How A Biblical W-w Conflicts with American Conservatism

This may explain further how the so-called Religious Right is an untrustworthy ally to political conservatives, an interview with Jonathan Compton, the author of The Evangelical Origins of the Living Constitution:

JC: I was intrigued by the fact that many nineteenth-century evangelicals were openly critical of certain aspects of the constitutional system. The example of the antislavery movement is well known, but one finds the same sorts of criticisms within the temperance and anti-lottery movements, among others. After further investigation, I discovered the underlying source of this discontent: evangelical activists wanted to eradicate various forms of “sinful” property, and this goal put them at odds with a constitutional order that was designed, in large part, to protect vested property rights and to insulate national markets from state and local regulation.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of The Evangelical Origins of the Living Constitution?

JC: By the late nineteenth century, the prohibition and anti-lottery movements had grown so powerful that judges and lawmakers were forced to accommodate their demands, even if this meant weakening property rights and federalism constraints across the board. The triumph of the evangelical reform movements convinced many Progressive-era Americans that key constitutional categories like “property” and “commerce” were simply social constructs that could be modified to reflect the views of the present generation.

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45 thoughts on “How A Biblical W-w Conflicts with American Conservatism

  1. “JC: By the late nineteenth century, the prohibition and anti-lottery movements had grown so powerful that judges and lawmakers were forced to accommodate their demands, even if this meant weakening property rights and federalism constraints across the board.”

    This effect, of course, is also accomplished by blue laws.

    I find the phrase “weakening property rights” here to be curious. If natural rights exist prior to government’s recognition of them, then shouldn’t we instead discuss people’s violation or denial of property rights? “Weakening” sounds as though the government is the one that created and strengthened the rights to begin with, instead of simply recognizing and defending them. There are “rights” that the government creates, and I imagine that the language is crossing over to natural rights.

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  2. Forgive my ignorance (stupidity maybe)…but I don’t understand the link between so many of these posts concerning politics and biblical Christianity.

    What am I missing?

    Are you saying, as we believe, that one is a function of the law…and therefore we are free lords to do, vote, act on this level as we will? And that as Christians we say, a pox on both (conservative and liberal) their houses…as a way to bring us closer to God or t o realize any lasting fulfillment in this life?

    It’s just that I come here and read some of these things and scratch my head.” What are they after?”

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  3. This goes back to the Puritan notion of respect for conscience. The respect only exists if the conscience is “properly formed”. If you disagreed with a Puritan on something, obviously your conscience wasn’t properly formed so he had no need to respect your differing belief.

    The Puritans had similarities to 20th Century Totalitarians in this regard.

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  4. Steve, do you scratch your head when Christians want to bring the Bible into the public square or to redeem urban hipness (pardon the redundancy)? The point is to question abuses of the Bible.

    I am a political conservative in some sense that reflects U.S. history. I don’t believe I can use the Bible to justify my politics.

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  5. Depends on what “conservative” means. For instance “social conservatism” thinks of itself as synonymous with Biblical morality.

    Per economics, “conservative” begins to get conflated with “libertarianism,” but there are useful distinctions to be made. Libertarianism of the Ayn Rand stripe has no brief for communitarianism, but to say that conservatism-as-GOP is opposed to providing for the poor and helpless is a canard deployed mostly by its opponents in the other party.*

    ______
    *”Republicans want you to do die quickly.”—Rep. Alan Grayson [D-FL]. That sort of crap.

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  6. Exactly, Darryl. Your “conservatism” is not what most people take it to mean, as it’s inert. You need to start defining your terms–or accept the ones the left dictates, like Jonathan Compton.

    Terry M. Gray
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 7:01 pm | Permalink
    Only if you consider 19th century evangelicals to have had a Biblical worldview.

    There you go. 19th century “conservative” evangelicalism ends up indistinguishable from 20th mainline liberalism, except for the humping.

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  7. Conservatism, like rock & roll, is dead. At least that’s the view from Iowa, where there are big business Republicans, evangelicals with their two or three issues, and a smattering of libertarian voters.

    Santorum, Huckabee, Ryan, Cruz, Perry & Rand Paul are working Iowa to lay the groundwork for the next Presidential election. My crystal ball tells me Ryan will get little traction, Perry will do no better (or worse) than last time, and Cruz will be hurt by his ethanol stance. Personally I’d like to see Santorum decide against running because I’m aesthetically tired of his earnest facial expression. Huckabee may be a formidable candidate here, especially if he doesn’t split evangelicals with Santorum. But if they do split, Paul could make enough of a showing to leave the state happy.

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  8. The recent Iowa Supreme Court case has little bearing on the Edouard case because this defendant was prosecuted under the theory that being a sports coach made him an “other licensed professional” therefore subject to the statute. Edouard is being prosecuted as a counselor under a different part of the statute, so the case isn’t much of a precedent. The case does refer to a pre-existing rule of interpreting criminal statutes: “In interpreting a criminal statute, ‘provisions establishing the scope of criminal liability are to be strictly construed with doubts resolved therein in favor of the accused.'”

    http://www.iowacourts.gov/About_the_Courts/Supreme_Court/Supreme_Court_Opinions/Recent_Opinions/20140411/12-1862.pdf

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  9. D. G. Hart
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 10:42 pm | Permalink
    vd, t, that’s odd, when I define Calvinism you disagree. Then again, you’d make a great wife.

    Yes, Dr. Potty Mouth, your self-definitions are idiosyncratic, claiming to be the real thing. Left-wingers and antitheists no doubt find you useful as a weapon against conservatives, the way they find Pat Buchanan useful.

    FTR, I speak of “Calvinism” only in the socio-political sphere. Theologically, I note only that “two kingdoms” doesn’t appear in the Bible except via your interpretation of it. As for the soteriology, the TULIP thing, I have no standing to question your orthodoxy.

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  10. The triumph of the evangelical reform movements convinced many Progressive-era Americans that key constitutional categories like “property” and “commerce” were simply social constructs that could be modified to reflect the views of the present generation.

    Interesting. Thanks.

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  11. vd, t, but as a lexicographer you challenge others’ definitions — or as spouse?

    tw, b, vd, t, did you ever consider that saying 2k is not in the Bible is a theological biblical claim? But if you want to say that the Bible is of no help to “your” side in the culture wars, say it.

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  12. Tom, also interesting is whereas 2kers don’t find particular politics in the Bible, anti-2kers such as yourself not only find (and baptize) politics there but also no 2k. And if you think 19th century “conservative” evangelicalism ends up indistinguishable from 20th mainline liberalism, and if you are so opposed to the latter, then why are you always in the corner of the former’s descendants? It appears you haven’t yet figured out what “two sides of a skewed coin” means.

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  13. Tom how about Render unto Caeser:

    This phrase has become a widely quoted summary of the relationship between Christianity and secular authority.

    It’s a legitimately debatable topic, sure. Like many things are in Xtian theology. But since you know where Darryl stands, what’s the point?

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  14. MM – The recent Iowa Supreme Court case has little bearing on the Edouard case

    Erik – It depends what you mean by “bearing”.

    Does it say something about the mindset of the Iowa Supreme Court when prosecutors try people for violating laws that may not technically apply to them? I think it definitely does.

    Is a coach a trained, professional teacher? No, according to the majority of the Court.

    Is a religious minister a counselor? We’ll see.

    The legislature apparently needs to think these laws through a little better and not just assume that it’s common sense that they apply to people that they don’t clearly spell out in the statute.

    I’m not sure how the coach in question isn’t facing at least some punishment if the girl was underage, regardless of the coach vs. licensed professional teacher issue. Edouard’s women were all of legal age.

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  15. Sup with Iowa, buying a tank, just trying to figure out the limitations of enforcing the law over sex crimes..

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  16. Thanks MM

    As always I hope for some common sense to determine on a case by case basis the facts and a suitable punishment if required

    And work either side of the floor as clients come and go

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  17. One the charges on which the youth pastor was convicted was third degree sexual abuse:

    SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE THIRD DEGREE.
    A person commits sexual abuse in the third degree when the person
    performs a sex act under any of the following circumstances:
    1. The act is done by force or against the will of the other
    person, whether or not the other person is the person’s spouse or is
    cohabiting with the person.
    2. The act is between persons who are not at the time cohabiting
    as husband and wife and if any of the following are true:
    a. The other person is suffering from a mental defect or
    incapacity which precludes giving consent.
    b. The other person is twelve or thirteen years of age.
    c. The other person is fourteen or fifteen years of age and
    any of the following are true:
    (1) The person is a member of the same household as the other
    person.
    (2) The person is related to the other person by blood or
    affinity to the fourth degree.
    (3) The person is in a position of authority over the other
    person and uses that authority to coerce the other person to submit.

    (4) The person is four or more years older than the other person.

    Earlier I asked why the coach was not convicted purely on the grounds of having sex with a minor. The answer appears to be that 16 & 17 year olds are fair game in Iowa unless:

    “The person is in a position of authority over the other person and uses that authority to coerce the other person to submit.”

    Perhaps a youth pastor is considered to be in a “position of authority” over a minor whereas an adult minister is not considered to be in a position of authority over an adult woman.

    I think this youth pastor’s attorney did a lousy job letting him get convicted under the clergy abuse rule given the fluid nature of the Edouard case. If the guy wanted to plead guilty, he waned to plead guilty, though.

    He got a stiff sentence. I think he had asked to just be allowed to go home to where he was from and be supervised by a former pastor. Not happening — he’s going to serve hard time.

    The most recent story in the news is a 33-year-old female Ankeny teacher in trouble for getting involved with a 17-year-old boy.

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  18. Actually I misread that. Being in a position of authority only applies if the girl was 14 or 15. Maybe they were at the time. If they were 16 it looks like the only thing that would get him convicted is the clergy abuse angle. Now I really don’t understand why his attorney didn’t try the Edouard defense.

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  19. On Edouard’s appeal, though, the law flat out includes clergy in the list of those that it covers:

    709.15 SEXUAL EXPLOITATION BY A COUNSELOR, THERAPIST,
    OR SCHOOL EMPLOYEE.
    1. As used in this section:
    a. “Counselor or therapist” means a physician, psychologist,
    nurse, professional counselor, social worker, marriage or family
    therapist, alcohol or drug counselor, member of the clergy, or any
    other person, whether or not licensed or registered by the state, who
    provides or purports to provide mental health services.

    Is the law meant to prevent ALL ministers from having relations with their parishioners or only those “who provide or purport to provide mental health services”?

    I guarantee you that there are a lot of charismatic pastors of large churches who would have access to a lot of women via their respected position and provide little in the way of “mental health services”. If the church is providing those services at all it is probably being done by a separate staff person.

    What exactly was the legislature after?

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  20. Kent, what’s common sense got to do with it? But it can sneak in. An appeals court is mostly bound to applicable statutes but I think there are times when they look at potential results with a natural sense of equity and, in essence, think “is there enough wiggle room in the statute to avoid an inequitable result?” I think a court could look at the Edouard case, conclude that it was closer to common adultery than a man taking advantage of highly vulnerable counselees, and begin to explore plausible ways of construing the statute to avoid criminalizing the behavior. In that case the Iowa Court of Appeals held that the statute is after highly structured counseling situations.

    Erik, the youth pastor’s attorney did motions to dismiss what I’ll call the Edouard-type counts. I haven’t seen them, but if they were based on the Edouard decision, the district court judge might well have ruled against the motion for two reasons: the Edouard decision is still being appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court from the Court of Appeals and, regardless, facts would need to be established before making such a ruling.

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  21. Mitch,

    Do you think the attorney left himself room to appeal if Edouard wins at the Supreme Court? Should he have looked for grounds to delay until that ruling was made?

    What do you think were the grounds for the third degree sexual abuse charge? Were the victims 15 or younger?

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  22. One thing I wonder about our judicial system is the degree that spending money on your attorney — whether on a civil matter or a criminal matter — determines the outcome. It certainly worked for O.J. It appears to be working for Edouard. I don’t know what the caliber of the youth pastor’s attorney was.

    Human talent is an incredibly important variable in almost any endeavor.

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  23. Erik, the guy pled guilty so it’s over.

    Interesting that some defendants are sufficiently conscience-stricken that they just don’t want to go through a trial. They just figure they did it and should pay the price for it. Not all defendants try everything possible to escape conviction.

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  24. I don’t blame a defendant for doing what he can to prevent jail and the branding of sex offender if he believes the situation doesn’t deserve it

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  25. Zrim
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink
    Tom, also interesting is whereas 2kers don’t find particular politics in the Bible, anti-2kers such as yourself not only find (and baptize) politics there but also no 2k. And if you think 19th century “conservative” evangelicalism ends up indistinguishable from 20th mainline liberalism, and if you are so opposed to the latter, then why are you always in the corner of the former’s descendants? It appears you haven’t yet figured out what “two sides of a skewed coin” means.

    Is that in the Bible?

    And what do you mean by 19th century “conservative” evangelicalism? William Jennings Bryan?

    As for anti-2kers like myself, my objection is to r2k impotence and disengagement. Catholic Worker was a radical left movement, but I have no problem with people living their faith. I respect the hell out of it.

    Darryl claims to be a conservative, as do others here. But from where do you get your values? Without a foundation [say the Bible, or even natural law/theism, the “other” kingdom], your opinion is no better than anyone else’s. Truth is elastic: Relativism rules.

    As always, Mr. Z, thx for being a decent chap.

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  26. But from where do you get your values?

    Have you heard of the Episcopalian Three legged stool?

    It’s not really my cup of tea. But it’s a way of answering questions like that, and it’s not dumb.

    Don’t mind me..

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  27. Andrew Buckingham
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 11:57 pm | Permalink
    But from where do you get your values?

    Have you heard of the Episcopalian Three legged stool?

    It’s not really my cup of tea. But it’s a way of answering questions like that, and it’s not dumb.

    Don’t mind me..

    Not atall, AB. At your best you do very well indeed.

    Have you heard of the Episcopalian Three legged stool?

    Ah, the judicious Richard Hooker, “The Father of Anglicanism,” and a Thomist. One of my very favorites.

    Scripture, Tradition, and Reason

    To quote an old movie title, Three into Two* Won’t Go. My point exactly. 😉
    ____________
    *2k

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  28. Good deal, Tom. Food for thought, is all, right?

    You asked also about “conservatives” here at OL. Here, (sticking with food) enjoy the dessert:

    It is a great mistake, then, to suppose that we who
    are called “conservatives” hold desperately to certain
    beliefs merely because they are old, and are opposed to

    18 WHAT IS FAITH?

    the discovery of new facts. On the contrary, we wel-
    come new discoveries with all our hearts, and we believe
    that our cause will come to its rights again only when
    youth throws off its present intellectual lethargy, re-
    fuses to go thoughtlessly with the anti-intellectual cur-
    rent of the age, and recovers some genuine independence
    of mind. In one sense, indeed, we are traditionalists;
    we do maintain that any institution that is really great
    has its roots in the past; we do not therefore desire to
    substitute modern sects for the historic Christian
    Church. But on the whole, in view of the conditions
    that now exist, it would perhaps be more correct to call
    us “radicals” than to call us “conservatives.” We look
    not for a mere continuation of spiritual conditions that
    now exist, but for an outburst of new power; we are
    seeking in particular to arouse youth from its present
    uncritical repetition of current phrases into some genuine
    examination of the basis of life; and we believe that
    Christianity flourishes not in the darkness, but in the
    light. A revival of the Christian religion, we believe,
    will deliver mankind from its present bondage, and like
    the great revival of the sixteenth century will bring
    liberty to mankind. Such a revival will be not the
    work of man, but the work of the Spirit of God. But
    one of the means which the Spirit will use, we believe,
    is an awakening of the intellect. The retrograde, anti-
    intellectual movement called Modernism, a movement
    which really degrades the intellect by excluding it from
    the sphere of religion, will be overcome, and thinking
    will again come to its rights. The new Reformation,
    in other words, will be accompained by a new Renais-

    INTRODUCTION 19

    sance; and the last thing in the world that we desire
    to do is to discourage originality or independence of
    mind.

    Selah

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  29. vd, t, “Without a foundation [say the Bible, or even natural law/theism, the “other” kingdom], your opinion is no better than anyone else’s.”

    And you don’t even have that.

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  30. Tom, what are you suggesting, that 2kers don’t live out their faith? But we do. You may not like the way it looks, but pursuing a quiet and decent life among the heathen and wanting the church to mind her own business for the sake of the gospel is the 2k aspiration. And so your suggestion–which isn’t uncommon–is like when introverts are told they are emotionless, when actually we just manage our affections differently. Or when a wife complains when a husband isn’t hyperventilating enough over you-name-it, i.e. if you don’t care like I care then you don’t care at all. Phooey.

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  31. A 2K leader has put up a blog that allows almost complete freedom to post your thoughts.

    And not a single anti-2K person has responded with anything but sass and ignorance and profanity.

    But I have faith that eventually a Christian who is not 2K will show up and display some class.

    Speaks volumes to me…

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  32. D. G. Hart
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:01 am | Permalink
    vd, t, “Without a foundation [say the Bible, or even natural law/theism, the “other” kingdom], your opinion is no better than anyone else’s.”

    And you don’t even have that.

    Heh. You know me better than that, Dr. Disingenuous. Why you pretend you don’t remains a mystery. Your problem with me is that I actually understand everything you write.

    Like

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