I don't think the Old Testament's position on what makes good government is quite as nice and neat as you're trying to make it.
What it is
is an attempt at answering two questions. Is there a Biblical form of government? If so, what is it?
Well, I can think of a few Mexicans, plenty of Native Americans, and even some Southerners who might disagree.
Many Americans treated the Native Americans horribly. The culture clash (particularly with different points of view about property) was hard to reconcile, but that still didn't mean we shouldn't have enforced our treaties better. This does allow us to conclude that mistreatment of the Native Americans = following American principles. I personally wouldn't have been able to ascribe to "Manifest Destiny" and it's a political belief that led to our unfairly dealing with Mexico. This doesn't mean the war for Texas independence wasn't justified, or that defeating Santa Ana wasn't still a worthy goal. And oh yeah, Southerners don't count.
Here's the article. I was mistaken, working from distant memory: the success rate is 4 out of 15, where success is defined as the nation having a functioning democracy 10 years after the end of hostilities. In addition to Japan & Germany, the other 2 successes are Panama and Grenada.
I respect Minxin Pei, but he's using an awfully broad construction of the term "nation building." The Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Cambodia, Grenada and Panama all involved intervention designed primarily to prevent the spread of Communism. Looks like he's listed Cuba three times on the list (with three different U.S. actions), but we actually did help Cuba become democratic, but we just lost it to Communism. Besides, the very idea of Nation-Building in the modern world is going to look entirely different than during the Cold War, or during the time our politics was heavily influenced by Woodrow Wilson's idealism.
Does anyone really think what we did in Iraq was that simple? It's a majority Shiite nation ... are Iraqis free to elect Muqtada al-Sadr should he choose to run for office?
First, it's this whole "spreading democracy by force" idea that still annoys me. What this sounds like is us forcing other people to do things our way. What it constitutes in reality, is killing or stopping the bad guys, and then simply letting people be free.
It obviously doesn't encompass everything going on in Iraq, but yes. Democratically speaking, the majority of Iraqis can elect whoever they want to. They have never been able to do this before in the entire history of any people living in that region. Mugtada al-Sadr could even win an election, if he runs for office in the right district. There is more work they need to do to strengthen this new system of theirs, but they've got a start, and most of them are very excited about it.
No, they don't. That is a dizzying theological leap across multiple layers of non sequiturs.
The words of Christ to the Pharisees who were asking him about taxes go towards whether accepting a combat role would violate his Christianity.
If government is ordained by God, then paying taxes to that government is right, correct? If government is an institution ordained by God, then I can find myself owing a particular temporal loyalty to it.
I think there's two separate issues here, though. That college students are taught to be ashamed of some aspects of our history is, I would say, a fact, and we could debate whether that's a net-negative or -positive for the long-term benefit of our colleges and students. But I'd want it to be an informed debate, one citing data rather than just anecdotal evidence. And I'd want us to unpack our personal biases in the process. (By the way, this isn't a debate I'm interested in having on the Internet.)
Having personally experienced this, I'd testify to the fact that they teach we ought to be ashamed of far more than just "some aspects of our history." I admit I have personal biases. But whenever anyone declares that Americans are clueless and have no identity worth believing in, I find myself rather passionately opposed to this teaching. I have friends who died in Iraq. In the small picture, they just died at their government/military jobs and trying to protect their friends. In the big picture, they died working so that another people could be free - and so that doing this could help protect their families at home. Seeing this first-hand makes me frown upon the idea that being American doesn't mean anything good.
But that's a separate issue from the use of language such as "politically liberal elitist minority point of view" in a conversation among friends. You seem to have an entire worldview in mind when you write that, and you're reacting against that worldview despite the fact that, even if I understood what you mean exactly with that particular string of words (Are all academics elitist? Only those who are politically liberal? Am I politically liberal if I often vote for Republicans? Is the shamefulness of slavery a minority view?) -- despite the fact that, even if I knew what you meant, I doubt the worldview you're reacting against is remotely similar to Andy's.
Unlike Buckley when he wrote God and Man at Yale
, I have not researched modern day academia's majority points of view. So I'm willing to admit I could be wrong on this. The terms liberal and conservative both still have meaning, and I don't mean anything disparaging by either adjective. But I do find the idea that Americans are clueless and have no identity as an elitist point of view.
I would disagree. Andy's comments sound like how almost all my extremely conservative, Republican friends and aquaintences talk about America.
You keep using this term "we", but you're voicing what is only a politically liberal elitist minority point of view.
America is piety and crassness, freedom for all and unfathomable greed, the inherent dignity of each human life and total disregard for the most helpless lives. It's no wonder that the rest of the world is so exasperated with us. We are utterly clueless as a nation. We have no idea who we are, and we experience a total disconnect between reality and image, but we'll gladly sell that image to anyone who may or may not be interested.
Point taken. I made an unfair generalization about one political philosophy. Although, if I had to guess by "extremely conservative" you might mean libertarian? I have some libertarian friends who look down their noses on America quite frequently.
The funny thing is I don't approach these issues from the standpoint of political parties. I'm not even particularly interested in thinking in those terms. I'm interested in the Kingdom of God coming to earth, and I believe there's some precedent for praying that way. I'm firmly convinced that Republicans don't have the answer. I'm firmly convinced that Democrats don't have the answer. But I'll work with either, or both, when their interests seem to coincide with bringing the Kingdom of God to earth. The naive part of me views this as part of the Christian life, although I've been around long enough to know that it's hopelessly convoluted, imperfect, and inexact.
So Andy, I'm sorry if I was offensive. I know some other friends who believe their love for Christ excludes their love for country. I'm saddened by this point of view, but that doesn't mean I still don't respect it and can't learn from it. So I value your point of view. You make some very good points about how unquestioning and uncritical patriotism can be contrary to what Christianity teaches. And yet, it is no coincidence that the only countries in the world that possess some form of self-government are countries with heavy Christian influence at some point in their history. My patriotism is closely tied to my loyalty to our form of government and Constitution. The Army Oath of Enlistment that every modern American soldier takes focuses upon protecting and defending the U.S. Constitution.
If there is, in fact, a Biblical form of government, and if there are Biblical principles for how to form a good government, then following those principles is something to be valued and advanced. Being critical of our country for not following these principles is a worthy position to take. But such criticism can be engaged in as much out of
a sense of patriotism than out of a sense of none.