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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

The growing number of lawsuits by states against the new health care reform law is bringing to light a troubling underside of American politics. I watched last night as Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell explained why he would not support his Attorney General's desire to join other states in their suit against the federal government. The governor explained that doing so was a waste of time and, besides, when the opportunity was at hand for so many Pennsylvanians to get health insurance for the first time, he wasn't going to let anything stand in the way.

Not even the Constitution? The challenges being mounted by state attorneys general have to do with the constitutionality of this law, in particular, the requirement that each American purchase health insurance or be subject to fines, the collection of which would be supervised by the IRS. Governor Rendell is not the first I have heard make this response to these suits. An Illinois Congressman even went so far as to say that, when it came to matters this urgent, he wasn't going to allow the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence or anything else to get in the way.

So has politics in America been reduced to sentiment and power, merely? It would seem. Not even the health care of American citizens is more important than following the Constitution. If the current reform law is unconstitutional, we need to know, so that we can pursue one that will conform to the law of the land and satisfy the demands of its supporters.

But it seems, increasingly, that may politicians feel only the loosest of couplings to the Constitution. If that's the case, then these lawsuits are good, if only to draw such people out into the open so that they are compelled to state their views clearly.

The electorate can decide from there what must be done.

T. M. Moore
quailPresident Obama is on a roll. The successful passage of health care reform, a delayed victory after so many early triumphs (stimulus, auto takeover, banks bailout), has emboldened him in new directions.

A second, albeit much smaller, "jobs" stimulus package was rushed through without much fanfare.

Now the first star shots have been fired in the direction of a Value Added Tax to help pay for all these triumphs.

Education reform is underway.

The President will be nominating a new Supreme Court justice over the next few weeks (look for a liberal to replace a retiring liberal).

He has authorized limited off-shore oil exploration (which, truth be told, is not really an advance, but a further delimiting of previous Congressional approval).

And we can expect cap-and-trade (which will affect even how sale-worthy your home might be) and who knows what else over the next few weeks and months.

This is a lot of new government presence and pressure on the American people. But, so far, the people, Tea Party activists excepted, seem OK with all the new intrusions of government into areas formerly reserved for personal or corporate responsibility. If, as the President promises, immediate benefits of the health care reform package are beginning to reach the public by November, then the revolution Republicans are promising might never occur. The people will snap up the hors d'oeuvres of this biggest ever government pig fest, and they'll be smacking their lips for the main courses.

Let's hope, even if November provides merely a continuation of the political status quo, that, over the next few years, the people will get too much of government junk food in too short a time, and become sick from their own over-eating. Like the quails God gave to Israel in the desert, we can hope that too much government junk food too all-at-once will make the people sick to their political stomachs, and they'll re-examine their cravings - whether freedom or serfdom is the better diet for the long term.

T. M. Moore

Dim Eyes

April 14, 2010
glassesTimeless truths have a way of sneaking up on you. I was re-reading the poems of Anne Bradstreet, America's first lady of verse, when I came across this among her meditations: "Dim eyes are the concomitants of old age, and shortsightedness in those that are eyes of a republic fortells a declining state."

I immediately read this to Susie, thinking to apply it to the present Administration, which, it occurred to me, doesn't seem to be thinking much beyond the next couple of elections. Susie, however, disagreed. She's persuaded - and now I am, too - that the present Administration has a clear long-term vision of what this nation should be, and it is working as hard as it can to put the pieces in place to ensure success to their project.

The shortsightedness in this scenario is on the part of the electorate, who, if we will allow ourselves to be wowed by the promise of short-term benefits at somebody else's expense, run the risk of forfeiting the long-range health of the economy and the nation.

"We the people" are rapidly becoming "we the dependents" - not the makers of an independent republic, but the takers from what is becoming a nation of elites and serfs. Over 60% of the federal government goes to fund entitlement programs of one kind or another. We keep our bellies full while we drain the reserves from the future. We can see up close and present; it's the future that seems to elude our dim eyes.

God warned Israel about rulers who accrue too much power, garner too much wealth, and end up enslaving our sons and daughters. This would be, I think, a good time to revisit that warning (Deut. 17).

T. M. Moore

A Time for Tears

April 16, 2010
In just a few minutes I'll be joining a conference call with people from all across this country to unite our voices in praying for revival. I love this group, these people - most of whom I've never met, but all of whom I feel close to because of what I hear in their prayers. These are people who really understand the Church's urgent need for revival.

I read through the various revival psalms on a regular basis - 44, 67, 80, 102, 126, and others. Many of the situations described in those psalms fit the contemporary Church in this country: spiritual shallowness parading as genuine faith; compromises with worldliness in various ways; loss of effectiveness in persuading others; becoming a byword to our unbelieving neighbors; signs of decline. There is one recurrent condition in these psalms, however, that I don't see in the contemporary Church.

Tears.

We have not reached the point where we are aware of our lamentable condition, ashamed of our little faith, deeply sorrowed by our hypocrisy, and earnestly seeking the Lord for repentance. In Ezekiel 9 the Lord is preparing to judge His sinful people in Jerusalem. They were a people in need of revival but who would not admit it, and so kept pressing on in their frivolous, foolish, and foul religious practices, supposing that God would accept just any old thing from them. The were about to learn otherwise, as Nebuchadnezzar was massing his armies outside the city walls.

Before the judgment fell God sent a messenger around the city. Every person that man encountered who was weeping for Jerusalem and her plight, sorrowful and mourning for her transgressions and seeking the Lord with tears - every such person was marked on the forehead, and, as a result, spared through the judgment.

Where are the weeping and lamenting people of God today? Revival is the great need of the hour in the American Church, but true revival must begin with tears, as the psalms indicate. The time for tears has arrived, friends. But where are the people to weep them?

I'll be with some of them in just a few moments. Pray, won't you, that their ranks will increase?

T. M. Moore

Full Circle

April 19, 2010
Sales of recorded music are down for the fourth straight year. It seems fewer and fewer people are willing to invest hard-earned money on music CDs. Has the music gotten worse? Are people finally getting sick of pop?

Nope. In fact, pop music is more pop and ubiquitous than ever. According to Megan McArdle, writing in the May 1, 2010 Kindle issue of The Atlantic, the reason music sales continue to dive is because music theft is more rampant than ever.

Generation X types have come to expect that, if they can get their music for free, they should be able to - even if it's not legal. Good software is readily at hand, and all it takes is a few friends willing to swap and share. Modern-day pirates are raiding the music industry to a degree that would have made Black Beard smile, and there seems to be very little anyone can do about it.

Interesting. For years parents have complained about pop music that it undermines traditional values and urges kids to follow their passions more than sound reason. The latest generation of pop music-lovers, just like their parents, is taking their idols up on the exhortation, and are stealing them blind, just because they can.

Doutbless today's music pirates will say, "Hey, it's just a little transgression." Like Lot, turning away from God's clear command to "just a little" village, simply because he could. And as Lot's compromise led to more compromise and sin, a generation that can justify theft at the everyday level of acquiring music will learn to justify every other transgression as nothing more than what they're due.

T. M. Moore

Hardly Reassuring

April 26, 2010
You may have felt a bit of ethical satisfaction weekend before last when the Securities and Exchange Commission filed suit against Goldman Sachs for a variety of corrupt practices. At last, it seemed, some clear-headed, sound moral thinking will be inserted to help clean up the ethical sesspool of the American economy.

Then came the disclosures about high officials at the SEC using government computers and time to search out pornography on the web. And not just a few hours - days, and thousands upon thousands of hours. And not just a few low-level paper-pushers with too much time on their hands. No, top officials as well were found to have indulged their smutty minds on the taxpayers' dollar.

So we have corrupt examiners watching over corrupt financiers, and we hope that's going to lead to a sound ethical judgment and renewed morality in the economy? Are we kidding? The corruption at the SEC and Goldman Sachs is just a sampler of the corruption that exists just below - and sometimes right on - the surface of our entire society.

Which is simply to remind us that moral recovery and ethical renewal cannot come from the engines and agencies of this world, driven and operated by the corrupt minds of self-interested men. Some of us may be hoping for a major renewal via the ballot box in November, but, if so, we're headed for more disappointment.

The corruption of sin is endemic in the systems of this nation because the men and women who run and manage those systems are corrupt with sin themselves. Unless we seek a route of renewal that is able to deal with the inherent problem of human sin, this nation, its economy, its government, and all our agencies and institutions, will continue their slide into the slough of destruction via the paths of self-interest.

Only real revival of men's souls can help us, and that revival is only available as we seek it fervently from God. If you are not daily praying for the revival of the Church, the renewal of our mission, and an awakening to truth throughout this land, why not?

T. M. Moore

It Ain't Workin'

April 28, 2010
For more than a generation now evangelical church leaders have been doing everything they can think of to make their ministries more appealing to younger people. Gone are traditional hymns; in their place, worship bands lead hip contemporary praise songs. Pulpits have been removed and preaching has had to make room for "drama" even as it takes on more of the character of a late-night monolog than a prophetic exhortation. Pews and traditional sanctuaries have been replaced by theater seats and kleig lights. Sophisticated sound and video systems have made it possible to do away with clunky hymnals. Doctrine has been shoved aside for the sake of anecdotal and "how to" preaching. All this "making contemporary" has been for the sole purpose of appealing to the 18-29 year-old segment of the population. And guess what?

It ain't workin'.

A report in yesterday's USA Today summarized a series of studies done on this age group relative to their religious commitment. 72% of those surveyed indicate that they're "more spiritual than religious," which means they prefer spirituality of their own concocting to that which they might get in a church. They're still seeking something transcendent on which to anchor their lives, but they aren't finding it in the Church.

Worse, even those of that age group who are in the Church and profess to be believers appear to be fairly squishy and uncommitted in their faith. 65% never pray with others. 38% never pray even by themselves. 67% of this church-attending population never read their Bibles. Is it any wonder their lives continue to reflect more a love for this world than for the unseen things of the Kingdom of God?

Those who collected the data in these surveys worry that not only are church leaders failing to attract, keep, or disciple the very people it threw away its grand tradition to reach, they also may be guaranteeing the closing of many churches in the years to come.

This is what happens when the Church tries to glom on to the spirit of the age in trying to make itself "relevant," rather than cling to the Spirit and Word of God for instruction in how to build the Church and win the lost. Before the last young person blows off the Church for good, church leaders need to repent of their presumptuousness in turning their backs on Scripture and the Christian heritage, and begin seeking the Lord together, with tears, for the revival of the Church and awakening in the hearts of the lost.

T. M. Moore

Slippery Slope?

April 30, 2010
The growing oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico offers a sad commentary on America's voracious appetite for energy. Eleven men are dead and hundreds are feverishly working to clean up the mess, which just won't cooperate. Every day, 42,000 gallons of oil are vomited into the ocean by an open well that refuses to be capped.

Meanwhile, anxious state officials from Louisana to Alabama strain their eyes out into the waters of the Gulf, wondering when the slick will arrive, if they'll be able to contain it, or if it will ruin their beaches and wetlands. This was bound to happen at some point, but I no one expected it on our watch. So what do we do now?

The President recently gave hopeful signs that new offshore wells could be drilled. That will probably get held up in state legislatures up and down the east coast. Doubtless new regulations will have to be spun up by Congress, then put in place at enormous expense, driving up the cost of crude and the gasoline made from it.

A new wind energy project is slated to be built within sight of the Kennedy compound in Massachusetts. Of course, howls and protests abound, mainly from those in the vicinity of the proposed wind farm. Funny how liberals all want alternative energy, as long as it's in someone else's back yard and not blocking their view.

There's no getting away from our need for energy. But I, for one, am hopeful that, given enough room to think creatively, the brains of industry will figure out a way to get the country off the slippery slope of oil and on to renewable sources of energy some time soon. This is a matter of creation-keeping. The creation can yield energy that is renewable and reliable, and that doesn't threaten life in the Gulf, the ocean, or along the shores of the nation. Surely we should be encouraging more leeway and investment for such projects?

T. M. Moore
Arizona's new immigration law shows us why Washington has dithered so long on this problem. Just about any direction you go on this issue, you inflame political opposition, and if there's one thing Washington doesn't like, it's inflamed political opposition.

You have to credit the courage of the Arizona governor and legislature. You can only wait so long for the federal government to do its job. The influx of illegal immigrants in Arizona has led to spikes in the rate of violent crime; a rancher has been murdered; and a sherriff's deputy was wounded by a sniper along the border. Many Arizonans and others are happy to see at least some steps being taken to redress the immigration mess in their state.

I'd like to think that our immigration problem along the southern border is a witness to the great attraction foreign people have for America as a land of opportunity and liberty. Most of the allure, however, seems to be related to drugs. What isn't - jobs in the farm, construction, and landscaping industries - is being abetted by unscrupulous employers trying to save a buck. We don't seem to have an immigration problem from Canada, Europe, or any place else. But a thriving market for drugs coupled with employers eager to bypass all kinds of federal regulations make the American Southwest a place of high appeal for millions of illegals from south of the border.

Scripture has a fair amount to say about how nations should relate to the "strangers and sojourners" in their midst. We might be surprised to discover some meaningful guidelines here. While the Old Testament Law was pointed at Israel in the first instance, it remains a standard to guide nations in achieving a just, peaceable, and orderly society. I rather suppose, however, that the only thing that would rile folks more than the Arizona law would be any law crafted on the basis of plain Biblical teaching.

The immigration problem is part and parcel of a larger problem facing our society: We are beginning to discover that pragmatism, radical individualism, raw materialism, and political expediency don't work very well - either in tandem or alone - as bases for a worldview. But, having repudiated God and His Law, we must - as Paul Johnson explained in Modern Times - find something else on which to pin our hopes for a peaceable and prosperous nation, even if we haven't yet found the way to make it work.

The only problem, as Solomon observed, is that whatever way we choose on the basis of it seeming to be wise in our own eyes, is going to end us up in chaos, confusion, division, and death (Prov. 14.12). Don't look for the immigration problem to go away any time soon - or the problem of drugs, law-scorning employers, or politicians who'd rather duck than do their duty. Political solutions are not the great need of our nation; revival is.

T. M. Moore
The Gotcha! press has been all over President Obama's imprudent comment, during one of his routine rallies for whatever, that he thinks there's a limit to what people should be allowed to earn. Of course, that's not really what he meant. What he meant is that he thinks there's a limit to how much of what people earn they should be allowed to keep.

That's a fair enough statement of his position. He seems determined to put in place policies to sync with his beliefs, promising to tax wealthy people while he lets the middle class and below off the hook. We'll see.

It does raise the question of how much is enough. The answer seems to be something along the lines of anything up to the point of what the government decides it needs in order to put in place the programs and personnel to manage the nation toward its version of utopia. You can make as much as you like up to what the President and Congress determine you should be required - not willing, necessarily, but required - to pony up as your "contribution" to the good society.

Ahab had a similar view of matters with respect to the vineyard belonging to Naboth (1 Kings 21). In Ahab's view of the good society, he should own that vineyard - a little plot of his own, you know, right near the palace. But Naboth was not willing to relinquish this family property. Short version: Ahab whines to Jezebel, his vicious wife; Naboth, falsely accused of sedition, meets an untimely death; the vineyard comes to Ahab. The good society - as defined by Ahab - becomes more of a reality.

It all comes down to definitions and who's making them. How do we define the "good society"? How do we define "enough"? Note that no absolute standards of right and wrong, good and just, true and fair are in play here. Only politics. Politics - the acquisition and wielding of power toward the realization of one's own vision of the good society - is the driving force in the question of "enough." And, increasingly, of just about everything else as well.

To which, unless the Christian community begins to stand up and disagree, and to work for a different definition of the good society, as soon as the wind goes out of the Democrats' sails, the Republicans will rise again, and, trust me, it will be more of the same. How much of the Church's failing to address these critical and seminal issues is enough?

T. M. Moore
The retirement of a sitting Justice of the Supreme Court affords the nation an opportunity to reflect on the nature of its laws and the practice of their interpretation.

In the minds of those who tend to think about such things, two camps present. There are those, represented by Justice Antonin Scalia, who insist on an "originalist" approach to law: we must always seek to interpret the Constitution according the intentions of the Founders. At the other end of the spectrum are those, like Justice Stevens, who see the Constitution as a "living" document, the meaning of which must be unpacked progressively, according to the changing situations of changing times.

Neither of these views is correct; nor are they entirely wrong. Both have some legitimacy; and both are inadequate.

Neither view is correct because, not to be too brief, we can never be quite certain what the Founders intended; at the same time, we must not fail to consult their wisdom in order to discern, as best we may, how they may have judged the changing circumstances of our own times. They remain, after all, the Founders of the greatest independent republic the world has ever known.

Both views therefore have some legitimacy: we must strive to understand the thinking of our Founders, and the laws in which they encoded their views; likewise, we must not be so foolish as to think that they could possibly have anticipated every nuance of application that subsequent historical circumstances might present.

However both the "originalist" and "living document" views of the Constitution are inadequate, alone or if, by some trick of legal alchemy, they may be combined. This is because the "spirit" of the Constitution emanates neither from the minds of the Founders nor the changing values, morals, and circumstances of any era.

The "spirit" of the Constitution - like it or not - arises both from the Law of God and the practice of that Law within the parishes of the Christian Church over the past two thousand years.

Dissevered from the Law of God and the voice of the Church, the Constitution is like a rugby ball. It is the temporary possession of whichever political philosophy possesses it, for as long as they may control and advance it toward their goal. The battle for the Constitution is a rough-and-tumble affair, with many scrums and laterals and collisions of bodies and tactics, yielding an occasional "score" for one side or the other, to the approving howls of one set of fans the audible moans of the other.

Meanwhile, out in the parking lot, the Church hands out tracts, pickets what it regards as the violence and folly of the game, and goes home after each contest convinced it's done all it can to make a difference.

But if the Church will neither teach the Law nor obey it; and it if persists both in ignoring the social and cultural heritage of our forebears and focusing instead on a narrowly pietistic "gospel", none of its protests or proselytizing will amount to anything other than harmless, albeit irritating, distractions in the parking lot of life. The struggle for the Constitution, and for the meaning of law itself, will continue apart from the input and influence of those whose heritage is both the provenance and the hope for law and morality.

T. M. Moore

Skin Problem

May 12, 2010
To some observers it's becoming apparent that the President has a bit of a skin problem. Not color, but thickness.

He gets peeved rather easily when challenged or when his views are not immediately accepted. When someone - a member of the press or a Congressman in a meeting - doesn't immediately go along with his program, he cocks his head, lifts his chin, wags his finger, and lets his dissatisfaction be clearly known. As when he chided the Supreme Court for its decision in allowing corporations and unions to have a more active role in the political process. Mr. Obama clearly did not like that decision, and he made himself crystal clear.

So there's something just a little petulant about the President's nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice Stevens. While a very bright legal mind with a good deal of academic experience, Ms. Kagan has only two years of legal practice, no experience on the bench, and precious few on-the-record legal opinions to commend her for so important an office.

What she does have going for her is that she agrees with the President, against Justice Roberts and the majority, in the afrorementioned case. Indeed, she argued - and lost - the case for the Administration. In introducing his nominee the President - head cocked, chin raised, and all - saluted her courage in taking up this case (he's obviously still miffed). Is this a Presidential poke in the eye for the conservative court, a judicial burr in the saddle, saying to the Court, "Take that!"?

Well, I hope not. But I can't help but think the President's skin problem must have influenced this unlikely choice. Makes you wonder, doesn't it, what he might be cooking up for the Congress and the country for after the November elections?

T. M. Moore

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