Friday, December 01, 2006

Dignities and the dishonorable

But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.

Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.

But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption.

2 Peter 2:10-12.

I come from a big-time political family. My "godfather" was a U.S. senator. My Dad was his field aid. My grandfather was Attorney General and later a Supreme Court Justice in Montana. My great-grandfather was instrumental in getting Harry Truman on FDR's ticket. Our family was steeped in the old-time Democratic Party tradition of back-room politics presenting itself as populism. I grew up among the sausage makers: lobbyists, news broadcasters, greater and lesser politicians, the behind the scene wheeler-dealers with bloodshot eyes and hangovers who mastered the art of patriotic spin. I even tried running for office myself but couldn't pull it off. I was too introverted. It made me very tired.

And I committed the greatest act of family rebellion by occasionally voting for Republicans.

From that background I naturally developed a cynicism that plagues me still. I am sorely tempted to rail against "dignities". I am tempted to rationalize that because they are so undignified, I get a pass. Peter tells me otherwise.

Calvin considers the civil magistrate to be ordained by God:

The Lord has not only testified that the office of magistrate is approved by and acceptable to him, but he also sets out its dignity with the most honorable titles and marvelously commends it to us.
. . .

This amounts to the same thing as to say: it has not come about by human perversity that the authority over all things on earth is in the hands of kings and other rulers, but by divine providence and holy ordinance.

Calvin's Institutes, 4.20.4, McNeil Edition, Westminster John Knox Press, 1960.

So I am reluctant to gratuitously attack our leaders. I do believe I have warrant to point out their errors, but that is for another time.

Happily, I feel no such constraint concerning a former leader, Mr. Contract with (on) America, Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. He is considered (perhaps only by himself) to be a potential presidential contender. He is notorious for his wit and somewhat less well-known for his callousness.

But he is adding new foundations to his notoriety. Two months ago he advocated initiating war with practically every country in the Middle East. A couple of days ago he clearly called for the government to reconsider the First Amendment. He wants to monitor what Americans say and how we say it:

"Gingrich Says Free Speech Helps Terrorists"

Ironically, Mr. Gingrich claims to want to expand free speech in one realm: the activity of giving money to politicians. He apparently thinks that civil liberties are something to be distributed by the government to its friends.

Mr. Gingrich is a history professor; he understands the purpose and spirit behind the First Amendment. He clearly thinks the time for such things has passed. Of course, the First Amendment is not limited to speech, but addresses religion and assembly too. In a few years your website might be shut down. In a few more years, perhaps your assembly will be too. In Mr. Gingrich's world, it will all depend upon how loyal you are to the cause du jour.

My suggestion: keep an eye on Newt and his friends. They came on the scene masquerading as conservatives. Whether by the corruption of power or by original design, the so-called new conservatives are looking more and more like old fascists. The old true conservatives have been licking their wounds since Goldwater's defeat.

Calvin, in his Institutes, ended his discourse about the civil magistrate with these words:

The Lord has declared his approval of their offices. Accordingly, no one ought to doubt that civil authority is a calling, not only holy and lawful before God, but also the most sacred and by far the most honorable of all callings in the whole life of mortal men.

Would that God would send men who realize this truth, and keep us from the judgment of being ruled by those who don't. God directs us to honor the dignities. May God be merciful to grant us dignities who are honorable.


Mrs. B said...

It is legitimate to rail against indignities and abuses of dignity. Sometimes it seems God raises up outrageousness so we will scream, "Outrage!" and not become calloused against assaults on truth and justice. In any case, we're safe for the time being because there's a photo of us with Newt from that stupid picnic, and it's probably in the DHS files under "Loyalists." Bah.

Mike Pitzler said...

When I think of Newt, I think of Monty Python's Flying Circus, and I just hope that Newt will get better.

I'm torn. The Muslim would have sharia and make me a dhimmi.