Why I’m not a Libertarian (but I might vote for one)

On the eve of the mid-term elections, I’ve been reading, studying, and thinking more about the nature of politics and mine own personal political leanings, and have come to the conclusion that I am not a libertarian, although I might vote for one. Libertarianism is represented by individuals such as Ron Paul (whom I voted for), Larry Elder, and even Elon Musk.

The Libertarian party believes in the maximum amount of liberty for the individual. This, in turn, lends itself to a belief in small government, unrestricted capitalism, non-interventionism, and boundless civil liberties. I endorse aspects (at minimum) of each of these, so it makes sense that given the choice between a progressive, a gutless conservative, or a libertarian, I might vote for the libertarian. The libertarian is a co-belligerent against the woke nonsense that has captivated political discourse in recent years.

There are a couple of issues which I could highlight that put me on the same side as the Libertarians. One would be the issue of free speech. Progressive ideology has become demonstrably censorious over the last several years, as evidenced by the “set my hair on fire” responses to conservative speakers at public universities, as well as by the Big-tech censorship during the pandemic that essentially shut down dialogue between opposing viewpoints. The second issue would be the bloated bureaucracy through which un-elected government officials dictate how businesses are run. Through irksome regulations (disincentives) and tax credits (incentives) the government “has its thumb” on the scales of the economy, which almost always results in bubbles, crashes, waste, and tax payer dollars.

So while I am sympathetic to those things and, with the balance of the scales being so far in the other direction I would vote for a sincere libertarian over a phony conservative, I have to ask myself whether I would agree with a government that is truly libertarian. In other words, if Libertarians took over the government (through elected means), would I find myself in some way fighting against their goals and aims? And the answer is yes.

The purpose of this post is not to explain what all of those disagreements would be, but to attempt to articulate the difference between my conservatism and libertarianism at a fundamental level. When I voted for Ron Paul in 2008 to be the Republican candidate for the presidency, I was struck that a vote for John McCain and a vote for Barack Obama were not very distinct. In other words, Ron Paul was actually saying something different than the others. That swayed me towards the libertarian viewpoint.

However, the longer I live the more I believe that a proper political system must be built on a better foundation. Libertarians and liberals both have their source in the Enlightenment idea that the liberty of the individual is a universal right that can be known through human Reason. If I’ve got that historical reality and definition correct, then I have (at least) 3 big problems with Libertarianism.

Individuals Without Natural Affection

The first issue I have is the focus on the individual. Societies are not only composed of individuals, but also groups, which have traditionally grown out of the natural affection between family and then clans. While individuals should also have rights, a society that ignores the reality of social constructs that lie between the level of the individual and the State are bound to wind up where America has wound up, with a massive government burrowing itself into debt through a commitment to caring for individuals from the cradle to the grave.

The issue of social structures larger than the individual is inescapable, as we can see from our current divided States of America. People will organize themselves into groups, even if those groups are not organized around the traditional formula of family and religion/church. The problem is that the groups we see organized in America today are largely grievance groups, bound together by their common victimization, even if that victimization is a perception rather than a reality. So the structures will always exist, but in a society that has intentionally destroyed social structures based on natural affection, such as the family and the church, the groups that materialize will be distorted, bound together by things like hate (ethnic supremacy groups) or by envy (victimization groups).

One way this works out is that the Libertarian doesn’t care what people do in their bedroom and who marries whom, as long as there is consent. If a married couple wants to divorce, then that is between them. But as a conservative I believe that marriage is a social institution that is recognized by the State for the good of society, and thus society has a vested interest in marriage for the procreation of children who will become good citizens and carry on the values of their family, clan, and nation. Downstream of all of this are the issues of abortion, school nurses treating children without the consent of parents, gay marriage, etc…

Freedom Without Responsibility

The second reason I reject the foundation of Libertarianism is because of the focus on freedom to the exemption of responsibility. The freedom of the individual is enshrined in the highest temple without a word to the concept of duty. America is a Republic requiring certain civic responsibilities. These include paying taxes, honoring the laws of the land, and aiding in times of national crisis. To bestow the rights of citizenship without requiring the responsibilities of citizenship is a prescription for disaster.

Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people.

George Washington

Abundant quotations from founding fathers of our nation like the one above exist because the idea of a Republic continuing without a willingness on the part of the people to uphold that Republic made no sense to these men. And if we have responsibility to our nation, it holds that there will be times when in national interest, we have to pursue policies at the level of nations where we must impose restrictions on certain economic activities or intervene in the affairs of others.

A specific example of this would be the war in Ukraine. While there have been many military interventions in my lifetime to which I was opposed, I believe there is a moral obligation to assist Ukraine because we were the ones who convinced them to give up their nuclear weapons. We did this because disarmament was in our national interest, which it really was.

Reason Without Tradition

Finally, if my premise that Libertarianism is founded on Enlightenment principles is true, the the whole things comes down to the idea that the rights of the individual can be found through Reason. That is, that if only mankind could cast off the shackles of tradition, we could see the universal rights of man descended from the heavens like a New Jerusalem, suspended upon nothing but the I-beams of human goodness fastened with the bolts of brotherhood to the…darn it I ran out of metaphors. But you get the idea. Why in the world do we think that human Reason will lead all men to the same conclusion, when it manifestly does not? Because we have been brainwashed into thinking that Enlightenment philosophy is a sound universal truth.

Several wars and attempts at nation building should persuade us that this is simply not the case. You can put three people in a room together and human reason will not bring them to the same conclusion about any number of issues. Societies that have long traditions outside of Western philosophy are going to approach everything from a different angle, and the idea that we can export liberal democracy around the world and it is going to be received with open arms is completely false. Right now, the most obvious example of this is China, where a powerful global economy is run by a increasingly totalitarian government.


A system of government should reflect reflect ontological realities of the human condition and the way that societies begin, develop, and maintain themselves over time. While Libertarians may side with Conservatives against the current crop of Progressives on many issues today, I don’t think they have a philosophical foundation that can sustain a society over the long haul. Conservatism believes in conserving, and one thing worth conserving is our nation.

So go vote kids, and if there isn’t a true conservative on the ticket, vote for a Libertarian.


When the Trust Fund Runs Out

Financially, a trust fund is a an asset given by one person/party (grantor) to another person/party (beneficiary) that is managed by a neutral third party (trustee). Often these funds are set up for children who are too young to manage their own money, and so the money is left “in trust” until the child comes of age. Ironically, sometimes the trust fund is set up because a parent does not trust his heir to manage the asset. Today, I’m writing about a difference kind of trust fund: relational.

Social Security: What Happens If the Trust Fund Runs Out in 2034? | Money

Every relationship involves some measure of trust. Deep, meaningful relationships have built up a treasury of trust that yields intimacy, confidence, and joy. One reason I decided to marry my wife is because I instinctively trusted her. To some extent, that trust was earned over the course of two years of dating and engagement. But to some extent, marrying her was an act of faith; an act that has been rewarded with interest. Over ten years of marriage we have kept our vows, prioritized our relationship, and endured job, financial, and medical challenges. So when I got a text today saying that she needed my social security number, I was less concerned with why she might need it than I was in ensuring that it was really my wife and not some rando who had pinched her phone.

The connection between the financial trust fund and the relational trust fund has more in common than a fleeting rhetorical connection: what happens when a trust fund runs out? In popular conception, a trust fund baby melts down in the face of this loss because she is unable to face the weight of the world on her own. When a relationship runs out of trust, it crashes in upon itself – unable to bear the weight of its own framework. Friendships without trust become cold acquaintances. Lovers without trust become hot enemies. Spouses without trust become roommates wanting to split but with that pesky problem of both their names being affixed to the lease.

What happens when society loses trust in its institutions? You have America. The Great Divided States of America. Long-standing institutions like journalism are not trusted. Local, State, and Federal government are not trusted. Elections are not trusted – and this is not simply true of 2020 (see below). Big Tech is not trusted because…see below. The glaring double standard before us is as subtle as a Buddy the Elf. As obvious as Waldo at the North Pole. As out of place as a flamingo in the frozen tundra. Apparently my metaphors are heavily influenced by the weather.

It’s worth considering how trust has broken down and whether or not it can be rebuilt. Trust breaks down when commitments are not honored, when promises are not kept, and when incompetence becomes common place. And for this reason, the only kind of government that will ever keep trust with its citizens is a limited government. The government of Progressive Idealism is bound to break trust because it cannot deliver what it promises. Utopian ideals in a sin cursed world are doomed to failure. The government cannot save you, which is why it is a terrible substitute for a real Savior. Thomas Sowell puts it pretty succinctly, “There are no solutions, only trade-offs.”

Consider the stark difference between the billboard a few miles down the highway from me that simply reads “Stop Hunger Now” with the words of Jesus Christ, “The poor you will always have with you” (Matthew 26:11). I love the idea of feeding people, but it isn’t that simple. A friend of mine who lives in a very poor county started a program to send backpacks of food home with kids from school over the weekend. They found that the kids were still coming back to school hungry on Monday because parents had taken the food from the kids for themselves, or even to swap out for drugs and alcohol. Another example would be the massive failure of cities like San Francisco or Seattle that have become uninhabitable for locals because of their policies to help the homeless.

Contrast this with a local bond issue to improve some roadways and bridges in our county. Upon completion, the county puts up a sign stating “Completed On Time as Promised.” Or consider the conversation I had with a local public employee who is largely responsible for the use of a massive bond program. For the last two years careful stewardship has yielded projects finished within budgets despite massive price increases over the last twelve months. These are the types of promises that a government can make and keep, thus building trust with its citizens.

But the Brave New World sort of folks are constantly dropping the ball. And because they need the populace to believe in their vision and in the myth of inevitability, they can never come out and own their mistakes. Which leads to blaming someone else or simply lying. “If you like your doctor, you can keep him.” Right.

Jesus, on the other hand, you can trust, because the foundational reality of the mission of Jesus Christ is that people are sinners. Jesus knows that a perfect system will always be ruined by sinful people, because that’s what happened in Eden. “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32) The plan of Jesus is to save the sinners from their sin, thus making them fit for His kingdom. Where there will be no sickness. No tears. No hunger.

Until then, we want our government trim and focused, not bloated and ubiquitous. We want a government that fixes bridges and balances budgets. Until we get that, the trust fund will always be running on fumes.


Personal Piety isn’t Enough: The Church is More Important Than Ever

The Water In Which We Are Drowning

With all of the hubaloo regarding the inauguration of Biden yesterday, I had intended to add my two cents to the overflowing coin bank of opinion on the recent 2020 elections. But due to unforeseen events, I am late to the party. That’s ok, my understanding is that if it’s mailed in it will be counted regardless of the posting date. Which remark probably indicates my political leanings, but be that as it may, this post is more about the Church than politics, although politics are the context in which I frame my thoughts.

whtie and brown cathedral

The next four years promises to be challenging from a political perspective to orthodox Christians, and I shall lay out some a priori assumptions that explains that assessment. 1) All forms of government are not created equally: there are forms of government that are more realistic about the nature of our world and that are designed in principal and practice to pursue righteousness (Proverbs 14:34). 2) The extremism of the Left (collectivism) is currently more dangerous than the extremism of the right (fascism), although that could change quickly. 3) The intolerant, censorious nature of Leftist policy is a danger to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. 4) The idolatry of Statism exhibited by Leftist government is threatened by bonds outside of the State, which has led to an assault on the family, on the nature of masculinity and femininity, and on the life of the unborn – to name a few. 5) The doctrines of the Left are embedded in our culture through institutions such as government via legislation, education via government schools, storytelling via entertainment, and control of information via Big Tech and traditional media.

Idolatry to the Left, Idolatry to the Right

As one of my friends recently pointed out, the last year has been a good one for exposing idolatry. In my part of the country and in my circles, the idolatry of the right involves a certain kind of nationalism. I think nationalism is good and something that will last for eternity: the leaves of the Tree of Life are for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:2). But even good things can become idols, and we can tell that they have become idols by the response of their worshipers when they start to slip and fall off their pedestal. There are those within Evangelicalism who have placed their trust in horses and in chariots (Psalm 20:7). There are those who have risked personal integrity, who have railed against the appointed rulers, who have lost sleep, who have denied reality, and in short acted like pagans because they were worshiping at the wrong altar.

But the Left is not short of idols. If I were to compare, I would say that the main difference between the Left and the Right is that the Right tends to elevate good things (patriotism, family, liberty) to the level of worship (which is a sin) , whereas the Left tends to worship that which is more intrinsically wicked. To love fornication is to love that which is twisted. To love death is to love that which is the opposite of the Lord of Life. From evolution to transgenderism, the gods of the Left are an abomination.

Personal Piety

In the midst of this, it should go without saying that personal piety is foundational. The individual who claims to know the God who is Holy and yet lives daily without evidence of holiness (or growth in holiness) is a problem. Salvation – the pardoning of sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ – comes to the individual. Then the salvation that is worked in by God must be worked out by the believer through the power of the indwelling Spirit. This is basic Christianity. In every age, the lack of personal piety rears its ugly head. In every age the Church can lose her saltiness because those who make up that blood bought Body of Christ are living in carnality.

The Church

But there is also something above and greater than the individual: the Church. While comprised of individuals whose personal piety determines her character, the church is greater than the sum of her parts. She competes in society – not on a personal level – but at an institutional level. She has righteous laws to compete with secular legislation. As the pillar and groundwork of Truth, she is the True Teacher of our race. Her Wisdom competes with secular dogma and philosophy. She tells the One True Story against secular fiction. The Revelation of God is expounded from Her pulpits. As such, the Church is always under attack because She embodies the Light of God in a dark world.

Christians CANNOT allow their aspirations to end with personal piety. It is the Church that must not fail. We may expect, particularly in progressive States, oppressive legislation and uncooperative legislatures. We should anticipate onerous regulations at our schools where we teach our children that God is our Creator and man is made in His image. We know that proponents of homosexuality and transgenderism and collectivism are marshaling their forces NOT against the main stream media and giant corporations, but against the Chosen of God who will not declared that Caesar is Lord, but that Christ is Lord.

And so we must attend. We must give. We must serve. We must worship together. If your attendance to your local assembly is sporadic, then sharpen it up. If you give your hard earned money to the very corporations that promote wickedness while withholding your money from the mission of God then change your financial habits. If you haven’t missed a football game but you have missed the worship of your Creator…well, that’s a problem. The best way you can stand against the secular wave is not via social media or activism or even voting, it is by faithfully attending church with your family. Get your kids in church!

But there’s one more thing. We can’t do all this with the attitude of the guy smoking a joint in the Capitol Rotunda. We can’t serve God while hating our fellow man. We can’t gripe and spew vile hatred against sinners and then bemoan that no one will listen to us when we proclaim the gospel. If we would be crucified with Christ, then we must forgive as Christ forgave. If we would bear the reproach of our Savior, we must also bear the compassion of our Savior. If gaining a soul means the plundering of our property, we should gladly lose our property so that others might gain their soul. Anything less is idolatry. And the world has enough of that without the Church adding to it.

Who Is that Unmasked Man?

With the Springfield City Council passing a mask ordinance that begins this evening, I’d like to deep dive back into the Covid situation and draw some conclusions about mask wearing, civil disobedience, and the like. Buckle up.

Where’s the End Zone?

The Covid crisis has been challenging on a number of fronts, and as such I have argued from the beginning that there should be a broad note of charity and a broad window of acceptable behavior. By which I mean that if someone were to walk around with a string of garlic and onions around their neck to ward off the virus, I think we should, with good cheer and a healthy appreciation for body odor, let them do so.

Any enterprise with a definitive goal is more likely to succeed than one undertaken aimlessly, just as a voyage is more likely to end if the destination is predetermined. In the Covid case, we all agree that we want the virus gone. “I was hoping we were done with this” has been uttered more than once. But since this is an impossibility for the foreseeable future, what is the goal? Where is the endzone? When does the buzzer go off? This lack of a goal leaves us at the mercy of ever changing statistics that lead to ever changing policies which cause social and political turmoil. We are wilderness wanderers and as such there are likely to be squabbles. My best guess at the end-game here is either 1) the development of an effective vaccine that will reduce the infection rate, or 2) the development of therapeutic medicines that would lower the fatality and hospitalization rate, or 3) the development of herd immunity that would lower the infection rate. But if option 3 is selected then we kind of need healthy, young people to get exposed to the virus and develop natural antibodies. If we choose option 1, then what is an acceptable fatality rate until a vaccine is developed, and what is Plan B if the vaccine proves ineffective? Personally, I like option 2 the best as my faith in a viable vaccine is minimal and I think achieving herd immunity is unlikely.


There is a huge disconnect between the pace of information and its delivery. Since we demand news 24 hours a day we want to know how many new cases of Covid there are and then we look around for something to blame it on (especially in our polarized political climate). But we must account for the time it takes for the virus to transmit, produce symptoms, and receive test results. So if you pass a mask ordinance today and the number of positive tests decreases tomorrow you cannot attribute that change to the mask ordinance. If a state “opens” and the next week there is a surge in positive tests, that cannot be attributed to the reopening.

There are other problems with statistics in general. The perceived need for up to the minute information means that some of the measures normally employed in rigorous disciplines get overlooked. It will probably be years before we know how much of what we think is true turns out to be true. How many people have died with Covid as opposed to dying from Covid? How many false positives are being reported? I recently read an article by an American who splits his time between France and America and basically scolded America for not addressing the Covid crisis well. But if you look at the statistics, we are doing much better than France at keeping people from dying. Unless you want to argue that point, and then you can interpret the statistics a different way.

That doesn’t mean we should trying to use the information we gather, but we should keep in mind that you can prove anything with a study if you set it up right. Statistics are the luggage that we take with us on the train we are riding, so it makes sense that the same luggage can travel to different destinations based on who is carrying it.


Science is almost synonymous with certainty in our materialistic age so certain people are losing their ever blessed minds. Medicinal science requires large sampling pools over time (years!) and even then, medical dogma that is readily accepted today could be overturned quickly. This need for certainty is a symptom of our age. I think it has to do with the fact that we are a lost, neurotic people because we have confused that which is ancient for that which is old. We threw out the ancestral things of God, hearth and home with the wagon and now we drive around our subdivision in our air conditioned vehicles with anxious hearts and restless fears. Apparently it takes a pandemic to force people to face the fact that they will one day die.

When it comes to mask wearing, one of my favorite lines was “Masks, in conjunction with other social distancing measures, may reduce the transmission of the virus.” Yup, and my sugary cereal, in conjunction with a bunch of other foods, may be part of a complete breakfast. That statement is not “science”. It’s a guess – made by someone deemed an expert – until we know otherwise. So those “governing by science” may turn out to be justified in mask mandates because somewhere down the road we actually conduct some rigorous, peer reviewed studies that back up this claim. But they may not. It’s more likely that the debate will rage on with each side claiming it is “settled”.


If you’ve ever asked “Why doesn’t someone do something about that?” rest assured there is a politician who wants to try. You will probably be disappointed with the results. Legislated solutions are the most painful, bureaucratic, and costly solutions, albeit necessary at times. Because 2020 is an election year, the media hates Trump, and politics are polarized in general, it’s very difficult to have a discussion with any level of objectivity. Every event becomes political and polemic.

Politics’ unholy alliance with science has been nothing short of a disaster, one example being the ecological disaster that has been used as a means to support various legislation and taxes over the last forty years. Just bear in mind that the disaster never actually materialized. My examples may look like I’m dogging the left, but only because the political left is so utterly deserving of it. When governors can tsk tsk protestors who want to buy seeds from greenhouses while simultaneously attending political demonstrations that are violations of the state’s social distancing policy and all the while maintaining that policy is being driven by science, the snort gets caught pretty deep in my throat. And the place where the wheels really came off was when a bunch of “medical experts” managed to say with a straight face that public protests would somehow, magically I suppose, not spread the virus, but church gatherings would. I’m not arguing the validity of the protests; I’m just gauging the lack of impartiality required to make such a statement. Maybe the protests were worth the risks, but to pretend the risk doesn’t exist is nonsense. Which, these days, is synonymous with politics.

Virtue Signalling

And in the middle of all this we live in the most self-righteously hypocritical generation that ever was. People are just dying to show you how righteous they are. Some might even set buildings on fire. Maybe soon we can have a reality TV show called “Mask Off” where contestants design masks with various leftist slogans and designs. At the end of the show the winner can walk around and rip off the losers’ masks to the roars of the Twitterati and a lifetime of contemplating their own intolerant fragility.

I grew up listening to attacks on Christianity that had to do with how judgmental Christians are, but we are novices compared to the social media warriors who are proud of how quickly they can cancel a non-conformist. Look, when JK Rowlings has become a lightning rod, there’s a problem. She’s not exactly Rush Limbaugh. So how much of this pressure to pass mask mandates comes from a genuine belief that they are efficacious in the containment of Covid 19 and how much of it is just about “optics”? There’s nothing a public figure fears more than the wrath of the media or the contempt of the social media mob.

The Media

A necessity of a trustworthy media is impartiality. The level of media hatred towards Trump is such that his endorsement of a particular medical treatment results in big headlines bashing him regardless of evidence that suggests it might actually save lives. While the media’s hatred of Trump might be well deserved, they are without excuse in their partiality. One (of many) issues I have with President Trump is his ability to pull others into the gutter with him. Others who should know better. The standard of reporting on Covid-19 from the start has been par for the course of a media who has made it their mission to find a narrative – regardless of how ridiculous that narrative might be – to destroy the President.

Did CNN really waste an entire year on the Russian collusion story? You betcha. Did they spend the next year driving the impeachment narrative? Right again. Have they lavished praise on the governor of a blue state where deaths counts are massive while piling criticism on the governor of a red state where the death count is far lower? Of course. Do we really think that when Trump is no longer president that the media will right their course and become the objective reporters we want? Don’t hold your breath. And some will write this off as the ravings of a Trump supporter when I am, in fact, not a Trump guy (I know, I just lost the other half of my readership!) But I will waste no sympathy on a media that feels it only gets propaganda from the President when that media has been pumping out propaganda for the last 20 years. I’ve been toying with a blog post entitled “Trump and the Media: a Match Made in Hell”. Stay tuned.


Which brings us finally to masks, where to my own surprise I would tell my brothers and sisters in Christ that if a mask ordinance is enacted, you should obey that ordinance. The question is not whether or not the ordinance is reasonable but whether or not the ordinance is within the civil government’s jurisdiction. So a few thoughts here.

In an age of government interference it is not unreasonable to look askance at any new requirement. I believe a responsible citizenry is vastly preferable to a bloated bureaucracy. But we do have laws on the books authorizing civil authority to respond to an emergency health crises. If these laws do not carefully delineate the extent to which a government may impose rules on the population, then the correct course of action is to elect officials who will resolve that issue by clarifying the laws.

The 2 points that need clarification are as follows: 1) Is Covid-19 a true state of emergency?, and 2) does the government have a right to mandate behaviors to those are are NOT sick. The answer to both of these questions is somewhat grey. To the first, Covid-19 is not an emergency in my geographical region while it is closer in others (based on deaths, active cases, and hospitalizations), but I appreciate that the governing body is taking steps to make sure it does not become one. It would be unreasonable to only allow the civil authorities to act when the situation is out of control. An ounce of prevention would seem prudent. To the second issue, I believe this lies in the individual wording of a State’s Constitution.

Without clear answers to these questions, Christians should default to submitting to “every ordinance of man” as long as that ordinance does not violate the law of God, and/or that the ordinance is in fact a lawful ordinance. (I believe it is unlawful to obey an unlawful ordinance.) In the mask scenario there is not sufficient clarity to determine that these ordinances are unlawful, even when appealing to the Constitution. I have not puzzled it out yet, but I very well may differ when it comes to the matter of a “shut down” in which the government is depriving citizens of lawful rights to assembly, speech, religion, and business.

With this in mind, we are to a large extent at the mercy of the wisdom of our local and state governments. I am in favor of how my county has handled this issue:

Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon said he feels the county’s current resolution that passed in June, which recommends wearing masks when keeping six feet apart from others is not possible, is best for Greene County as a whole. “We feel that we can obtain a higher level of compliance with this approach in the other parts of the county,” Dixon said. “And again we remain open to a variety of approaches.”https://www.ky3.com/2020/07/14/greene-county-will-not-create-mask-ordinance-amid-springfield-vote/

As we don’t live in North Korea, there are a lot of legitimate responses to a mandate with which you disagree. First, you should vote. Somehow that official passing that bill that you don’t like got elected as an official representative of your city or state or country. So go exercise your right to vote for someone who will not follow in their steps, and let your elected officials know where you stand (without being hateful).

Second, don’t be hateful. “Let your moderation be known to all.” There are hills on which I am willing to die, but masks is not one of them. I don’t think that wearing a mask is a sign that I am being conditioned and if someone else wants to interpret it that way it’s on them. We don’t need to exhaust our emotional energy on every single issue.

Third, understand that most battles are won or lost before they are actually fought. The fact is that a large percentage of the electorate not only goes along with these mandates but also approves of them. That kind of scares me. Culture is upstream of politics. More on that another time. But you can bet that if city and state officials were receiving feedback from the majority of their electorates that these types of ordinances would not be tolerated, then the ordinances would stop. So go win your culture.

Fourth, if you believe that masks do really help then by all means, wear one out of love for your neighbor even if it isn’t mandated. If you think it might help when visiting someone who is at risk to wear a mask, then wear a mask. There is no reason to bind one’s conscience on this matter and I pass no judgment on those who wear masks as a courtesy to others or as protection for themselves. Maskers should not assume the worst about Naked Faces, and Naked Faces should not assume the worst about Maskers. Matt 7:1 does get pulled out of context a lot, but it also does mean something.

Fifth, it’s been a really weird year. ‘Nuff said.

So if you read this far you really do deserve a cup of coffee. If you’re local and want to talk about this maybe we can meet up. I’m told masks are not required when eating or drinking.

Justice is Blind

This is the second entry in a series of thoughts on living in a just society. The first post is here.

The first time I heard someone use the expression “justice is blind” I thought it was a derogatory statement. My elementary school mind could not understand how a lack of vision could be anything but detrimental to the cause of justice. But the saying and the associated image are pictures of impartiality, which is one of the cornerstones upon which a just society is built.

woman in dress holding sword figurine

The concept of justice dates back to the most ancient writings of mankind. Before the Romans added the goddess of Justice to their pantheon, the ancient civilizations of the middle east understood the concept. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Abraham asked God. God made a covenant with Abraham’s descendants that included measures pertaining to justice, including the prohibition of partiality in judgment.

The famous image of Lady Justice blindfolded while holding a balance scale is a picture of impartiality. In the scale the actions of an individual are measured against the standard of justice with no regard to what kind of person is being weighed in the balance. Hence the blindfold. I would hope that most of us would appreciate that this is exactly what we want in a just society: for every individual to be measured against the standard regardless of who they are.

This impartiality prevents us from allowing someone rich, powerful, or charismatic to get away with an injustice based on their personal appeal. It also means that we ought not dismiss transgressions committed by people we know and love simply because we know and love them. On the other hand, it means that a person should only be convicted if they really are guilty, not because they simply appear shady or are our personal enemies or belong to a certain group of which we do not approve.

In order to preserve this sense of impartiality, jurors in a trial are only chosen if they agree to view the evidence impartially. Family members, those who are directly affected by the crime, or those with clear personal biases are exempted. The point of being a good juror is that you are willing to measure the actions against the standard. Period. TV shows and movies that portray the outcome of a trial as dependent on the type of juror are sad as it means that true justice is not being carried out. A declaration of guilt or innocence should not come because of the personal biases of the jurors, but as a result of the evidence.

So does this really happen? Is justice truly blind? Because we are dealing with people we know that this principle will be practiced imperfectly, but we also know that is is a good principle. If someone is wrongfully convicted, by what principle do we overthrow the wrongful conviction? We don’t say, “Look, whether or not Jack did it the reason he got convicted was because of his red hair, but now everyone likes redheads so let’s get Jack out of prison.” The principle we use to overthrow Jack’s conviction is the principle that justice is blind, so “Jack got convicted because the jury didn’t look at the evidence, they just looked at his red hair. Let’s weigh the evidence and see if it shows that Jack actually committed this crime.”

If we “progress” as a society towards a view of life where every demographic (male vs female, rich vs poor, male vs female, straight vs gay) is weighed differently in the balance, we are moving towards a less just society. We are moving towards a society where Lady Justice has her eye on the person and her thumb on the scale. And we know this is happening because most people make up their minds before hearing any evidence based on the tribe to which they belong. This is the sad legacy of post-modernism in America.

There is nothing wrong with a bunch of creeps who sexually assualted women being arrested, tried, and if found guilty thrown in jail. But there is something wrong with guilt being assumed based solely on the fact that the accused is male. Why were the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh taken seriously but the accusations against Joe Biden are not? Why can Jimmy Kimmell keep his job after blackening his face to imitate Karl Malone but Meghan Kelley gets fired just for suggesting that maybe it isn’t racist to try to dress up like a cultural icon? The answer to those questions is that there is a cultural leaning that condemns some and pardons others based on who they are and to what tribe they belong. This is injustice.

Get Your Hands off my Kid

I was probably somewhere between 10 and 12 years old when some friends and I went to a waterpark in Sapporo, Japan (where I lived as a kid). We were making our way from the outdoor pool to the indoor pool when someone grabbed me, lifted me up, and threw me across the water. I heard the man say, in broken English, “We don’t want your kind around here!” (BTW, incidents like this, while memorable, were relatively few and I am incredibly grateful for a chance to grow up overseas.)

If we were horsing around or causing problems in general I don’t remember, but it’s possible. Nevertheless, had my dad been there, I’m certain he would have said something like “Get your hands off my kid!” I know because that’s what I would say if someone did that to my kid. A dad can spank, yell, bop, ground, and within reason do pretty much whatever he wants to with his kids because his kids belong to him. But if something doesn’t belong to you, as I say to my 3 year old frequently, get your hands off of it.

I suppose in our upside down world that some explanation is necessary when stating that children belong to their parents. Axiomatic principles are the hardest to explain because they need no explanation, like the wings of an airplane need no feathers. But when a society loses its grip on the axiomatic, those who state the obvious are gawked at like a man dressed up like a lady used to be gawked at. You know, back when something as axiomatic as male and female was still understood.

So parents have authority over their children the way that an author has authority over his writing. Copyright laws are the legal reflection of something that is already there. Nature decrees and wise men weave those decrees into statutes. Because parents bring children into the world, those children belong to them, and parents have a right to tell others to get their hands off their kids. And not just physically – their hearts belong to us as well as their bodies. This is the God-ordained government of the family.

(There does come a point where a parent loses their authority over their children. The first is when they abuse their authority via violence or refuse to accept their authority via neglect. Both instances should be obvious before a child is removed from their home. The second is when the child matures to the point of being responsible for their own well being, which is the goal of good parenting.)

I have ministered to children and youth in my community for the last twenty years, so I have been around the block and speak with some experience. I have also fostered children, which is an incredibly hard job and I, who did not excel at it, have a huge appreciation for those who do it well. I have seen cases of abuse and neglect first hand, so I know those things really do happen. But what happens far more frequently is that parents, particularly Christian parents, are unaware of how many people have their hands on their kids. Here’s a short list:

The most obvious one is the influence of media/technology. I would guess that every youth pastor in America has heard these words from a parent, “I had no idea they were looking at that!” So if your kids have a phone, a tablet, a TV, or a friend with any of those, they’ve probably seen things that they should not. It wasn’t too long ago that Youtube Kids, which advertises itself as family friendly and safe, had a video of a lady being interviewed by a kid about her abortion. It’s not just pornography, although there is an abundant supply of every deviant behavior known to mankind, it’s also the ideology of a screwed up culture that they are imbibing.

Or what about the public education system? How many hours do your kids spend away from you every day being exposed to all sorts of nonsense by other kids, teachers, curriculum, etc…? Think about the sheer number of hours your children are NOT surrounded by godliness, truth, and virtue in a given week. Do you really think school is a “safe place”? This one is worthy of a complete post, so maybe I’ll get around to it soon.

Another bizarre abdication of authority I have witnessed over and over again is the parent who thinks they have no right to interfere in their kid’s friendships or romances. Many kids don’t handle peer pressure well, and while they want to do right their vertebrae has not quite solidified yet. They may actually be relieved when their parents don’t allow them to hang out with the crowd to whom they cannot say no. Along those lines, I frankly have to exercise self-restraint at the moms I have met who know their daughter (young teenage daughters, mind you) is having sex (often with a much older boy) and keeps this from the father. I have also met dads who thought he had no right to tell his daughter that that boy isn’t coming over anymore. Again, I am not advocating some kind of isolationist mentality, but if your kids are going to form terrible relationships at least put up some resistance instead of enabling them. Teach your kids what a true friend is and whatever you do, don’t let your kids get their idea of a healthy romantic relationship from TV or (what used to be called) sex-ed.

I could keep going, but what I really want to communicate to parents is that it really is ok to get those hands off your kids. It’s ok to take away their phones. It’s ok to contradict what they are taught at school. It’s ok to to impart your beliefs to your kids, because God knows that this is not a neutral world we are living in. When it comes to germs and physical safety, our world is filled with helicopter parents. But when it comes to their hearts, parents are MIA. Don’t be that parent. If you do not exercise your responsibility to govern your household, somebody else will.

Justice Defined

This is the first blog entry in a series on justice.

Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment (mishpat), and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD. 

God. Jeremiah 9:23-24

What does it mean to live in a just society? The ancient world knew little of justice in the sense that we think of justice. Justice was whatever the ruler, king, or local bully made of it. There was no legal recourse to correcting an “injustice” because there was no such thing as an injustice, intrinsic human rights, and such things that we take for granted.

When God redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt, His purpose was to create an entire civilization that exhibited justice. They were to be the light to the nations and show the true way of God. Even a cursory reading of the Pentateuch would demonstrate this in the commands to care for the poor, to not oppress the foreigner, and to provide for orphans and widows. Centuries later, when God is expressing his grief and anger over Israel’s failure to live up to their calling, He sends prophets to condemn their failure to exhibit His justice. So how exactly do we define justice?

There are a couple of Hebrew words that are used throughout the Old Testament to describe justice, but even in the English we get a sense of what justice really is. To be “just” is to be “right”, or “righteous”. Justice is righteous behavior. It is impossible to think about justice without thinking about words such as virtue, sin, wickedness, mercy, and such. This is because justice is as much a personal attribute as it is a list of rules. Because God is fully righteous, He makes fully righteous laws. A morally virtuous people will enshrine their virtues into law while a wicked people will enshrine their greed, envy, and malice into law. The law simply reflects the heart of the law-giver.

All of this may seem somewhat nebulous and undefined, but that is chiefly because the concept is so large. We can bring the point home a little more clearly with a specific example from the Pentateuch: the law about loans and pledges. As in our day, oftentimes a lender would demand some sort of pledge to ensure that the loan was repaid. In ancient Israel that pledge might be something as simple as a man’s outer garment. In Deuteronomy 24:13, the lender is prohibited from keeping the outer garment overnight – even if it is the collateral – because that is what the man needs to stay warm at night. When a lender returns the pledge before nightfall, even if the loan has not been repaid, God counts that as righteousness (the same Hebrew word used for justice) . The legal terms of the loan are less important than the treatment of the actual person.

So in God’s eyes, justice is something like “treating others in a way that is consistent with the way God made the world.” In the case of the cloak, it would be wrong to allow another human being to sleep out in the cold without protection from the elements. Allowing him his cloak back is a superior form of justice over keeping the legal terms of a loan. Ultimately, the treatment of human beings in a “just” way comes down to the reality that man is made in the image of God. Outside of this there is little theological, philosophical, or sentimental rationale to treat others in a just way. When the Christ came, he championed this same rule of justice and His Church followed in His footsteps, infecting Western civilization with these previously foreign concepts. Thus, the Western world is founded on Judeo-Christian values.

Of course, the Church has not always succeeded (or succeeded immediately) in carrying out these forms of justice. One reason for this is that it has been difficult historically to always distinguish those who are the recipients of “the righteousness that comes by faith” from the recipients of a cultural tradition to which they only pay lip service. In other words, true believers are often hard to distinguish from those who only pay lip service as a cultural tradition. But as a whole, the marks of the Judeo-Christian tradition of justice have yielded the most humane, civilized, and just society known to mankind. For that we ought not make any apology. We should simply contrast it with those who rejected this tradition in order to form their own “just societies”, and the 20th century abounded with them. Standing out above all others would have to be the USSR and China, both of which thought some sort of functional society could be founded apart from individual righteousness, and both of which resulted in abominations.

This standard of justice also means that we must treat others as responsible moral agents, since they are the image of God. There is no injustice in refusing to feed a lazy man who refuses to work, or in holding a drunk driver responsible for causing an accident. True justice is more complicated than simply giving people what they want because what people want is often contrary to the intent for which they were created. If we are to treat people as the image of God, we must acknowledge that there is a transcendent truth governing the reality of man’s existence. Outside of that ideal there is no moral travesty that mankind will not perpetrate on each other, as evidenced by the secular societies of the 20th century.

That Time our Hermeneutic Didn’t Come Home for 3 Days

This is one essay in a series on the topic of government.

Tim Kennedy on Twitter: "You can't go to church, buy seeds or ...

This one may require a cup of coffee to get through, especially since its Monday morning. But my thoughts are burning and now is the time to light the fire. So here we go. Lately the world of Christendom has been wrestling with how to respond as citizens to the acts of the government in response to Covid-19. In the course of that discussion an appeal is often made to a couple of texts that we should look at more closely, especially by those stressing that the only obligation for believers at this time is to submit to the governing authorities. First, thank you for actually quoting some Scripture. That’s a great place for believers to start. And end, for that matter. But in between there must be a lot of thinking.

Matthew 22:21ff

Context: this is a trap laid by the Pharisees for Jesus. Our Lord’s famous response to “render to Caesar the thing’s that are Caesar’s and render to God the things that are God’s” was in response to the question of whether it was lawful to pay tribute (taxes) to Caesar. The aim was to either alienate Jesus from the crowd, whose sentiment was decidedly anti-Roman, or to accuse him before Caesar of insurrection. If all Jesus is saying is to obey God and obey government, the Pharisees would not have marveled at what Jesus just did. So what did Jesus just do?

When Jesus asks them “whose image and inscription is this?” he is using theologically rich language. The first time we hear of an image in Scripture it is the image of God in man in Genesis 1. It is the crowning difference between Adam and every other creation. Caesar’s image may have been imprinted on the coin, but God’s image was imprinted on everyone listening to Jesus that day. Jesus reminds them that all Caesar can take from them is some money. Give Caesar your money….but render yourself to God! In answering this way Jesus’ words could be copied down word for word and repeated to Caesar without any issue.

But Jesus also puts Caesar in his place, which is a decidedly lower place than Caesar wanted (and modern Caesars want) to occupy. Caesar claimed some sort of right to the tribute money because they bore his image, but he had no right to the people themselves who were stamped with God’s image. And if having your image stamped on something indicates that item belongs to you, whose image are you stamped with Caesar? Caesar may be able to demand tribute money from the Jews, but God will demand tribute from Caesar, who bears His image.

Thus, the Pharisees marvel that Jesus avoids offending Caesar or the people (not that Jesus was necessarily concerned about either of those things in principal). Simply saying that Jesus taught people to submit to the governing authorities misses the incredible thing Jesus did, which is to declare God’s rightful authority over all of His image-bearers, whether they be Jewish or Roman, rich or poor, tax takers or tax payers.

Romans 13

Paul says some very straightforward things in this text, about half of which gets communicated. Before we delve into it, let’s think about how we interpret another text that has to do with submission. Ephesians 5:22 tells a wife, in no uncertain terms, that she is to submit herself to her husband. It’s hard to find very much preaching on that these days, especially preaching that does not insert so many disclaimers that the point is lost completely. But even among the complementarians, the wife’s responsibility to submit to her husband is always tempered with the husband’s responsibility to love his wife. Some would even go so far as to say that Paul has flipped the table on the husband and is laying a greater burden on him (which I would agree with). As the one with greater authority, the husband has a greater responsibility.

But when it comes to Romans 13, I have yet to see anyone show how the text comes down just as hard on governing authorities as it does on the subjects of that authority. Its clearly not just a text about spirit-filled subjects, but also about righteous government. Consider the following clearly enumerated points in the text:

  1. Rulers are not self-appointed, they are God appointed.
  2. The job of a ruler is to reward the righteous and punish the wicked
  3. The ruler is really a servant…of God.

Each one of these points brings government under the rightful rule of God. I don’t know how Plutarch would have felt about this, but based on what I know of the Caesars I bet they wouldn’t have agreed. When those in authority only exert their power unto selfish ends, they don’t enjoy hearing that theirs is a derived authority and not an original authority.

In Defense of Defensiveness

I have enough of a rebellious streak running through me to guard myself against it. I don’t want to be guilty of turning the plain teaching of Scripture into something else in order to justify rebellion towards governing authorities. But some of the wooden application drawn from these texts stems from a wooden hermeneutic and someone needs to set a match to it.

In the overlapping arenas of government God has ordained, the Church and the government often come into conflict specifically because the Church is the pillar and groundwork of Truth. So regardless of what the legislature does, the Church has the moral high ground. Condemning “legal” practices like abortion is exactly what the church is supposed to do. And individual believers protesting at abortion clinics is good and right. The Church rightly declares the government to be out line with God even if they are in line with the laws they have written.

Furthermore, the Church may call the government to live up to the standard it has set for itself. And because we have inherited a nation birthed by Christendom, it is legal for us to do so. Paul appealed to Caesar like we appeal to the Constitution. In doing this we save our children and grandchildren from the very sort of abusive government from which our ancestors fled. But let’s save that for another post.

To suggest that anything but meek acquiescence in our response to Covid-19 constitutes sin is not a biblically justified charge. Now sin is sin, whether it is the fearful cowardice found in the slavish or whether it is the pugnacious rebellion found in the scoffer. But disagreement and protest are not intrinsically sinful.

What does that mean for me? I have led our church to comply with all government regulations regarding meeting while influencing my “vast readership” to think. I would support new language in our state legislation that defines more clearly the definition of “quarantine” and “state of emergency”. I have conversations where I bring up these things without speaking ill of my elected officials who have had to respond to a new and pressing crisis without any history to lean on. I pray for those in authority to exercise that authority with wisdom and justice. And I am thankful for those pushing back against the use of executive powers to an extent not seen before in our history. Is that messy and complicated? Sure. It would be easier to just pick a “camp” and run with the crowd: should I burn or should I bow? But my hermeneutics just showed back up and complicated my life.

I’m in Charge of Me

This is one essay in a series that concerns the topic of government.

Are We Self-Governed?

In the order of the cosmos, God has established different kinds of governments, all of which we will get to in good time. These are overlapping and interlocking governments that sometimes live in tension with one another, which is a good thing. (One such tension is between the authority of church government against the authority of civil government). But most fundamental to any government is self government, which sometimes goes by the name of responsibility.

Self government, the act of taking responsibility for one’s self, is a necessary government if any of the other governments are going to work well. Those who refuse to rule their own lives will wind up as slaves to something else just as the sinner finds himself a slave to sin (John 8:34). A child comes into the world with no ability to self-govern and one responsibility of parents is to ensure that the child learns self-government. We teach them to control their bodily functions. We teach them to control their emotions. We teach them to develop virtues, healthy relationships, spiritual disciplines, etc… And if they accept the mandate of self-government, they will be free in that they will have few masters. Your son will wake up in the morning and prepare himself for the day ahead without his mommy barging into his room and yelling at him every three minutes until he complies. Self mastery will replace mastery by others.

Self-government is not the same thing as genuine righteousness. Depravity is universal but it is not universally deep. God has not left unregenerate man without some measure of defense against sin that would roll over him like the waves of the sea. But self-government can be abandoned. The Proverbs tells us of the slothful, who refuses to exercise his energy and effort. It speaks of the glutton, who refuses to leash his physical pleasures. It speaks of the drunkard, who refuses to govern himself in the arena of addictive substances (of which there is more in our world than the ancient world). It tells us of the adulterer, who refuses to govern himself in the arena of sexuality. It tells us of the thief, who refuses to curb his covetousness. It tells us of the violent, who refuses to harness his anger. And it tells us of the scorner, who refuses to regard himself with honesty.

When self-government is abandoned, man will have many masters. There is no liberty for the the one who refuses to take responsibility. If you will not be responsible for your life then someone else must. Extreme examples are easier to see: The violent are locked up in jail. The adulterers are the victims of blackmail and murder. The drunkard is homeless. The covetous are in debt.

Because of pride, it is possible for self-government to yield a conceited self-righteousness in which everyone who fails to “measure up” is a slacker/loser. The self-made man is really abominable because he can only see his success and not his failures. But there is a kind of self-government that prepares the soul for grace. Think of Cornelius, who was a successful man as well as a just man, and one who receives the message of salvation with gladness of heart. His success did not rob him of human kindness or of humility. Or think of John the Baptist who came to prepare the hearts of man to receive the Messiah. What was this preparation? Repentance. A virtuous people recognize superior virtue and love it, while a depraved people only regard themselves as virtuous and hate True Virtue. (John 8:42)

So I am in charge of me. This is self-government. But what does that mean? It does not mean existential autonomy and indepenence. Being in charge of me means that I am responsible for my life reaching the fruitfulness of which it is capable, just as a farmer is responsible for his crops reaching the fullness of their potential. But since our lives are multi-faceted, we are more like a garden than an acre of corn. There’s lots of work to do and that work must be done in different ways and unto different ends. When the garden is properly tended, it is not only fruitful but glorious. And we were made for glory.

To reach my full potential, I need some idea of what my potential is. Is my potential riches? Or skills? Or fame? Or power? These things may come with self-government, but if taken as the ultimate telos they would just be a cheap knock-off (sometimes known as an idol) of what human life is FOR and would destroy humanity itself. Humanity exists to know God, love God, serve God, and enjoy God. Which means the first step of self-government is to cast my life away and die unto myself that I might live unto God. Death must precede life.

As I govern myself, several things begin to happen that may seem counter-intuitive at first blush. First, I appreciate lawful government. Second, I am in a position to help others. Third, I am careful not to usurp the development of self-government in others. Let’s explore.

Since self-government takes such effort and yields such blessings, the self-governed are appreciative of lawful government. They like it that civil government will not allow the covetous to accumulate wealth by stealing the riches of those who labor. They appreciate that there is fairness in adjudicating disputes in the church. And they see the benefits of lawful government in an orderly society. To the self-governed, the ruler (in the civil sense) is the servant of God to punish the wicked and reward the just.

The self-governed tend to be those with the resources available to help others in times of need. Now it must be said that the self-governed may at times need help themselves. But overall, it will be those who work hard, handle their money responsibly, and generally behave opposite of that nameless prodigal who wasted his inheritance on riotous living who can come to aid of a brother in need. This concept becomes hugely important for the work of the church because if everyone is in the pit, no one can help anyone out of the pit.

Now it may seem with this final fruit of self-government, that of refusing to usurp the development of self-government in others, we are leaving a door open for some Pharisaical miserliness a la Matthew 23:4. Unfortunately, such people do exist. There is no pity in their hearts for the poor, or the addict, or those unfortunate enough to be caught in a larger social structure of deprivation (such as slavery or sex trafficking). But the self-governed ought to know that they must bear one another’s grievous burdens for a season because in the end, we must all bear our own loads. This bears thinking through.

We have come to a place in America where, at least according to Mitt Romney, 49% of the population received some kind of government aid. If that is true, it should frighten us. We are left with only 2 options. One is that we have created a civilization of such complexity that it is out of reach of a huge swath of people. That is a possibility. When the government legally requires all of its citizens to purchase a specific product (for fun let’s just say health insurance) from the marketplace but then ensures that the market place can only be stocked with unaffordable products, there’s a problem. Option 2 is that we are rewarding a lack of self-government and subsidizing foolish behavior. In any society, you get more of what you reward and less of what you punish. I happen to believe that in America both of these options are true, which makes for a bad situation.

God has designed a world that is full of natural consequences which are intended to instruct us. When the slothful is hungry and has no food, he is learning a lesson that no amount of classroom instruction can impart. It may be that next season he will get his butt out of bed and go plant some stuff, even if it’s really cold outside. But when his slothfulness gets subsidized and the local food bank, which is stocked by those who did get out of bed and plant some stuff, simply gives him food, more slothfulness will ensue. In our world he could get a subsidized housing unit (I know of a healthy young person who pays $4 a month for an apartment, the remaining $446 of which is paid by income earning taxpayers) and food stamps, essentially living at the expense of those who labor. No only is this unjust to those who do labor, it is unloving towards the slothful who will never achieve his potential.

This concept matters to Christian because one of our mandates is to love others. And we do not love others well when we rob them of the opportunity to learn the principles of self-government. God forbid those who have received abundance of grace and mercy should ever be without pity. The world has been enriched by orphanages, food banks, hospitals, and schools that were all the product of Christendom. But every wise parent knows there is a time for letting our children feel the full weight of the consequences of their actions and this painful act of parental love is usually appreciated later in life when the child is a functioning adult.

At the end of the Princess and Curdie, the king says to his virtue-less citizens, “I would have freed you, but ye would not be free. Now ye shall be ruled with a rod of iron, that ye may learn what freedom is, and love it and seek it.” And he said it because he was a good king, not a bad one.