Requiescat in pace Miss Ethel Smith

Almost 27 years ago, I was called to my first charge as Minister to a Church in Longtown, South Carolina. Longtown was and remains a sign on Longtown road, announcing “Longtown,” Longtown Presbyterian Church, a small restaurant (the Windmill), a gas station-mom & pop convenience store, and a children’s park. That is the town of Longtown. It was and is so small that they don’t even give it a zip code, instead sharing a zip code with the metropolis of Ridgeway (population — 500) up the road. I served as the Pastor of the small rural Longtown Presbyterian church for 76 months.

The membership of the church was small and so there was little problem in getting to know those I would be serving. One of the fixtures of the congregation was Mrs. Ethel Smith. Miss Ethel, as my children came to affectionately know her, was a grandmotherly type for not only our children but for Jane and I as well.

Miss Ethel was 63 when we showed up in Longtown and had seen a good deal of life already. She grew up a Boulware in South Carolina during times that were so lean that “hardscrabble” hardly seems to do those times justice.  The hardness of those times and the simplicity of living they required was testified to by Miss Ethel’s residence. Ethel had the gift of hospitality and many were the times we would visit together in what most moderns would consider “a hovel” but what she found to be home and I found to be a glorious museum of a time I had only read about. In our visits, there by the old stove, she would bring out her knick knacks that reflected a different era and tell me a little of the history behind each knick knack. There in our times of mutual encouragement — times where I’m sure I learned more from her concerning the Christian faith than she learned from “Pastor Bret,” — she would show me her artistic endeavors with her ceramic doll making and adorning. Miss Ethel had artistic blood in her as seen by those ceramic dolls, sewing projects, crocheting ability and by the hand puppets she made upon my request to be used for children’s church — hand puppets that I still own today. Her concern was so great for us that after we left Longtown she crocheted several afghans to make sure the cold northern climate wouldn’t overwhelm us.

Miss Ethel, of course, had all the domestic skills and abilities that one would expect to find in a lady from the Southern yeoman class. She could cook “Southern” with the best of them and was one of the folks of Longtown who introduced Jane and I and the children to scrambled eggs, tomatoes and grits,  as prepared for our Sunday Morning Breakfasts, which took place once a month in the fellowship hall prior to church. Those domestic skills including canning. Jane tells the story of how Ethel and her sister Allie May would come over and help Jane can tomatoes from a garden that violated the Southern principle that “a man shall not plant more than a woman  is able to can.” Ethel, along with her sister Allie May would periodically babysit for Jane and I as we would get away for a “date night.” She loved our children and our children loved her.

The hardscrabble times that Miss. Ethel grew up in wrought in her a wonderful Christian character marked by charity and humility. Her charity and humility were seen in a host of way but not least in her “doing” for her family. One of Ethel’s daughters (Francis) lived right across the street and as Francis was a teacher up the road Ethel would help keep house for Francis and John David. Ethel’s disabled brother M. L. lived in a trailer on Ethel’s property and Ethel was constant in looking in on  and doing for M. L. him. Ethel’s sister “Allie May,” were constant companions and her affection for Francis, Lois, Susie, Ginger, Summer, and April and all her family was constant.

Miss Ethel, had not only a joyful disposition, she had the ability to be painfully direct in her speech when needs be. In conversing about matters important one was not required to have to read between the lines when speaking with Miss Ethel. She had no trouble making her mind known when that was required. This “plain speaking” was not overbearing but was characteristic when the nub of the matter needed addressed.

Miss Ethel delighted in attending Church and Bible study during our years in Longtown. Being the only one who could drive, she would often gather up Miss Allie May and Miss Nellie and Miss Rachel Gove from up the road and bring them to mid-week study.  She had the ability to make a very young minister believe that he really was dispensing pearls of wisdom. I can still  hear Buster pounding out “Beulah Land” on the piano in the Fellowship Hall and Miss Ethel singing at full voice. I can’t wait to hear that again.

I often describe the Longtown years to others as years of living in a land time forgot. The people of Longtown were comparatively untouched by what afflicts us as moderns. It remained a place where one could still hear a real southern accent, could experience genuine southern hospitality, could still attend a Southern turkey shoot or a pig roast or a community pig butchering. You could still meet people that actually still ate Possum and who would take you on a all night coon hunt. My elderly friends and flock from that time are almost all gone now. Gone are Miss Ethel, Miss Allie May, Miss Nellie, Miss Mary, Miss Janie May, Miss Betty, Miss Louise, Miss Rachel and  Ted & Janet Goodwin and Ralph and Jean Evans and Hoy and Dot Bundrick. Gone is Mister Buster and Mister Fisher. They taught me about the ministry and about life. They were the ones who first put flesh on the idea of the importance of kin with their forever talking about “their people” and asking me about “my people” — phrases I had never heard before that time. They taught me the helpful but then curious phrase of “I’ve been knowing him” instead of “I know him.” A phrase I’ve used many times as a sermon illustration for “knowing God.” Gone is the gloriously high pitched laughter of Miss Ethel and the sound elderly counsel of Buster and Hoy. Gone is the table fellowship with the McFaddens and Miss Mary and the Bundricks and Miss Louise. Each of them and all of them will ever remain my small rural “Jayber Crow” congregation.

And so with Miss Ethel’s death the circle is once again broken but we are reminded of a day coming when we will all join at the table of the great King where the circle will then be unbroken in that eternal land that time will have mercifully eternally forgotten.

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends — Darrell Dow Refutes Dr. Leithart on Immigration



“The fact that immigrants aren’t white or American doesn’t matter; questions about American citizenship are secondary. Christian immigrants—and there are many—are brothers and sisters; non-Christians are a mission field, conveniently dropped on our doorstep. What’s not to like? If America is ethnically diverse, so much the better, because so much the more does it resemble that final kingdom assembled from all tribes, tongues, nations, and peoples.”~~Peter Leithart

Dr. Peter Leithart recently posted an essay on immigration at his often entertaining and frequently updated First Things blog.  In the following, I will briefly respond to various shortcomings in his argument favoring open borders.  In the past, I penned a number of essays covering similar ground while responding to Dr. Russell Moore. But as Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun and the immigration issue continues to be raised among not merely prominent Christian intellectuals and ethicists, but in local churches and Christian media.  Thus it is time for another treatment with substantial revisions to data and an expansion of other arguments.  Be advised that this is not a full treatment of the immigration question.  I largely ignore discussion of downstream political consequences, immigrant crime, and other cultural manifestations of large scale immigration.

It is difficult to criticize godly, faithful, and thoughtful men like Dr. Leithart, Dr. Russell Moore, or Dr. Albert Mohler .  I seek to reply without animus or rancor, sticking directly  to the issues at hand. Having said that, I remain convinced that they are mistaken in their interpretation and application of scripture as it pertains to immigration.  Moreover, they broadly misread the times in which we live and that misunderstanding skews the manner in which they confront socio-political issues.

A number of years ago as I was preparing to preach a sermon, my first and hopefully last, my then pastor, for whom I was pinch hitting, explained the importance of “exegeting an audience” when attempting to apply scripture.  The point was simple: know your audience and let that play a part in the application of the biblical text.  In a similar vein, I have found that many theologians speaking to issues in the public square engage culture in a way that is unhelpful because they fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the attack on the faith and the methods of the assailants.

To this point, the assault on the church has not necessarily been frontal.   That will likely change as the enemies of our Lord become more brazen and direct.  The attacks of the last century were subtle and deceptive.  Spawned by Gramsci as he rotted in an Italian Fascist prison, cultivated by the Frankfurt School, and applied by the likes of Saul Alinsky and other purveyors of propaganda, Cultural Marxism attempts to subvert the faith of our fathers covertly.  Traditional Marxists believed that the oppressed worker class (the Proletariat) would ultimately become alienated from the Capitalist class and overthrow it through the process of revolution.  But in World War I, working class Doughboys, Tommys and Frenchmen waged war against working class Krauts in trenches lining the Western Front.

With the evident failure of traditional Marxist theory, Marxism was reinterpreted through a cultural lens, positing that violent revolution should be eschewed in favor of a “march through the institutions.”  By capturing the organs of cultural dissemination—media, government, colleges, arts, educational and academic institutions, etc.—Cultural Marxists could effectively rearrange the cultural landscape and shape the preferences of the populace via systematic propaganda.  They could also get to the heart of a people by being the authors of its stories.

Fundamentally, Cultural Marxism is an attack on the Christian church and Christian peoples, but the battle is covert rather than direct.  By subverting other forms of attachment and various institutions that make legitimate claims on our devotion and wield countervailing cultural power, Cultural Marxists attack Christianity sideways.  Attachments—familial, ethnic, racial, national, denominational, etc.–have been systematically undermined in our age.  These radicals have been given aid and comfort by the church, particularly liberal denominations in the 20th Century, but increasingly in recent decades by “conservatives” as well.  Part of this subterfuge involves the destruction of Euro-Christian culture via the propagation of multiculturalism and public secularism, which rapidly descends into polytheism.  An important prong of multiculturalism is the ethnic, racial, and religious transformation of historically European and Christian peoples via mass immigration and coercive secularism, often aided and abetted by Christian pluralists, particularly those in Baptist and broadly evangelical circles along with traditional liberal denominations.  It is with the tapestry of multiculturalism in the background that Christians must thoughtfully apply immigration policy.


Dr. Leithart largely ignores the economic consequences of his proposal for open borders.  Economics is often considered a technical discipline or even a “science” but properly falls within the sphere of moral philosophy and is thus an adjunct of the queen of sciences, theology.  It must therefore start with a right view of anthropology.

Leithart begins by quoting Kevin Johnson, an immigration advisor to Barack Obama, to the effect that the nation will benefit from freer and more mobile labor.  Ironically, Leithart has gotten a good deal of mileage from critiquing the ideology of individualism. But throughout his esssay he unwittingly accepts the premises of classical liberalism and assumes an individualism that makes no distinctions in terms of human duties.  Though Christianity has universal, catholic tendencies, natural attachments and duties are not to be eschewed.  Even Jesus does not preach the abolition of ethnic, religious, and social distinctions.  When asked by a Phoenician woman to heal her child, He responds, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel…It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs” (Matt. 15:24-26). Though he relents, an obvious anticipation of His ministry to the Gentiles, He displays His feelings as a Jew.  Jesus has no intention of overturning the Law (Matt. 5:17-19), which is a transcript of God’s holiness and a pattern for ethical conduct.  It is the law-word of God that also governs our social and interpersonal interactions.

Men have concentric circles of responsibility.  For example, I have obligations to my widowed mother that others (including the church) do not (I Timothy 5:8).  Similarly, I have duties to my wife and children that do not extend to my neighbor’s wife or, for that matter, my Christian brother.  I am liable to care for my neighbor in ways that exceed my responsibilities to complete strangers.  Likewise, I have obligations to my countrymen that are greater than my duties to the other six billion people inhabiting Earth.  This should be clear unless we define “neighbor” in a universal way that drains the term of any practical meaning.

Leithart says that race, ethnicity, religious affiliation and citizenship status are tertiary concerns.  But according to scripture, while we render honor and justice to all men, we have a particular responsibility to care for our own, whether in the natural family or the family of God (Gal. 6:10).  Our duties begin with our family but emanate outward in concentric circles regulated by scripture.  Many Christian commentators connect the New Testament commands to honor civil authorities (Rom. 13:1; I Peter 2:17) as extensions of the 5th Commandment.  But racial, ethnic, and national groups are likewise mere extensions of family and thus the honor due to our parents flows outward to these broader extensions of family and they are to be given preference over and against foreigners. When natural relationships are subverted by forms of universal ethics the end result is not merely ethical confusion but welfare economics and socialism.


Leithart fails to account for, though he must understand, the distortive impact of the welfare state.  Immigration policy as currently constituted is immoral as it privatizes benefits for the wealthy and socializes cost. As such, I hope to show that it is a massive form of theft.

Consider first some of the costs of immigration.   There are numerous economic costs connected to immigration, both legal and illegal, that Dr. Leithart simply ignores in his essay.

According to Census Bureau figures poverty rates continue to increase and the number of Americans without health insurance has reached all-time highs. Mass immigration is a significant source of these problems and data shows a growing chasm between natives and the foreign-born. For example, consider median household income between 2011 and 2012, ostensibly a period of economic recovery. While the income of Whites increased modestly, that of Hispanic households decreased 1.1% while non-citizen household income fell by 2.5%.  Meanwhile, the poverty rate for U.S.-born Whites was 9.7%, but 25.6% among Hispanics (which is higher that the poverty rate of non-citizens, indicative of the fact that Hispanic immigrants are not climbing out of poverty). .

Because immigrants typically have limited job skills and are very poor they frequently become a burden on the American welfare state.  PerRobert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, in 2010, the average unlawful immigrant household received around $24,721 in government benefits and services while paying some $10,334 in taxes, generating an average annual fiscal deficit (benefits received minus taxes paid) of around $14,387 per household.  Moreover, Steve Camarota finds that welfare use among immigrants remains high over time; immigrants in the country for more than 20 years still use the welfare system at significantly higher rates than natives.

Data pertaining to health insurance is likewise shocking. In 2012, 13.0% of natives lacked insurance coverage, while 32.0% of all (legal and illegal) immigrants, and 43.4% of non-citizens do not have health coverage. Immigrants account for 27.1% all Americans without health insurance.

In 2012 there were approximately 12.9 million immigrants and their U.S.-born children lacking health insurance, 32% of the entire uninsured populace. In 2007, 47.6 percent of immigrants and their U.S.-born children were either uninsured or on Medicaid compared to 25 percent of natives and their children. Lack of health insurance is a significant problem even for long-time foreign born residents. Among immigrants who arrived in the 1980s, 28.7 percent lacked health insurance in 2007. In short, much of the “health insurance crisis” in America is the result of surging immigration. What was the consequence? More statism, in the form of Obamacare.

Finally there is education. According to a report by FAIR, expenditures for illegal immigrants from grades K-12 costs $52 billion annually, largely absorbed by states and localities, often in very disparate ways. School districts are dropping programs and closing schools at least in part because they are paying instead to provide services to the children of non-citizens.

The global median income is $1,225 a year.  The “middle classes” of the world are living in destitution compared to the living standards of the West.  Dr. Leithart’s proposal for open borders when combined with the magnet of the welfare state would result in a fiscal catastrophe for a nation already $19 trillion dollars in debt.  It would also create a coercive and massive transfer of wealth from productive tax payers to the world’s poor.  In short, Leithart is endorsing theft on a grand scale in the name of humanitarianism and Christian charity.


A secondary issue of economic ethics completely ignored by Leithart and most Christian proponents of unchecked immigration is the redistributive impact of mass immigration. Like much public policy the benefits of immigration are largely privatized while costs are socialized. Benefits accrue to the upper-class while costs are borne largely by those on the lower rung of the economic ladder.  Indeed, immigration is responsible for half the decrease observed in the wages of high-school dropouts.

Mention this fact to Paul Gigot or Daniel Henninger at the Wall Street Journal and you are likely to receive little more than a shoulder shrug. Some immithusiasts appear to detest their own countrymen and impute to foreigners character traits that natives so obviously lack. But Christians ought to be more discerning and wise in counting the costs and cannot be oblivious to injustices resulting from such a policy.
The insanity of America’s immigration “debate” has been chronicled for a number of years by George Borjas, a Harvard labor economist.  Borjas is widely recognized as academia’s leading scholar on the economics of immigration.  Moreover, he is an immigrant himself, having arrived here from Cuba penniless in 1962.

One myth Borjas explodes is that immigration adds substantial wealth to the American economy.  In fact, Borjas found that the actual net benefit accruing to natives is small, equal to an estimated two-tenths of 1 percent of GDP. “There is little evidence indicating that immigration (legal and/or illegal) creates large net gains for native-born Americans,” writes Borjas.

Even though the overall net impact on natives is small, this does not mean that the wage losses suffered by some natives or the income gains accruing to other natives are insubstantial.  Borjas reviewed the wage impact of immigrants who entered the country between 1990 and 2010 and found that this cohort had reduced the annual earnings of American workers by $1,396—a 2.5% reduction.

As low-skill immigrants have flooded the labor market, opportunities for the least skilled workers have markedly decreased and the most vulnerable Americans have seen their wages decline as a result.  Borjas estimates that immigration is responsible for half the decrease observed in the wages of high-school dropouts.  “The biggest winners from immigration are owners of businesses that employ a lot of immigrant labor and other users of immigrant labor”, writes Borjas. “The other big winners are the immigrants themselves.”  The primary losers are native citizens with minimal skills and low levels of education.

Dr. Leithart fails to reckon with an important aspect the fall–the economic fact of scarcity. Resources are not infinite. In a world of scarcity, a result of God’s curse on the earth due to Adam’s sin, human beings necessarily make choices among competing alternatives effecting the distribution of resources. Ethically speaking do six trillion people have a claim on scarce and finite American monetary and economic resources?

In an already overburdened welfare state, do Americans have a moral imperative to import poverty and in so doing divert resources and employment opportunities from our most vulnerable citizens? Libertarians, and quite possibly Dr. Leithart, would argue that we ought to dismantle our unbiblical welfare state.  The problem is that immigration buttresses the welfare state.  If your bathtub is overflowing, your first act isn’t to head to the basement to secure a bucket and mop. Instead, you turn off the water and then clean up the mess.  If only libertarians and Christian immigration enthusiasts would keep that metaphor in mind.


Mass immigration also undermines covenantal thinking by exalting the individual at the expense of family, community and nation. Individuals leave behind their communities and desert their homelands rather than laboring for their improvement economically and politically. In her recent book, Adios America, Ann Coulter reported that the average IQ of Indians is 82.  Yet Mark Zuckerburg would steal India’s best and brightest, dropping them in Seattle as programmers via the H1B program to pad his already burgeoning net worth.  Do such policies create the conditions for ethical economic choices or do they reinforce unbiblical notions of individualism?

Immigration encourages families to move to different locales which are necessarily transformed culturally, economically, and politically by their presence in large numbers. Who benefits? Perhaps the immigrant himself and possibly those individuals acquiring whatever service he may provide. But community and the ties of natural affection that are produced by commonality are systematically undermined.

Research by the influential political scientist and Bowling Aloneauthor Robert Putnam shows that the more diverse a community, the less likely its inhabitants are to trust anyone.

In the face of diversity people tend to “hunker down” and surround themselves entirely with the familiar. “We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us,” Putnam says.

Putnam adjusted his data for distinctions in class, income, and other variables but still reached the “shocking” conclusion that untrammeled ethnic diversity is a breeding ground of distrust that spreads like an aggressive cancer, destroying the body politic. “They don’t trust the local mayor, they don’t trust the local paper, they don’t trust other people and they don’t trust institutions,” said Prof Putnam. “The only thing there’s more of is protest marches and TV watching.”

Putnam found that trust was lowest in Los Angeles, that heaven on earth for mulitcultists, but his findings were also applicable in South Dakota.

Mass immigration also undermines the free market, which necessarily exists as part of social framework. While that framework needs a system of law to protect property rights, enforce contracts, prosecute practitioners of fraud, etc., it is also dependent on a rudimentary level of trust among the populace. If that trust is undermined the foundation supporting the entire edifice crumbles, with the state being the institution forcefully putting the house back together.

A classical liberal like John Stuart Mill knew that free institutions are “next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities.” But speaking of immigration, Putnam allows ideology rather than fact to cloud his judgment, saying “that immigration materially benefited both the ‘importing’ and ‘exporting’ societies, and that trends have ‘been socially constructed, and can be socially reconstructed.'”

Leithart’s open borders proposal would necessarily demand “social reconstruction” because it would tear asunder what little remains of the social fabric.  It would  irreversibly destroy the foundations of American social order.  “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps. 11:3).


The most important question when considering the movement of people is a simple one: “Who owns the property?”  In an anarcho-capitalist social order, property is owned privately.  In this Big Rock Candy Mountain utopia envisioned by libertarian ideologues, immigration and emigration would be free—and there would be precious little of it. Likewise in a traditional monarchy the king, as sovereign and owner of the land, has an interest in maintaining immigration policies that enhance the value of the kingdom.  It is the king who thus determines immigration policy (we’ll see scriptural examples of this pattern shortly) and had an incentive to limit immigration to those who materially benefit his kingdom.

But once the government moves from the sphere of private ownership (monarchy) to public ownership, in the guise of democracy, there are different factors at work.  Unlike monarchs, democratic rulers are mere caretakers and do not bequeath a kingdom to their progeny. Democracies are also inherently, and unbiblically, egalitarian.  Both theoretically and in practice, we see that the migration policies of democratic states tend to be “non-discriminatory”.  It matters little whether immigrants are entrepreneurs or vagrants.  Indeed, vagrants may be preferable as they create a greater number of social problems and tensions which government must “fix” or “manage”, thereby enhancing the immediate power of its leaders, who are largely oblivious to and unaffected by the long term consequences of their policies. “Thus,” writes Hans Hoppe, “the United States immigration laws of 1965, as the best available example of democracy at work, eliminated all formerly existing ‘quality’ concerns and the explicit preference for European immigrants and replaced it with a policy of almost complete non-discrimination (multi-culturalism).”  The migration policy of democracies winds up negating the rights of property owners and imposing a forcible integration with the mass of immigrants being forced upon property owners who, if given the choice, would have “discriminated” in favor of other neighbors.  An open borders regime is simply the above scenario on steroids.

Aside from these philosophical consideration, Leithart also completely ignores the biblical evidence that borders are legitimate and enforced, even in the agrarian context of the Old Testament.  When Jacob’s family fled famine they traveled to Egypt and asked Pharaoh for permission to enter, “We have come to sojourn in the land … please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen” (Gen. 47:4). With the appropriate permission secured from Pharaoh’s representative, Jacob’s family, which grew into the people of Israel, became legal aliens in Egypt. In short, they were allowed into the country by the host. This scenario finds its modern equivalent in the immigrant who has legally entered a foreign land with permission and secured proper documentation to that effect.

Later in the book of Numbers, after Moses and the Israelites had fled Egypt they wanted to pass through Edom.  Moses dispatched messengers to Edom’s king with the following request to pass through their land:

“And here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your territory.  Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or vineyard, or drink water from a well. We will go along the King’s Highway. We will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.”  But Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through, lest I come out with the sword against you.”  And the people of Israel said to him, “We will go up by the highway, and if we drink of your water, I and my livestock, then I will pay for it. Let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.” But he said, “You shall not pass through.” And Edom came out against them with a large army and with a strong force.  Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory, so Israel turned away from him. (Num. 20:16-21)

In Judges, Jephthah refers to other denials of passage the Israelites experienced while journeying to the Promised Land:

Israel did not take away the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites,  but when they came up from Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh. Israel then sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, ‘Please let us pass through your land,’ but the king of Edom would not listen. And they sent also to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh.
 “Then they journeyed through the wilderness and went around the land of Edom and the land of Moab and arrived on the east side of the land of Moab and camped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the boundary of Moab. Israel then sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, ‘Please let us pass through your land to our country,’  but Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory, so Sihon gathered all his people together and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel.  And the Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them. So Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, who inhabited that country. (Judges 11:15-21)
In his book, “The Immigration Crisis”, Old Testament professor James Hoffmeir also argues that Christ’s family clearly asked for permission to enter Egypt when they fled from Herod.

It is worth noting that even a traveler, a foreigner, had to obtain permission when moving through the territory of another nation, let alone pitching a tent, taking up residence and getting on Medicaid. These episodes clearly demonstrate that nations could and did control their borders and determined who was allowed passage. Open borders have never existed and are certainly not endorsed by scripture.


There are other problems with Dr. Leithart’s essay, but if you have reached this point, you are surely tired of reading.  Leithart says that while “hardly a slam-dunk policy” the open borders stance is a “serious position, worthy of better than the wacky-nut treatment it’s usually given.”  I hope that I have demonstrated that the open borders position is radical in both its ethical shortcomings and economic consequences.



Leddihn & McAtee on the Impact of Religion

“Of all the ‘external’ elements shaping the character of individuals as well as of groups religion is, perhaps, the strongest. This should not surprise us, because every higher religion offers us an almost complete picture of a meaningful universe; it points out a destination and a way. It is, therefore, self-evident that different religions involve different ways of life: they will influence our temperaments.We should never underestimate the effect of such other factors as geography, meteorology, biology, nourishment, history, sociology; yet the great changes resulting from the conversion of large groups cannot leave us unimpressed. Even after a short time, entirely new behavior patterns emerge. One has only to compare the inhabitants of Catholic and of Protestant islands in the Hebrides in order to appreciate the importance of the religious factor; or to compare villages belonging to these two different religious communities in central Germany, in Hungary, in the Netherlands, Latvia or Switzerland. An invisible line divides the cultural patterns of these communities, even thought they speak the same language and obey the same laws.”

Liberty or Equality — pg. 179
Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn

1.) Don’t miss that we are talking here of “external” elements. Religion is external inasmuch as it is that which is from outside of us (from above) that forms the man and/or people. It is an outside element that adjusts our most inward dispositions. It is an outside element that shapes both the individual and the the institutions and social order that ends up contributing in shaping us.

There are internal elements as well that have need to be considered. For example, who God has made us to be in our generations — our very DNA — is a great factor to be considered in this matter of the factors that shape character. Religion, as an external element, never works to shape the character of individuals or people groups apart from whom God has made them to be in their very corporeality.

To insist that religion is that alone which forms a man or people group would be fall into the error of Gnosticism.  To insist that heredity alone forms a man or people group would be to fall into the errors of materialism. To insist that man can be only understood in terms of his environment would be the error of Skinnerian Behaviorism.

2.) For those with eyes to see, all of life is a carefully choreographed religious dance. From our habits, to our social order, to our Institutions, to our inventions, to our calendars, to our shopping malls, to our entertainments, to our art, to our science, to our fashions, everything is screaming our religion and so our Theology. Our everyday life is ablaze with theological meaning and significance. This is so true that we can paraphrase Lenin by saying, “culture is but a mere continuation of religion.” For those with eyes to see looking at a culture and a social order is to look upon religion in action.

3.) The great lie of Modernity and Anabaptist and R2K theology  is that religion can be cordoned off and isolated to some private realm. One can insist on this aberration all they like but the passion of the insistence does not make it so. The great error of all Enlightenment project thinking is that reality can be compartmentalized into air-tight compartments that have little or no relation to one another. This lack of systemic thinking has been the genesis for the elimination of Biblical Christianity and the rise of Humanism.

4.) Note that not even a shared language and shared laws can strip the impact of different religions upon the same people. We see this in spades today. Cultural Marxist Americans from the same families are radically different from Biblical Christians from the same families. Even family members who differ in their Christianities, let’s say Pentecostal vs. Roman Catholic vs. Reformed,  are going to be very different in the way that people who hold to those different faiths lean into life, in the their disposition and attitudes, in the way they lean into life.  The more exacting each is, in regard to their faith, the more sharp the contrasts.

McAtee Contra Van Drunen Regarding The Family

A response to this

“Rather than being an additional fourth life sphere alongside these (church, state, and culture), the household or family is the foundation and the model of these other three life spheres. The family possesses a religious moral element in its piety, a juridical element in its parental authority and sibling affection, and an element of culture in family nurture. All three life spheres lie embedded within the family in a complex way, and each is connected to the family. Since the Kingdom of God consists of the totality of all goods, here on earth one finds its purest image and most faithful representation in the household family.”

Herman Bavinck
“The Kingdom of God, The Highest Good.”

In a recent “Modern Reformation” article R2K Maestro Dr. David Van Drunen (Hereinafter DVD) concedes that the the family is important, while at the same time warns Christians to not get too hung up on family changes that are occurring within our broader culture. DVD informs us that there is a real danger that we Christians would emphasize the importance of the institutional family so much that we might fall into the danger of forgetting the importance of the institutional Church. DVD writes this article in order to make sure we don’t make that mistake.

What DVD doesn’t tell the reader explicitly is that DVD does not believe in the idea of the “Christian family.” Oh, DVD hints at this conviction, but he does not come right out and say, “the idea of the Christian family is a myth.” Yet, it is precisely because DVD does not believe in the reality of Christian family that allows him to warn against those who are warning about the impact of the demise of the Christian family. For DVD, while family is important, the incremental destruction of the Christian family model, while unfortunate, is not something, that Christians should get too ginned up about, especially if that means that care for the institutional church suffers because of too much concern for the institution of the family.

At this point, already, DVD introduces a false dichotomy into his “reasoning.” He posits that the Church Institution is more important then the Family institution, thus suggesting that the two institutions are somehow in competition, when in point of fact these two Institutions are complimentary. Together they are the left leg and the right leg of Christian walking and the demise of either institution is the demise of the ability to walk without crutches.

That the two Institutions can not be separated the way that DVD is seeking to do is seen in the way that God has ordained that the health of the Church is derived from the root of its supporting Christian families. In Scripture God has given us an integrated model where the Christian family and the Christian Church, while being distinct jurisdictions, cannot be divorced from one another. This is seen in the reality of our covenant theology. God has ordained that the Church is built up by His faithfulness to the family in their generations.

“He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations…” (Psalm 105:8)

“That those generations are thought of in terms of the family is seen in the commentary of Psalm 105:8 in Psalm 103:17,

“But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children…”

Indeed when God promises the vast blessings of salvation to Abraham, He does so in terms of “all the families of the earth.”

 Gen.12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

This indicates that God thinks that family is important.

This relation between Church as institution and family as institution is put on display every time a Christian family brings their child to be baptized by a Christian minister in the context of God’s Christian Church. God’s faithfulness to His Church as institution is guaranteed by His faithfulness to His covenant as dwelt in by the Christian family. To mark the kind of false dichotomy between the two such as DVD enters into is both un-scriptural and unnatural.

DVD insists that it is the Church as institution which is the centrality in our Christian lives. If one did not know better one would swear, that with such a statement, one was listening to a Roman Catholic Priest and not a Reformed Doctor of the Church. Rome long taught and still teaches the “centrality of the church in our Christian lives.” To disagree with this DVD conclusion is not to dismiss the importance of the Church as institution but merely is to note the Protestant emphasis that insisted the centrality of God in the totality of our Christian lives. The centrality of God in our families, the centrality of God in our Churches, and the centrality of God in our social orders. By insisting on the centrality of the Church in our Christian lives vis-a-vis the centrality of the family DVD both creates a false dichotomy  (dare we say a hyphenated dualism?) — in our Christian lives and gets very close to not realizing that God alone is to be central in all our doings.

In his article DVD damns the family with feint praise. For all that DVD does in speaking up the family he undoes it all with his insistence that there is no such thing as a Christian family. DVD goes so far as to suggest that family life, unlike Church life, is not part of the Kingdom of God. With such a sentiment DVD clearly circumscribes the Kingdom of God to the Church. And yet we have all those Kings (Rev. 21:24) and Nations (Rev. 22:2)  in the new Jerusalem, a reality that cannot exist without retaining extended family categories. Kings don’t make sense without Nations and Nations don’t make sense without blood families. When DVD insists that our family relations do not follow us into the eternal Kingdom one wonders if DVD is saying that in the eschaton we will no longer be sons, daughters, Fathers, or Mothers, Aunts or Uncles, Husbands or Wives? I assume though that DVD agrees that the Son of David remains sitting on the throne? If we do not retain these familial identity markers maybe we should go all the way and dismiss the idea of other identity markers such as a retention of maleness or femaleness in the eschaton? But, again, we have “Kings” in heaven, and that also requires Maleness as well as family connections. DVD’s eschaton begins to sound like a Gnostic excitable dream.

DVD makes this explicit when he writes, “This brings us to another reason why the church is ultimately more important than the family. While family relationships are temporal, relationships in the church are permanent. To put it another way, family relationships are natural and belong to this present age, while relationships in the church are eschatological and extend into the age to come.”  Is DVD saying that when I bump into my earthly Christian family member in the eschaton the relation we had as family members will be forgotten while what is remembered is that we attended and were part of the same visible Church?  Others may disagree, but I invoke the charge again of creeping gnosticism. All that matters in the DVD’s eschaton are spiritual realities. The corporeal realities on earth are no more.

DVD rightly notes that our allegiance to God must be higher than our allegiance to family. This is true. What DVD does not say is that our allegiance to God must also be higher than our allegiance to the institutional visible Church. All because or allegiance to God must be higher than or family allegiance in no way proves that our allegiance to the visible Church must be higher than our allegiance to our family … unless of course one is identifying the visible institutional Church with God.  Isn’t it good to know that a Reformed Doctor of the Church would never make that kind of basic reasoning and category error?

DVD’s confusion on this issue is magnified by a quick look at Scripture. When God desires to give His people symbolic speech in order to understand His person He often uses the language drawn from the family. The God of the Bible compares Himself not only to a Father who taketh pity upon His children (Ps. 103:13), but He also compares Himself to a Mother who cannot forget her nursing child (Is. 49:15). In Hebrews 12:6 God chastens like a Father, while in Isaiah He comforts like a Mother (Isaiah 66:13). In Matthew 6 we are taught to address God as our Father in Heaven.

When DVD writes, “Family is clearly not the most important thing in Scripture. Our relationships to and within the church are ultimately more important than our family relationships,” he puts the cats among the pigeons. First, we might ask, “What if the Church is comprised of a series of extended and related family units?” There was a time when that was not as far fetched as it is today. Second, it is not clear that the relationships within a Christian Church are more important than the relationships to and within Christian family.  It is certainly not clear when the Christian church in question has departed from the faith as much as the Church in the West has done. Thirdly, as God alone is absolute, loyalty to Him trumps both loyalty to the family or to the visible institutional Church when there is a contradiction between God and family or God and the visible church.

When DVD writes, “Family is clearly not the most important thing in Scripture. Our relationships to and within the church are ultimately more important than our family relationships,” it is like saying that “Our Right legs are clearly not the most important thing in walking. Our relationship with and to our left legs are ultimately more important than our relationship to our right legs.” It is a false dichotomy. It presupposes a false dualism. It is a false creation of a hyphenated life. One needs to note here that it is in the family where catechism is supposed to happen (Deut. 6).  It is the family where children first learn about covenantal government. In the family children begin to form an idea of God via God’s parental covenant representatives. The home is the child’s first notion of heaven. None of this is to say that the Church is less important than family. It is only to say that the family and the Church are equally ultimate before God who is alone absolute. DVD’s insistence to the contrary has introduced a false dichotomy in the thinking of Christians.  This is the fruit of R2K thinking where the Kingdom is only applicable to Church life.

No one doubts the passages that DVD cites as teaching that loyalty to the Lord Christ is above loyalty to family but what DVD glosses over in those passages he cites is that those passages are not teaching loyalty to the visible Church as being equal to loyalty to the Lord Christ. They are teaching loyalty to Christ above the highest competing loyalty in existence imaginable, whether that loyalty would be to family or to the visible Church. It is interesting though that Christ chose “loyalty to family” as the highest competing loyalty in existence imaginable that might conflict with loyalty to Himself as opposed to choosing membership in the “Israel of God” at that time.  My objection here is that DVD is conflating loyalty to the visible institutional Church with loyalty to the God of the Bible. In these time they are seldom the same. Really, to put this kind of emphasis on loyalty to the visible institutional Church, apart from seriously needed qualifications borders on a cult like loyalty towards the visible institutional Church.

If family is only penultimate vis-a-vis the Church then what are all those genealogies doing in the Bible? God’s inspired writers certainly saw that family was important.  If family is disintegrated in heaven then why does Jesus tell a parable where Lazarus cries out for relief to “Father Abraham” who is in heaven? If family is only penultimate how was it a source of comfort when the prophetess Huldah told Josiah he would be “gathered to his fathers” (2 Kgs. 22:20)? What comfort would there be if he could not recognize his “fathers”? Was he to dwell in eternity, among his own family, as a total stranger? If family is penultimate then why are the leaves of the trees, in the eschaton, for the healing of the Nations? If family is penultimate why is it important that, in the eschaton, the Lord Christ remains “The Son of David?”

Consistent with this observation is the desire of DVD to have it both ways. On one hand family relationships disappear in the eschaton, while on the other hand DVD still insists that in the eschaton we will still think in familial categories. DVD offers, “There will be only one family in heaven, made up of millions of brothers and sisters—with Jesus as our husband (Eph. 5:25-32) and brother (Heb. 2:11-12).” But if family is only temporal, per DVD, then how is it that we will still be able to think in temporal categories in the eternal realm? Words like “Brothers” and “sisters,” and “husbands” don’t retain any meaning unless their originating referent point remains operative.  In a eschaton where familial categories no longer exists thinking of someone as a “Husband” or a “Brother” is the same thinking of them as a “dxils” or a “mizeek.”

When DVD says, “Every Christian will enter heaven single” I hear more of John Locke then I do St. John. How very Libertarian of him. Now, let no one mistake me to be saying that our salvation is not by Grace alone. Instead let me be heard to be saying that such a anarchistic atomization and individualization of heaven as offered here by DVD could only happen to someone who has both been stripped of their Reformed covenantal sensibilities and has bellied up to the bar for too many Boilermakers at St. Locke’s bar and grill.  Scripture teaches we are gathered to Christ because the promise was to the Fathers and to their children (that embarrassing family language again) and as many as the Lord God called. Gathered by households on Earth there is no reason to think the idea of household disappears  when entering the eschatological household of God.

It is not often when one can read a piece by a Reformed Doctor of the Church that is both too Romish, too Libertarian and too Gnostic all at the same time but DVD has accomplished just that.  Of course all of this is primarily driven by DVD’s

1.) R2K theology that commands that families cannot and must not be considered “Christian.”

2.) R2K theology which insists that the “Kingdom of God” is limited and defined only in the context of the Institutional Church.

3.) R2K hard dualism that sees little or no continuity between this life and the life to come.

4.) Embrace of Lockean social theory as extended to defining the eschaton where atomized individuals only exist

Much much more could be said in refuting  DVD’s article. I think I could easily squeeze three more essays in refuting the details of his meanderings but enough has been said in order to point out the errors in this R2K version of Christianity.  In the end, if we fail to emphasize the Biblical model of the Family, given the times we are living in it will not only be the Christian family that goes into a long dark age but it will be the Christian Church also that continues in its already long established dark age residency.






The Turning of the Wheel … Family then and Family Now

Dedicated to Carl and Laura Jacobs and their great great grandchildren they could have only imagined.

This past weekend I was privileged to have all three of my children home. Two of my three children now are married and have children of their own. All were present, my children, my children by marriage, and three grandchildren with a fourth grandchild safely awaiting birth in July.

There was the gladsome conversations, the serious conversations, the games, the festive meals and shared worship. Both my grandsons decided to sit with me Sunday after evening service and pretend they were putting an alphabet puzzle together with Grand-dad.

In the midst of all the interaction and joie de vivre I could not help but notice the turning of the wheel. I could not help but be taken back to when I was but a child attending family gatherings at my Grandfather’s dairy farm. We would all help with the evening chores (well, help as much as a child could help) and then we would assemble into the house where a late evening meal would be served. If you ever ate supper on the Farm at 10pm you were having an early supper. Bookended around the evening meal were the family games.  In my Grandparents family it was Euchre for the adults.  Most children my age watched TV to pass the time, and as a child I did too much of that, to be sure, but on the farm the TV was always broken but the Euchre games had eternal life. There were other games occasionally played (Mille Bornes, Rook, Parcheesi, etc.) but it always came back to Euchre. Grandpa always wanted to play Euchre and so it was Euchre all the way around with several tables set up so that a mini Jacobs Euchre tournament could be pursued.

As the oldest grandchild I was sometimes able to sneak into a hand or two at the adult table where I would be taught the game of Euchre while being laughed at simultaneously for not knowing proper strategy.  Uncle’s Jeff and Jim were always there to teach me the finer points of the game, though I gave them more then enough reason to think that I would never learn. Uncle Kevin (5 years my senior) would sit at one of the tables doing his best impersonation of Pistol Pete Maravich trying to break the record for the longest time spinning a ball on his fingers. I barely knew Pistol Pete but it was hard for me to imagine that anybody could spin a ball on their fingers longer while playing Euchre.

Somewhere in the course of the late evening the Schwans Ice Cream would be broken out from a deep freeze  that would not be impressed with Dante’s Inferno. I was convinced that deep freeze could make hell frigid. It was such an impressive deep freeze that it had its very own out building on the Farm. I was a child and so impressive was the size of those Shwans Ice Cream containers I was convinced that the Ice Cream was stored in 10 gallon metal containers. As near as I can remember the only flavor that came out of that deep freeze was “Butter Pecan.” In from the out building came the Ice Cream and out of the Knife drawer came the Butcher knife to carve up the Ice Cream. Most families used Ice Cream scoops to serve Ice Cream but most families didn’t store their Ice Cream in a Deep Freeze sold by Eskimos. The only way this frozen Ice Cream was going to be served was by a butcher knife as handled by a Mighty man. It was like slicing long settled concrete with a Jack Hammer.

Once the Ice Cream was sliced off and sat in your dish like some kind of miniature Iceberg next came the Nestle’s Chocolate powder in healthy proportions. The result was the look of Mt. Kilimanjaro sprinkled with chocolate in a bowl.  After that was more Euchre for 30 minutes. That gave the Ice Cream enough time to melt so that a spoon could begin to make progress on one’s Butter Pecan Iceberg.

But  the wheel has turned and I am the Grandfather now and the children are coming back home now to a Parsonage and not a farmhouse. My mind wanders back to those days that I now miss. As the grandfather now — 45 years later from those memories of the farmhouse — I wish I had been some kind of child savant back then so I could have realized how good it was then. I wish I could have bottled up all that laughter and sense of belonging so as to open it up at any time when laughter was in short supply and loneliness was too much of a companion.

45 years later I wonder if my Grandfather sat around thinking about what I am thinking now. Did he look at his expanding family in 1969 gathered at his Farm house in Howe, Indiana and remember 1924 when he was at his Grandfather’s house with his Parents, and Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents and cousins? Did he then, as I am doing now, look forward to a time when he would no longer be around and envision what their celebrations might look like? Did he look forward to the time when his grandchildren would be Grandparents with their expanded family coming home to food, festivity, and fun and … Euchre?

And what of my grandchildren? In 2060 will they have all their grandchildren visit them and will they recall with fondness the times when they were grandchildren visiting Grand-dad and Noni? Will Eleanor or Lee or Edward be full of cherished reminiscences about the family that was about them when they were children? Will they still be able to see with their child’s eyes what will then be aged memories and smile with whimsy and longing? Finally, will they try to imagine what the family celebrations of their grandchildren will be like once those grandchildren are grandparents in 2105?

The wheel has turned. The wheel never quits turning. I look forward to the time when the wheel will quit turning and the circle will finally be unbroken.

Until such a time, I can only pray God that my children and grandchildren and the generations that follow them will treasure the moments that find three generations under one roof celebrating the richness of life that God has given.