I will then move on to an explanation of why this emphasis on things masculine is not anti-feminine, not even close, and what it entails. But mostly I want to focus on what it does not entail.

A Puddle of Insufferable Whiteness

The central problem that Ray Rice had was that he is a football player and not a rapper. The central problem that Adrian Peterson had was that he is a father and not a rolling stone. The central problem that white liberal America has is that of being white liberal America, which is sadly showing no signs of getting any better.

This latter problem is a profound intellectual schizophrenia. We lionize and honor certain behaviors when there is a strong bass line and red carpet swagger, but then are shocked and horrified when someone actually does what we have been busy honoring. If Ray Rice had been more musical, and had treated his bitch like they all sing about, and stayed away from elevator cameras, he could making his reservations for a glitzy Hollywood awards banquet now. He could be a major Democratic donor.

C.S. Lewis was being a prophet, not simply a pundit, when in The Abolition of Man he said:

“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

Lecrae was pointing to this same central screaming hypocrisy — for that is what it is — when in the middle of the Ferguson tumult, he tweeted this: “Dear Hip Hop, we can’t scream “murder, misogyny, lawlessness” in our music & then turn around and ask for equality & justice.” That is a prophetic word, and it has the additional advantage of being self-evidently true. It is the voice of righteousness and reason.

But a large part of the entertainment industry is dedicated to honoring the dishonorable, praising the despicable, and glorifying the inglorious. And then, when their tragicomic inversions have all gotten to a quivering pitch, ready to sproing, somebody comes along and actually does what they have all been giving awards to. The reason everybody was so furious with Ray Rice was not because he struck Janay, but rather because he cold-cocked their hypocrisy, which is still lying there on the elevator floor in a puddle of insufferable whiteness.

And Adrian Peterson switched his boy on the back of his legs and left some nasty welts. As a result of this, the sports establishment went nuts. Now the point here is not that Peterson is the wisest father ever, but I would like to point out that he was actually being a father. Just curious. How many African-American boys, biologically fathered by professional athletes, are growing up without any father at all? And how many news conferences have you seen addressing that crisis? I am talking about a news conference with the head of whichever sports league it was solemnly denouncing fatherlessness as the real crisis, the real disaster, the real abuse. Because it is.

But don’t hold your breath, because they are all kind of cool with that sort of thing. If you are a small black boy, white liberal America will continue to approve and subsidize the kind of welts — the welts of fatherlessness — that never stop bleeding. But if you ever get a switching, they will descend upon the man who did it in a self-righteous fury

But here is Lewis again:

“A great many of those who ‘debunk’ traditional…values have in the background values of their own which they believe to be immune from the debunking process.”

This is why white liberal America is standing on the verge of an epic reality drubbing. They have wrapped themselves in the soft cotton batting of their own ephemeral core values, believing it to be heavy armor for some reason. And the gods of the copybook headings are walking toward them, all armed with baseball bats, and with stern looks on their faces.

Important post script for those critics who don’t know how to read: if you read any of the above as a defense of punching a woman, or of abusing a child, please read over it again.