Monday, October 16, 2006

Psalm 146:3

Nolite confidere in principibus


Peter said...

Don't trust disgruntled ex-employees trying to sell books either.

Father Hollywood said...


He may have an ax to grind, and may be lying about everything, or he may be telling the absolute truth about everything - or he may come down somewhere in the middle. Like any book, we'll have to see if it has the "ring of truth" when it begins to circulate, when people who were there begin to comment. Let's see if what he says is corroborated.

But I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss all whistleblowers. After all, we are Lutherans. A Roman Catholic theologian in the 16th century could have simply written off Luther as a "disgruntled ex-employee trying to sell books." To do so is a convenient way to brush aside serious matters that should be considered - which is a great rhetorical technique used by politicians.

So, I agree that the jury is out. And this is exactly why we shouldn't put our trust in princes (it's in the Bee-Eye-Bee-Ellie, after all). And yet, we conservative Christians often do just that.

In my time at the seminary, there was the overt assumption that everyone there was a card-carrying Republican. It was simply inconceivable in that culture that one might not be. I would assume that is still the case.

[There was also the assumption that everyone there must hate the French. Which was really funny when one of Grace's co-workers went on a tirade against the French, to which Grace listened patiently, after which she simply quipped: "I'm French." I would have paid to see the egg on his face - or should I say the "oeuf dans la visage"?. Heck, my congregation has more French than German in it. Maybe we should refer to cajuns as "Freedom Yats."]

The banquet speaker at the last symposia was a case in point: his address was an unabashed partisan apology for the GOP. Of course, that is to be expected when you invite a partisan political operative instead of a churchman to speak at a theology event. I found it in poor taste - even if 90% of the audience were Republicans. Can you imagine if the speaker were a staffer for Hillary Clinton? It would have been equally outragious to me. Why not a theologian instead of a politician's assistant?

Dr. Simon-Netto's recent article that argued that support for the Iraq War was a necessary element in the vocation of American citizen, and to oppose the war is to sin. I mean, really. This is where being theologically conservative is often mistakenly intertwined with being politically conservative.

I think too many Christians spend far too much time and money being involved in politics - and in our case, it is typically the GOP. People even unabashedly talk about one party or the other at church events. I've had members ask me whom I was voting for. Can you imagine a bigger tar baby for a pastor to get stuck on?

As a pastor, I stay non-partisan. I have Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and who knows what else in my parish. I have folks in my congregation who would have walked out of the Symposia Banquet. I'm glad we didn't bring any up to Symposia with us.

Not long ago, I had a discussion on an e-mail list in which some actually made the argument that one could not be a Democrat and a Christian at the same time, that Democrats should be refused the Sacrament. Of course, here in the South, sometimes there is no GOP candidate, and sometimes the Republican is the pro-abortion liberal and the Democrat is the pro-life conservative. But try telling that to a Yankee. You can always tell a Yankee, but you can't tell him much... ;-)

Meanwhile, the Republicans are trying to spin their way out of a gay sex scandal (Tony Snow soft-pedaled it as "naughty"), while the Democrats are suddenly acting like outraged Puritans (can you imagine a bigger hypocrite than Nancy Pelosi in this matter?). Christians would be fools to put their trust in either the new "gay-friendly" GOP or the new "family values" Democrats.

Personally, I think politicians of every stripe think Christians are fools to take advantage of at election time. Sure, there are exceptions, but as a rule, politicians will play to whomever can deliver the votes.

That's simply how the game is played in the "world's second oldest profession."

David Clapper said...

Plus ca change ... from early 2005:

I did have to chuckle ... I'm sitting here drinking coffee with my Rockford Institute mug ... with their motto "nolite confidere in principibus" staring at me in stereo from the mug and your post!

Peter said...

All well and good. One of the most moving speeches I've ever heard was by the late Gov. Casey (D) of Pennsylvania. Still, there are what, 45 democratic senators, and, for the life of me, I can't think of one who is actuallly pro-life. Or fighting against gay marriage for that matter. Maybe on the local level. But when they go national (take Evan Bayh for example), you've got to tow the party line.

Your Northern Friend. Long live the legacy of Abraham Lincoln! (That ought to merit a couple chapters in return).

Father Hollywood said...


You're absolutely right about "towing the party line." To make it big in American politics, that's what you have to do: Democrat or Republican. The "party line" changes from year to year - hence the waffling and flip-flopping on both sides of the aisle.

Hence also the Psalmist's wise words.

We dare not put our trust in princes regardless of their politics. I'm only cautioning Christians from getting too comfortable in thinking they are in the "in" crowd, or in deluding themselves that this party or that party will serve the cause of the Church.

And you're also right about Lincoln's legacy living on. I sure hope it does. I know I'm doing my part not to let anyone forget! I hear Thomas DiLorenzo's latest book is even better than his first one.

Christmas is coming. (hint hint). ;-)

Father Hollywood said...


As my wife's sainted grandmother used to say: "Oui, c'est vrai, ca."

I suppose you know that Aaron Wolf, one of the Editors of Chronicles, is an LCMS Lutheran. He's quite the writer.

Thanks for your post!

Peter said...

I think it's too easy to say that the party line changes from year to year, therefore, a pox on both their houses. Yes, politicians are politicians, and should not be trusted. Still, the right to kill children is at the very foundation of the Democratic party's stated beliefs, and has been for longer than my entire adult life. This is not simply an abberation, but is what we (and presumably they) would call one of their "core values." Republicans have, at least on paper, taken a pro-life stand at their conventions. They may not live up to it as I'd like, but they certainly are mocked and ridiculed by society's elite, and are portrayed as backwards and out of touch. I do not want to see cynicism so strong as not to acknowledge those who heroically stand up and speak for the unborn, not out of polical calculation, but conviction. If the Democrats can raise another Casey, all the more power to them. But, when I say that they support the right to kill their children, I am simply taking them at their word.

Father Hollywood said...


Your point is well taken, but of course, there's more to being pro-life than being against abortion.

And furthermore, both major parties have pro-abortion and pro-life politicians who are welcomed into their ranks and received warmly. The "heavy hitters" of both parties will make campaign appearances on their behalf, and speak of a "big tent."

In other words, Pres. Bush will back a "pro-choice" Republican over any Democrat, and Former Pres. Clinton will back a pro-life Democrat over any Republican.

Don't ever forget it.

The top priority is still the party (whichever one that may be). Hence our Lord's wise and loving words of warning to us in Psalm 146:3.

Peter said...

I'm not as cynical as you. Many of us join parties not to tow the party line, but because we feel that they are the best places to advance our particular and principled positions. You can be right about absolutely everything, but, in a republic, you still have to get elected in order to do anything. And, on the life issue, I have no reason to believe that Bush is not principled. He certainly took a lot of flak for standing up against stem-cell research. And, indeed, pro-abortion people are welcomed into the Republican party. Presumbably, if they join the party, they'll vote for good judges. Who knows? It is a political calculation. But pro-life folks are not welcome in the Democrat party, and are never, ever, allowed to speak about the issue at convention. So, again, the two are not simply moral equivalents. One stands for the promotion of a great evil, in its very platform. The other does not.
I am not vowing to be a lifelong Republican. Nor do I support everything Bush or the party does. He and the party are a mixed bag. Still, on the great issue of our time, the Republican party has taken the good stand, and the Democrat party has stood for a great evil

Father Hollywood said...


Boy, I should get a medal for being even more cynical than Peter the Curmudgeon, Misanthropus Maximus, Defender of the Doubters, etc.! I must be the Tiger Woods of cynicism. I want a green jacket! ;-)

Once again, pro-life doesn't only mean anti-abortion. There are a lot of very bloodthirsty pro-lifers out there. There are a lot of anti-abortion folks who are very much mired in the culture of death.

Furthermore, there are more than two parties. Even the GOP started out as a third party. It is possible to be neither R nor D, or even to be Independent.

Finally, the founders of our erstwhile republic were very much opposed to political parties (not to mention paper currency, standing armies, a federal government that trumps the states, wars of aggression, direct federal taxation, universal suffrage, directly-elected senators, a central bank, an activist judiciary, foreign entanglements, career politicians..., shall I continue?), and their wisdom shines through. The partisan system has wrought a lot of mischief.

Parties command loyalty to the party - over and above principle.

Once again, Peter, I didn't write Psalm 146:3. If you think we *should* put our trust in princes - at least the princes with the pachydermal coat of arms - take it up with King David and the Holy Ghost. I'm just the messenger.

As for me, I don't trust any of them. They are a necessary evil, but they certainly are not a virtue. And be careful of cozying up to them, because there will come a time when they will call in their chits. Lying down with dogs, and all that.

Peter said...

I have no idea of what you mean when you say "anti-abortion" isn't pro-life. Why not give credit where credit is due? Pro-life politicians put themselves on the line. They are mocked and ridiculed for their beliefs. The least we can do is support them. Or are we to be as condescending as the pro-abortion crowd?

The point of the Psalm is that princes are mortal. It doesn't say that there aren't good princes. So, I understand that we will not find the kingdom of heaven in earthly realities. (Except, of course, for the Confederacy and America before the Constitution was enacted) That does not mean that I will not join a party, with the fear that I am somehow being corrupted, or that some evil man will call in the "chits." Politics does indeed involve forming alliances with other human beings, some of whom may actually be sinners.

And, if your paleo-conservative party ever comes to fruition, all the more power to you. As it stands, I'm not a Lou-Rockwell conservative. We don't have to agree on everything to do good things together. I just know that there are already a lot of very good folks who are fighting for things we should be fighting for. This includes the pro-life folks (who are bloodthirsty folks caught in a culture of death?). It's strange that you won't admit it. Maybe when America collapses you can form your new utopian society. Until then, we do the best with what we have. And we are wrong not to support the folks who are doing what's right.

Father Hollywood said...


I'm sorry I gave you the impression that I'm a utopian, or that I am a statist of some kind or other. I must have been sloppy in forming my argument. I just agree with George Washington that "Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."

There are a lot of pyromaniacs out there who think government can solve most of their problems - I'm not one of them. It does some things well and most things abysmally. It has a bad track record when too cozy with the Church.

I simply believe too many Christians, Lutherans included, equate one political party or the other with the faith, and demonize those of the other party. I don't find that to be good pastoral practice.

Maybe I'm all wet on this, maybe I'm just being cowardly. If I change my mind, I promise I'll have my picture taken at the altar wearing a chasuble with the GOP elephant on it. ;-)

Peter said...

Again, not fair. I'm not asking you to wear an elephant. And, I don't believe in flags in church, either. All I'm asking is for you to do is acknowledge the valiant efforts of those in the pro-life movement, and to acknowledge that that movement has found its home in the GOP. And, whatever you want to say, the GOP is officially pro-life. No small thing in our culture of death! And, no, I do not want to demonize any party. But, in as much as the Democratic party has made abortion on demand its de- facto litmus test, it has demonized itself. Why not admit it?

Father Hollywood said...


I don't put my trust in princes, and I don't care what party they belong to. My own experience with politicians is they are, as a rule, not the kind of people I want as friends. There are exceptions, but that only proves the rule.

If you want to put *your* trust in princes, you are entitled to do so. If you want to wrap your Christianity in the banner of a political party, that's your prerogative.

I'm a parish pastor with God-fearing anti-abortion conservative parishioners who belong to both major parties. I'm not going to demonize any my flock for their political affiliations, nor will I tell them how to vote.

I think we've said about all that can be said on this matter, and I am not going to drag this out any further.

It's been a fun debate, but it has now gone on to its eternal reward. ;-)

Peter said...

Ok. But don't put words in my mouth. I am not putting my trust in princes. I'm simply acknowledging that some are better than others. Pax.