Archives For Politics

Eight years ago, John Kerry ran for president against then-incumbent George W. Bush. The campaign was seen by many as a referendum on President Bush’s foreign policy, particularly the misguided war in Iraq.

There was just one problem, and it wound up costing Kerry the election.

Kerry, like most Senate Democrats, voted in 2002 to authorize the invasion of Iraq. At the time, President Bush still enjoyed post-9/11 meteoric approval ratings. Democrats were keen not to be labeled “weak” on foreign policy or “soft” on terror. So when the call to arms was sounded, the opposition marched obligingly in step.

By 2004, the public was souring on the ongoing occupation of Iraq, which put candidate Kerry in the awkward position of opposing a war he had once voted to authorize. To many, Kerry’s shifting position on Iraq looked more like political posturing than a principled stand. And for good reason.

Kerry’s ill-fated presidential campaign offers a cautionary tale on to those who would wait to do the right thing until it becomes the socially acceptable thing to do.

It seems the Church of England will have to learn this lesson the hard way. Having narrowly failed to approve women serving as bishops, the CofE found itself the subject of scorn, derision, and intense pressure from all corners. Last week even saw Britain’s conservative prime minister telling the Church to “get with the programme.”

So now, having failed to do the right thing for the right reason, the CofE faces the unenviable prospect of being pressured to do the right thing for all the wrong reasons.

The problem, summarized by N.T. Wright, is that progress isn’t always progress. The Church of England shouldn’t assent to women bishops because David Cameron tells it to or because it’s the sort of thing that social progress demands. It shouldn’t do so in order to salvage its last vestiges of cultural relevance.

The Church should embrace women bishops because Jesus accepted women as fully participating members of his kingdom — long before it was popular or politically correct to do so. Initially, the Church led on matters of equality; it’s only in recent history that it’s been leapfrogged by much of the rest of the world.

In the New Testament, women were the first to announce the resurrection of Jesus — the first to proclaim central message of the kingdom of God. Women were numbered among the apostles and deacons of the early church. To quote N.T. Wright:

All Christian ministry begins with the announcement that Jesus has been raised from the dead. And Jesus entrusted that task, first of all, not to Peter, James, or John, but to Mary Magdalene. Part of the point of the new creation launched at Easter was the transformation of roles and vocations: from Jews-only to worldwide, from monoglot to multilingual, and from male-only leadership to male and female together.

Within a few decades, Paul was sending greetings to friends including an “apostle” called Junia (Romans 16:7). He entrusted that letter to a “deacon” called Phoebe whose work was taking her to Rome. The letter-bearer would normally be the one to read it out to the recipients and explain its contents. The first expositor of Paul’s greatest letter was an ordained travelling businesswoman.

The kingdom of God carries a promise that all the old barriers which divide us will be swept away by the new creation — a new kingdom where all are welcome.

Sometimes it’s taken a while for the Church to give full expression to this ideal. (It took 1,800 years for the abolition of slavery to come about, for example.) Sometimes we’ve lost our way. When that happens, it’s the resurrection we should turn to, so we can be pointed in the right direction again.

Today, the main reason the Church of England should reconsider women bishops isn’t to appease an offended culture but so it may return to the values which Jesus instilled in his Church from the beginning — values which likely helped pave the way for the broader cultural embrace of gender equality.

My election night

7 November 2012 — 7 Comments

By the time I arrived at the church building, I could already feel it. That slow, inexorable, churning agitation. The anticipation and the uncertainty of it all.

Who’s going to win? Will we even find out before we all stagger into our beds at 2 a.m.? What if the other guy takes it?

Just how easy is it to emigrate to Canada, anyway?

I love and hate election night. Love it… because, well, I’ve always been a political junkie. Hate it… because I don’t handle uncertainty very well. (More than one person has helpfully pointed out this combination is a recipe for a disorder.)

Election Day Communion photos from across the US

Inside the church, two liturgies were playing out side by side. On the left, a line of voters waited quietly to cast their ballots — the last of the evening in my state. To the right, inside the sanctuary, a small gathering prepared itself to receive the bread and wine of holy communion.

The tension drained from my body the moment I sat down. Bread and wine were the antidote for my ballot box anxiety. This ancient ritual, repeated over hundreds of years, has endured while politicians and parties come and go.

And yet…

We allow politics to govern our lives in a way the Eucharist does not. We allow politics to dictate our anxieties to us, to decide for us who we’ll associate with and who we’ll disown. All of which is another way of saying we’ve fashioned our political loyalties into an idol.

When we who are knit together in Christ’s sacrifice break fellowship over political differences, we have swallowed the lie that ballots matter more than the people who cast them.

When we who kneel at the altar of a crucified servant despair at our candidate’s defeat or gloat in his triumph, we’ve been duped by the propaganda that says it’s more important to win than to love.

Back in the sanctuary, as we lined up to receive the body and blood of Christ, the last of the voters outside were lining up to receive their sacraments, ballot and pen, by which they would pledge their political allegiance.

It may well be a valid thing to do. Many would call it our civic duty. I did mine earlier in the day. But it’s worth remembering: for all that our favorite politicians and parties promise, they deliver shockingly little, apart from another four years of anxiety and division.


When we line up to reaffirm our allegiance to Christ through holy communion, we are given something far greater in return. In the bread and wine, we receive the grace of God all over again. It is a grace that will not discriminate according to political affiliation, race, gender, orientation… and it will not allow us to do so, either.

God’s table is for everyone. That was far and away the best news I received on election night.

Putting down the hatchet

31 October 2012 — 42 Comments

Fifteen years ago, I landed my dream job. Well, OK…my dream internship, anyway. I was working for a conservative, religious lobbying group located just eight blocks from the White House. We were on the front lines of the culture war.

When I arrived in May of that year, I was assigned to work in what they called the Cultural Studies department. As it turned out, there was only one culture we studied, and we didn’t “study” it so much as try to eradicate it (motivated, no doubt, by the irrational fear that they were trying to do the same to us). It was, as you might have guessed, the gay rights movement.

A few weeks into the job, I attended a strategy summit of like-minded lobbying groups. The topic: how to eliminate public funding for one group we all particularly despised. The stakeholders at the table took turns proposing various tactics, most of which involved some effort to publicly discredit or otherwise embarrass someone important associated with this particular group.

For one fleeting moment, it occurred to me: everyone around this table, myself included, would have argued passionately that our political agenda was shaped by our religious convictions. Yet those same convictions seemingly held no sway over the means we used to advance our agenda.

Personal attacks.

Public humiliation.

Character assassination.

A few weeks later, I was given an assignment: write a booklet defending what we thought was the traditional view of biblical sexuality against the alternative view being promoted by supporters of the gay Christian community.

One day, as I was in the middle of this assignment, my boss met me in the hall and handed me a manila folder. The tab read, “Campolo, Tony.” My boss looked at me and said, “This is for the booklet. I want you to go after Campolo.”

Tony Campolo is one of the best-known progressive voices within the church. For my colleagues and me, though, the fact that he was a progressive voice with evangelical credentials beyond dispute was no minor source of irritation. People like Campolo didn’t make sense to us; they weren’t supposed to exist. We saw them as walking contradictions. Campolo held the same view of sexuality as most evangelicals, yet he was a proponent of gay rights. He often criticized his fellow evangelicals for, as he once put it, “being tempted into hysterical animosity against gays and lesbians.”

This guy was a thorn in our side; something had to be done.

So I took the folder back to my desk and opened it. To be honest, there wasn’t a lot to work with—a few pieces of correspondence between Tony and my boss (which mainly served to illustrate how deeply my boss disliked Tony), a few news clippings… and a photocopy of a flyer purporting to be from a group called Queer Nation, advertising a “demonstration of support” in honor of Dr. Campolo.

It wasn’t much, but it was all we had to work with. So “guilt by association” it was. If your actions earn the praise of a radical group like Queer Nation, we reasoned, then you can’t be up to much good.

So the booklet was published. My employer shipped thousands of copies to supporters across the nation. When I returned to college for the fall semester, I gave my political science advisor a copy.

One day, he met me in the hall and stopped. “I read your booklet,” he said. “That part about Campolo… that was a hatchet job.”

It wasn’t angry or accusatory. Just matter of fact.

All I could say in reply was, “I know.”

My advisor never said another word about it. I still got full credit for the internship. But his words stuck with me.

And you know what the worst part was? That flyer — the one we used to go after Campolo — turned out to be a fake. My employer had to print a retraction in which they tried to say we had only mentioned Campolo to illustrate how gay activists take advantage of well-meaning, too-softhearted-for-their-own-good Christians.

But that wasn’t what my boss told me when he handed me that manila folder. That wasn’t what led me to write what I did.

“I want you to go after Campolo.”

This was no kindly-intended warning. It was a hatchet job.

A lot has changed in the last 15 years, including some of my personal and political views. (Let’s just say I don’t think my old employer would ask me back.) But what I learned from this experience is that if you’re a Christian — left or right, it doesn’t matter — and if your religious convictions lead you into political activism, do not bring Jesus into it unless you’re prepared to let him shape not only the causes you support, but the way you go about it — and above all, the way you treat your political adversaries.

Just because everyone else plays dirty doesn’t mean we get to. It doesn’t change the fact that Jesus told us to do good to our enemies, turn the other cheek, go the second mile. When we’re insulted or attacked, we don’t have the luxury of retaliation; we’ve cast our lot with a Savior who refused to fight back when he was attacked. We don’t have the right to seek power for ourselves and those who think like we do, because our teacher — our example — relinquished any claim to power so that he could become the servant of all. And guess what? He calls on us to do likewise — to repay insult with kindness, evil with good.

Yes, even in politics.

After I graduated college, I was still bothered by what I had written. Even though a retraction had been printed (albeit a dishonest one), I still felt the need to set things right. So I wrote to Dr. Campolo, introduced myself, and apologized.

The response I got back was unmitigated grace and forgiveness. Not one hint of malice or resentment. He actually thanked me for reaching out — me, the guy with the hatchet in his hand.

Tony Campolo modeled for me what it looks like to allow Jesus to shape your political engagement — not only the causes you choose to support, but the way you go about it.

So this election day, may we — left, right, and everyone in between — engage (if we so choose) in spirited, vibrant conversations with those on the other end of the political spectrum.

May we stand up and speak out for the causes that are dear to us.

But may we always remember that on the other side of every issue, every debate, every election is a human being made in God’s image and loved just as dearly as we are.

Being the recovering political junkie (and nerd) that I am, I started watching presidential debates when I was a kid. I’ve witnessed the cheap shots (Michael Dukakis being asked to imagine his wife’s brutal murder), the zingers (“you’re no Jack Kennedy”), and the downright bizarre (Al Gore’s lockbox, anyone?). But I’ve never seen a debate as tense, as openly hostile, as the one between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney last night.

It left me (and probably a lot of other people) cold.

Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty ImagesThere are some debates where you can almost imagine the two candidates grabbing a beer together afterward. This was not one of them. It was more like a bar fight — Obama and Romney circling each other like a couple of high school jocks with something to prove, not even trying to conceal their dislike for each other.

Maybe it’s just as well politicians have stopped pretending to like one another. Maybe they’ve realized there’s little point acting all chummy when you’re face-to-face, all the while spending billions to shred your opponent on the airwaves.

But for those of us who are Christians, perhaps the real question is this: since when did Jesus’ command to “turn the other cheek” come with a list of exceptions?

Both President Obama and Governor Romney claim to be men of faith who revere the teachings of Jesus, as do millions of Christians who’ve staked out a position in this election, whether on the left or the right.

So why do we act as if these teachings no longer apply the minute we enter the political arena? What makes us think we can temporarily set aside these commands about loving your enemy and not repaying insults?

I don’t just mean the candidates themselves. I mean all of us who were calling for blood during last night’s debate. I mean all of us who’ve staked our hopes on the outcome of this election and were quietly (or not so quietly) urging our candidate to strike a fatal blow, to be merciless and unrelenting on the other guy.

Our complicity in the polarization of our society betrays our lack of faith. It shows just how little we believe in the teachings of Jesus.

“Turn the other cheek” is all well and good for Sunday School, but it doesn’t really work in the real world — on the campaign trail, in the boardroom, or on the battlefield.

But Jesus offers no comfort to those who would compartmentalize his teachings. In fact, the original context of “turn the other cheek” was nothing if not political. It was meant precisely for the campaign trail and the battlefield. Jesus was telling his Jewish compatriots how to respond to the everyday injustice of Roman occupation. If his words don’t apply in the political arena, then they don’t apply anywhere.

Maybe it’s because we’ve got so much hope — too much, perhaps — riding on the outcome of this election that it’s just too difficult for us to turn the other cheek, to love those on the other side of the debate. But isn’t true commitment measured by doing what’s asked of us precisely when it’s most difficult to do?

After all, “love your enemies” is not something we can do on the inside only. It has to be demonstrated by our words and actions toward the other person. Otherwise it isn’t real.

We cannot be salt and light if we continue to compartmentalize the teachings of Jesus. Because Jesus didn’t compartmentalize. He called on his followers to embody a new, all-encompassing reality — social, political, AND spiritual — right here and now. To do so, we have to stop clinging to the values and tactics of the old system.

If we really want to change the world, we must learn to turn the other cheek. Even on the campaign trail.


Here’s an article I wrote about Election Day Communion for Duke University’s online magazine Faith and Leadership…

Every election year, we’re reminded that political idolatry — the temptation to put our hope in a particular party, platform or candidate — is all too alive and well.

First-century followers of Christ encountered political idolatry in their day — namely, the assertion “Caesar is Lord.” It was an assertion that Christians rejected wholeheartedly. Salvation was found not in Caesar but in Christ. Jesus, not the emperor, was the true Son of God, the light of the world.

Given Rome’s imperial dogma, you can imagine how subversive (and dangerous) it was to say, “Jesus is Lord.”

read more

Today a friend shared this video on Facebook, in which a reporter from ReasonTV, a libertarian video channel, interviews delegates at the Democratic National Convention to find out just how pro-choice they really are.

For many, the video highlights a glaring inconsistency in the Democratic platform. Apparently, “it’s my body, my choice” applies when you’re terminating a pregnancy, but not when it comes to drinking excessive quantities of soda.

My guess is the libertarian producers of this video were more concerned with the regulation of sugary drinks and light bulbs than abortion. Though in fairness, many libertarians are pro-life, because in their view, one individual’s liberty ends where someone else’s personhood begins. Either way, the inconsistency highlighted by this video is real. And troubling.

But imagine if someone had turned the cameras on the other party during their convention and asked, “Just how pro-life are Republicans?” On the one hand, the Republican platform calls for a constitutional amendment to protect unborn children.

But how pro-life is it to oppose the EPA’s efforts to limit mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants — a rule designed to protect children born and unborn from the well-documented health effects of such pollutants?

How pro-life is it to lead the country into not one but two wars of questionable necessity (assuming you believe there’s ever such a thing as “justifiable necessity” when it comes to war)?

How pro-life is it to play politics with climate change when the risks of inaction far outweigh the risks of overreaction in the unlikely event the scientists are wrong? Many experts in the humanitarian sector (in which I used to work) will tell you that climate change is the single greatest threat to all the progress that’s been made combating poverty, hunger, and disease over the last few decades.

Now it’s not as if one party is more virtuous than the other. The truth is, hypocrisy runs deep on both sides of the political divide. Those of us who are Christians would do well to remember this as we engage in (or disengage from) the political process this year.

Politics is not just the art of governing; it’s also the pursuit of power. And in our increasingly polarized society, it seems to be more about the latter than the former. Hence our never-ending election cycle.

That’s why Christians should be wary of getting too cozy with either party. Because we are called to serve, not to become someone else’s pawn in their accumulation of power. We are called to speak truth to power but never to seek it for ourselves. Ever notice how the Old Testament prophets routinely confronted the kings of Israel without seeking their favor or patronage?

It’s not that there’s no place for Christian political engagement. I believe there is. But I also believe our role is to be a prophetic voice, and you can’t do that when you’re a mouthpiece for one party or the other.

So when Democrats talk about protecting the vulnerable in our midst, we can applaud while also pointing out the blind spot in their thinking when it comes to abortion. And when Republicans talk about the sanctity of life, we can say amen while also reminding them that life is just as sacred outside the womb as in it.

This may not be a strategy for electoral success, but as Christians, aren’t we called to believe in something bigger?

So last week I wrote about this thing called Election Day Communion, the brainchild of two Mennonite pastors — one in Indiana, the other in Virginia. Next thing I know, I’m helping out in my spare time.

Two Mennonites and an Episcopalian. We should start a moving company.

It’s too soon to tell whether this will end up being just a handful of churches or something bigger. There are hopeful signs, though, like this post from Kurt Willems. And this shout-out from Greg Boyd:

There are rumors of at least one denomination coming on board.

But the lure of partisan politics is strong. It will not be tamed easily. Idols don’t go down without a fight, especially in an election year.

The truth is, too many of us have been swept away by the 24-hour news cycle, the relentless pursuit of power, the increasing polarization of our society.

These are not just the sins of the Religious Right. They’re the sins of all of us who’ve ever put our faith in a political messiah to bring about the kind of kingdom we think our country needs.

Remember when “hope” was more than a political slogan?

It’s not that our world doesn’t desperately need hope. It’s that hope never comes in the form of a ballot, a Super PAC, or a gun. It doesn’t come when we amass enough votes to impose our will on those living on the other side of the “us” vs. “them” divide.

It comes when we start doing what Jesus told us to do. When we take up a cross. Serve. Love. Sacrifice. Turn the other cheek instead of fighting back.

It comes when we subvert injustice and proclaim freedom to the broken and the beaten down.

It comes when we refuse to play by the world’s rules anymore, when we opt out of the world’s zero-sum power game. It comes when we stop trying to build an empire for ourselves.

So what if, when Barack Obama offers us “change we can believe in,” we remember the real source of lasting change? Body and blood, bread and wine. The gifts of God for the people of God.

What if, when Mitt Romney tells us to “believe in America,” we remember that we are called to believe in something bigger?

What if we start living like the resurrection really does change everything?


One more reason to love the Anabaptist tradition (and there are many): a group of Mennonite pastors are organizing a campaign for Christians from all political and denominational backgrounds to come together on Election Day, November 6, to celebrate communion.

The aim is to remind ourselves “that real power in this world — the power to save, to transform, to change – ultimately rests not in political parties or presidents or protests but in the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.”

It’s a reminder that there is only one “Christian nation,” that it’s the church, and that it demolishes all the old ethnic, national, and political boundaries that divide us from one another.

It’s a reminder that freedom isn’t something any government or political ideology can secure for us, that true freedom “comes with a cost and it looks like a cross.”

So a little over two months from now, whether you vote for Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, an alternative candidate, or no one at all, consider taking up this invitation to communion.

This is an updated (and mercifully shortened) version of a post
I wrote five years ago…


Today is July 4, the day Americans light fireworks at ungodly hours and listen to the music of Lee Greenwood.

Many church sanctuaries will be draped in red, white, and blue this week; and many Christian thought leaders will argue once more that America was founded as a Christian nation.

There is, in fact, lots to admire about our revolutionary history. Many of our founding fathers, like John Adams, were men of great moral character. Others (*cough* Jefferson, *cough* Franklin) were not.

For me, perhaps the finest moment of the American Revolution came when it was over. General Washington, fresh from his triumph over Lord Cornwallis, had the chance to become America’s first king. Instead, he resigned his commission and went home.

Several years later, Washington was elected America’s first president, but he voluntarily stood down after just two terms, setting a precedent that was later enshrined in the Constitution. He laid the foundation for a peaceful transition from one government to the next — something many countries would kill (and have killed) for.

And yet… for me, the marriage of Christianity and nationalism isn’t exactly a match made in heaven.

While it’s true many of the founding fathers invoked God as they gave the call to arms (providing fodder for the Christian Identity movement), that wasn’t not exactly a new idea. Plenty of people — from revolutionaries to despots — have used God’s name to sanctify their chosen course of action. Sometimes for noble purposes, sometimes not.

The real question is whether it’s legitimate to invoke the name of God to justify our revolutionary past. If we are (or were) a Christian nation, then the Bible should be the standard by which we judge our history, right?

If it is, then how do we reconcile our violent beginnings with these words from the Apostle Peter?

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify Godon the day he visits us.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

Bear in mind Peter was addressing Christians living under the thumb of the Roman Emperor Nero (or perhaps Domitian), a ruler far more tyrannical than any 18th-century British monarch. Peter himself would be executed by Rome, not long after writing this letter.

And then there’s Jesus. Much like the founding fathers, he grew up in a land ruled by a distant monarch. Many of his countrymen were caught up with revolutionary zeal, determined to overthrow their oppressors by force.

Jesus spent most of his adult life within a few miles of the birthplace of the Zealots — a movement whose tactics could be compared to those of the “Swamp Fox” of American revolutionary lore.

But in one of his most politically charged sermons, Jesus categorically rejected the way of the Zealot:

But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.

To his listeners, Jesus articulated an uncompromising stand against military resistance, even against the cruelest of tyrants.

What’s more, Jesus practiced what he preached, even (and especially) when his own back was against the wall. When Jesus was arrested outside Jerusalem, Peter reacted like a Zealot: he began swinging his sword. Instead of urging him on, Jesus stunned Peter with this rebuke:

Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

The fate of anyone who raises a sword is sealed, says Jesus. They will be cut down by yet another sword.

Revolution breeds only more revolution. Insurgency breeds counterinsurgency. Peace — lasting peace, that is — does not come by force. If it did, we would all speak Latin today. “Peace through victory” was the mantra of history’s mightiest empire, yet even Rome succumbed to someone else’s bloody path to victory.

Sorting out what all this means for us today isn’t necessarily easy. After all, the Bible doesn’t always fit neatly into our predefined categories (which I would argue forces us to take it more seriously). Along with the stubbornly nonviolent Jesus and Peter (who learned his lesson following the incident in the garden), the New Testament also mentions more than one soldier who wasn’t required to abandon his post as a prerequisite for following Jesus.

Some Christians today have come to the conclusion that military service is incompatible with our faith — perhaps (like Derek Webb) not wanting to surrender their conscience to the government, letting someone else decide for them when it’s OK to kill another human being.The New Testament may not forbid military service, but it doesn’t quite encourage it either. Either way, the scriptures call us to embrace a distinctly nonviolent alternative to the notion of “peace through victory.”

No matter what path we choose, and no matter what emblem is stamped on the front of our passports, may we always strive to be good citizens of God’s kingdom first and foremost. May we remember that we can only serve one master, and that loyalty to God always trumps loyalty to country.


Related posts:

James K.A. Smith’s tweet the other day got me thinking.
(He has a way of doing that.)

I’ve wondered the same thing. Those who oppose “big government” — generally, Republicans and Tea Party supporters — are also the most likely to oppose any cuts to defense spending.

Given that the U.S. accounts for more than 40% of global military spending, this is not a trivial discussion. (Put another way: our defense budget is bigger than the entire economic output of 85 countries. Combined.)

Twenty cents of every American tax dollar goes to defense. The unpaid-for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed $1.3 trillion dollars to the federal debt. Republican leaders chastise Democrats — with good reason, I might add — for creating expensive government programs without bothering to pay for them. But they did the same when they launched our two most recent military ventures.

Big military IS big government. How do you support one while opposing the other?

Is it because defense is closer to the “natural function” of government? If so, how do you decide what constitutes a government’s natural function and what amounts to a dangerous overreach?

Bearing the sword, 21st-century style

Some try to base their view of government on the Bible — for example, interpreting the apostle Paul’s statement about rulers “bear[ing] the sword” (Romans 13:1-7) to argue that a government’s role should be limited to defending its citizenry from external (military) and internal (criminal) threats. (Though it’s worth noting that Paul was writing about a tyrannical Roman emperor who just as likely to set Christians on fire as protect their liberty.)

But what about all those prophetic injunctions to care for the poor, orphans, widows, and foreigners? They weren’t just written to private citizens. The biblical prophets were addressing governments, kings, and whole societies.

For others, opposition to big government often boils down to a basic mistrust. The government, many argue, cannot be trusted with too much power. “Most bad government has grown out of too much government,” as Thomas Jefferson once said.

Therefore, if the government can mandate private health insurance for everyone today, then by tomorrow they’ll be rationing healthcare and telling everyone which doctors they can go to. That’s how the argument goes, anyway. A small expansion of government power now inevitably leads to a much bigger one later.

I respect that. A healthy mistrust of power is a good thing, because power does indeed tend to corrupt.

But here’s my question:

If you don’t trust a politician with a checkbook, why would you trust him with a nuclear missile?

If government tends to abuse what power it’s given, why would you allow it the power to kill with impunity?

How is it that the same government that can’t be trusted when it says, “We need to give everyone healthcare,” is entitled to our full, unquestioning support when it says, “We need to invade such-and-such country?”

The founding fathers understood this. That’s why they were ambivalent about even having a permanent military force. They knew all too well that ordinary citizens have little recourse for holding a government with guns to account.