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Mike Pence: A Suggested Statement for Withdrawing as Republican Vice-Presidential Candidate

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I don’t know a whole lot about Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s current running mate, but best I can tell, he considers himself a genuine follower of Jesus. I’ll assume he is.

In that case, he should never have agreed to joining the Republican ticket in the first place. In my view he has tarnished his name in doing so, and must be experiencing a good deal of cognitive and moral dissonance in trying to defend an indefensible man. This means that, should the Republican party somehow (can’t imagine how) get Trump removed as the Republican candidate, Pence is not worthy to be Trump’s replacement. He has already disqualified himself by running alongside Trump.

In that light, I believe Pence has only one proper course of action, which he should take this very day. He should get himself a press conference and announce his withdrawal as the Republican vice-presidential candidate. And he might say something along these lines:

I come before you to announce that I am withdrawing as Donald Trump’s running mate. Unfortunately, I am just now coming to my senses, and it is clear, to use biblical terms, that I need to repent in dust and ashes, as it were. I intend to do so now, sincerely and wholeheartedly. The truth is, I should never have agreed to join the Trump ticket in the first place. I was wrong to do so, and in my heart of hearts, I knew it was wrong. I knew Donald Trump’s character, and I knew that defending him was a spiritual compromise on my part. I cannot go on denigrating my Lord and Savior by standing beside Mr. Trump, politically or otherwise. I understand that in withdrawing, I have probably brought my political career to an end, but that is not half so disheartening as to think of how I would make a continual hash of my soul by continuing to stay on the Republican ticket. Jesus has taken care of me with great generosity all of my life, and He will continue to do so, whatever the future holds for me and my family. I will go on trusting Jesus, humbly and in repentance and gratitude. And for that reason, I am no longer the Republic vice-presidential candidate. Thank you. 


Written by Michael Duenes

October 9, 2016 at 5:58 am

A Brief Response to Rod Dreher on the Kim Davis Case: Updated

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Rod Dreher wrote a blog post entitled, The Complicated Kim Davis Case. It’s worth reading. I typically love whatever Dreher writes, and usually find myself in substantial agreement with him. I agree with much of what he says here, but I’ve reprinted almost all of his post so that I can respond to it point-by-point. His words are in italics below.

I have some questions for both sides in the case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk refusing to issue marriage licenses because licensing same-sex couples would violate her religious beliefs. For the record, I agree with the moral and religious stance Davis, a registered Democrat, is taking, but believe that as an officer of the state charged with upholding the law, she ought to resign her position if she cannot fulfill her duties.

As I said in a previous post, I’m not entirely convinced Davis ought to resign. It seems to me there are other options. First, it is my understanding that it’s possible for the state to put someone else’s name on the marriage licenses besides Kim Davis’ name. Christians who work for the government ought not be put in the stark position of having to violate their conscience or quit their jobs when there may be other accommodations possible. But let’s assume that’s not possible, or wouldn’t satisfy Davis. I think it is preferable for Davis to make the state remove her. Make them enforce their own lawless edicts, as Douglas Wilson says.

But the case is more complicated than partisans on both sides seem to think. Here are a few questions it raises.

1. Let’s say it’s 2005. Davis is the county clerk in a liberal northern California enclave, and a devout Unitarian Universalist who believes it is unjust to deny marriage to same-sex couples. She says her office will refuse to issue marriage licenses for anybody until the state recognizes the right of gays to marriage, and she claims religious liberty protections. Is she right?

I don’t believe she’s right, but I think I would take the same view. She should be removed from the situation, either having her name removed so that others can perform the required duty, or removed from her job by the state of California or a judge.

2. Let’s say the US Supreme Court rules in favor of the religious liberty rights of a conservative Christian plaintiff, and orders a local government office to cease its discrimination. The officer refuses, saying to obey the court would violate her religious freedom. Is she right?

Same answer, essentially.

3. Let’s stipulate that just because something is legal does not make it morally right, and let’s further stipulate that for religious believers, God’s law is more important than man’s law. (This is why I think Davis should resign rather than obey what she considers to be a seriously immoral law.) What would happen to law and order if all government officials — not private individuals, but government officials — reserved to themselves the right to obey the law in the discharge of their duties only insofar as the law was consonant with their religious beliefs? For example, many sincere Christians believe that immigration restriction is immoral. What if officials in the Southwest began refusing to enforce federal immigration law, citing religious liberty?

If Dreher’s advice were followed, we’d have more government officials resigning their jobs, and frankly, I don’t see a problem with that. I have to believe there are more than enough Americans who would be quite willing to do the state’s bidding in whatever the state is currently enforcing. Law and order is not destroyed because a small number, and I think it would be a small number, of people refuse to discharge their job duties on religious conscience grounds. Plus, to use Dreher’s example, we have whole cities refusing to enforce federal immigration law, and apparently a good many Americans don’t have a problem with it nor see it as a threat to law and order (although that doesn’t mean they’re right).

4. I understand the temptation to point to Davis’s four marriages and laugh at her apparent hypocrisy. “Look, the big Christian is a hypocrite!” etc. But how many people realize that her religious conversion was fairly recent, about four years ago?

Dreher said more on this point, but I’m not addressing it here. Suffice it to say, I agree that pointing to Davis’ three marriages before she was a Christian is ridiculous, and further, has nothing to do with the issue at hand. It is merely a way for the priests of the religion of secularism to prop up and defend their false god.

5. Do Christians who think every advance of the secular, pro-gay state must be vigorously resisted not worry about how this approach could hurt us in the long term? I’m thinking about Doug Wilson, who writes, in part:

First, whenever we get to that elusive and ever-receding “hill to die on,” we will discover, upon our arrival there, that it only looked like a hill to die on from a distance. Up close, when the possible dying is also up close, it kind of looks like every other hill. All of a sudden it looks like a hill to stay alive on, covered over with topsoil that looks suspiciously like common ground.

So it turns out that surrendering hills is not the best way to train for defending the most important ones. Retreat is habit-forming.

He’s objecting to my statement that Christians are going to have to fight some tough battles ahead, and that Davis has chosen the wrong hill to die on. Here’s why he feels so strongly about supporting Davis:

The point here is not just private conscience. The right to liberty of conscience is at play with florists, bakers, and so on. But Kim Davis is not just keeping herself from sinning, she is preventing Rowan County from sinning. That is part of her job.

Every Christian elected official should be determining, within the scope of their duties, which lines they will not allow the state to cross. When they come to that line, they should refuse to cross it because “this is against the law of God.” They should do this as part of their official responsibilities. This is part of their job. It is one of the things they swear to do when they take office.

It’s very difficult to see what actions today will “hurt us in the long run.” I can see that bowing to the state’s lawlessness and immorality will also hurt us in the long run. I would argue that the advance of the secular, pro-gay state must indeed be resisted at all times. It’s in high rebellion against God. The question is: How must it be resisted? Preaching the gospel is an act of resistance in itself. That is part of the nature of the gospel. Further, the gospel has many applications which will constitute resistance to the secular state. If we don’t die on this hill, as Dreher suggests, what hills should we die on? And what’s Dreher’s criteria for determining which hills are which?

DUENES UPDATE: Dreher has since written:

So, if Kim Davis isn’t a hill to die on, what is? It’s a fair question. Broadly speaking, my answer is this: when they start trying to tell us how to run our own religious institutions — churches, schools, hospitals, and the like — and trying to close them or otherwise destroy them for refusing to accept LGBT ideology. This is a bright red line — and it’s a fight in which we might yet win  meaningful victories, given the strong precedents in constitutional jurisprudence.

I’ll briefly say this in response: (1) It seems to me there are already attempts being made to tell us how to run our own religious institutions because our institutions still have some virility left in them; and (2) Dreher’s argument here, in my view, marginalizes the church to an unacceptable degree. It contributes to the distinction already being made wherein “secularism” and its attendant scientism is viewed as “reality” and “fact based” and so forth, and religion is viewed as “your opinion” or “like a hobby, that is, nice for you, but of no consequence to anything important in life.” I think the secular culture would be happy to let us run our own institutions once they are sufficiently neutered so as not to require them to give us any thought. Once we reach that level of irrelevancy, the battle’s over. There’s no hill any longer, so to speak. No one needs to try and close the local Unitarian Universalist church because it is of no consequence. It’s not worth expending any energy over. The same would become true or our Christian institutions. I think Dreher is drawing the noose around Christianity’s neck too tightly.

So Christians have to protect the democratic state against itself? Besides, if the Christian official is a strictly traditionalist Roman Catholic who believes in Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors, which, if he followed Doug Wilson’s advice, would put Calvinists like Doug Wilson in a very bad position vis-à-vis the state. I suppose Wilson might deny that the traditionalist Catholic is actually a Christian, but that being the case, good luck trying to convince the rest of the country that it ought to be ruled only by the standards of Calvinists.

Wilson’s point is an interesting one. I would hope that the Average Joe Christian government worker would see it as his or her duty to keep the state from sinning, insofar as possible. In other words, if I work for the government and have influence in a particular policy arena where I believe the government is sinning, I would want to advocate for a non-sinful policy. If my daily duties allow me to carry out the government’s program in a way that’s non-sinful, when a sinful way is also possible, I should opt for the former. I doubt Dreher is saying that all Christians in government should just go along with every vice of the democratic state because we have no duty to “protect the democratic state against itself.” But I see the difficulty he raises, particularly with the Catholic/Protestant divide. Which theological position should we be protecting the state from? A thorny matter indeed.

Wilson says that he wants massive disobedience of the law by Christian state officials regarding enforcing same-sex marriage laws, and in turn for the state to have to fire those officials:

Some might ask what the good in that would be. Wouldn’t it just result in no Christians in such positions? Perhaps, but it would be far better to have godless results enforced by the godless than to insist that the godly do it for them. It would be far better to have the “no Christians in power results” when it was actually the case that no Christians were in power. I would rather have non-Christian clerks acting like non-Christian clerks than to have Christian clerks do it for them. I mean, right?

Don’t tell believers to stay engaged so that they can make a difference, and then, when they start making a difference, tell them that this is not a hill to die on.

I might be wrong, but Wilson seems to be of the opinion that obstreperousness is next to godliness. He is advocating here that Christian officials, in the words Robert Bolt gave to Sir Thomas More, “cut a great road through the law to get to the devil”:

What would Christians do when the law protects their liberty, but Social Justice Warriors in local government refuse to obey the law, citing a higher law?

I don’t know that Wilson is advocating “obstreperousness.” He is not saying that one ought to be “noisy” about his resistance, or “difficult to control.” That said, it looks to me like a lot of the Civil Rights resisters in the 1960s fit the definition of “obstreperous,” and we don’t have a problem with that.

But leaving that aside, isn’t Dreher’s hypothetical already a reality? Don’t we now, right this minute, have a Constitution and many lesser statutes which protect Christian liberty and a bunch of social justice warriors in the government who refuse to obey these laws? The only difference is, these leftists shamefully cite their own adherence to the Constitution as though they weren’t mangling and misapplying it.

I’ll say it again: if Davis, a state official, believes that obeying man’s law is contrary to God’s law, she should resign. To live by the principle that Christians in government are not obliged to obey the law in the discharge of their official duties is a very dangerous one to take for Christians. Traditionalist, orthodox Christians are a minority in this country, and are going to become ever more despised. The day is coming when the only protection many of us can rely on is the law, and the willingness of government officers to obey the law, even though they hate us. 

So I have a question for Dreher on this one: Once Christians reach this greater state of contempt and detestableness in our nation – towards which we are currently advancing – which laws does he imagine we will be able to rely on for our protection? Does he imagine the social justice warriors will be enacting and enforcing principled laws that protect Christians? As I said, the laws are already breaking against us. See for example, here.

The Constitution is being interpreted by the likes of our Supreme Court justices in a way that it hostile to biblical Christianity. Who are the secularists who are going to somehow find within their secularism objective principles of justice, righteousness and fairness so that they might consistently uphold these laws in favor of Christians? Government officials have already shown themselves quite unwilling to obey the law. Where were the government officials to uphold Prop 8 in California? What about the government officials who are dying to uphold the RFRA laws? This is my biggest problem with what Dreher is saying here. He assumes that once the secular, pro-gay state has gained sufficient power, it will hold itself under some higher authority by which it must “obey the law” in favor of Christians, “even though they hate us.” I think we’re already seeing that many officials who “hate us” are quite willing to use the law as a cudgel with which to bludgeon us. After all, does any Christian really think that fining a couple of Christian bakers $130,000 for refusing to make a cake for a gay wedding is “protecting” Christians? I don’t see Dreher’s scenario playing out.

And so, my final question:

6. Is the principle that the More of Bolt’s play powerfully elucidates really something we can afford to take lightly?

I haven’t seen Bolt’s play, so I can’t answer, but I’m guessing I’ve addressed it above.

UPDATE: I ought to have said that yes, there are other considerations in play when a Christian is, say, an official of the Nazi state. I believe it would be heroic if the Christian used her position to undermine the state. Wilson brings up the Nazi example, and also cannibalism. I do not think it is helpful to clear, prudent thinking about the proper relationship of Christian government officials to the law to invoke the most extreme possible examples. We are not living under Nazi totalitarianism. Jews are not being shipped to ovens on the orders of the government. To behave as if the stakes were really that high in the case of gay marriage in the USA is to seriously distort things. I believe Obergefell was an unrighteous decision, one that is going to have serious and deleterious long-term consequences. It’s not the Nuremberg Laws.

I find Dreher’s thought here problematic because it puts the Nazi example out of bounds in any kind of argumentation. The same thing happens when people appeal to the Soviet Union. We’re constantly being told that the example of Nazism or the Soviet Union doesn’t apply because, well, these regimes were so bad that they are beyond the pale of making any fair comparisons. But I object to this strongly. There are reasons these regimes came about. There were historical decisions and actions that led up to them. They did not just magically appear on the human scene. Wilson invoked Nazism because these days, the “extreme example” is about the only way for one to get his point across in these matters.

Of course, we are not living under Nazi totalitarianism, but my question is: At what point, short of sending people to ovens again, are we justified in invoking the Nazi example? And how does one assess when we’ve reached the critical points? I understand that Dreher did not mean to address this question in his blog post, but he raises it like it’s self-evident. At what point, under what cultural conditions, will the “stakes be really that high?” Dreher’s post provides no inkling of an answer, and the questions I’m posing here really are important ones.

Further, Wilson was not invoking Nazism to demonstrate that the gay marriage issue is the same as Nazism. That was not his point. He was simply analogizing for clarity’s sake. No fair-minded person thinks Obergefell is tantamount to the Nuremburg Laws, but must we wait until we have Nuremburg Laws, or something just short of them, to decide upon a course of serious resistance?


Written by Michael Duenes

September 6, 2015 at 6:36 am

The Butchers of ISIS and You Face the Exact Same Fate After Death . . . Deal With That!

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I haven’t written anything in more than two months, for various reasons, but I felt compelled to say something while I have a free moment today.

ISIS continues to rape innocent girls and women (and likely men and boys) brutally and mercilessly, while beheading others, making war, committing mass murder, recruiting people to their regime and leaving tens of thousands in squalor and poverty. The “leadership” of North Korea continues to run a prison police state, oppressing and impoverishing millions, denying its citizens even basic human goods, summarily executing people who have committed no crimes, and threatening war against non-aggressor nations. China’s dictators still ruthlessly suppress, beat, maim, and imprison Christians and other religious people. They also continue their “one child policy,” which, in practical terms, means they condemn millions upon millions of mostly unborn girls to death, and deny millions of men future wives, creating a demographic catastrophe. The citizens of the United States, legally mind you, continue to carry out a systematic genocide against black Americans in particular and all Americans in general, having killed over 50 million of their own citizens in the name of “choice” and “sexual freedom.” Our hands are stained with the blood of unborn generations.

And these are but a few, a very few, of the regimes and nations around the world who, at this moment, engage in large-scale and routine execution, oppression, racist discrimination, imprisonment, rape, warfare and impoverishment of human beings, not to mention the well-known historical examples of such actions. Doubtless you could think of many others and their practical actions without too much effort.

Cursory attention to the world around us also brings to mind people who would cut open babies’ faces in order to extract their brains for trade, people who would do all in their power to explain this away, who bully and belittle gay people for fun, who rape and murder others for drugs, turf, car stereos, respect, shoes, out of jealousy or because they simply don’t like the look of them. It includes people who beat their wives and girlfriends and molest their children as a matter of course, who subscribe to websites so they can find others with whom to commit adultery (ruining whole families), who embezzle others’ honestly-earned money, who discriminate against others simply because of how they look, who steal others’ property for political gain, who knowingly slander others to the ruin of their reputations and careers, who utterly neglect their children or spouses for personal gain, who accept bribes and kickbacks, who defraud others (e.g., Enron) to the destruction of their innocent employees’ careers and life savings, who kidnap children to hold for ransom, who vent their anger toward others or simply undermine them in subtle ways . . . and the list could go on at length.

But why mention all this, when we mostly – at least where I live – get to ignore it? Charles Darwin and his progeny tell us that we human beings are simply physical creatures who happen to be here by random chance and mutation, with no purpose or meaning, and with no life after death. We are born by accident, die, and turn into manure. And this is the official teaching of our government and public schools and the culturally dominant narrative and worldview in the western world about reality.

But what does it mean, if it’s true? It means at least what John Lennon says it means: “No hell below us, above us only sky. ” It means there is no justice in front of anyone involved in the parade of horribles listed above, a parade which uncovers only a very small fraction of the grave injustices we do to each others, large and small, each day.

But do any significant number of people live as if this is true, as if the grizzly ghouls of ISIS who intentionally and quite happily rape, dismember and slaughter innocent others with an arrogant and high hand, should pay nothing for their actions, and at their death, should come to merely the same end as everyone else, by virtue of the fact that their raping and killing was merely a matter of what their accidentally mutated genes programmed them to do?

I couldn’t help pondering today, as I tried to think in a somewhat unsentimental way about the real world around me, filled with wickedness, pain and death, that the Darwinian narrative must be false, simply on these grounds alone, whatever else it might have to commend it.


Written by Michael Duenes

August 29, 2015 at 2:05 pm

Will They Now “Save Themselves for Marriage?”

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Peter Leithart, who contributes regularly to Touchstone magazine, wrote a thoughtful piece in First Things, entitled, “The Failure of Gay Marriage.” He argues that the nature of the gay marriage project, a project not given to the norms of true marriage, has sown the seeds of its own irrelevance and failure among gays. Indeed, on a broad scale gays have never had any intention of taking on values such as virginity and chastity prior to or within marriage.

In keeping with this point, the line in the article that grabbed me is a quote from Sam Shulman: “I am not aware of any gay marriage activist who suggests that gay men and women should create a new category of disapproval for their own sexual relationships, after so recently having been freed from the onerous and bigoted legal blight on homosexual acts. . . [D]eclaring gay marriage legal will not produce the habit of saving oneself for marriage or create a culture which places a value on virginity or chastity (concepts that are frequently mocked in gay culture precisely because they are so irrelevant to gay romantic life).”

This is a potent assertion, and points to the reality that achieving the legalization of gay “marriage” has never really been about marriage or adhering to a traditional marriage culture. It’s been about forcing a certain social and sexual culture on our people and nation, a culture that has been destructive of, and will now more forcefully eat away at, true marriage. As Shulman intimates, it’s simply unimaginable to think of oneself hearing a male homosexual talk of “waiting until marriage.”

I believe Leithart’s piece also puts the lie to the oft-repeated trope that legalizing gay marriage won’t have any effect on true heterosexual marriage. As the line goes, I’m already happily married to a woman, so what harm will be done to my marriage if Bill next door marries Joe? And so what if gay marriage does not entail virtues like fidelity, chastity, sexual purity and the establishment of kinship ties? Surely that’s not going to cause heterosexuals to abandon marriage, is it?

But this misses the point entirely. It’s not that my heterosexual marriage will suddenly fall apart upon the legalization of gay marriage. Harm to an institution does not work that way. Rather, as Leithart says, “[t]he irrelevance of marriage to gay people will create a series of perfectly reasonable, perfectly unanswerable questions: If gays can aim at marriage, yet do without it equally well, who are we to demand it of one another? Who are women to demand it of men? Who are parents to demand it of their children’s lovers—or to prohibit their children from taking lovers until parents decide arbitrarily they are ‘mature’ or ‘ready’? By what right can government demand that citizens obey arbitrary and culturally specific kinship rules—rules about incest and the age of consent, rules that limit marriage to twosomes?”

This is how marriage will be further weakened and debased by gay marriage. This is how human flourishing in our nation will suffer another blow. It’s not the only blow, of course, and Leithart concludes that it is not even the main one. The legalization of gay marriage will simply exacerbate the almost incalculable damage heterosexuals have done to marriage in the first place.


Written by Michael Duenes

April 22, 2015 at 7:28 pm

Posted in Duenes, Ethics, Marriage

Lyndon Johnson…The Best and the Worst

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LBJHistorian Paul Johnson says, correctly, “There was a dark side to [Lyndon] Johnson. He was unscrupulous.” That’s putting is mildly, depending on who you ask. As I’ve said before, I’m intrigued by Johnson because he is at turns inspiring and repulsive. I found myself very agitated today at Johnson’s mafia-like corruption when it came to the press. We are too often reminded of president Nixon’s relationship with the press, but I’m guessing Lyndon Johnson’s despicable stance toward the press doesn’t make too many high school history textbooks.

Shortly after becoming president, Johnson, who was almost surely headed for scandal had not Kennedy been killed, decided he did not like a certain reporter, Margaret Mayer, snooping around his broadcasting interests. So he arranged to have her shut up by letting the higher ups at the reporter’s paper know that he could arrange to bring the power of the federal government against not only the paper, but against them personally (you know, look into your tax records a bit, or some such). As Robert Caro puts it, Johnson wanted the reporter told by her bosses: “We don’t want to spend all of our time inquiring into matters that’s none of our business. They might be inquiring into some of our affairs that are their business.” Hence, according to Caro, “stopping Margaret Mayer had been easy.”

Worse, Johnson wanted a written guarantee, and got it, from the Houston Chronicle, stating that the paper would give him unqualified support no matter what policies Johnson advocated. (Caro wrongly dubbed this a “Texas journalistic enterprise.” Ah no, it was corrupt strong-arming, pure and simple). How did Johnson get such a guarantee? He told the Chronicle’s president, John T. Jones Jr., that he couldn’t have a bank merger he wanted unless the Chronicle pledged its unqualified support for Johnson throughout his entire public life. Johnson held the cards because the merger could not get approval from the Federal Reserve and Justice Department without Johnson’s nod. I suppose Jones could have stood his ground and been willing to lose his merger for the sake of journalistic integrity, but he didn’t. So much for “speaking truth to power.” I am under no illusions that Johnson was unique in using the power of the State to manipulate and coerce people into doing his will, but it’s obscene and reprehensible nonetheless. Here we see examples of some of the worst of Johnson’s power-mongering.

By contrast, on the inspiring end of things, I find myself drawn to emulate Johnson in his ability to persuade people and get things done. I’m not a pragmatist by nature, but I am coming to see the value of developing relationships such that important work can be accomplished. Johnson had a real gift for understanding people, what they wanted and needed, and how he could take that knowledge and use it to accomplish his ends. Now I disagree with many of his ends, but I think one could learn many lessons from Johnson, as I am, about how to accomplish good aims by persuading people to your cause and offering helpful compromises and trade-offs. And Johnson was decisive, too, in many situations. I admire that. He came into situations with a desire and ability to move things forward.

I find myself wanting to act more decisively, to blow off the fog of ambiguity, whether at my job or in my home life with my wife and children. I want to work with people and be proactive with them in getting valuable things done and making my contexts better. Johnson has been helpful in encouraging me toward this end.

So perhaps you see why I enjoy learning about president Johnson. His sins and virtues seem to come forth in bold relief, and I find this engrossing.


Written by Michael Duenes

April 9, 2015 at 9:32 pm