Letting God Sweat the Small Stuff,
Why Christians Should Vote For Ron Paul
by Mark Sunwall: Arctic
of the standard Ron Paul stories picked up by the mainstream media
and repeated ad nauseum is his reputed unpopularity with
self-identified Christians, and Evangelical Protestants in particular.
It is usually stated that fans of Paul (that is Paul of Texas, not
Tarsus) usually chime in at about 15% of the Evangelical demographic.
What the articles don’t point out is that this is about the average
for most other demographics as well, unless you’re talking about
young people and party independents or for that matter "mind
independents" in which case the digits could easily be reversed,
making for a slim majority.
I am wondering is if Paul’s support reaches even as high as 15%
among atheists? And I’m not just talking about your die-hard Stalinist
democratic centralists. Somehow Ron Paul seems to bring out the
mean streak (as if it were hard to bring out) in the followers of
atheist Ayn Rand. This latter is a mystery, and may have something
to with the fact that Paul is a Christian, born into a family which
regularly supplied pastors to the Lutheran church. Or it may have
something to do with copyright violations on naming one’s children…go
Be that as
it may, voting for Ron Paul is a no brainer for any Christian, and
I don’t mean just those who style themselves "Christian libertarians"…albeit
these latter have a noble pedigree going all the way back to John
Lock himself (and no, I don’t mean the spooky character on Lost,
but the authentic article who inspired the Founders). After all,
it’s not fair to box Christians into some sort of air-tight ideological
compartment, since according to the gospel one is supposed to be
accountable to the Spirit rather than the supposed consistency of
if you’ll just bear with me, I’d like to demonstrate how Dr. Paul
is right about the "one big thing" that all Christians,
not to mention right-minded people of any religious persuasion,
should use as their criterion when they walk into an election booth.
Everything else besides that "one big thing" is just small
stuff, and since God is in ultimate control anyway, why not let
him take care of that? In this context "small" doesn’t
mean trivial. In fact it pretty much includes all those gripping
issues which animate the American culture wars. Take for example
the pro-life/pro-choice question. Dr. Paul has expressed his pro-life
convictions in no uncertain terms. But then since all the other
Republican candidates have sported a pro-life stance this is no
special reason to vote for the good doctor…unless experience and
depth of conviction count for something. Furthermore, there isn’t
much a president could do about overturning Roe vs. Wade anyway.
It is the kind of small stuff which will play out in history apart
from the will, for good or ill, of any single elected magistrate.
about the issue of war and peace? Consequential yes, but still small
stuff. You may be a pious pacifist, while I may think that lobbing
daisy cutters down on the turbaned heads of Ayatollahs is exactly
what Jesus would do. But the future is an enigma…and a rather terrifying
one at that. People who try to comfort themselves by deducing concrete
policy from prophecy are surely reading their own prejudices into
the future. For my own part, I find even the past hard to understand
without faith. At least with the past we have eyes to see in the
form of documents, testimony, and collective memory…although any
or all of these may be a source of delusions. Conversely, when we
gaze into the future all we see is a big blind spot. And it’s not
just you and me, poor creatures that we are, but the "big brass,"
the policy wonks, and the so-called intelligence community, who
are blind as well. Of course they have a reputation to protect,
so we are told otherwise. However there is only One who knows the
future, and it is His small stuff to sweat.
now, O right-thinking brethren and sisters, if I haven’t aroused
your indignation at what constitutes "the small stuff"
let me throw down one last gauntlet. What about freedom and slavery?
Consequential yes, but still small stuff. Certainly having libertarian
leaning politicians running for office, either the intrepid Dr.
Paul or someone else, is not sufficient cause to preserve or restore
America’s freedom. In fact, I hate to broach a rather unpleasant
subject, but God makes sure that nations which deserve slavery will
get their tyrant and nations which deserve freedom will get their
liberators. It’s not the pool of wannabe tyrants and/or liberators
(yes, sometimes people are unsure of their career trajectories)
which happens to be the controlling variable in human events. Honestly,
the state of the culture, politically or otherwise, doesn’t seem
to auger well on this point, but it is still a hopeful barometer
that Dr. Paul has come as far as he has. Our freedom or unfreedom
is just another bit of small stuff which will be taken care of for
us provided we cooperate by attaining some degree of clarity on
an even more fundamental matter.
how can I dismiss politicians’ statements on life, peace, and freedom
as secondary issues with little bearing on our preference for a
candidate? Is this some perverse form of fatalism? No, because there
is an issue which is prior to any of this "small stuff"
and which everyone must vote "yea" or "nay"
upon. It’s an issue which, aside from Christians, even commands
the convictions of atheists and other people who reject any notion
that God is taking care of the small stuff. Moreover, in comparison
to the glorious small stuff this issue is so basic as to be anticlimactic.
the question of whether the candidate lies or not.
this issue is settled, and settled clearly, there is no point in
finding out what the candidates are intending to do with your life,
your freedom, world peace, or all that other small stuff. People
of a scholarly ilk, such as Immanuel Kant, Ludwig von Mises and
yours truly have a penchant for using Latin words like a priori
or "the primacy of epistemology over ontology" but let’s
face it, Jesus put it in a nutshell when he declared "I am
the truth…" followed by, "…the way and the life."
He also left us some exceedingly helpful hints as to who the "father
of lies" was, and I trust nobody wants to see that guy’s children
in high office. Or rather, on the more realistic assumption that
they presently occupy high office, they ought to at least be voted
At this point
I have to issue a disclaimer. Nothing is easier to do than to demonize
someone. You don’t even have to be a demon to do it, just an ogre-like
human being with a big rusty axe to grind. Politicians are just
sinners, the same you and me. True, I do fancy that the Pauls of
Tarsus and Texas might be a rung or two above the rest of us in
saintliness, but that’s just idle speculation. Unfortunately Christians
sometimes lack an ability to discern fact from fantasy, the Screwtape
Letters from the screw-ups of mundane existence. Far be
it for me to suggest that even the most corrupt politician wakes
up in the morning to pray "Father of Lies, how may I do thy
bidding?" Of course that’s not how it works.
you may legitimately ask, if that is not how it works then how does
it work? Furthermore, from a practical point of view, what is the
mechanism of deceit which corrupts politics, not just in the ordinary
sense of the corrupt use of power and money, but in the deeper,
and nearly universal sense that politics creates an illusionary
reality detrimental to honest social and economic relations. If
we can obtain a clearer understanding of this mechanism, then we
will have at least a crack at distinguishing the children of the
lie from the men and women of candor. Candid, not perfect, is the
watchword, for even a Christian is just a sinner who admits the
truth. Neither is it a confessional issue, and it seems to me that
Luther struck the right note when he said it would be better to
have an honest Turk than a corrupt Christian as emperor. Of course
it doesn’t follow, as the politically correct of our day would suggest,
that all "Turks" (Luther meant muslims, but they would
cipher it as people belonging to officially sanctioned victim groups)
So on the plausible
assumption that nobody "worships evil"…indeed, the theologians
claim that evil, being a negative, doesn’t even exist…we can infer
that the corruption of politics, like the corruption of an individual,
arises from a kind of perverted love. I suppose there is some consolation
in the thought that the lies of a politician are not motivated by
negativity but by an excess of what might be termed "political
eros." Given that assumption, we can imagine politicians being
engaged in a courtship ritual with their constituency, a ritual
which is called a political campaign. Of course they would like
to be the dominant partner in the relationship, to "sway the
constituency" as it is put. But successful politicians in democratic
countries soon find out what science discovered about nature during
the Renaissance, that to rule over something one must obey it.
Or in political terms, to capture a constituency one must
first capitulate to the interests and prejudices of that constituency.
is what we have seen in the Republican debates, not candidates but
suitors. Whatever the constituency wants the candidates are eager
to endorse…and here "the constituency" doesn’t just mean
the primary voters, but the contributors as well, including the
PACs and the super PACs. During the course of the 2012 Republican
Presidential Primary, Romney, Gingritch, and all the others (except
Paul) have been accused of various inconsistencies, if not wholesale
reinvention of their political persona. But since when is inconsistency
a vice in lovers who try all avenues to gain access to the hearts
and minds of the beloved? In principle, this political eros is no
more complicated than "What do you want me to be?" albeit
the mavens of advertizing, marketing, and crowd psychology claim
to have made it into a science.
to these politically erotic men (and lest we forget, women too,
even though Republican contenders of the fair sex are presently
scorned) Dr. Paul is a decidedly cold fish. This is rather ironic
in light of the Paulist slogan "r3VOLution" yet it may
be that the spelling of the word backward provides a helpful cipher.
After all, Christians have become suspicious, and quite rightly
so, of the bandying about that the L-word (yes, even the old heterosexual
L-word) gets in post-Christian society. C.S. Lewis, with his usual
discernment, notes in his book The
Four Loves that we must submit the claims of love to close
scrutiny for "…just as Lucifer a former arch-angel
perverted himself by pride and fell into depravity, so can love
commonly held to be the arch-emotion become corrupted
by presuming to be what it is not."
question then becomes "Love of what?" Love of power is
too crass an accusation. Rather we should talk of love of empowerment,
which is simply the same thing prefixed. Here the difference, or
rather lack of it, is rather similar to the distinction between
"populism" which smells of the lynch mob, and noble "democracy"…
which just goes to show that, apart from roses, giving something
a different name does change its scent. Indeed, the empowerment
of a constituency may be a beautiful thing to behold, but the Houdini-like
contortions and moral metamorphoses that candidates undergo to obtain
their favor is as ugly as sin, because that’s precisely what it
amazing that at this state of American cultural devolution there
is even one exception to this kind of politics, but Dr. Paul is
on record as saying the following about the function of a libertarian
politicians have an image problem because they won’t give out
free handouts. To defeat this perception, voters need to understand
basic economics so they will know that they are the ones who will
pay for dubious government plans. Thus, limited government politicians
have a tough task: their campaigns must be educational in nature.
Paul, A Life of Ideas p. 70)
are often accused of trying to abolish the political dimension of
social life, but in fact what Paul’s limited government politician
ideally accomplishes is to restore a respect for truth and understanding
to the political process. Paradoxically, it is the anti-free enterprise
conservatives and liberals who treat constituencies as markets where
the supposed iron law of consumer sovereignty prevails. Here "consumer
sovereignty" is just a modern term of art which means the same
as what the Bible calls "serving Mammon." Though people
quip that it was "odd of God to choose the Jews" it is
even odder that the libertarian should be the only candidate to
choose political education over consumer sovereignty!
great deal could be said about this, but at the very least Christians
should note the congruence between the kind of leadership which
is advocated above and the gospel’s insistence on objective truth
which is no respecter of fickle human opinion. And Americans in
general should welcome a restoration of the kind of issue-driven
debate which characterized the American republic in its classical
phase. The best example of this is Abraham Lincoln himself, at least
Lincoln when he was still his early libertarian self, untainted
by executive power. He campaigned vigorously, not because he wanted
to please the people of Illinois, but because wanted to make a point.
He was in love with something as impersonal as a syllogism: All
men are free by nature/ all races are human/ therefore all people
should be free. Now that’s a cold fish! Needless to say his constituencies
paid him back by voting against him more often than not.
Lincoln, Ron Paul, yes, imperfect men to be sure. I’m not convinced,
for example, that Lincoln’s greenback currency was such a great
idea, and there are one or two points where I find myself in disagreement
with the representative from Lake Jackson too. But for those of
us who know that God is sweating the small stuff, unity of mind
on political doctrine is neither necessary nor desirable. What consecrates
a man or woman to political mission is something far more important
than any one partisan plank. It comes down to who is your lover,
the mob or the truth? If the latter, you may keep your soul. If
the former, well, you still may keep it provided only that the mob
remains virtuous and consistent in its opinions.
God is sweating the small stuff then we don’t need candidates who
are right about everything, even in religion, let alone politics.
But we at least need candidates who are honestly struggling to discern
truth from falsehood, and who love something higher than the idolatry
of human opinion. Jesus chose Nathan while he was sitting under
the tree because he was "without guile." In fact Nathan
had all sorts of misconceptions and lacunae in his knowledge, points
which Jesus would have to painstakingly educate him on. But Nathan
had a naïve love of wisdom, as opposed the "wise guy’s"
love of that cunning understanding which allows one to get ahead
in a corrupt world. In short, Nathan, for all his faults, was the
kind of material that Jesus could at least work with.
what the r3VOLution is about, reversing people’s disordered, perverted
perspectives on love. In this case the problem is not sexual love,
but rather the public loves of patriotism, democracy, and politics.
Loves which easily become idolatrous if they aren’t subordinated
to criticism and limitation. Loves who’s "guile" must
be cleansed by exposure to a higher love for truth.
any American wish for more?
any Christian demand less?
Sunwall [send him email]
studied Austrian economics at George Mason University and now teaches
Rhetoric and Social Science at the University of Hyogo. He is an
Adjunct Scholar of the Ludwig von
© 2012 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
Best of Mark Sunwall