Sunday, September 25, 2011

Presbyterian minister talks about difference between government and partisan politics; says rich must do more, and supports gun control

Sunday, Sept. 25, Dr. James Atwood spoke at the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA about “Government: God’s Gift, or a Problem”?,  referring to Romans 13:1-7 and I Peter 2:13-17.  Dr. Atwood is Pastor Emeritus for the Church.

Dr. Atwood focused, in his address, on the difference between effective government, which he says is necessary, and partisan politics, which he says is now seriously undermining the economy and jeopardizing national security.  His remarks followed a theme often heard on CNN on Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square, where Fareed has noted that our political system may become totally unworkable, and where he has suggested a constitutional convention and conversion to a parliamentary form of government. (As I noted, some friends of mine in NYC have made fun of the system in musical works, proposing a “Timocracy”, or benevolent dictatorship, just to get anything done. Well, that sounds like how Facebook gets changed, to affect the lives of all of us!)

Standard and Poors reduced the US credit rating to AA+ because of its concern over inherent gridlock in our system. Again, a government shutdown is threatened for Sept. 30.

Atwood gave a brief history of the American Revolution (in front of quite a few high school students, who certainly, in church now, can learn a second view of their American history and government before taking on the SAT’s and SOL’s). He said that it had been a “Presbyterian Revolution”, with checks and balances built in because of Calvinist distrust of placing too much power in one person or group (eg, rejection of potential “Timocracy”).   Calvinism is itself controversial, because it seems to view individuals’ own worth as preordained by God, and not susceptible to better opportunity, as is supposed to be offered by American style capitalism.

He said that some government is necessary, because individuals, families, or small communities cannot do everything for themselves, like defending against foreign invaders or perhaps threats like pandemics or asteroids.  He supported the idea of social security and moderately run universal health care systems, including Medicare and probably mandatory insurance like that in Massachusetts or (in time) “Obamacare”.
He said that Biblical principles suggest that those who have the most contribute the most to the common good, at least partly through taxes.  The New Testament is quite clear on the idea that you pay your taxes.

He discusses the danger of privately armed militia around the country (as was the case with the Michigan Militia that influenced Timothy McVeigh)  and also mentioned that in the southwest people were arming themselves because the federal government (AZ governor Jan Brewer notwithstanding) could not control illegal immigration.

He suggested that some in the Tea Party (Michele Bachmann wasn't mentioned by name) were extremists who would destroy our country just to rebuild a quasi-fascist world according to their own ideology. 

Dr. Atwood has lobbied for assault weapons and even small arms control, as noted in this link. He has an organization dedicated to ending gun violence called "Heeding God's Call" here.

The church says that it started a Sunday School class today on the First Amendment and Faith.

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