Libertarianism And Liberty In Christ

It’s 2012 and another presidential election year is upon us. There was a time when these elections held my interest as I carefully weighed the views of candidates in the primaries and then in the general election before finally casting my vote. That interest eventually evaporated when I finally realized that neither party nor its candidates really had anything remotely related to my interests in mind. It dawned on me that, generally speaking, one party simply wants to extract money from you for promotion of the welfare state, while the other wants to do the same for the promotion of the warfare state. And when you look at President Obama and the probable Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, even that line becomes quite blurred.

Nevertheless the race this year has been very different from previous elections in that there is a libertarian candidate very much involved in the Republican primaries by the name of Ron Paul. That hasn’t happened much in recent history. Sure there have been Pat Buchanans and Barry Goldwaters, but I would say that Paul more closely represents true libertarian ideals than either of those.

My intention isn’t to promote Paul as a candidate for the Republican ticket, but merely to point out the fact that it’s extremely unusual for a man who promotes libertarianism to have received such prominence as Paul has, in spite of the fact that he has yet to win a state primary. His continued presence in the primaries have driven many people to investigate libertarianism and, indeed, to embrace it.

I think many Christians are confused about what libertarianism is. For some reason they seem to equate it with libertinism. A libertine, according to, is someone who is “free of moral, especially sexual, restraint; dissolute; licentious.” Libertinism then is a philosophy that promotes that kind of behavior. But that is decidedly not what libertarianism is about. Libertarianism is simply the idea that each individual should have the freedom to live however he chooses as long as it does no harm to another person’s life or property. To be sure, under that definition people would be free to pursue many vices, just as many others would be free to pursue a life of Christian devotion. The idea, though, is that no behavior should be outlawed that doesn’t interfere with or harm another person’s life or property.

As a political philosophy I think libertarianism is a great idea. Apparently so did Thomas Jefferson, who said, “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the law,’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”

But is libertarianism the best philosophy? Clearly no because many fervent libertarians will, sadly, find themselves cast out of the Kingdom of God. Well why is that? The reason is this:  libertarianism can only allow each individual the freedom to live according to how he or she wills in their own heart. But what is it that each and every one of us wills? Clearly, according to the apostle Paul, it’s to live in rebellion against God:  “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Rom. 3:10a-12)

Pastor John Piper uses an interesting analogy to describe this. Speaking of skydiving he says, “But there is one last requirement for full freedom. Suppose you get to the airport with no obstacle (you have the freedom of opportunity); you have all the know-how necessary (you have the freedom of ability); you look out the door at the tiny clusters of silos and barns and farmhouses a few miles down, and just can’t wait to jump (you have the freedom of desire). So you jump.

“And as you free fall, enjoying every second of it, unknown to you, your parachute is defective and is not going to open no matter you do. Are you free—fully free, free indeed?

“No. What you are doing so happily and so freely is going to kill you. Even though you don’t know it yet, you are in bondage to destruction. It feels like freedom. But very soon the whole thing—all the exhilaration—will prove to be an illusion. In thirty seconds you’ll be dead.”

Jesus called this living our own lives according to our own wills slavery, not freedom. In John 8:34 he says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” Each time we choose to sin we demonstrate that we are not truly free, but are, in fact, slaves. Doomed slaves.

There is only one way that we can truly be set at liberty and that is to have our enslaving sins wiped away by the blood of Christ. “So if the Son of man sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) This is the only liberty worth having.

Bucket Lists

Well I turned the page on my National Parks wall calendar this morning and was immediately depressed. There staring at me was this stunning photo of the Grand Canyon and immediately I wanted to go there.

I haven’t visited the Grand Canyon since Billi and I drove there on our way to California in my ’75 Ford Pinto shortly after we were married 32+ years ago. Aside from the fact that driving anywhere in that Pinto was an adventure fraught with hazard, we saw some amazing sights on that trip and visiting the Canyon was the high point. Or the low point, depending on your perspective. It is a 6,000 foot hole in the ground, after all.

Since then we’ve had the opportunity to visit a lot of interesting places, from Virginia Beach to Malibu, from the Everglades to the Minnesota boundary waters. One of the best photos I’ve ever taken (in my opinion) was this one up along the Beartooth Highway in southern Montana.

Staring at this photo and the one on my calendar of the Grand Canyon made me think about the many other places I’d love to visit if only money and time would conveniently synchronize, such as Glacier National Park. Many people set long-term goals of all the places they’d like to visit or things they’d like to do before they die. Those goals are referred to as a “bucket list”, after a movie of the same title. There are even books out now with such titles as “100 Places to Visit in the U.S. Before You Die” or “100 Places in the World to See Before You Die”.

The idea behind these books, and bucket lists in general, is that if you don’t git her done in this life, it ain’t happenin’, and you will have just missed out. I guess that kind of thinking bothers me a bit because it betrays a this-life-is-all-there-is outlook. Not that having travel goals, or other kinds of goals, is bad. I would, after all, really like to see Glacier. It’s the idea that I’m somehow going to be incomplete if I don’t get everything enjoyable done that there is to do in this life before I kick the bucket.

Maybe for those who don’t believe in God and trust Christ as their Savior, fulfilling a bucket list is the only thing they have to look forward to. But for Christians, bucket lists just don’t make sense. Won’t we, as joint inheritors with Christ, receive all things (Rom. 8:17, 32)? And forever? “All things” would indicate to me not just this earth, but all things that Christ created. That is, the universe. It’s a good thing we’ll have forever because the universe is an awfully big place.

Whatever we end up doing in that day, unlike much of what we do now, it will all be for the glory of God as he, through us, renews this universe which is now groaning, waiting on the final revelation of the sons of God (Rom. 8:18-23). In that day, thankfully, bucket lists will be forever obsolete.

The Bequest Is Live!

          After many delays, I’m very pleased to announce to all my Facebook friends, the publication of my book, The Bequest! This is a project that’s been in the making for nearly 12 years. Earning a living and other realities of life often interrupted the writing process. But a little over 3 years ago I finished the first draft. Numerous edits and much polish followed.

            Last summer I began to seriously consider digital publishing. Most of you are familiar with this increasingly popular publishing format through Amazon’s Kindle reader. After much research I determined that ebooks and other digital formats were the wave of the future in book publishing. I made the decision to go that route exclusively with The Bequest, and I’m happy to announce that it’s now available on Smashwords and Amazon.

            I want to take a moment to thank my brothers and sisters at Grace Fellowship Church who have followed me on this journey and given me advice and words of encouragement along the way. I also want to thank the book’s cover illustrator, Ron Schemenauer. His artistic sense helped capture the mood of the book that I was looking for. My sons Jesse and Caleb also offered much encouragement as their dad plugged away at this book over the years. Finally I want to thank Billi for her many years of patience and her belief in this project. Without her I probably would have given up long ago.

           If you would like to order a copy, it’s $2.99 at Smashwords and Amazon. You don’t need a Kindle to read the book.  Smashwords allows you to download the book in numerous formats and Amazon has Kindle apps for iPhone, Windows PC, Mac, Blackberry, iPad, Android, and Windows Phone 7.

            To order the book, go to one of the following:



            If you purchase the book and like what you read, you might consider going to either or both of these sites and writing a serious review of the book. Also, the last page of the Kindle edition has an area where you can give a starred rating, plus tweet or post on Facebook that you’ve read the book. If you really like the book, I would be very grateful if you told others.

            Thanks for your support and prayers.

Bequest News

           Greetings!  After an extended break from blogging due to the holidays and other matters of higher priority, I wanted to give you an update on my forthcoming book, The Bequest.  After a number of delays the cover is nearing completion.  A good friend and graphic artist has been working on it in his spare time, and what he has shown me so far looks great — much better than anything this art-challenged writer could produce.

            Two of the most common questions people have asked me about The Bequest is “what caused you to want to write a book?” and “what’s this book about?” I thought I’d take some blog time to answer those two questions.

            As to the first, I’ve actually dabbled in writing for some time and even made money at it, though the writing was a far cry from anything like a novel. That’s when I was in college back in the early 80’s. The college was sponsored by a certain church and I worked in their personal correspondence department, answering by letter questions people sent in about the church and college. After graduating I had a little side business for a time writing resumes.

            By the mid-80’s I had convinced myself that writing was something I would never make money at, so I buried the talent in a hole and did little with it. After all, I had to make a living doing real work and I had little confidence that my writing skills, such as they were, could accomplish that end.

            Sometime in the early 90’s I read The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings for the first time. It’s remarkable that someone could let the first nearly forty years of his life slip by without having read these amazing works, but somehow I managed to. It wasn’t long before I had many books in the fantasy genre under my belt.

            About 15 years ago I became interested in the history of my state of Indiana, especially the time of the roaring 20’s when the Ku Klux Klan heavily influenced Hoosier politics. I became curious how such a thing could happen in our state, so I researched the Klan’s history from its early beginnings in the 1860’s up until the time setting of The Bequest – 1924, when the Klan was at its peak of power, not just in Indiana, but in many other states and into Canada.

            As I read about Grand Wizards, Exalted Cyclopes, Grand Dragons, and the rituals of the Klan, an idea for a fantasy story began to take shape. This was around the year 2000 and it was then that I began work on The Bequest. At the time I really had no clue about the kind of discipline required to write a book and so I managed to stretch the process out eight years. But at the end of 2008 the rough draft was finally finished. After much polish, I like to think that, after 12 years, it’s finally ready for public view.

            As for the second question, “what’s the book about?”, well here’s the teaser that will most likely accompany the book when it finally goes live on Smashwords and at Amazon:

            “In 1924 the Ku Klux Klan is the dominant political and social force in Indiana.  Thirteen-year-old Will Moore, whose father is running against a Klan-backed candidate for the district congressional seat, finds himself increasingly at odds with the Klan kids on his street.  But Will and his friends put their differences aside when strange things start happening in the neighborhood:  odd flapping sounds heard in the sky at night; a woman with snakes for hair prowling the graveyard; the partially burned body of a Klansman discovered near a stagnant pond.  Suspicions fall on Angie Hostetler, widow of a fiery anti-Klan preacher, who has her own memories of the post-Civil War Klan, not to mention bookshelves lined with tales of fantasy and magic, and a triple-padlocked, rune-covered chest in her attic.

            “Will’s search for the truth behind Angie’s peculiar behavior reveals a murderer – and more truth than he ever bargained for.”

            Please keep the book in your prayers. My wife, Billi, and I have one great desire – that God be glorified and honored in whatever this new adventure we are setting out on brings our way.

The KKK in Indiana

           With the exception of the prologue, the setting for my soon-to-be-released book, The Bequest, is a fictitious small town in north central Indiana in 1924.  That year was an election year, and in Indiana it was an election year like no other.  The reason is simple and, to our thinking, most strange:  the overwhelming influence of the Ku Klux Klan in the state’s political and social fabric.

            If you can’t imagine your vote being influenced by your local chapter of the KKK, that’s a testament to how much our state, indeed our whole culture, has changed in the last 87 years.  Actually people’s thinking about the Klan began to change in 1925, only a year after the setting of my novel.

            Most people are aware that the Klan had its origins in the years following the Civil War.  Society had changed greatly after the war and those changes were not to the liking of many southerners, including many former confederate soldiers, who saw black independence as a threat to their lifestyle.  That first Klan was an extra-judicial attempt to control blacks and restore white supremacy.

            But that original Klan only lasted 7 years, until 1874, when it all but disappeared.  It stayed that way for 41 years until 1915. In that year the movie “Birth Of A Nation”, which glorified the old Klan, was released in theaters and became immensely popular. Influenced by the film, Dr. William Simmons, a fraternal organizer, climbed Stone Mountain near Atlanta, Georgia on Thanksgiving night with fifteen members, set a wooden cross ablaze, and proclaimed the establishment of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

            As Simmons intended, the Klan in those days was seen, more or less, as another fraternal organization much like the Elk or the Moose.  Its focus was not so much on lynching blacks as it was on defending White Anglo-Saxon Protestants from the perceived dangers of Catholicism, immigration and booze.

            After WW1, membership in the Klan exploded, particularly among military veterans who had an abundance of patriotic fervor that needed an outlet.  Eventually the Klan made its way into Evansville and, under the leadership of its Grand Dragon, D. C. Stephenson, was soon the dominant force in Indiana state politics.  Wikipedia states that, “At the height of its power the Klan had over 250,000 members, which was over 30% of state’s white male population.” The success or failure of many candidates in the 1924 election was largely determined by how much Klan backing they had.

            Stephenson, however, cared little for the perceived Klan virtues of 100% Americanism, prohibition, Protestantism, and the honor of women everywhere.  D. C. Stephenson had one goal and that was ensuring that D. C. Stephenson was the most powerful and influential man in the state.  At the pinnacle of his power he boasted in 1925 that “I am the law in Indiana”.

            However, Stephenson’s days at the top were short-lived.  In November 1925 he was convicted of 2nd degree murder in the rape and eventual death of schoolteacher Madge Oberholtzer.  The fallout from the trial discredited the Klan in the eyes of most Hoosiers and the organization went into rapid decline in Indiana and elsewhere.

            Today the Klan has virtually no power to influence elections. Yet I fear that, until Christ returns, there will always be an increasing number of D. C. Stephensons:  men and women whose sole agenda in seeking political office is the accumulation of wealth and power.  May we all pray for the day when that one great King will return who “shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” (Jeremiah 23:5)

Tool Talk

            Hi and welcome to the blog! I’ll spare you any grand introductions. I suppose you know why you’re here:  to see if this guy has the wit to write anything worth reading. And maybe to get some news about his forthcoming book The Bequest.

            Of course your interest in the latter item may well be determined by the former, so I better get to work here.

            Writing is, after all, a difficult job and for me, can be a slow and time-consuming process. The fact that I’ve been in the drywall hanging/finishing business off and on since 1984 probably contributes to that, since I’ve likely breathed enough gypsum dust over the years to prevent significant amounts of oxygen from reaching my brain.

            In the drywall trade, as in any other, you get customers who really like your work, and others who think you have the finishing skills of a dung beetle. I’m glad to say that most of my customers have fallen into the former category. Which never ceases to amaze me considering the tools I have to work with.

            Since I’m too cheap to buy a zip router, I have a rusty drywall saw, the blade of which is held to the handle by two bolts. There’s a hole in the handle for a third bolt, but after dropping the saw one too many times, that bolt has fled for regions unknown. My drywall foot lift had a loop that I could run my foot through.  That was nice because I don’t like to bend over and pick stuff up. But that loop has long since broken off, so now I just kick the lift where I want it to go.

            My tool pouch looks like it was run over by a lawn mower. My cutting edge (c. 1995) glue gun’s only virtue now is that it gives me a firm handshake.  The legs don’t extend out easily from my drywall bench anymore, which I guess is not a huge problem since enough joint compound has dropped on it over the years that I get a little closer to the ceiling with every job I do. My slop box is pretty beat up, too.  I guess you’d say that a slop box is a poor man’s banjo. A banjo is a . . . well hey, I guess that’s why they invented Google.  I have to move on.

            After finishing my most recent job last week, the homeowners kindly complimented my work and cut me a nice check. I loaded my aging tools and body into my battered ’89 Chevy S10 and drove away feeling pretty good about a job well done. Even with bad tools.

            When you think about it, though, God has been working with some pretty bad tools for thousands of years. Them tools is us. Ever since the fall, bad tools are all God has had to work with.  Deceiver Jacob. Impatient Moses. Sign-seeking Gideon. Adulterer/murderer David. Impetuous Peter. Just to name a few. But even the cheapest articles in the house can be used for noble purposes in God’s hands (2 Tim. 2:20-21).

            Why does God do his work like that? Couldn’t he get a lot more efficient production using perfect, spotless tools? No doubt, but he gets a lot more glory from his people when he does the same work using the worst tools. Paul said that God puts his best gift, the knowledge of himself in Christ, into simple clay pots (us) “to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Cor. 4:6-7)

            That’s a good thing for the tools to know.  No matter how beaten up, battered, and dilapidated life has left us, we can still be used by God for noble purposes. I think one of the chief ways we will be struck with awe in eternity future is to see how God has done that very thing time and again through his people in ages past. And we will glorify him for it.

            Now for a new glue gun . . . nahh!