Monthly archives "February 2016"

Just Say No

This was a theme developed by then First Lady Nancy Reagan to encourage young people to stay away from drugs.  But “Just Say No” also fits the GOP controlled U. S. Senate right now.  Just tell President Obama “No” on any nominee he sends up to replace the recently departed Justice Anonin Scalia as that nominee will tip the Court Far Left.

The President says the Senate would be acting irresponsibly if it blocks his nominee.  In fact, as a U.S. Senator from IL he tried to block George Bush’s nominees to the Court.  And his V.P. Joe Biden, said in 1992 as a Senator, that George H.W. Bush should not send a nominee to the Court but to wait for the next President.  Senator Grassley of IA and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee says he will adopt the Biden rule and no nominee will be heard by his committee.

The relevant Constitutional Text is the Appointments Clause found in Article II, Section 2 which reads:  “The President  . . . shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint . . . judges of the Supreme Court.”  Northwestern University Law Professor, John McGinnis writes that the President can nominate someone to the Court and the Senate has every right to refuse to act on that nominee.  That is part of advise and consent.  This is what happened to Robert Bork who was as brilliant a jurist as America had when Ronald Reagan nominated him in 1987.

Historically, many Supreme Court nominations made in a President’s final year in office are rejected by the Senate.  That started with our sixth President, John Quincy Adams, and last occurred during the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson.

If the Republicans are serious about waiting for the next President to act on a Supreme Court nominee then it will be critical that they hold pro forma sessions as Barack Obama would make a recess appointment to the Court if the Senate goes out of session.  There is a two-week recess scheduled in April.  There have been 12 such recess appointments to the High Court.  A recess appointment lasts until the end of the Senate’s next session.

Historically there have been several lengthy vacancies when the Senate refused to play ball with controversial Presidents or controversial nominees or some combination of both.  According to Gabriel Malor of The Federalist, President John Tyler had a particularly hard time filling vacancies.  One vacancy lasted 424 days and another 835 days because the Senate refused to work with Tyler.  President Tyler saw the Senate reject nine of his Supreme Court nominees!  More recently Abe Fortas resigned May 14, 1969 and his replacement, Harry Blackmun, was not seated until June 9, 1970, making the gap over a year.

Several cases today were expected to be 5-4 including the immigration (DAPA) case, United States v. Texas;  the mandatory dues case, Fridierichs v. California Teachers Association;  and the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell case on the contraception mandate accommodation.  As a side note I wonder if Barack Obama minds being attached to a case suing the Little Sisters of the Poor.  Probably not though he is exposed as the bully he is.  Suing the Little Sisters of the Poor.  Really?

Decisions that are tied 4-4 have no binding precedent and the decision of the lower court is upheld.  This would be good in the TX immigration case because the lower court ruled that states have standing to sue against Obama’s policy that muzzles states from enforcing immigration laws.  But it would be bad in the CA union case as the lower court ruled that teachers must pay union dues even though those dues are used for political causes that violate a union members’ beliefs.  Likewise, the lower court ruled against the Little Sisters of the Poor, forcing them to fund contraception though that violates their Christian beliefs.

If everything is put on hold until Election Day there are four possible outcomes:  There could be a Republican President and a Republican Senate (this would be ideal);  a Republican President and Democrat Senate;  a Democrat President and a Republican Senate (as we have now);  or a Democrat President and a Democrat Senate as we had when Obamacare passed.  May the American People choose wisely which means the first option rather than the last as that will wreak havoc on the rule of law.

Cicero warned that “to know nothing of what happened before you were born is to remain ever a child.”  But as Mark Steyn says, that warning loses its bite in a society that aspires to remain childlike–that is, aspires to live, as children do, in a perpetual present with others meeting their needs.  Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton anyone?   Let us make an adult choice when we vote in 2016.  God help us to grow up and to be as we once were–strong and independent.   If not, the days of a free Republic as envisioned by our Founders are numbered.   May we catch their vision once again!

Eutychus

Antonin Scalia, Wise & Brilliant Christian Jurist

In addition to being an exceptional Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia was a powerful Christian.  Newt Gingich, former Speaker of the House, and fellow Catholic writes in The Washington Times that Justice Scalia would often say to an audience:  “I  hope you have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity.”  He was not addressing young attorneys engaged in the ongoing battle to defend the Constitution with these words.  They were directed, not at fellow lawyers, but fellow Christians.

Scalia said to one such gathering of believers that surely those who adhere to the most traditional beliefs of the Christian faith are regarded in educated circles that we travel in as simple minded.  To make his case, he noted a recent story in The Washington Post that called Christian fundamentalists poorly educated and easily led.  But he urged that rather than retreat, Christians confront such contempt head-on, and be willing in the words of St. Paul, to be “fools for Christ.”  (I Cor. 4:10)

Of course, Scalia saw the obvious parallel to his day job on the Supreme Court.  Just as cultural elites look down on the Christian faithful as ignorant simpletons, so too our political elites look with scorn at “We the People” who believe in being faithful to the Constitution.  This is one of the reasons a brilliant man like Ted Cruz is so despised even by fellow Republicans in Washington.  He stands up for his faith and for his belief in the Nation as Founded.

Justice Scalia personified that those who believe in the Constitution are no fools.  He bested those who doubted the wisdom of the Founders with his arguments from the bench and in written opinion–sometimes especially when writing a dissent.  Along the way he became one of the most consequential defenders of the Constitution ever to sit on the Supreme Court.  He reduced arguments to one simple question for matters that came before the Supreme Court:  “Who decides?”

In answering the question, Justice Scalia employed originalism, a mode of constitutional analysis that interprets the Constitution according to the meaning of the text as it was understood at the time it was established.  Originalism thus rejects the notion that modern judges substitute their own views about the meaning of the Constitution. Instead he argued judges should be guided by the original meaning in their decision making.

Back in 1969 I took a graduate course in American Political Theory at the University of CO, Boulder, taught by a Dr. Wilson.  One evening he asked us why our Constitution was such a brilliant document.  We said such things as our Enlightened Founders brought with them the best thinking of freedom from Europe.  And that we were a wide open new nation where ideas on a free society could be practiced.   He said we were not wrong but that some thought God intervened and inspired our Founding Documents.  Being young we scoffed at this but I noticed Dr. Wilson was not smiling.  He said, “Young Gentlemen, the theory of divine directions makes as much sense as any other explanation I have heard for the brilliance of the Constitution that has stood the test of time.”   I rather think Antonin Scalia would agree with that.

Gingrich goes on to note Scalia’s dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges.  The Justice argued that when judges substitute their own thinking about the meaning of the Constitution:

“This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776:  the freedom to govern themselves.”

The ongoing struggle to protect the freedom of Americans to govern themselves was at the heart of Scalia’s approach to judging during his long tenure on the Supreme Court.  Self-governance is also at the heart of the choice to replace Scalia on the Court.

A constitutional conservative in the mold of Antonin Scalia sees the role of the judge as one of self-restraint, guided by the meaning of the Constitution as understood by the Founders.  Those guided by progressive legal theories do not consider themselves limited by the original meaning of the Constitution.  They believe the Constitution is a living document such that new realities require new laws.

Though Thomas Jefferson feared judicial tyranny, most of the Founding Fathers believed the Supreme Court to be the weakest branch which would be amply checked by the Legislative and Executive Branches.  But over the past 50 years the Supreme Court has become a permanent Constitutional Convention whereby the whims of five appointed judges have rewritten the meaning of the Constitution and assigned to themselves the last word in the American political process.

This is the type of Justice President Obama will appoint.  He has that right just as the U.S. Senate has a right to reject his nominee(s).  They are under no obligation to confirm the President’s choice.  But will they wait for a new President to decide?   Given the record of the Republican Senate so far, many of us are not sanguine.

Fortunately, the Republicans have a model to follow in this newest battle to protect self-government–Antonin Scalia himself who for 29 years showed us how to defend freedom.   Again and again he reminded us of the wisdom of the Constitution’s deference to the people and its system of checks and balances.

A number of years ago a Washington Redskins running back by the name of John Riggins was sitting at a banquet table with Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor  and her husband.   Riggins, in his cups and overflowing with advice, said, “Lighten up, Sandra baby.”  His manners were bad but his advice good for the majorities of five justices who have been kicking over our liberties.  Lighten up on us already.   It might be good for the GOP members of the U.S. Senate to remember this story as well and to stall until we have a new President in January 2017 who might give us a fifth Justice more like Antonin Scalia.  Barack Obama certainly will not.  God grant us such wisdom and the courage of a Justice Scalia once again.  Let us be willing to be fools for Christ’s sake.

Elutychus

No Defense

As a native of CO who saw Denver Bronco games in old Bears Stadium as early as their inaugural 1960 season, we are still in the afterglow of last Sunday’s Super Bowl.  It really proved true that “while the offense may win some games, defense wins championships.”  My son and I went to the first game of the season on September 13, 2015.  We saw the defense score in that game and stop the Baltimore Ravens through an interception in the north end zone as time ran out.  We could not know then that Denver would be world champions but we saw the blue print of a great defense.

The Carolina Panthers were a proud team with a self-centered quarterback who was humbled by an incredible performance by Vaughn Miller and his teammates which led to fumbles, recoveries and interceptions.  Denver never trailed the Panthers who themselves had never trailed in the playoffs until they ran into the Broncos.  Announcer Phil Simms (who picked Denver) said, “Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers have never seen anything like this.” They would have done well to ask New England and Tom Brady about the Broncos defense.  Cam Newton would also have been wise to look at Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

I would move now to another type of Defense–our National Security.  I think it is unprecedented for three Defense Secretaries in a row to emerge as some of the toughest critics of their former boss, Barack Obama, and his foreign policy.  Robert Gates, Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel (who was forced out for questioning Obama’s acumen in foreign affairs) have all indicated that the President should retool his national security process.

Robert Gates, who was also Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush, wrote in his memoir that Mr. Obama did not always live up to budget agreements with him.  Gates suspected that top brass (warriors not political generals) conspired against the Commander-in-Chief.  Obama suspected it as well as he once said to a commander, “That’s an order.”  Mr. Gates was “shocked” at this and found it unprecedented.  Gates called the order “unnecessary and insulting, proof positive of the depth of the Obama White House’s distrust of the nation’s military leadership.”

Mr. Gates’ successor, Leon Panetta, wrote that the President, “misses opportunities” to act, such as in the Syrian civil war.  He roundly criticized Obama’s swap of five hardened Taliban leaders for one Army soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Leon Panetta is part of a rapidly vanishing breed–a sensible, moderate Democrat with a sense of humor.  He was on KOA radio in Denver from his walnut farm in CA after he resigned as Secretary of Defense.  He was asked if he was thinking of running for President.  He said, “Heavens no!  I prefer working with these nuts in CA rather than those nuts in Washington, D.C.”

Chuck Hagel did not wait to resign to be critical of the President.  He was particularly upset with Obama’s decision to draw a “red line” that Syrian President Bashar Assad should not cross.  But once Assad breached the supposed line in the sand, Hagel was even more upset that Mr. Obama ordered a stand-down on our forces who were ready to bomb military targets in Syria.

Leon Panetta’s book, Worthy Fights, like Chuck Hagel also goes after Obama for nixing military action in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people in Syria.  Panetta goes on to say that, “Too often, in my view, the President relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader.”

All three former Defense Secretaries seek to balance the books by saying that they admire Mr. Obama and Mr. Hagel adds that he holds him in “high regard.”  One suspects there are some crossed fingers behind the backs in these latter assessments.

What might a normal person do in response to three confidants’ being universal in their concerns and criticisms of one’s actions and lack thereof.  Most sensible people would reflect and quite likely change course.  But not Barack Obama, whom psychiatrist and political commentator, Dr. Charles Krauthammer, calls “delusional.”

Let us return to the world of sports and the Carolina Panthers.  They could learn from the wisdom of Proverbs 16.  So could the President of the United States.  But he will not as he still believes he is always right and it is his critics who are wrong.  Delusional is the right call.  And when it is the President of the United States it is also dangerous.

Lord, grant us, the American People, the wisdom and humility to elect a sensible person to lead us next time.  Hear our prayer O Lord, and let it be so.

Eutychus

 

Zechariah & the Four Empires

The Prophets make up a large part of the Old Testament.  There are 17 books which are divided into “Major” and “Minor” Prophets.  This does not mean some books are more important than others;  rather they are so designated by the length of the books.  The longest book of the Minor Prophets is Zechariah which is nearly as  long as Daniel, the shortest of the Major Prophets.

Names in the Old Testament carry meaning and Zechariah means “Jehovah Remembers.”  A Prophet’s primary task was to proclaim the Word of the Lord, pointing out sin, explaining its consequences, and calling men and women to repentance before God and obedience to Him.  Nestled near the end of the Old Testament, Zechariah, is the 11th of the 12 Minor Prophets.

His ministry began in 520 B.C.  Babylon had destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple of the Hebrews in 586 B.C.  In 539 B.C., the Persians under Cyrus the Great, conquered Babylon and Persia became the leading Empire of the time.  In 538 Cyrus began to let the captive people, including the Hebrews, go home.  In 536 God’s Chosen began to rebuild their Temple, but the work stalled in 530.  In 520 Zechariah called the People to begin again in Temple reconstruction and, thus, the rebuilding of their Nation.  The Temple was completed in 516.  Until that was done the Hebrews were not really home.  This is why the Babylonian Captivity of God’s People is said to have lasted 70 years.

How was this done?  The key verse of the book, Zechariah 4:6, tells us:  “This is the word of the Lord. . .not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty.”  Zechariah goes on with spectacular apocalyptic imagery and graphic detail to tell of the Messiah, the One whom God would send to rescue His People and to reign over all the earth.  The rebuilding of the Temple, he says, is the first act in the drama of the end and the ushering in of the Messianic age.  Zechariah proclaimed a stirring message of hope to these ex-captives and exiles–their King is coming!

In chapter 1 he also looks at history and what the Hebrews have faced.  Zechariah has a vision of four horns that had scattered God’s Chosen.  Most likely these are the four world powers that have oppressed the people–Egypt, Assyria, Babylon (present day Iraq) and Persia (present day Iran).  The horns may also symbolize foes from the North, South East and West who are sworn to resist their efforts to rebuild the temple and to renew their national live.  But there are advocates (four craftsmen) who throw down these horns.  The purpose of this vision is clear:  The Lord will deliver His People that His promises my be fulfilled.  (Zechariah 1:16-21)

We live on this side of the Cross and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We can clearly see that these visions of Zechariah mean that all the enemies of Israel will ultimately be defeated.  This brings us to modern Israel and our nation which I believe to be a Second Chosen People.  Since the founding of modern Israel in 1948 the United States has been their leading advocate (craftsman), and we have faced down some of the horns such as the Soviet Union.  It is critical to remember that any nation that stands against Israel (Zechariah 2:8 calls the Chosen “The apple of His eye”) is ultimately destroyed whether it be ancient empires or modern like the Nazis and the Soviets.

This puts our nation in a very precarious position as President Obama stands with Iran more than Israel.  He seems to fear military action which has emboldened Russia (recall Obama’s laughing at Mitt Romney in the 2012 campaign for stating that Russia was our number one threat), China, N. Korea and Iran.  Our own military recently called these our four most dangerous foes.  It is as if we have four horns standing against us just as the Hebrews did.  A weakened America leads to evil on the march, and we see it all about us.  And Israel sees themselves also surrounded by foes WITHOUT America as an advocate.

God employs human instruments.  Let us all pray that the next President after Barack Obama will restore our relationship with Israel and stand against evil just as Ronald Reagan did after Jimmy Carter.  But we also know the end of the story and God and good win–not the devil and evil.

My Old Testament professor, Dr. Dennis Kinlaw brings as much depth to our faith as anyone I know.  I once heard him introduced as “A man on a first name basis with God.”  I agree.  Dr. Kinlaw has written a marvelous devotional book titled This Day With The Master, 365 Daily Meditations.  He writes that God employed the vision of Zechariah to remind Israel that ultimate power is in His Hands and the He will determine the rise and fall off all the forces that fall upon them.  None can get beyond His control and outside forces touch us only with His permission.  And they have no power to destroy us.

Dr. Kinlaw closes the devotional with the priceless scene from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.  Christian and his companion are faced by two ferocious lions who block their path.  The pilgrims are terrified until they see that the lions are chained and cannot quite reach the path they travel.  The lions roar at the travelers but they cannot touch them.  The pilgrims tremble as they walk through, but they are safe.  The lions in the believer’s path are chained.  And the One who holds the chains is a carpenter (a craftsman) from Nazareth named Jesus Christ.

Come what may the Lamb wins.  And so de we who follow Him and walk His Path.  Praise be to God!

Eutychus

Update

Did a post today on the Old Testament Prophet, Zechariah–his times and ours.  From time to time a post does not publish.  If there is interest and you hit the blue link, a pretty mountain scene should appear with that post just below this one.

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Zechariah & the Four Kingdoms

The Prophets make up a large part of the Old Testament.  There are 17 books of Prophets which are divided into “Major” and “Minor” Prophets.  This does not mean some books are more important than others;  rather they are so designated by the length of the books.   The longest book of the Minor Prophets is Zechariah which is nearly as long as Daniel, the shortest of the Major Prophets.

Names in the Old Testament carry meaning and Zechariah means “Jehovah Remembers.”   A Prophet’s primary task was to proclaim the Word of the Lord, pointing out sin, explaining its consequences, and calling men and women to repentance before God and obedience to Him.  Nestled near the end of the Old Testament, Zechariah, is the 11th of the 12 Minor Prophets.

His ministry began in 520 B.C.  Babylon had destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple of the Hebrews in 586 B.C.  In 539 B.C., the Persians under Cyrus the Great, conquered Babylon and Persia became the leading Empire of the time.  In 538 Cyrus began to let the captive people, including the Hebrews go home.  In 536 God’s Chosen began to rebuild their Temple, but the work stalled in 530.  In 520 Zechariah calls the People to begin again on Temple reconstruction and thus the rebuilding of their Nation.  The Temple was completed in 516.  Until that was done the Hebrews were not really home.  This is why the Babylonian Captivity of God’s People is said to have lasted 70 years.

How was all this done?  The key verse of the book, Zechariah 4:6, tells us:  “This is the word of the Lord. . .not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.”  Zechariah goes on with spectacular apocalyptic imagery and graphic detail to tell of the Messiah, the One whom God would send to rescue His People and to reign over all the earth.  The rebuilding of the Temple, he says, is the first act in the drama of the end and the ushering in of the Messianic age.  Zechariah proclaimed a stirring message of hope to these ex-captives and exiles–their King is coming!

In chapter 1 he also looks at history and what the Hebrews have faced.  Zechariah has a vision of four horns that had scattered God’s Chosen.  Most likely these are the four world powers that have oppressed his people–Egypt, Assyria, Babylon (present day Iraq) and Persia (present day Iran).  The horns may also symbolize foes from the North, South, East and West who are sworn to resist their efforts to rebuild the Temple and to renew their national life.  But there are advocates (four craftsmen) who will throw down these horns.  The purpose of this vision is clear:  The Lord will deliver His People that His promises may be fulfilled.  (Zechariah 1:16-21)

We live on this side of the Cross and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We can clearly see that these visions of Zechariah mean that all the enemies of Israel will ultimately be defeated.  This brings us to modern Israel and our nation which I believe to be a Second Chosen People.  Since the founding of modern Israel in 1948 the United States has been their leading advocate (craftsman), and we have faced down some of the horns such as the Soviet Union.  It is critical to remember that any nation that stands against Israel (Zechariah 2:8 calls the Chosen “the apple of His eye”) is ultimately destroyed whether it be ancient empires or modern like the Nazis and the Soviets.

This puts our nation in a very precarious position as President Obama stands with Iran more than Israel.  He seems to fear military action which has emboldened Russia (recall Obama’s laughing at Mitt Romney in the 2012 campaign for stating Russia was our number one threat), China, N. Korea and Iran.  Our own military recently called these our four most dangerous foes.   It is as if we have four horns standing against us just as the Hebrews did.   A weakened America leads to evil on the march, and we see it all about us.   And Israel sees themselves also surrounded by foes WITHOUT America as an advocate.

God employs human instruments.  Let us all pray that the next President after Barack Obama will restore our relationship with Israel and stand against evil just as Ronald Reagan did after Jimmy Carter.  But we also know the end of the story and God and good win–not the devil and evil.

My Old Testament professor was Dr. Dennis F. Kinlaw.  He brings as much depth to our faith as anyone I know.  I once heard him introduced as “A man on a first name basis with God.”  I agree.  Dr. Kinlaw has written a marvelous devotional book titled, This Day With The Master, 365 Daily Meditations.  He writes that God employed the vision of Zechariah to remind Israel that ultimate power is in His Hands and that He will determine the rise and fall of all the forces that fall upon them.  None can get beyond His control and outside forces touch us only with His permission.  And they have no power to destroy us.

Dr. Kinlaw closes the devotional with the priceless scene from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.   Christian and his companion are faced by two ferocious lions who block their path.  The pilgrims are terrified until they see that the lions are chained and cannot quite reach the path they travel.  The lions roar at the travelers but they cannot touch them.  The pilgrims tremble as they walk through, but they are safe.  The lions in the believer’s path are chained.  And the one who holds the chains is a carpenter (a craftsman) from Nazareth named Jesus Christ.

Come what may, the Lamb wins.  And so do we who follow Him and walk His Path.   Praise be to God!

Eutychus