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We Have Forgotten God

It’s a cliché to say that this is the most important election in our lifetime. But I really feel strongly that this is the most important election in our lifetime.

There is so much at stake. Above all is the question of whether we will continue as one nation under God. Will we embrace America as founded or will we completely jettison all pretense of our national motto—In God we Trust?

I think our problems can be traced back to this simple truth: We have forgotten God. That’s why all these bad things are happening to us.

Founding father Patrick Henry warned, “It is when a people forget God, that tyrants forge their chains.”

The late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was the great chronicler of what President Ronald Reagan rightfully called, “The Evil Empire,” i.e., the failed Soviet Union. The Nobel-prize winning author spent about a decade of his life in the Soviet Gulags (for a veiled criticism of Stalin in a private letter).

Solzhenitsyn said, “While I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

As simple as those peasants’ statements were, the great novelist noted that no one diagnosed the problem better than they did. He continued: “Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

Why is America seemingly sinking into the abyss? We have forgotten God. And the results of this rejection we can see on the streets of America:

  • We have strangers shooting strangers because they disagree politically.
  • We have daily riots and looting, with criminals immediately let back on the streets, thanks in many cases to George Soros money.
  • We have mobs chanting, “F*** your Jesus.”
  • We have liberal governors shutting down churches as “non-essential” during the COVID-19 crisis, while encouraging rioting, with or without social distancing or masks.

In America today people have forgotten God, and we’re living out the descent of man, as seen in Romans chapter 1. When people reject God and His righteousness and refuse to thank Him, He turns them over to their own devices.

Dennis Prager of PragerU once told me in a TV interview: “The Supreme Court changed America with the 1962 decision that prayer in school was unconstitutional. That was the decision that began the end of America as we knew it.”

The prayer ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court was this: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessing upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country.”

Prager continued: “It’s as universal a prayer and non-denominational as you could have. And as I often point out, within one generation, kids went from blessing their teachers to cursing their teachers.” [Emphasis added]

Many of our presidents throughout history have called on God and have called on Americans to set aside a time (usually a day) of prayer. For example, FDR, in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack, called for January 2, 1942 to be, “a Day of Prayer, of asking forgiveness for our shortcomings of the past, of consecration to the tasks of the present, of asking God’s help in days to come.”

Today, how much more are we in need of “asking forgiveness for our shortcomings”?

President Harry Truman even systematized the National Day of Prayer as an annual event. Truman declared in his proclamation (June 17, 1952): “From the earliest days of our history our people have been accustomed to turn to Almighty God for help and guidance.”

When there is no God to whom we must give an account, then the state can become god. That is certainly true in the minds of many a totalitarian dictator.

If we continue down this godless path, we will not remain free. How we vote will not change our national make-up. But it will make a difference in pushing away tyranny or rushing toward it.

Reagan once noted, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

©Jerry Newcombe, D.Min. All rights reserved.

The Bible and Hayek on What We Owe Strangers by Sarah Skwire

It’s so much easier to sympathize with our own problems and with the problems of those we love than with the problems of complete strangers.

Adam Smith observes in The Theory of Moral Sentiments that our ability to sympathize with ourselves is, in fact, so out of all proportion to our ability to sympathize with others that the thought of losing one of our little fingers can keep us up all night in fearful anticipation, while we can sleep easily with the knowledge that hundreds of thousands on the opposite side of the world have just died in an earthquake.

Hayek makes the same point in The Fatal Conceit:

Moreover, the structures of the extended order are made up not only of individuals but also of many, often overlapping, sub-orders within which old instinctual responses, such as solidarity and altruism, continue to retain some importance by assisting voluntary collaboration, even though they are incapable, by themselves, of creating a basis for the more extended order. Part of our present difficulty is that we must constantly adjust our lives, our thoughts and our emotions, in order to live simultaneously within different kinds of orders according to different rules.

It may not be the best part of our humanity, but it is a very human part. We care more about those we see more often, understand more thoroughly, and with whom we share more in common.

And maybe that’s not so bad. We treat family differently, after all. My daughter will get a giant pink fluffy stuffed unicorn from me on her birthday. I don’t believe that I am similarly obligated to provide fuzzy equines for all other eight-year-olds. Different treatment is a way of acknowledging different kinds of bonds between people and different levels of responsibility to them.

All of this is on my mind because the other night, after I gave a talk on liberty and culture, an audience member and I had a discussion about banking, debt, and interest rates during which he carefully explained to me how Jews lend each other money for no interest, but when they lend to Christians, the sky’s the limit. Everyone knows it, because it’s in the Bible.

He was right, sort of. It is in the Bible, sort of.

It’s right there in Deuteronomy 23:

You shall not give interest to your brother [whether it be] interest on money, interest on food, or interest on any [other] item for which interest is [normally] taken. You may [however], give interest to a gentile, but to your brother you shall not give interest, in order that the Lord your God shall bless you in every one of your endeavors on the land to which you are coming to possess.

But textual interpretation is a tricky business. And textual interpretation of a text that has existed for thousands of years and been wrangled with by millions of interpreters — well, it doesn’t get much trickier than that.

But it seems worth noting that the word used here (both in translation and in Hebrew) is literally “brother.” This has been interpreted over the years to mean “fellow Jew.” But the word, as given, is brother.

What I think the passage means to emphasize by using this word — regardless of whether we are talking about literal brothers, or just “brothers” — is the importance and of treating those who are closest to us with particular care and concern. The kind of business relationship that is part of Hayek’s extended order, or that is located in an outer ring of Smith’s concentric circles of sympathy, doesn’t come with extra moral responsibilities to one another. A price is agreed on. A bargain is struck. An exchange is made. Everyone is content. But in an intimate order — with brothers or sisters, husbands or wives, parents or children — we have a responsibility to give more and do more than in the extended order.

And so observant Jews are told that they should not pay or charge interest to brothers — whomever they consider those brothers to be.

Though it has been interpreted uncharitably by many over the years, this passage from Deuteronomy is not a passage about cheating the outsider. This is a passage about taking special care of those who are closest to our hearts. It’s hard to find anything to object to in that.

Sarah SkwireSarah Skwire

Sarah Skwire is the poetry editor of the Freeman and a senior fellow at Liberty Fund, Inc. She is a poet and author of the writing textbook Writing with a Thesis. She is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

VIDEO: Pastor Jack Martin Running for Congress in Florida’s 11th District

Florida’s 11th Congressional District includes Sumter, Citrus and Hernando counties and most of Marion county. The current representative of the 11th Congressional District is Richard B. Nugent (R). Nugent is retiring at the end of his current term.

Pastor John “Jack” Martin has decided for God and country to run for Nugent’s seat. Here is a video of Jack Martin speaking at a Second Amendment rally:

Guns Across America Florida Rally Pastor Jack Martin from Jack Martin on Vimeo.

Pastor Marin’s history is that of a 33 year pastor. He is a member of the Black Robe Regiment and Preacher from The Pulpit. He has been standing up, speaking out and attending various events throughout the State of Florida to Washington D.C. He has always felt that a position as a statesman, U.S. Congressional Rep. to represent The People was his next calling in life.

Martin on his website lists six major crises Americans face:

  1. The National Debt – Over 18 Trillion Dollars
  2. Our Borders – Unprotected and being flooded daily with those entering illegally from many nations.
  3. Our Military both Veterans and Active Duty treated poorly.
  4. Obamacare – Needing to be repealed and replaced.
  5. Israeli / American Relationships – Need to be restored.
  6. Our Judeo Christian Ethics – under heavy attack.

Jack Martin speaking on the Black Robe Regiment at a Deland, Florida Rally in December 2015:

Pastor Martin has been endorsed by William Finlay, Wild Bill for America, also a Black Robe Regiment member among others.

Supporter Deb Howard states, “Pastor Jack is well known for his candor of Gods word and the application in conjunction with today’s times that we face. His deliveries are captivating. I am attaching one in particular that I believe delivers Jacks beliefs as he does walk the walk. There is no denying that people are pleasantly surprised as the preacher from the small country church is ready willing and able to face the evil in D.C. unafraid to be heard and willing to fight the mass corruption within our Halls!”

“Pastor Jack is also acquainted with Geoff Ross, Senior Chief, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Michael McCallister, Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret.), Ann Murrin, PoliticoChicks, Rodney Conover (writer and radio host), Joe The Plumber and numerous others who are supporting, covering the campaign trail and publishing information about him, ” said Howard.

Howard notes, “Our attempt to make Pastor John Martin a household name not only in District FL-11 but nationwide as he is challenging pastors to step out and off of the pulpit and guide congregations to comprehend the true nature of their work. As Black Robe Regiment Pastors joined in leading with George Washington to fight for our independence in the Revolutionary War, so stands John Martin.”

EDITORS NOTE: Readers wanting more information may visit the Jack Martin for Congress website.

Integrity Florida Releases Research Report on Florida Ethics Laws

Integrity Florida, the nonpartisan research institute and government watchdog, released a new report today that examines Florida’s ethics laws and measures recent anti-corruption reforms against established benchmarks. The report finds Florida is making progress in the fight against public corruption, but much more remains to be done.

Ethics reforms that were passed in 2013 and 2014 represent the first significant attempt to update the state’s ethics laws since the 1970’s and since the 2012 publication of Integrity Florida’s 2012 report titled Corruption Risk Report: Florida Ethics Laws. That report analyzed federal public corruption conviction data and found that Florida led the nation in corruption convictions from 2000 to 2010. The new report finds Florida is now ranked number three for public corruption convictions behind Texas and California.

“Florida went too long neglecting public corruption and ethical abuses and its citizens have paid a real price for corrupt government practices that have cost taxpayers’ public funds and damaged the state’s reputation” said Ben Wilcox, Research Director for Integrity Florida. “We’ve made progress and the legislature will have the opportunity to act on more anti-corruption solutions in 2016.”

Key Findings

  • Florida is no longer number one in federal public corruption convictions for the ten-year period from 2003 to 2013, the most recent data available. While Florida is still in the top five states ranked at number three with 622 convictions, Texas is now number one with 870 convictions, followed by California at number two with 678 convictions. Federal public corruption convictions in Florida have flattened out and appear to be trending downward.
  • In the 2015 update of the 2012 State Integrity Investigation, Florida’s overall grade for the 14 categories measuring government accountability fell from a C-minus to a D-minus. Florida’s grade was lower in virtually every category measured except in “Ethics Enforcement Agencies.” In that category Florida went from an F grade to a D-minus.
  • While a few of the recommendations of the Nineteenth Statewide Grand Jury
    have been adopted, the majority of those recommendations have never been considered by the Florida legislature.

Policy Recommendations

Ethics Reform/Anti-Corruption legislation that has been filed that would reduce corruption risk if passed in 2016 include:

  • Senate Bill 582/House Committee Bill by the Rules, Calendar and Ethics Committee: These bills would put into law two anti-corruption recommendations that were in the 2010 Nineteenth Statewide Grand Jury Report.
  • Senate Bill 686/House Bill 593: Titled the Florida Anti-Corruption Act of 2016, this an omnibus ethics reform measure that includes the provisions in Senate Bill 582.
  • Online financial disclosure filing system: Create an online, publicly accessible filing system for financial disclosure statements for state and local officials as envisioned in the plan submitted by the Commission on Ethics to the Florida legislature.

Additional Ethics Reform/Anti-Corruption policy solutions that could be enacted to advance government ethics in Florida include:

  • Increase penalties: Increase the maximum civil penalty for violations of ethics laws from $10,000 to $20,000 as recommended by the Florida Commission on Ethics.
  • Self-initiate investigations: Allowing the Commission on Ethics to self-initiate investigations would be the single most effective change in the ethics laws that could be made, both in terms of actually enforcing the law and in terms of public confidence in government.
  • Require all Elected Officials to file Full and Public Financial Disclosure (Form 6): All constitutional officers in Florida are currently required to file Full and Public Financial Disclosure known as Form 6. Many other elected officers, including city officials, are only required to file the less-informative Form 1, known as Disclosure of Financial Interests.
  • Improve fine collections: The problem of officials who fail to pay the automatic fines they receive for failing to file financial disclosure is well-documented. Allowing the Commission to record its final orders as liens on the debtor’s real and personal property would give them another tool to collect unpaid fines.
  • Raise the standard for awarding attorney’s fees against complainants: This would restore the law on recovery of attorney fees to the way it had been construed by the Commission prior to a decision by the 1st District Court of Appeal; that Complainants are held to the same standard applicable to media publications regarding public figures. Under that standard, the Ethics Commission awarded attorney’s fees only against complainants who maliciously and knowingly filed complaints based on false information.
  • Change the burden of proving an ethics violation from “clear and convincing evidence” to a “preponderance of the evidence.”

Read the full report here.

ABOUT INTEGRITY FLORIDA

Integrity Florida is a nonpartisan research institute and government watchdog whose mission is to promote integrity in government and expose public corruption.  More information at www.integrityflorida.org. Download Florida’s Path to Ethics Reform.

Florida Coalition Calls for Action on Ethics Reform, Open Government

On April 16th, a coalition of groups, including Integrity Florida, the First Amendment Foundation,  Common Cause Florida, the Citizens Awareness Foundation and The Tea Party Network held a press conference to call for the House to take action on ethics reform (SB 846) and open government (SB 1648HB 1151) bills that were stalled in the Florida Legislature.

Since this press conference Ethics Reform Proposal SB 846 was passed by the Florida House State Affairs Committee.

“Integrity Florida applauds our lawmakers for continuing to strengthen our state’s ethics laws,” said Dan Krassner, executive director of the nonpartisan government watchdog group Integrity Florida. “For the second year in a row, the legislature is advancing anti-corruption measures to improve public trust in government. While more work will be needed in the future to take on corruption, lawmakers are moving in the right direction.”

[youtube]http://youtu.be/QZEy1tLV2TU[/youtube]

 

SB 846, as amended by the House State Affairs Committee, would do the following:

  • Allows the Florida Commission on Ethics to independently begin investigations when officials fail to file financial disclosure reports;
  • Requires lobbyist disclosure at the state’s water management districts;
  • Requires ethics training for elected city officials; and
  • Applies some of the state’s ethics code to Enterprise Florida and Citizens Property Insurance.