Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Blessing

On this, the holiest day of the Christian year, it seems appropriate for me to stop, move away from the constant pull of the world, and meditate on a higher reason for my own existence. Therefore, I share with you today, briefly, what is on my heart.

In the account of the Easter story found in the Gospel of John (John 20:1-18), John helps us spend time with Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb of Jesus as she encounters her own emptiness. The story of the Resurrection is not some myth or fable, concocted to explain the Christian faith. No, it is MUCH more than that! It is a report of a real event that took place at a specific time in history, in a specific place, with real witnesses, who continue to provide their testimony through the gospels.

On Easter Sunday morning, when we stand and exchange the historic greeting, "Christ is risen; he is risen indeed," we join the eyewitnesses of the gospels, along with the countless others throughout that last 2,000 years who, with us, have placed their faith and their eternal outcome in that confession. We have experienced the resurrection of Christ in our own hearts, and we are also able to affirm that the resurrection of Christ is more than an idle tale.

This Easter morning when we encounter the empty tomb, what will it mean? There is a mountain of difference between "he's not here" and "he has risen." When Simon Peter and John saw the empty tomb, they believed. Mary stood at that same empty tomb and wept at her own emptiness.

The good news for us today is that God does not leave us to our own thoughts, even when we are full of doubt or despair. The lesson Mary teaches us today is to persevere until God's voice breaks through the fog of our lives.

Two of the disciples ran back to town with a believing conclusion. Mary stayed where she was until Jesus cleared her confusion. Will God do anything less for us? This is my prayer for us all:

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of our Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

On Easter morning, let us go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.

In the Love and Grace of Our
Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Bill Fisher

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

What could possibly be good about a Friday over 2,000 years ago when Jesus of Nazareth was crucified on a Roman cross? How could death, and a terribly painful one at that, be good? Where did the idea come from to call this day in Holy Week "good?" The source is unclear. Some have suggested it is a corruption of the English phrase "God’s Friday." It is the title for this day among English and Dutch speaking people, but few others.

The liturgical title for this day in the Western church was "Friday of Preparation," similar to what the Jews called Friday — paraskeue (getting ready) or "day of preparation." Other names used are "Holy Friday" among the Latin nations, "Great Friday" among the Slavic countries, "Friday of Mourning" in Germany, and "Long Friday" in Norway.

Good Friday is good because, on this day God reconciled the world to himself in Christ. For us it is "good" because we look back at the crucifixion through the lens of Easter!

This is the starkest day of the Christian year. There are no adornments in the church. No gold is in sight. The Table is bare. No Bible is on the pulpit. Nothing but a simple wooden cross is present. Black is the theme chosen by many for this day, but the overwhelming consensus has been to use no color at all. In many churches, there is no music today, and in those where music is played, it is simple with only a keyboard, a piano, or a guitar. The ministers enter in silence. There are no choirs and no special music. Holy Communion is not to be offered at this service, nor at any time again until the Great Vigil or Easter Sunday morning. The service is ended without a benediction, but with a simple dismissal prayer and all depart in silence. This is the prayer from the Book of Common Prayer (page 282):
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we pray you to set your passion, cross, and death between your judgment and our souls, now and in the hour of our death. Give mercy and grace to the living; pardon and rest to the dead; to your holy Church peace and concord; and to us sinners everlasting life and glory; for with the Father and Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and for ever. Amen,

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Road to Liberty - 12 Principles

The following is excerpted from "A Time For Truth", a book published in 1978 and written by former Secretary of the Treasury, William E. Simon. That these words were written 30 years ago should give every American reason to wonder if we have learned nothing from our past. The principles contained here reflect true wisdom and reveal a sound platform for the resuscitation of free enterprise and for conservative political activism that is essential today if we are to stop the slide of America into the liberal abyss of moral relativism. These guiding principles offered by Simon should aide in developing positive conservative talking points and underlying principles. It is essential that we return to sound economic policies as a people and as a government. There can be no mistake in applying the formula because political freedom and economic freedom are inexorably linked. At no time in America's history have these freedoms been in greater danger of being lost than at this present moment.

1. The overriding principle to be revived in American political life is that which sets individual liberty as the highest political value — that value to which all other values are subordinate and that which, at all times, is to be given the highest priority in policy discussions.

2. There must be a conscious philosophical prejudice against any intervention by the state into our lives, for by definition such intervention abridges liberty. Whatever form it may take, state intervention in the private and productive lives of the citizenry must be presumed to be negative, uncreative, and a dangerous act, to be adopted only when its proponents provide overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence that the benefits to society of such intervention far outweigh the costs.

3. The principle of "no taxation without representation" must again become a rallying cry for Americans. Only Congress represents American voters, and the process of transferring regulatory powers — which are a hidden power to tax — to unelected, uncontrollable, and unfireable bureaucrats must stop. The American voters, who pay the bills, must be in a position to know what is being economically inflicted on them and in a position to vote men out of office who assault their interests, as the voters define those interests. Which means that Congress should not pass bills creating programs that it cannot effectively oversee. The drive to demand scrupulous legislative oversight of our policing agencies, such as the CIA, is valid; it should be extended to all agencies of government which are also, directly or indirectly, exercising police powers.

4. A critical principle which must be communicated forcefully to the American public is the inexorable interdependence of economic and political liberty. Our citizens must learn that what keeps them prosperous is production and technological innovation. Their wealth emerges, not from government offices or politicians' edicts, but only from that portion of the marketplace which is free. They must also be taught to understand the relationship among collectivism, centralized planning, and poverty so that every new generation of Americans need not naively receive the Marxist revelation afresh.

5. Bureaucracies themselves should be assumed to be noxious, authoritarian parasites on society, with a tendency to augment their own size and power and to cultivate a parasitical clientele in all classes of society. Area after area of American life should be set free from their blind power drive. We commonly hear people call for a rollback of prices, often unaware that they are actually calling for the destruction of marginal businesses and jobs they furnish. People must be taught to start calling for the rollback of bureaucracy, where nothing will be lost but strangling regulation and where the gains will always take the form of liberty, productivity, and jobs.

6. Productivity and the growth of productivity must be the first economic consideration at all times, not the last. That is the source of technological innovation, jobs, and wealth. This means that profits needed for investment must be respected as a great social blessing, not as social evil, and that envy of the "rich" cannot be allowed to destroy a powerful economic system.

7. The concept that "wealth is theft" must be repudiated. It now lurks, implicitly, in most of the political statements we hear. Wealth can indeed be stolen, but only after it is produced. and the difference between stolen wealth and produced wealth is critical. If a man obtains money by fraud or by force, he is simply a criminal to be handled by the police and the courts. But if he has earned his income honorably, by the voluntary exchange of goods and services, he is not a criminal or a second-hand citizen and should not be treated as such. A society taught to perceive producers as criminals will end up destroying its productive processes.

8. Conversely, the concept that the absence of money implies some sort of virtue should be repudiated. Poverty may result from honest misfortune, but it may result from sloth, incompetence, and dishonesty. Again, the distinction between deserving and undeserving poor is important. It is a virtue to assist those who are in acute need through no fault of their own, but it is folly to glamorize men simply because they are penniless. The crude linkage between wealth and evil, poverty and virtue is false, stupid, and of value only to demagogues, parasites, and criminals — indeed, the three groups that alone have profited from the linkage

9. Similarly, the view that government is virtuous and producers are evil is a piece of folly, and a nation which allows itself to be tacitly guided by these illusions must lose both its liberty and its wealth. Government has its proper functions, and consequently, there can be both good and bad governments. Producers as well can be honest and dishonest. Our political discourse can be rendered rational only when people are taught to make such discriminations.

10. The "ethics" of egalitarianism must be repudiated. Achievers must not be penalized or parasites rewarded if we aspire to be a healthy, productive, and ethical society. Able bodied citizens must work to sustain their lives, and in a healthy economic system they would be enabled and encouraged to save for their own old age. Chiefly, so long as the government’s irrational fiscal policies make this impossible, present commitments to pensions and Social Security must be maintained at all costs, for the bulk of the population has no other recourse. But as soon as is politically feasible — meaning, as soon as production becomes the nation’s highest economic value — the contributions of able-bodied citizens to their own future pensions should be invested by them in far safer commercial institutions, where the sums can earn high interest without being squandered by politicians and bureaucrats. American citizens must be taught to wrest their life savings from the politicians if they are to know the comfort of genuine security.

11. The American citizen must be made aware that today a relatively small group of people is proclaiming its purposes to be the will of the People. That elitist approach to the government must be repudiated. There is no such thing as the People; it is a collectivist myth. There are only individual citizens with individual wills and individual purposes. There is only one social system that reflects this sovereignty of the individual: the free-market, or capitalist system, which means the sovereignty of the individual "vote" in the marketplace and the sovereignty of the individual in the political realm. That individual sovereignty is being destroyed in this country by our political trends, and it is scarcely astonishing that individuals now feel "alienated" from their government. They are alienated from it; they have virtually been expelled from the governmental process, where only organized mobs prevail.

12. The growing cynicism about democracy must be combated by explaining why it has become corrupted. People have been taught that if they can get together big enough gangs, they have the legal power to hijack other citizens' wealth, which means the power to hijack other people's efforts, energies, and lives. No decent society can function when men are given such power. A State does need funds, but a clear cutoff line must be established beyond which no political group or institution can confiscate a citizen’s honorably earned property. The notion that one can differentiate between "property rights" and "human rights" is ignoble. One need merely see the appalling condition of "human rights" in nations where there are no "property rights" to understand why. This is just a manifestation of the socialist myth which imagines that one can keep men’s minds free while enslaving their bodies.

These are some of the broad principles I have reached after four years in office. Essentially they are a set of guiding principles. America is foundering for the lack of principles; it is now guided by the belief that unprincipled action — for which the respectable name is "pragmatism" — is somehow superior. Such principles as I have listed do not represent dogma. There is, as I said, nothing arbitrary or dogmatic about the interlocking relationship between political and economic liberty. The history of every nation on earth demonstrates that relationship, and no economist known to me, including the theoreticians of interventionism and totalitarianism, denies this. If liberty is to be our highest political value, this set of broad principles follow consistently."

William E. Simon. A Time For Truth, McCraw-Hill Book Company, 1978, p. 217

Quotes Volume 1

We have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and true religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. ~ John Adams

Duty is ours, results are God's ... ~ John Quincy Adams

The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity. ~ John Quincy Adams; 6th President; July 4, 1821
The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country. ~ Calvin Coolidge; 30th President

In free governments, the rulers are the servants, and the people their superiors and sovereigns ... ~ Benjamin Franklin

An appeal to arms and the God of hosts is all that is left us. But we shall not fight our battle alone. There is a just God that presides over the destinies of nations. The battle sir, is not to the strong alone. Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death. ~ Patrick Henry

It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great Nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religious, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason alone, people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here. ~ Patrick Henry

Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian Nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers. ~ John Jay; first Supreme Court Justice

It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God …… and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord ……. We have been the recipients of the choicest blessings of heaven. …… We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation ever has grown; but we have forgotten God! ~ Abraham Lincoln

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. ~ Benjamin Franklin

One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation. ~ Thomas B. Reed (1886)

Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. ~ George Washington

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule. ~ H.L. Mencken

It is not the business of government to make men virtuous or religious, or to preserve the fool from the consequences of his own folly. Government should be repressive no further than is necessary to secure liberty by protecting the equal rights of each from aggression on the part of others, and the moment governmental prohibitions extend beyond this line they are in danger of defeating the very ends they are intended to serve. ~ Henry George

[On ancient Athens]: In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all –– security, comfort, and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again. ~ Edward Gibbon

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. ~ C. S. Lewis

There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible to live without breaking laws. ~ Ayn Rand

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. ~ Alexander Tytler

A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money. ~ G. Gordon Liddy

The government was set to protect man from criminals –– and the Constitution was written to protect man from the government. ~ Ayn Rand

I believe that every individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the fruits of his labor, so far as it in no way interferes with any other men's rights. ~ Abraham Lincoln

To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical. ~ Thomas Jefferson

The war for freedom will never really be won because the price of our freedom is constant vigilance over ourselves and over our Government. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

First they came for the Jews, but I did nothing because I'm not a Jew. Then they came for the socialists, but I did nothing because I'm not a socialist. Then they came for the Catholics, but I did nothing because I'm not a Catholic. Finally, they came for me, but by then there was no one left to help me. ~ Pastor Father Niemoller (1946)

The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy. It is the most effective system we have discovered to enable people who hate one another to deal with one another and help one another. ~ Milton Friedman

Americans have the right and advantage of being armed –– unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. ~ James Madison

The Constitution shall never be construed …… to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms. ~ Samuel Adams

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery. ~ Winston Churchill

Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves. ~ William Pitt (1783)

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed –– and hence clamorous to be led to safety –– by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. ~ H.L. Mencken

The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government. ~ Thomas Jefferson

If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government that is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. ~ James Madison

Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? ~ Thomas Jefferson (1801)

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. ~ Lord Acton (1887)

If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else's expense, then you have no right to complain when they take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves. ~ Thomas Sowell (1992)

Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it. ~ George Bernard Shaw