Huntsman’s conservative credentials

The impression most people have is that Jon Huntsman is not conservative, that he is at best a moderate.  Not so, says Nichole Austin:

Despite scuttlebutt to the contrary, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is not a Democrat in disguise, but was in fact a relatively ambitious conservative governor. And if he is “moderate,” he is not appreciably more moderate than other leading candidates or party leaders. If one compares records honestly and looks at policy positions realistically, one will find that in many ways, Huntsman is more conservative than Mitt Romney — who will likely receive the Republican nomination. A surreal juxtaposition to be sure.

As governor of Utah, Huntsman ushered in a boldly transformed tax system. He flattened the tax code, doing away with many, though not all, deductions and credits, and changing six-brackets of progressive income tax rates into one low 5% rate. (Compare with Rick Perry’s proposed 20% flat income tax and Herman Cain’s emblematic 9%.) According to PoliFact.com, this new system reduced taxes approximately 30% for the wealthiest residents, and due to remaining tax deductions “the effective tax rate [was] about 3 percent for Utah taxpayers earning $70,000 a year in 2008 and 4 percent for a household with $100,000 in taxable income[.]” He also eliminated the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, a credit Reagan supported and which many Republicans today label “socialist.”

Also according to PolitiFact, which simply crunched Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, Utah was fourth in the nation for job creation during the period immediately preceding and including the 2008-2009 recession, right behind Texas, which was third in the nation.

This is just the beginning. One proposal in Washington that has seemingly become too radical for even many leading Republicans to fully sign on to is the “Ryan plan,” which would rein in unsustainable entitlements, most notably Medicare. Newt Gingrich has criticized the Ryan plan, and has vacillated considerably on the proposal — at best, he seems to think it’s too big, too soon, although at one point he said he would vote for it. Romney supports a weaker version of the Ryan plan, which would not phase out Medicare, but keep it as an option, allowing private carriers to compete with it — we might call it the “competitive option,” a Democratic euphemism for the “public option.” Michele Bachmann supports the Ryan plan, but also voiced reservations regarding potential changes to Medicare. Huntsman, on the other hand, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal commending the Ryan plan, and has said he would vote for it. He has re-iterated, unequivocally, his support on multiple occasions. This puts Huntsman in the same camp as Herman Cain and, to some extent, Rick Perry, who wants states to be able to opt out of entitlements and believes they’re “Ponzi schemes.” Mitt Romney later criticized this very accurate characterization of entitlements, saying Perry’s rhetoric was over the top and frightening.

Of course, one other noteworthy item on Huntsman’s resume is that he pursued free market-based health care reform in Utah. The system primarily involved a competitive private health care exchange, diversified consumer options, and electronic medical records. Gregg Girvan of the Heritage Foundation praised it as a “blueprint” for state health care reform. Furthermore, the state did not impose a health insurance mandate on private citizens, although early on, Huntsman seemed to have favored a mandate, as did former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have endorsed insurance mandates of some kind and seem to think that they’re necessary features of a workable health care reform model. On a related note, like most other candidates, Huntsman also said he would repeal Obamacare.

Huntsman has also been consistently pro-life, and has spoken very passionately on the issue. He signed numerous pro-life laws while governor, including making second trimester abortions illegal, enacting fetal pain awareness legislation, and instituting a trigger to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned. He also supports a “right to life” amendment to the Constitution. He has not signed the Susan B. Anthony List pledge (Romney and Cain have not either), but his record speaks for itself, and he has been praised by numerous pro-life groups.

via PJ Media » Everything You Thought You Knew About Jon Huntsman Is Wrong.

Plus, the former ambassador to China does know a lot about foreign policy, unlike most of the rest of the field.   His only non-conservative positions, according to Austin, are his belief that global warming is real and his willingness to accept civil unions for gays.  I’m not sure what’s conservative about one’s position on global warming–surely that’s a matter of opinion and interpretation of data–and, indeed, Newt Gingrich, nobody’s liberal, has accepted that man-man global warming is real.  And civil unions at least stop a little short of  gay marriage.

So is the only real problem with Huntsman is that he, like Romney, is a Mormon?

A pro-life movement in Russia

In Russia, the most commonly-used method of birth control is abortion.  It has the world’s highest abortion rate:  73 for every 100 births.  But now a pro-life movement has started up in Russia, led by the Orthodox Church, and the Russian parliament, faced not only with the church’s lobbying but with a population collapse,  is expected to pass a law imposing sharp restrictions (though not prohibition) of the practice:

Backed by the Russian Orthodox Church, an influential anti-abortion lobby is driving a moral crusade to tighten legislation and shift public attitudes that are largely a legacy of the Soviet era.

Adding to the debate is the Russian government’s effort to reverse a population decline caused by low birth rates combined with very high death rates. With Russians dying nearly twice as fast as they are born, the United Nations predicts that by 2050 its population will shrink by almost one fifth to 116 million.

Women’s rights groups voice outrage that the Church would play a role in shaping Russia’s secular laws and say abortion must remain a choice. They acknowledge the statistics point to a public health travesty but suggest the problem would be better resolved by sex education.

At the heart of the debate is an amendment to Russia’s law on health that is all but guaranteed to pass in the lower house after it was approved in a critical second of three readings on Oct. 21.

The law would cap abortions at 12 weeks, impose a waiting period of up to one week from initial consultations and require women over six weeks pregnant to see the embryo on ultrasound, hear its heartbeat and have counseling to determine how to proceed.

“Our two main motives are the fact that Russia is dying out and our religious tradition. We cannot forget our faith,” Yelena Mizulina, chair of the family issues committee that fielded the law, told Reuters. “Despite the long Communist period, it is seen as murder, as a violation of the Ten Commandments.”

via Orthodox Church-backed abortion bill sparks protest in Russia | FaithWorld.

Chaplain Mike on the Sacraments

The third installment from Chaplain Mike on what he is appreciating so much from  his new Lutheranism.  This time he focuses on the Sacraments.  Read the whole post, but here is a sample:

The sacramental perspective takes God’s presence and action in the midst of his creation seriously. Some expressions of faith are essentially world-denying and more akin to forms of Platonism or gnosticism that make radical distinctions between the material and spiritual worlds. From this perspective, God works and we grow “spiritually,” and this world is one we are “passing through” on our way to an ethereal heaven. The Lutheran tradition, on the other hand, rejoices that God is present and working throughout his creation, and that he especially works in and through simple elements like water, bread, wine, paper and ink to communicate his truth and love to his people. He meets us here, and he is leading us to a renewed creation.

Sacramental theology takes the Incarnation seriously. Jesus the Eternal Word, “became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14). Sharing fully in our humanity and the experiences of life in this world, God visited his creation personally, spoke, broke bread with us, wept, touched broken bodies, and even died himself to identify with and redeem all who are in bondage to sin, evil, and death. The Spirit he sent now works through the Word and the Sacraments in the midst of his gathered people to apply the benefits of his saving work.

There is  much to learn about the Sacraments, but the primary shift for me, coming from the evangelical world, was simple. It involved coming to understand them as God’s works, not mine.

I no longer see baptism as something I do to profess my faith in Christ. I see it as something done to me through which God acts savingly. I no longer see Communion merely as something I do to remember Jesus. I see it as his Table, to which he invites me and at which he feeds me.

These practices are the means by which God’s grace in Christ is communicated to me, for in them his promises are made real in my life.

via How the Lutheran Tradition Answers Many Post-Evangelical Concerns (3) | internetmonk.com.

 

The beam in our Missouri Synod eyes

Friends, you should read the comments on Chaplain Mike’s sacrament post at Internet monk, linked above.  It’s touching how some of his evangelical readers are responding to what he is saying.

I have to say, though, that I’m kind of ashamed that some of these potential Lutherans have come to THIS blog, which Chaplain Mike links to, and are marveling about how all we Missouri Synod Lutherans can say about his joy in discovering Lutheran theology  is to castigate him for joining the ELCA!  There are comments to the effect that, I’m staying away from those LCMS types, but I might investigate the ELCA.   Thus our polemics against the ELCA turn people away from us and make the ELCA more attractive!  That’s not very effective argumentation, to make people agree more with your opponent than with you!

But there is something else that we Missouri Synod Lutherans need to face up to.  Say you are a disaffected “post-evangelical” who hears about Lutheranism.  It sounds like the kind of Christianity you are yearning for.  You are especially fed up with what passes for worship where you are now, and the sacramental spirituality that you are reading about in Lutheranism is more than compelling.  So you visit the local Missouri Synod congregation.   Isn’t it true that it is extremely likely that you will walk into a contemporary worship service with a pastor that is trying to out-evangelical the evangelicals?  You will go into an LCMS congregation looking for Lutheranism, but it may well be that you won’t find it!

I don’t know how many times I have heard about this happening, including from people who read my book Spirituality of the Cross:  The Way of the First Evangelicals.  (In fact, I know that this happened with some of you regular readers and commenters on this blog.)  So if someone finds Lutheranism in another synod–WELS, ELS, even ELCA–do we have the standing to complain?

What percentage of LCMS congregations do you think follow the historical Lutheran liturgy?  Half?  Less than half?  In some areas of the country, far less than that?   I have been in lots of Lutheran services and heard lots of sermons, not all of which distinguished Law & Gospel or even preached the Gospel.  Some of them were as therapeutic and as “theology of glory” and as “power of positive thinking” oriented as Joel Osteen.

I know these congregations all pledge allegiance to the same doctrinal standards, to the Scriptures and the Lutheran confessions.   But do they really hold them in actuality?  Perhaps someone could explain to me, humble layman that I am, why, if we demand doctrinal agreement for pulpit and altar fellowship, we can commune with a congregation that exhibits no visible Lutheranism in its public teaching but simply is on the same LCMS roster.

Don’t get me wrong:  I’m as supportive of the LCMS and as critical of liberal theology as anyone can be.  But to say that Chaplain Mike, in joining the ELCA, is just joining mainline liberal Protestantism is manifestly not true.  What he is finding in his congregation that he is responding to so gladly is not leftwing politics or feminism or gay marriages.  Rather, as he says, he is finding the centrality of Christ, Law & Gospel, vocation, worship, the sacraments, and the other things he is discussing in his three posts.

Now the problem with the ELCA is that many of their congregations do not concentrate on those Lutheran teachings and that our hypothetical seeker-after-Lutheranism may well not find them there either.  I would go so far as to say that he or she would be more likely to find them in the LCMS, for all of our problems, or in WELS or ELS or another conservative synod.  The problem in American Lutheranism has always been the temptation to conform to some variety of American Protestantism–whether mainline liberal (the ELCA’s temptation) or generic evangelicalism (the LCMS’s temptation)–rather than just being Lutheran.   Chaplain Mike will doubtless find that out.  In the meantime, we Lutherans need to welcome him into our tradition.  We might also think how we might welcome more like him, rather than scaring them away.

 

 

Respect vs. pity

I have long observed this and written about it, that instead of honoring those who hold the military vocation in the traditional way–admiring their prowess in battle and celebrating their victories–today our culture’s support for our troops is expressed by feeling sorry for them.  Now this is getting on their nerves:

The troops are lavished with praise for their sacrifices. But the praise comes with a price, service members say. The public increasingly acts as if it feels sorry for those in uniform.

“We aren’t victims at all,” said Brig. Gen. Sean B. MacFarland, who commanded troops in Iraq and will soon leave for Afghanistan. “But it seems that the only way that some can be supportive is to cast us in the role of hapless souls.”

The topic is a sensitive one for military leaders, who do not want to appear ungrateful or at odds with the public they serve. They also realize that the anger that returning troops faced in the latter years of the Vietnam War was far worse.

As a result, most of the conversations about pity take place quietly and privately among combat veterans. . . .

The military’s unease springs, in part, from American indifference to the wars. Battlefield achievements are rarely singled out for praise by a country that has little familiarity with the military and sees little direct benefit from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“We, as a nation, no longer value military heroism in ways that were entirely common in World War II,” said retired Lt. Gen. David Barno, who commanded U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Instead, praise from politicians and the public focuses largely on the depth of a service member’s suffering. Troops are recognized for the number of tours they have endured, the number of friends they have lost or the extent of their injuries. . . .

Lower-ranking officers feel a similar frustration. “America has unwittingly accepted the idea that its warriors are victims,” Lt. Col. John Morris, a chaplain for the Minnesota Army National Guard, told the Rotary Club of St. Paul in August.

via Troops feel more pity than respect – The Washington Post.

Cosmology and the speed of light

We’ve blogged about the discovery of neutrinos that seemed to have traveled faster than light.  As scientists try to replicate and study that event, Joel Aschenbach has a good explanation of what’s at stake if light is not the fastest thing in the universe:

There is logic and beauty in a universe in which space, time, energy and matter are tightly associated with the speed of light. The special status of the speed of light isn’t like an Olympic record, something begging to be broken. Someone could come along who is faster than Usain Bolt, and it wouldn’t change the way we look at the world.

But the speed of light, according to Einstein, is an integral part of the geometry of four-dimensional space-time.

When we discuss the speed of light, we’re not talking about the characteristics of light so much as we’re describing the fabric of the universe. Light speed is the ultimate speed that anything (including things with zero mass, such as light or other electromagnetic radiation) can possibly go.

This also puts a limit on the speed of information, and, as such, helps enforce the fundamental law of causality. There’s an “arrow of time”: Splattered eggs on the kitchen floor don’t reassemble themselves in the shell and leap back onto the countertop.

“The melded nature of space and time is intimately woven with properties of light speed,” Greene says. “The inviolable nature of the speed of light is actually, in Einstein’s hands, talking about the inviolable nature of cause and effect.”

Michael Turner, a University of Chicago physicist, says the universe won’t seem as logical if there are particles that can move faster than light.

“In science we like surprises. We like big surprises. This one is too big to be true,” Turner said. “We really like things that rock the boat and turn us in a new direction, but this one turns the boat upside down and fills it with water.”

via Faster-than-light neutrino poses the ultimate cosmic brain teaser for physicists – The Washington Post.

Perhaps some of you can explain why breaking the cosmic speed limit would undermine cause and effect.  Aschenbach says “that” it would do so, but he doesn’t get into the “hows” and “whys.”


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