23 July 2014

Opinion: Religion and Politics

I try very hard to keep theology and politics separate on my blogs for a number of reason, and this post is a good example of why I try to do so--because it. gets. messy.

This post was inspired by a Facebook discussion that, frankly, is better suited for monologues than short bursts of information in between other comments, which is why I've now taken to two blogs to discuss it.

If you'd like the whole back story on how this meme came to be, read the post over on my theology blog.  I'd like to give a little back story here on the political reasons I had for my post.  It was meant all along as a political post, but when you mix politics and religion, confusion seems to be the inevitable result.

The point of this meme, and the post inspiring it, was not to say that one can't have religious views or have them inform one's political views, but rather, that it is better from a policy and public square standpoint to make your case based on reason, logic, natural law, knowledge, etc. than it is to make it from a "Bible tells me so!" perspective.  Such arguments persuade no one.

Additionally, I use Christian examples since that is what I am and see most often, but this applies equally to all religions, including secular ones like humanism, Marxism, progressivism, atheism, etc.  "Because Marx tells me so!" is equally unpersuasive.

At any rate, this whole thing got started with posts I've seen on the Israel/Gaza/Palestine conflict.  Being a non-interventionist (not anti-military or defense by any means, just against entangling ourselves in conflicts unnecessary to our immediate protection) by nature, I have issues with us talking about being involved there anyways, but that's a policy discussion for another time.  Here are some observations on the discussion I've seen on Facebook of late:
  • Using any heresy (which dispensational premillennialism is) to justify bad policy is... well... awful.  Claiming we have to protect Israel because of the rapture (an entirely false "doctrine") is insane!  (I should note I haven't seem much of this directly in my feed, but it is something I've heard many times.)  It's not the job of America to swoop in and "save" a nation because a 19th century theologian decided to invent a new heresy (except it's actually based on an early Gnostic heresy, so it isn't that new I suppose--it just experienced a revival... see what I did there?).  If you do actually believe that (and I won't attempt to convince you otherwise here), why not go there yourself if you believe it so strongly?  Why must the government do it instead of individuals?  Just curious.
  • Israel can be considered a good ally for the U.S. for non-religious reasons (again, being a non-interventionist, I'm not a fan of alliances either, but that's a discussion for another time).  Wouldn't we be doing better by them to NOT be sending any kind of aid to their enemies?  That'd be like Israel sending aid to the North Vietnamese during our involvement in the war there.  It makes zero sense to me, and even less sense why more people aren't talking about that aspect of this issue.
  • Israel has one of the best armies in the world.  If we stopped aiding their enemies, they might actually have the opportunity to win.  It'd also be nice if the peanut gallery in the U.N., E.U. and D.C. would stop trying to tell them what to do.  Let them fight it out.
  • If you're dead-set on intervening, while I myself disagree with intervening in this conflict, there are non-religious arguments you can make (good ally, only stable country in the region, being attacked first, humanitarian issues, etc.--again, I don't agree with them all, but they exist) that are far more persuasive than any religious argument I've heard.

This is far from the only issue where theology comes into play.  All social issues have that undertone, as well as a slew of other issues.  It's certainly not any better making strictly religious arguments about other issues, I'm just using the Gaza conflict as a good example since it's been in the forefront lately.  

Morality and theology are not the same thing.  I know both moral atheists and amoral Christians.  Let's use our God-given brains to make logical, articulate, moral arguments that can persuade instead of arguments that have zero persuasive value to those not of our religion.  Heck, I'm a Christian, and I find many arguments by those of other denominations about policy to be not persuasive (the Gaza conflict is a perfect case in point).  

If the intent as Christians is to make an impact on the world, we do a poor job of that if we can't persuade anyone.  The government was never meant to be a hammer to force belief, but to be a curb on sin and arbiter of justice when necessary.  It cannot have the Gospel (Jesus) because it is all Law.  Any move towards theocracy is worse for us than it is for anyone else (and it's pretty bad for others, you can look to Islamic countries in the Middle East for examples of why it is bad).

Let me end with a simple plea.  Please, for the love of all that is holy, stop abusing my religion to advocate bad policy!  In fact, stop abusing all religions in general to discuss any policy, good or bad, period!

10 July 2014

#tbt Debate 2007

I spent my high school years competing in the NCFCA: National Christian Forensics and Communication Association, a homeschool speech and debate league.  The last year I debated, 2007, my partner and I ran this case in team policy debate (NATO resolution, see below).  I was looking through some old folders this week and found this.  It was a fun case to run--considered a "squirrelly" case by many, which made it even better.

At any rate, here it is for your reading and commenting pleasure.  While I wrote the bulk of this case, I was the second affirmative speaker so I actually never read it in a debate round.

By the way, I don't necessarily agree with this case--just enjoyed writing, researching, and running it.

Rajiv Gandhi once said that “The strength of the fabric will be determined by the weakest of the threads.”  Because we believe the fabric of NATO is indeed weak, and needs only to be strengthened to become an effective organization once again, we stand firmly Resolved: That the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should be significantly reformed or abolished.  

Let's begin this debate with a look at our First Observation, that of Definitions: 
In this round, the term North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, will be defined as Professor Hanns W. Maull put it in October 2003, “a political mechanism for transatlantic co-operation, with an emphasis on military security.” 
Burdensharing will be defined as the Congressional Budget Office report from August 2001 put it: “[Burdensharing is] defense spending as a proportion of GDP, and the proportion of the labor force in the military.” 
Next, we will take a look at the Goals and Criterion. 
The introduction to the North Atlantic Treaty shows that NATO is determined to safeguard the freedom” of member states and NATO will “seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area.”  It concludes by resolving “to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security.”  Because of this, we present the following goals that NATO should uphold, which are Promoting Economic Growth and Reducing the Risk of Terrorism. 
There is one very simple and essential way to uphold these goals, and that would be through our criterion of National Sovereignty.  By National Sovereignty, we mean “the principle that the state exercises absolute power over its territory, system of government, and population. Accordingly, the internal authority of the state supersedes that of all other bodies,” as stated by the AFSC.  If we prove that National Sovereignty is better upheld by our plan, an Affirmative ballot will be justified at the end of today’s debate. 

There are two important reasons why these goals cannot be upheld to the fullest in the Status Quo, and a significant impact that is a direct result of these harms.  We present these points to you in our Observation of Inherent Flaws. 
Our first point is that the US makes up 85% of NATO’s military capabilities from the Heritage Foundation in 2006: “Consequently, the United States now represents 85 percent of NATO’s military capabilities. As NATO considers the possibility of further enlargement or the emulation of missions in troubled states such as Afghanistan, the alliance’s robust and flexible nature could well be under threat if these massive discrepancies in defense spending are not addressed adequately.” 
Our second point is that Europe’s chronic funding shortfall is harming NATO, from an article by James Kitfield on April 8, 2006: “In that same period, [2001-2006, a study by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London pointed out that] U.S. defense spending has grown from 3 percent of gross domestic product to 3.7 percent. The other NATO nations have cut defense spending collectively from 2 percent to 1.8 percent of GDP. Only seven nations now meet NATO's official goal of spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense. That chronic funding shortfall has left well-documented gaps in NATO's strategic and tactical airlift, airborne reconnaissance and surveillance, precision-strike weapons, state-of-the-art communications, and modern logistics infrastructure. 
The impact of both inherent flaws is that NATO could fracture without military reform as stated by Adam J. Hebert in March 2001: “The alliance, warn officials, could become fractured if American capabilities continue to greatly exceed those of the Europeans or if American systems are unable to link up with European aircraft in joint operations.”
Because NATO is United States-top heavy, it cannot fulfill the goals set forth in the North Atlantic Treaty.  And in not meeting these goals, NATO violates National Sovereignty because European nations have become addicted to the United States.  Each nation is not looking out for their best interest—they are dependent on the United States to do that for them.  To solve this obvious harm, we propose the following Plan in Observation Four. 
The Agency shall be the North Atlantic Council and any other necessary authorities. 
The Mandates will be as follows: NATO will pass any necessary measures to reform to the organization to meet the following burdensharing requirements. 
            1) Spend a minimum of 3% GDP on defense measures, a 1% increase over the current requirement. 
            2) Adopt an equal contributions rule for funding and military personnel contribution based on their population and size of their GDP and military.  This idea is also known as common funding. 
            3) Enforce the previous two mandates on all member-nations or remove them from active membership and enforce said requirements on all prospective members.  By active membership, we mean that the countries will lose their vote in the North Atlantic Council but not NATO’s protection until they abide by the mandates above. 
The Enforcement shall come from the North Atlantic Council and any other parties needed. 
No additional Funding is necessary as this plan will actually increase NATO’s funding; however, if any costs should arise, NATO shall discretionally shift funds to cover that cost. 
This plan takes effect immediately upon an Affirmative ballot. 
Finally, the Affirmative team reserves the right to clarify and expound on the plan as necessary. 

To prove that our plan can work, we provide the following Solvency Observation: 
European countries can increase defense spending if necessary as shown in the Summer of 2005 by Charles V. Pena: “Without a Soviet threat to Europe, the United States does not need to subsidize European defense spending. The European countries have the economic wherewithal to increase their military spending, if necessary.” 

With a workable plan in place, and the incentive for Europe to change given, we will see significant improvement in upholding our criterion and goals, as shown in our Final Observation: Advantages. 
Our criterion will be met because Common funding is essential to National Sovereignty, as clearly shown by Lieutenant Colonel Chris Svehlak in January 2004: The basic principle behind common funding is this: the NATO Alliance enables member states, via a collective effort, to enhance their ability to realize their essential national security objectives without depriving them of their right and duty to assume their sovereign responsibilities in the field of defense.”  As we can see, National Sovereignty has a base in Burdensharing, and therefore will be upheld by our plan. 
Our first goal of Promoting Economic Growth will be achieved because by increasing military or defense spending, economic growth occurs, as shown on January 8, 2003 by Marian Stinson: “Spending on defence rose 44 per cent to support the war in Iraq, the U.S. Commerce Department reported yesterday. Defence spending added 1.7 percentage points to overall growth in the quarter.”  By sustained defence spending, we will see continually promoted economic growth. 
Our second goal of Reducing the Risk of Terrorism will be visible accomplished as shown by Alberto Abadie in October 2004: “The coefficient on log GDP per capita in column (1) shows that a 1% increase in per capita GDP is associated in the data with a .17% reduction in terrorism, as measured by the WMRC Global Terrorism Index.”  In other words, by increasing defense spending, the risk of terrorism will be reduced at the least by 13.26% through the enaction of our plan.  This number is determined by each of the 26 nations in NATO spending the minimum of 3% GDP on defense.

As you can see, National Sovereignty, when enforced by Burdensharing, achieves our goals and criterion.  We encourage you to stand with us, and strengthen the fabric of NATO by affirming this resolution.  In doing so, you will increase economic growth, reduce the risk of terrorism and promote National Sovereignty.