Russell and Duenes

Archive for January 2011

Obamacare Is About The Survival Of Our Constitutional Republic

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More is at stake in the passage of Obamacare than simply “healthcare.” Our very Constitutional form of government is at stake, and it is a glad relief to see that U.S. judges are seeing it the same way (so far). Federal District Court judge Roger Vinson explained it this way in his recent ruling (State of Florida v. United States Department of Health and Human Services):

It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause. If it has the power to compel an otherwise passive individual into a commercial transaction with a third party merely by asserting — as was done in the Act — that compelling the actual transaction is itself “commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects interstate commerce” [see Act § 1501(a)(1)], it is not hyperbolizing to suggest that Congress could do almost anything it wanted. It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place. If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain for it would be “difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power” [Lopez, supra, 514 U.S. at 564], and we would have a Constitution in name only.

There’s a great summary of Judge Vinson’s ruling here.


HT: National Review Online


Written by Michael Duenes

January 31, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Nulla in Mundo Pax Sincera

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Here is an exquisitely beautiful piece by Antonio Vivaldi, the English translation of which is, “In this world there is no honest peace.” It is featured in the movie, Shine, which is a nice film worth seeing.

Here is the English translation of the piece.


In this world there is no honest peace
free from bitterness; pure and true
peace, sweet Jesus, lies in Thee.

Amidst punishment and torment
lives the contented soul,
chaste love its only hope.


This world deceives the eye by surface charms,
but is corroded within by hidden wounds.
Let us flee him who smiles, shun him who follows us,
for by skilfully displaying its pleasures, this world
overwhelms us by deceit.


The serpent’s hiss conceals its venom,
as it uncoils itself
among blossoms and beauty.
But with a furtive touch of the lips,
a man maddened by love
will often kiss as if licking honey.


Written by Michael Duenes

January 29, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Duenes, Music

When God Is Determined to Judge

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God has said to us, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” God tells us again and again, “I am gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Again and again God is patient with us. So how deep must our offense run for God to finally say,

“As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you” (Jer.7:16)

“Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble” (Jer.11:14)

“The LORD said to me: ‘Do not pray for the welfare of this people'” (Jer.14:11)

“For thus says the LORD: Do not enter the house of mourning, or go to lament or grieve for them, for I have taken away my peace from this people, my steadfast love and mercy, declares the LORD” (Jer.16:5)

Dear Lord, let us let release the death-grip we have upon our idols, before you should say to us, “Do not pray for this people.”


Written by Michael Duenes

January 28, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

Should We Do Away With All Governmental Regulation of Marriage?

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An idea that is starting to gain legs is the one that says that government should get out of the marriage regulation business and let all matters of matrimony be handled by private institutions and authorities. It has a certain surface appeal to it, what with all the different visions of what marriage actually is being bandied about. Why not just get the government out of the whole business and let people form whatever kinds of relationships they want, which they may also call “marriage” if they want? The government won’t referee any of it and so the recent conflagrations over same-sex marriage and such will die away. Or so the argument goes.

Yet Robert George, one of the leading voices contending for traditional marriage today, along with Sherif Girgis and Ryan T. Anderson, have written a thorough and well-documented piece in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy entitled What Is Marriage? Among other things, they argue that attempts to stop government from regulating marriage are naive at best and ruinous at worst (Frankly, it is both). They correctly note,

Marriage should command our attention and energy more than many other moral causes because so many dimensions of the common good are damaged if the moral truth about marriage is obscured. For the same reason, bypassing the current debate by abolishing marriage law entirely would be imprudent in the extreme. Almost no society that has left us a trace of itself has done without some regulation of sexual relationships…The wellbeing of children gives us powerful prudential reasons to recognize and protect marriage legally. (p.265)

There is simply no way to “get the government out of marriage” without tremendous fallout. Without any role for the state in regulating marriage, people will inevitably conclude that one man – one woman marriages are not very valuable and need not be encouraged. But they surely are valuable, and having the law behind them will encourage their formation; a necessity for civilization, as it turns out. As George, et al point out:

Societies rely on families, built on strong marriages, to produce what they need but cannot form on their own: upright, decent people who make for reasonably conscientious, law‐abiding citizens. (p.270, emphasis mine)

Further, the government cannot simply bow out of the marriage regulation business, as divorces will still have to be adjudicated, for there will inevitably be disputes over marital unfaithfulness, assets, and custody of children. The state will have to involve itself in disentangling the mess after traditional marriage has been thus dismantled. This is why the libertarian argument fails. For a true libertarian would surely want less governmental intrusion into our private lives, but the de-regulation of marriage would in fact lead to more of it. A point that the authors make well:

Although some libertarians propose to “privatize” marriage, treating marriages the way we treat baptisms and bar mitzvahs, supporters of limited government should recognize that marriage privatization would be a catastrophe for limited government. In the absence of a flourishing marriage culture, families often fail to form, or to achieve and maintain stability. As absentee fathers and out‐of‐wedlock births become common, a train of social pathologies follows. Naturally, the demand for governmental policing and social services grows. According to a Brookings Institute study, $229 billion in welfare expenditures between 1970 and 1996 can be attributed to the breakdown of the marriage culture and the resulting exacerbation of social ills: teen pregnancy, poverty, crime, drug abuse, and health problems. Sociologists David Popenoe and Alan Wolfe have conducted research on Scandinavian countries that supports the conclusion that as marriage culture declines, state spending rises. (p.270, emphasis mine)

Christians are not anti-government. Rather, we seek a proper role for government; one which protects the righteous, convicts and punishes the evildoer, and plays a supporting role in encouraging virtuous living. To this end, What Is Marriage? makes a valuable contribution. I heartily commend it for your thoughtful consideration.


Written by Michael Duenes

January 27, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Posted in Duenes, Marriage

The “It’s Not Hurting Anyone Else” Standard

with 5 comments

We are often told today that if same-sex marriage becomes a reality, it won’t really change things all that much. It certainly won’t threaten my hetero-sexual relationship nor change the nature of my marriage, so why not let people do what they want?

We tend to live by the pervasive trope that “as long as it’s between consenting adults and is not hurting anyone else” then we should just live and let live. But the “it’s not hurting anyone else” standard is an illusion. There is no such thing as a private action by any individual which will not affect others, and indeed hurt them if it is a sinful private action. Bill Clinton’s sexual dalliance with Monica Lewinsky hurt an entire nation, and frankly, is still hurting it in ways we’re not aware of on the surface. Can one do what Mr. Clinton did and not weaken the office of the President?  The private decisions I make every day affect many people around me, often without my knowing it, because each private decision and action lends to the formation of my character, for good or for ill, and my character will be reflected in my many relationships, for good or for ill. The same would be true for same-sex marriage. As Jennifer Roeback Morse concludes so well in her piece, Marching on the Right Side of History,

As acceptance of gender-neutral marriage spreads throughout society, some same sex couples will not be “gay:” they will be forming same sex unions of convenience. And even among the gays and lesbians who marry, not all of them will be the most committed ideologues. Some will just want to live the ordinary lives that advocates of same sex marriage have been promising them. But biology will assert itself. Children with father-hunger will start to speak up. Young people will start to notice that some of the differences between men and women actually matter. Mothers in same sex unions will start to notice that raising sons without fathers is harder than they had been led to believe. Suppressing all these feelings in all these people will simply not be possible indefinitely. Not everyone will remain silent. Abortion advocates never anticipated the Silent No More campaign, wherein women suffering the after-effects of their abortions began to speak up. As time marches on, the brutality of the marriage “equality” regime will become just as obvious as the brutality of the abortion regime is today. The children themselves will eventually have something to say about all this. Today, the energy and enthusiasm of the young is on the side of life. And in spite of everything we hear today, the same will be true of natural marriage. Conjugal marriage is the Right Side of History.

You can read her entire piece here.


Written by Michael Duenes

January 26, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Posted in Duenes, Ethics, Marriage