The survival of the United States as a fundamentally free country depends on a commitment to democracy, republicanism, and pluralism. Can these survive our present cultural polarization? Our differences are many but most critically we are separated over what it means to be human. 

Humanists represent one side of the divide. Humanists tend to be theologically agnostic, assuming that life on earth is all there is to human existence. This view promotes an urgency over how the brief years on earth are spent. One aspect of this urgency is the need to be “authentic”, which seems to mean, figure out who you are for yourself and then live consistently with that determination. Individuals may changing their self-assessments from time-to-time, but that is not a problem. If there is a new self, there is a new goal, which is to be that new self. Freedom of the individual to express his or her determined self is the very core of what it means to be alive. There is no argument to justify this perspective but, given that the individual is the highest authority over him or herself, no argument is necessary. In a bold inconsistency, this individualism is promoted as an entitlement. This means that society must accept individual self-determinations, approve of them, and then enable them.

The contrasting position is fundamentally theistic, but I will represent it more particularly as Christian, since Christian thought has been the bedrock of Western culture. Christianity is conservative in terms of preserving its core ideas, but it is not, itself, conservative in terms of preserving the cultures of the nations in which it resides. There often is overlap between Christianity and cultural conservatism, and there is confusion about which is what, but the differences are important. For the Christian, God is the Creator of the universe. All that is in it belongs to him. He created men and women in his image, which means that they all possess many of his attributes, such as physical skills and mental capacities, and the inclination to assign moral meaning to all matters. Additionally, being made in God’s image means that humans are image-bearers of God, which implies that it is human responsibility to represent God on the earth. A Christian also understand God to be both good and wise, implying that life is best realized when it is lived in obedience to him. In the Christian perspective, humans are created beings, made for everlasting relationship with God and with all those who are a part of his kingdom.  

These different presuppositions lead people to radically different conclusions. This is the way of logic. One’s foundational ideas always determine where one ends up or, at least, the road one travels on. To run with the metaphor, holding to the wrong presuppositions will not only get you lost, they will run you into a ditch. Let’s consider some of the differences that have come about, due to the divergent presuppositions.


The earth is the Lord’s and all that dwells in it. Christians have more reason to take care of the planet than do humanists, even though humanists seem to be more passionate about the issue. Perhaps the humanist experiences a greater sense of desperation about the earth, thinking there is nowhere else to go. But a lack of desperation is no excuse for the Christian. Environmentalism became a widespread concern in the early seventies. More recently the focus has been global warming and, like the environmental discussions that preceded it, apocalyptic prophecies are aplenty. The warnings are not without some merit. The earth is warming. There have been significant changes in weather patterns. There ocean is rising, with negative consequences on shorelines around the world.

There should be a sense of urgency about the environment, but urgency needs guidance. The urge to do something can be as harmful as helpful. It never helps to rush off in the wrong direction. A big action that accomplishes nothing is not a big action, at all. It is just exhausting.

Environmentalism today seems to be more about virtue-signaling than actual care for the environment. Electric cars are being promoted as a solution to the problem of CO2. There are certainly environmental benefits to electric cars. My favorite is that they are quiet. Electric cars do reduce pollution at the point of use. Of course, electricity has to be generated somewhere. Roughly speaking, electricity in the U.S. is sourced about 20% each through nuclear, coal, and renewables, and about 40% through gas. EVs are efficient but have their own negative environmental impacts. A typical Tesla Model 3 battery contains 6 kilograms of lithium, eight kilograms of cobalt, eight kilograms of aluminum, 17 kilograms of copper, 42 kilograms of nickel, and 55 kilograms of graphite. Mining is being restricted in the U.S., which means that much of the mining for these precious minerals takes place in countries where labor practices and environmental care are lax. Mining restrictions in the U.S., where regulations are more stringent, are actually increasing environmental harm worldwide.

Too little attention is being paid to the electrical demand pressures EVs are adding. Demand for electrical power is expanding rapidly. Cryptocurrency is using up 1.5% of U.S. electrical supply. That’s a lot of energy use for a technology that benefits illegal money transfers more than it aids legal commerce. AI is another energy-sucker. An AI GPU requires 1000 watts to run. The average house runs on about 1200 watts. Factor in the efforts to supply the grid with the less reliable energy sources of wind and solar and we find ourselves in a situation in which energy shortages, which are already happening in isolated cases, will become more common. Coal plants are being taken off line, which is good, but the government is making it cost-prohibitive for companies to build gas-powered plants.

Look for brown-outs in your neighborhood. What will people do? Have you noticed the emerging DIY tool, the home generator? Guess what they run on. Gas from the local pump, to which a person must drive in order to to pick up a few gallons at a time. The typical residential generator creates as much smog-forming pollution in an hour as a half tank of the average car. It remains crucial for the country to have a reliable energy infrastructure.

Plastic is one of the products that is collected for recycling in many U.S. communities, along with paper, cardboard, cans, and bottles. But only about 9% of collected plastic is actually reused. With such a low percentage, it is likely that the energy needed to collect plastic exceeds the benefit that comes from recycling it. Finding ways to reduce the use of plastic, particularly the use-and-toss items, such as grocery bags, straws, bubble wrap, and packing tape, seems like a more promising approach. 

A decade ago compact fluorescent bulbs were promoted everywhere, and handed out by weatherization programs around the country. They reduced electrical use but because one of their components was mercury, they created an environmental problem of their own. There are laws in most communities that designate fluorescent bulbs as hazardous materials that must be disposed of properly. Sadly, these requirements are not easily met. A recent research project found that only 32% of fluorescent bulbs were disposed of properly. Fortunately, LEDs have come on the scene, providing lighting that is safer and more efficient. I have noticed, with some exasperation, though, that many of the new LED lights are integrated into their fixtures, meaning that when the diodes die, the fixtures need to be replaced.

It’s great to have household devices that use 50-75% of the energy of older devices, but if the new devices have to be replaced three times as often, which seems to be the case, it may be that all the energy saved is completely cancelled by the energy costs of manufacturing, shipping, installation, and disposal. Designed obsolescence is good for business but not good for the earth. 

Why do so many devices come with pilot lights? Are people lying awake at night, wondering whether their microwaves and T.V.s are plugged in? Do we really need clocks on our toasters? 

It doesn’t help when governments install bicycle lanes that are two blocks long, and locate them in a places where bicyclists must cross six lanes of busy car traffic. 

The point is not that efforts to address environmental problems have been a hoax. Some have been, but certainly not all. Removing horses from city streets did wonders for environmental health. Replacing coal heaters with natural gas had a hugely positive impact on the environment. Removing lead from paint and gasoline had an enormously positive effect on human health. Little doubt, trains, subways, and buses have greatly reduced auto traffic in cities, to the benefit of all. But sending representatives on private jets from every corner of the earth to environmental conferences in Switzerland does not. It does not help when utility companies promote energy efficient equipment, discover that only the wealthy purchase it, and then increase the base cost of utility services while reducing the price of fuel. When the cost for fuel usage becomes less relevant, people respond by being increasingly casual about their use of it. 

Every day when I observe the behavior of people, it is apparent that the general populace is not particularly concerned about energy use. The sizes of cars, along with the jack-rabbit accelerations and the road-rippling decelerations…what is the urgency? What is it that compels people to race to the next stoplight?

Over the past fifteen years, efficiency improvements have reduced global energy demand by 90 million barrels of oil per day. At the same time, the expansion of wind and solar sources has reduced usage by only 15 million barrels per day. This doesn’t mean wind and solar are bad. They both work well in the right applications. But these figures suggest that we have been prioritizing our efforts poorly.

Nuclear energy comes with great risks (think of the nuclear plants in Ukraine). While it doesn’t get much attention, nuclear waste disposal may be the greatest risk of all the nuclear risks. Where is all the waste today? I’ll bet there would be a nation-wide freak-out if the general populace knew. At the same time, there is new technology that is making mini-reactors much safer and more efficient. It may be that the world’s best hope of addressing its energy demands without disastrous environmental consequences is in nuclear power. Expect the world to turn its attention back in this direction. But we must press our government leaders to address the many safety issues involved.

We also should be talking more about personal discipline. There is much that can be accomplished through mindfulness, and through the use of human power instead of machine power. (Why not skip the gym and cut your own grass with a push mower? Why not throw the leaf blower away? Please! Why not designate one area of your yard for the wild? What’s so sacrificial about wearing a sweater when it’s cold, and wearing shorts when it’s hot? Why not invest more of your money on energy improvements to your home, and invest less of your money on completing your bucket list.) As economist, Thomas Sowell has said, “There are no solutions, only trade-offs”. The bright side of our environmental issues is that there is no real ideological divide about it. The differences are just political party selling points. We can all plug our ears to the politicians and look to the engineers, the climate scientists, and the economists for guidance on how best to care for the environment. 


America’s love affair with small arms is one proof among many of the depravity of humans. The argument for the right to bear arms being codified in the Constitution is extremely weak. Be that as it may, the right to bear arms is not the same as the right to bear every sort of arms. In fact, there are already limitations on the types of arms civilians may possess. Hand grenades, for example, are not made available to the general public. The proliferation of assault rifles, combined with the certainty of a portion of the populace that is desperate or enraged or deranged means that mass shootings will continue to occur with some regularity. There were over 600 mass shootings in each of the years 2020-2023. Combine the ubiquity of hand guns with the also common practice of illegal drug sales, and we have a second recipe for ongoing murders. Data collected about gun murders does not all specify gun type, but where gun type is specified, more than 90% of gun homicides were committed by hand guns. Murder by guns decreased in 2023 but there were still nearly 19,000 of them in the U.S.

American citizens should be allowed to possess only hunting rifles and shotguns. Implementation of such a change would raise the hackles of extremists and even the large portion of society that legally owns and properly uses guns. But enforcement of the change need not be draconian. The government could institute a country-wide buy-back program, for starters, along with outlawing further sales and manufacturing. People could be permitted to keep their guns, as long as they kept them in their own homes. Such guns could be eliminated over time, simply by the elimination of ammunition sales, and by disallowing the transfer of such guns from one owner to another. It would probably take fifty years but, once murder weapons became a rarity, even police departments would be able to limit their use of guns.

Everyone wants to be safe. We would all be safer with fewer guns in our midst. We need to keep the guns out of the hands of criminals, most of all, but if guns are hard to come by in this country, they will also be hard for criminals to come by. As an aside, if the U.S. were not selling so many guns in Mexico, perhaps the Mexican government would get to the place where it could control the cartels. This might well mean less illegal immigration, as well as a reduced flow of narcotics. 

Israel and the Palestinians

The charge that Israel is committing genocide is mob sloganeering; there is no truth in it. Palestinians chant, “From the River to the Sea,” referring to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. It is official policy of Hamas to make the land of the nation of Israel a Palestinian Islamic state. Radical Islamist factions throughout the Middle East never stop calling for the eradication of Israel.

People seem to have forgotten how Hamas raided Israel October 7, 2023, in a brutal attack specifically against Jewish civilians. That display was filmed and dispersed to the world with a clear genocidal message. Much of Gaza has been leveled by the Israelis, certainly, but they have labored to avoid civilian casualties. Hamas makes avoidance very difficult since they use Palestinian civilians as shields. “It is prohibited to seize or to use the presence of persons as human shields to render military sites immune from enemy attacks or to prevent reprisals during an offensive.” – Geneva Convention.

Much sympathy is directed towards Palestine because it is a small and helpless nation, relative to Israel. This direct comparison is correct but it misrepresents the political dynamics of the Middle East. Israel is and always has been in danger from the Islamic nations that surround it. The Hamas attack on Israel was certainly ordered by Iran, and timed to disrupt the normalization discussions that were taking place between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

For many years Iran has been happy to use proxies, such as Hamas, to do its dirty work. This spares Iranian lives and it allows Iran to deny responsibility for its military meddling. In the Middle East, hatred of Israel is public policy. Those who don’t actually hate Israelis are cowed into keeping it to themselves. Hamas is a puppet of this ideology, and they are being played well. You would think that Gazans would just decide to leave their “open air prison”. This has been made very difficult by Israel, which will not let Palestinians leave Gaza via Israel. Strangely, it is extremely difficult for Gazans to leave Gaza through its Egyptian border, either. Egypt claims they will not take Gazans because they fear once they leave Gaza, Israel will not let them back in. In other words, Egypt does not want them. Other Islamic nations are not stepping forward to welcome Palestinians, either. These countries don’t want Palestinians but they are happy Palestinians exist as a thorn in Israel’s side. And they don’t care that Islamic hatred towards Israel continues to bring great suffering on the Palestinian people.

I’m sure there are many Western supporters of Palestine’s cause who don’t understand the broader dynamic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but sometimes ignorance is embraced for its convenience. I wonder how much personal safety plays into protests against Israel. What danger is there to protest against Israel? Compare this to the risk of protesting against Islam. It is radical Islam that will fly a commercial airliner into the World Trade Center. It is radical Islam that will strap a bomb to one of its impoverished young men and explode him in a crowded market place…or a busy U.S. Ivy League commons.

Definition of Life 

The world is divided over what it means to be alive. While determining the end of life can be difficult, i.e., when it is appropriate to remove life-support equipment, knowing when life begins is clear. Except that many people don’t like the science and, so, are casting doubt on all that is clear.

Life begins at conception which, for Christians, makes abortion murder. Christians did not come to this conclusion from the Bible. While the Bible references the unborn as if they are fully human, it does not specifically address abortion. It has been science that has made it clear to Christians that abortion is an evil. For millennia it has been possible to observe, via stillbirths, the rapid formation of life in the womb. For millennia mothers, especially, have felt the movements of their young long before their births. Modern science has proven that human beings are initiated once a sperm unites with an egg.

It’s ironic that it is Christians who look to science on this question, given that they are often labeled as science-deniers. In this case, it is the humanists who deny science. One current tactic is to argue that the unborn are human but are not persons. This adds to the irony, given the spiritual bent of the argument. Humanists may counter this observation by arguing that their meaning is scientific: a human is not a person until brain activity can be detected. This argument, too, is failed science. Brainwaves were not measured at all in embryos until the 1950s. Today brainwaves can be measured at 45 days after conception. (That’s 6 1/2 weeks, for those of you who struggle with math.) Will more sophisticated equipment be able to measure brain activity even earlier? In any case, the standard is based on the sophistication of measuring devices, and it says nothing about the personhood of the growing embryo. The second problem with the brainwaves argument is its arbitrary nature. There are eight billion people walking the planet today. Every one of them went through a period after conception in which their brain waves could not be detected. This means that the inability to measure brain waves in the unborn is meaningless…unless the measurement is taken at a point in time when there ought to be measurable brainwaves. 

Frighteningly, many people are not denying the science, but are dismissing it. The right of the woman to be in charge of “her own body” trumps the right of her child to live. This particular slogan is an attempt to slip by the point of contention: that what is at issue is a body other than the woman’s. There are some who are saying, “The world is crowded; we won’t miss the aborted ones.” This is a cold perspective. The right to abortion is based on the principle that the powerful have the right to kill the weak whenever the weak are burdensome to the powerful. I don’t think there are many people who would like this same principle applied to themselves.

In another irony, those who are fighting for the lives of the unborn are fighting for the lives of the children of those who are willing to dispose of them. What will happen if the “pro-choicers” win this battle? Will they bring about their own extinction? There is significant evidence that this is already happening. 

Women want authority over their own bodies. Good. Let the laws be clear that women have the right to determine whether they get pregnant. (I strongly urge men and women who want to get married to come to a clear understanding on this issue before getting married.) Let the laws demand lifetime support from all fathers and all mothers, whether they marry or not. The law should not permit the elimination of the young.  


The humanist aspiration is to pursue happiness “while the gettin’s good”. In recent years this aspiration has managed to push beyond the skin. The body, itself, is now understood as an unfair limiter. Again, ironically, in an age when scientific materialism guides culture, the “real me” is being seen as something distinct from a person’s body. The clamor for the right of self-realization has amplified, demanding societal acceptance, societal accommodation, and societal enabling. 

The medical profession, too, has fallen into deep confusion in recent years. A doctor amputated two healthy fingers from a Quebec man who was “desperate” to be rid of them. The operation is being called the first case of ‘digits amputation’ for body integrity dysphoria, or BID, an intense desire to amputate a healthy body part. The clear line that used to exist between healing/therapy and mutilation has been erased.

The Biden administration filed a lawsuit against the state of Utah on behalf of a male inmate who self-identifies as a woman. The Department of Justice accused the Utah Department of Corrections of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide hormone treatments as well as other accommodations to the biologically male prisoner who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Kristen Clarke, asserted that hormone treatments are considered medical care to which every prisoner is equally entitled.

What if my dysphoria is that my true self looks like (a young) Clint Eastwood and has the physical skills to compete in the NBA? Will I not have the right to government accommodation? If dissatisfaction (dysphoria) is a disability, how did we come to believe that the solution to dysphoria is to feed its appetite rather than to address it as a dysfunction? And, no, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will not be able to reconstruct anyone according to the specifications of his or her delusions.

Some of the madness that is coming forth as public policy is due to another delusion: the the federal government can continuously print money without negative repercussion. If an existential crisis of confidence takes place regarding the United States financial stability, the whole world is going to experience one nasty shock in which everyone will end up much poorer, and many will experience severe harm.     

Equity vs. Equality

Humanism is promoting the idea of equity over equality, on the basis that all humans are equal and should, therefore, experience the same benefits. There is something to be said for social welfare and for parachutes when flying machines fail. It is good when society supports those in need. 

On the other hand, socialism has been tried many times, with consistently negative results. On a small scale it has worked in various places, but typically for a single generation or less. It has always been too much to ask of individuals to live sacrificially while the entitled and parasites play. On a large scale, socialism has never actually functioned as socialism. It has always been established by violence, been maintained by violence and, rather than provide equality, has served the interests of brutal oligarchs.

Even highly motivated people expect pay for their work, sufficient to provide for their needs. Rewarding people on the basis of where they land on demographic charts is a formula that guarantees corporate mediocrity. It disincentivizes everyone, while deluding those who have been improperly handed authority. It’s why we have an educational system, tests, and resumés, rather than lotteries for hiring workers. Businesses know that mediocrity is the the path to ruin. Mediocrity may survive within government agencies, but this is only because governments hold monopolies on the services they provide. Some people respond to governmental ineptitude by voting with their feet, but there are cultural, social, and financial factors that limit the voting of feet. In any case, poor service is harmful to all. When governments provide poor service, it is the poor who are most adversely affected.

From the right we hear arguments that equality is about opportunity and that merit should drive reward. This is all true. From the left we hear arguments for equity, that there shouldn’t be classes of people. This is true, too. It’s also true that there will always be variations in abilities, in wealth, and in opportunity. It’s also true that a free society allows for fluidity of circumstance, which means that those of minimal wealth can improve their situations. This is not pure theory. Most citizens in the U.S. dramatically improve their net worth over the courses of their lives. The exception is the bottom quintile of citizens who, because they live primarily on government assistance, do not accumulate wealth. Government assistance, as it is presently administered, staves off disaster but promotes dependency and thus institutionalizes poverty. Poverty sometimes comes from bad circumstances, including severe health issues. But poverty also comes from lack of opportunity, lack of character, and a system that disincentivizes work. 

Social welfare is a good thing, to the degree that it provides a safety net and rescues people from disastrous living conditions, poor health, and death. But social welfare needs to be a helping hand designed to get people back on their feet, unless they are somehow incapacitated. However dull-sounding, it is patience, discipline, and opportunity that lead to financial well-being, not hand-outs, and not false assignments of responsibility. 


Universal education is beneficial to society. Not everyone needs to be educated with the same curriculum, but individuals are better able to live independently and responsibly if they can read, write, perform basic mathematical functions, and have the social skills to get help when it is needed. The founding fathers of the U.S. were also keenly aware of the importance of morality in the citizenry. Whenever a society is weak on such matters as honesty, property rights, mutual respect, and fair treatment, that society is hampered and hassled by a thousand afflictions. 

When the United States was in its infancy, “pluralism” meant toleration between Catholics, Episcopalians, Quakers, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Unitarians, Baptists, and Methodists. Assumptions within the populace varied, but not greatly. Not all people were conscientious. Many found ways to justify wrong actions, but even those “justifications” were addressed to the constraints of Christianity. This is no longer our situation. In addition to having large groups of people of different faiths, such as Judaism, Islam and Hinduism, the United States now includes large numbers of humanist/agnostics. 

All humans are lawgivers. Scratch the surface of any adult, or even any teenager, and you will find that he or she has formulated a working moral standard. Individuals frequently fail to keep their own standards, but this does not hinder them from judging others for their nonconformities and shortcomings. 

Those clamoring for personal freedom are the same people pushing for DEI indoctrination. They are the same people who are demanding “safe places” in the universities. They are the same people who shout at public speaking engagements, making it impossible for those who disagree with them to speak. People say, “live and let live,” but what they mean is that they want to live their own way, and they want everyone else to be just like them. It’s natural for people to think this way, of course, but maturity demands all people to be less natural.  

And they are the same people who are framing the “moral education” that grips public schools today. It’s not that the morals are completely wrong—there is much education going on about respect and kindness, for example. But there is a pervasive delusion that public education is now morally neutral. Public schools are teaching morality as defined by popular thought, much of which is built on revisionist history, reverse racism, sexual fluidity, self-identity formation, scientific materialism, capitalistic materialism, and so forth. These concepts are all based on false assumptions and they are faith products. Garbage in; garbage out.

A pluralistic society that insists on the separation of church and state should not be funding a state run educational monopoly that is guided by the whims of 21st century “progressives”. Adding ineptitude to misguidance, government is heavily influenced by powerful teacher unions, to the advantage of teachers and to the disadvantage of students. Public schools are also beset with the problem of municipal boundaries. There are good reasons for limiting where kids go to public schools, but the restrictions are inherently unfair to the poor. A poor child born in a poor neighborhood in the U.S. today is almost certainly doomed to the worst, semi-functional schools in the country (and in the world). What’s more, public schools receive funding on the basis of student head count. The unintended consequence of this is that young people who have no intention of behaving or learning are kept in schools, to the great harm of those youngsters who are actually trying to learn and live responsibly. 

In order for education to be effective and appropriate in this country, vouchers must be made available to all students. Do public schools offer the same quality of education private schools provide? Let the citizenry vote with their wallets. In a country where virtually everyone howls for freedom, the voucher system provides the opportunity for people to educate their own children in ways that make sense to them. There are those who cry, “foul,” about vouchers—that they only benefit religious people and rich people. But all people are religious, so it is pointless to complain about helping the religious. And, no, it is not the rich that vouchers help. The rich can already afford good schools for their kids. Vouchers help poor kids. They can help kids break out of America’s poverty ghettos. 


The data is overwhelming that children are much healthier when raised in two-parent households, especially when the father is present. Our society is becoming more and more tolerant of imaginative domestic arrangements. This is probably the result of our society becoming increasingly atomized. People are much less likely to belong to church communities, or social groups that exert behavioral guidance. This lack of community means a loss of common sense, because common sense is not so much about what is obvious to individuals as it is understandings shared in community. People are reading less and spending more time on internet sights where what they hear are the rantings of the extremist-prostitutes. If we are to regain wisdom, we must broaden the base of those we listen to, including the many wise generations of people who preceded us.

Marriage is not about self-fulfillment, though it is good to work towards that end. It is about faithfulness and commitment. It is fundamentally a relationship in which the relationship is more important that either of the individuals. And marriage is about the rearing of children, who need their fathers and the mothers together. The nuclear family is the bedrock of healthy society. It is being casually dismissed by many today. We are all paying a heavy price already for this foolish dismissal. 

Religion & Politics

One extreme religious view says that government should be directed by a single religion. I say “extreme” because this view seems so today, but historically this has been the rule rather than the exception. When we look closely we see that religion still plays a prominent role in how nations define themselves. This is most obvious in such countries as Iran and Afghanistan, which are formal theocracies. But throughout the Middle East Islam is the religion of choice, while individuals of other religions are treated as second-class citizens. India has always been associated with Hinduism and in recent years the government has leaned more towards Hindu nationalism. But secularism is its own sort of religion, with its own set of conformity demands. China allows some religious freedom, but it carefully manages religious influence of all sorts. Nations such as China, North Korea, and Russia do not hesitate to impose their respective nationalist visions on their peoples. The idea of religion can hardly be contained by the concepts of god-worship and ritual. Religion is more fundamentally the set of beliefs that people adopt that guide their understanding of “good” and the purpose and meaning of life. For many, nationalism is their religion.

This takes us to the other extreme view about religion, which insists that religions (that believe in higher beings) have no place in government. This viewpoint likes to argue that religion is irrational, manipulative, and oppressive. “Religion is fine, as long as you keep it to yourself and your cultish tribe. Just don’t impose your religion on the rest of us.” This is music in the ears of most Americans, given their fondness for individual rights, independent thought, and independent living. The problem is that no one is free of religious thought. No one is free of worldviews guided by ideological faith. No one comes up with societal laws without forming those laws on the basis of moral assumptions. To exclude religion, we might as well say, “Only the empty-headed are fit to run our country.” (Sometimes it does seem that this is what we mean.)

Let’s say we pass a law that forbids killing. Does that mean we are not permitted to kill someone who is attacking us in a life-threatening manner? Does it mean we cannot go to war? Does it mean there can be no assisted suicide? Does it mean that mass-murderers cannot be tried and executed? Does it mean the conceived cannot be aborted? Does it mean there must be severe punishments for those who kill accidentally? What if it was virtually impossible to avoid the accident? What about those who kill others through neglect or malpractice? These are questions we fight over all the time in legislative bodies and in the courts, and our arguments are formed by differing ideological convictions. In a pluralistic society, the one mistake we must not make is to try to silence voices that are trying to influence how laws are established. The voice we silence may be the only one with clear understanding of an issue. 

Religion cannot be disconnected from politics. What is needed is an openness about religious belief. If a legislator writes laws on the basis that cows are gods, everyone else should be aware of it. If a person believes the unborn are humans but not persons, this should be openly revealed. If a person believes that humans have more or less value, depending on their race, that should be brought out into the open. If a person believes that sexual identity is governed by individual perception, that should be made publicly clear. There needs to be a recognition that atheism is a faith and that atheists are committed to the non-scientific idea that there are no gods. There needs to be open recognition that science itself is a faith. The idea that truth can only be known through the physical world is an idea that comes from outside the capacity of science to demonstrate. Reason, even when followed perfectly, does more harm than good unless its arguments are based on true premises.

Just a few comments about “Christian nationalism”. I cannot speak for all Evangelicals. However, I speak with some confidence about what Evangelicals ought to be thinking on this matter. First of all, Christians belong to the kingdom of God, which is where their primary loyalty lies. Christians are also citizens of the countries where they live, and they live in virtually every country in the world. They are called to be good, nation-honoring citizens wherever they may be, following the laws of their respective countries, as long as those laws are not clearly evil. (What to do about evil governmental laws is not always clear but, perhaps, Martin Luther King, Jr., following in the footsteps of Martin Luther, and in the footsteps of the Apostle Peter, who said, “We must obey God rather than men”, has given us good guidance. Civil disobedience is a risky approach, of course, because it does not always move the collective conscience. Sometimes those who commit civil disobedience end up in Siberia, or find themselves secretly assassinated.) 

Christians must not believe that any nation on earth can be equated with God’s kingdom. It is easier to point out how the United States compares with the Babylon of Revelation than it is to demonstrate that it is Christian. It is some of both, certainly. Christian must not believe that any earthly nation can actually be Christian. Christians are people who genuinely believe Jesus is God and Lord of all creation. Christians do not want anyone to pretend to be Christians. If a person does not believe, it is better for everyone if they are honest about it. The Church is made up of volunteers with conviction; it cannot be an earthly nation. To attempt to establish a Christian nation is a kind of idolatry, really. Every earthly nation will eventually collapse. Christian nationalism is an oxymoronic idea that must be dismissed out of hand.

Christians pray, as Jesus taught, that his kingdom would come and that his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. In this sense, there is no question that Christians, as citizens, will try to influence their countries to have just laws, to provide help for the weak and needy, to care for the environment, to enable freedom so that people can live in accordance with their own consciences, and to form a society in which all people can flourish. But Christians have as much right as any citizen to define for the populace what it means to love one’s neighbor. Anyone who wishes to scorn a Christian for this inclination is a hypocrite, because all people want respect and justice for themselves. If anyone don’t like this, he or she should move to China or move to Iran where those in power are in agreement with you that Christians should remain silent.


Our country made a commitment to pluralism when it established itself with boundaries that separate Church from State. The idea behind this was that the government was not to be run by any particular religion and it was not to use civic funding to pay for sectarian purposes. Just as important, the government was not to interfere with religious practices, nor to impose ideology on individuals or religious groups. Keeping government and formal religion separate can be difficult and confusing sometimes. The line at which individual rights end and corporate rights begin can get pretty blurry. Nonetheless, this separation continues as a guiding principle with clear benefits.  

Civic requirements are a kind of “ought” and all “oughts” are based on moral assumptions. We stop at stop signs because there is an understanding that citizens have a duty to care for one another’s lives and property. We pay taxes because we recognize there are certain societal functions that are needed or, at least, are beneficial for maintaining a flourishing and peaceful society. So here we come to the crux of the matter: what are the “oughts”? 

We will never agree on the “oughts” in a pluralistic society. That is axiomatic. Within pluralism we live in community with people who understand meaning and who understand “good” differently. But what are our options? We can live in totalitarian systems; we can live in societies that are constantly bickering and battling for power, with a routine of changing laws to suit those in power; or we can recognize the importance of toleration, understanding that it requires compromise, and try to live peacefully with pluralism. Churchill famously noted, “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

Our country has accepted various madnesses in its history, such as racist slavery; manifest destiny; eugenics; and frontal lobotomies. In recent years we have promoted new madnesses, such as equity over equality; defunding of police forces; hormone therapy and plastic surgery for children; and the liberation of women via abortion. Democracy is a fickle, fertile field for foolishness. 

In America we have an amazing Constitution. The Constitution does not solve or even address all problems, but it does provide checks and balances, and it provides individual rights. We can thank God, or we can thank the Inexorable Evolutionary Force, if that is our preference, that we live under its guidance and protection.

We would all do well to follow the guidance of the Golden Rule. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  While it is clearly a Christian idea, it is also an idea found in every major religion. It is also a humanist ideal. 


Today, America is polarized in a way it has never been, except for the years running up to and including the Civil War. Polarization pits the Right, a coalition of Christians, cultural conservatives, and capitalists, against the Left, a coalition of racial minorities, unions, biological non-conformists, and “progressive” elites. The lines are not sharp and clear, of course, as individuals often find themselves on the Right or the Left, depending on the issue. But social media platforms, financed and driven by inflammatory speech, have transformed fissures into canyons. How do we escape the animosity that has so divided us?

The answers are many and, ultimately, they converge in the hard truth that, in order for people to live in a republic with many freedoms, they must live in a land with laws and customs that seem wrong. This is pluralism. This is what must happen when people who see reality in very different ways recognize that it is better to live together in uneasy peace than to live apart in weakness, in chaos, and in war. 

But we must also be cautious about pluralism. People are living with presuppositions that are not only different, they are harshly contradictory. The past has shown that when ideological differences become intolerable, they end up being resolved by force. The definition of what it means to be human has been at the center of many of the world’s most bloody conflicts. The Nazis believed in the superiority of the Aryan race, leading to severe abuses of people with birth defects, homosexuals, outspoken Christians, Czechs, Poles and, most notably, Jewish people. This belief, which fueled Nazi expansionism, ultimately resulted in the destruction of the Third Reich, as well as the country of Germany.  

Russia began a revolution near the end of WW1 in which humans were imagined, not as individuals, but as component parts of a corporate machine. The Soviet Socialist Republic collapsed with a whimper in 1991, but before its end the Communist Party had killed seventy million people. 

The United States suffered through its own cataclysm over the issue of whether black people were actually people. The Constitution declared that slaves were to be counted as 3/5 of a person, for the sake of representation. This representation only served whites in the South, however, since slaves could not vote. The Civil War was the most costly of all U.S. wars, taking the lives of 800,000 men.

“The Almighty has His own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses, for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.’ If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which in the providence of God must needs come but which having continued through His appointed time He now wills to remove and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him. Fondly do we hope ~ fervently do we pray ~ that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’

“With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan ~ to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” – Abraham Lincoln (conclusion of his second inaugural address)

The invasion of Canaan by the Israelites is often seen by skeptics as evidence for a brutal Christian god. But these skeptics overlook the extreme wickedness of Canaanite practice. Their most reviled custom was the sacrificing of their children to the god, Molech. The willingness to sacrifice one’s own children was singled out as the most extreme expression of human depravity. The Israelites were ordered to wipe out the inhabitants of Canaan because of this depravity. 

Wars are fought for many reasons, certainly, but it we should take a hard look at all wars, paying special attention to the part that dehumanization has had to play. A standard ploy in the administration of war is to dehumanize the enemy. It is a strategy that has hardened the consciences of millions, and has led to unthinkable brutalities.  

All this is to say, with a great sense of anxiety that, while civic pluralism is a fine ideal, it is a fragile practice that depends on a certain level of morality. When “civil” society strays too much from morality, especially in terms of how humans within the society are treated, that society is setting itself up for severe punishment, if not elimination. 

Is America doomed? Well, certainly, eventually, but I have no knowledge about whether that is to be a thousand years from now or next Friday. God knows. The book of Jonah is about a prophet who did not want to preach repentance to the wicked city of Nineveh. Jonah was afraid the Ninevites would repent and that God would treat them mercifully. His fears were realized. There is, indeed, hope yet for the culturally schizoid country we call the United States. As a nation it is important for us to honor the benefits of pluralism. More importantly, we, as a nation, must fashion our laws in ways that provide justice, that encourage relational and financial flourishing, and that honor the lives of all humans.