Amateur Pontifications


Monday, April 22, 2002




Friday, April 19, 2002
An exchange from the Penninsula Bible Church's Paraclete Forum regarding morality, terrorism, victimization of children, and so forth, prompted by an article by a Canadian professor who probably reads the unexpurgated Grimms Fairy Tales to his kids.

Posted by Erich Walrath (64.1.2.205) on April 10, 2002 at 02:30:20:

Hi Rick,

I came across the following essay on CounterPunch (http://www.counterpunch.org/). Its not the easiest read, given the author’s rather grim take on social ethics. Its also historically flawed. (Indians massacred each other well before the White Man showed up…) I’ve been troubled by this article all day.

I know how I would respond to Michael Neumann. I think that his is an argument for fascism. Its ironic that its posted on a web-site that’s ostensibly on the political Left. Nonetheless, it serves as an interesting jumping off point for discussion. You have a very interesting understanding of social ethics as evidenced by your posts to me on this forum. Apply your moral compass to the following assertions, which underlie Neumann’s argument:

· Different moral codes apply in differing circumstances: national survival trumps moral constraints against murder.

· Cruelty is sometimes justified.

· Justice dictates that the cruelty of those struggling to survive is qualitatively different than the cruelty of those who threaten that survival. (i.e. National self-defense.)

· Nationalism, (in this case Palestinian, but it could just as well be Israeli, or American), is sufficient reason to apply a different moral code.

· There is no such thing as an innocent bystander.

Regards,

Erich

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And Rick's response:

Posted by Rick Young (196.3.48.10) on April 11, 2002 at 02:17:52:

In Reply to: Rick: On Indians and Israelis posted by Erich Walrath on April 10, 2002 at 02:30:20:

Hello Erich,

It seems to me that Michael Neumann's premise is that the Palestinians have been backed into a corner and have had no alternatives but to fight to defend themselves from extinction. This is really not correct. When President Clinton had Barak and Arafat at Camp David in the summer of 2000 for talks, Barak had gone beyond anything that Israel had ever considered before. Israel was willing to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capitol, though Israel still wanted to have jurisdiction over Jerusalem. It was all set before Arafat and yet he rejected it outright. Protests and riots erupted immediately following the 2000 Camp David talks. The Palestinians reacted as if Barak had just issued a decree to send the Palestinians to Nazi death camps. David Shipler, the former New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief in the early 1980s and author of the Pulitzer-prize winning book Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land, described this on PBS's NewsHour (April 9, 2002):

"One of the problems with the Arab world right now is that they seem to have forgotten what Barak offered at Camp David in 2000. It's as if that event never happened. It's been taken away from the historical time line. It's an intellectually dishonest statement to go through all of the litany of Israeli violations and never remind the Palestinians that they turned their backs on an offer, which could have led to a Palestinian state.
Now there may have been problems with that offer, maybe they didn't believe it because when they looked out their windows they saw Israeli settlements continuing to be expanded. There are all kinds of other issues but to simply forget it and imagine that it never happened creates a problem for Israel in terms of Israel's perceptions of whether the Arab world can be dealt with."

So I think that the fundamental premise of Neumann is faulty. The Palestinians are not in danger of being exterminated and never have been. Israel has never had a Nazi-like "Final Solution" for the Palestinians. The Barak offer at Camp David made this evident.

But what about Neumann's justification, which is moral relativism? If moral relativism is true then no one could ever justly criticize anyone for any action for who could say what is right or wrong? Who is Neumann to judge one act as "justifiable" and another act as "not justifiable"? By what standard? But, you see, we all know when certain things are wrong. That is why we can justify international war crime trials such as those at Nuremberg. Was it "right" for the Nazi but "wrong" for the rest of the world? With moral relativism no one can truly judge. Even the moral relativist points to some absolute moral values that are truly absolute.

Now there are certain things that may superficially appear to be morally relative but upon closer examination reveal some distinction. One of these has to do with the ceremonial laws of the Sinai Covenant. Some believe that if God gave a command then it should be complied with the same fervor as any other command He gave. Thus, any command becomes equivalent to the command to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind." But there is a problem here that the Jews were aware of. The problem comes when one law conflicts with another. That is, when a circumstance arises where two laws apply, but it is impossible to comply with one without breaking the other. One may wonder if this is possible under God's given laws. But Jesus addressed this dilemma because of the misunderstanding of what was going on. He explained how some laws take precedence over others. He gave one example with the law of circumcision in John 7:21–24. The Mosaic Law stated that a male baby was to be circumcised on the eighth day. However, the Law also stated that no work was to be done on the Sabbath. Since performing a circumcision was a form of work, what did one do if the day for a child’s circumcision fell on a Sabbath? The answer was that the law concerning circumcision took precedence over the law of refraining from work on the Sabbath. The Jews knew this. Jesus used it to remind them of the principle that some laws took priority over others. Jesus gave several other examples of this principle when He was criticized for working and healing on the Sabbath. He told of how David ate the consecrated bread that was permissible only for the priests to eat (see Matthew 12:1–4). Jesus’ point was that the preservation of life took precedence over the ceremonial law. He then said that the priests worked in the Temple on the Sabbath and yet were blameless (Matthew 12:5). Immediately after giving these examples Jesus proceeded to heal a man on the Sabbath and said, “So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" (Matthew 12:12b). Jesus gave other examples along the same line in Mark 7:1–23. The point of this is to show that ceremonial law was completely secondary to the real spiritual laws. The ceremonial laws were secondary because they were only types and shadows of the substance and reality that lies in Christ alone.

But what about the moral laws? Is there a hierarchy of laws among them as well? For example, is it OK to lie under certain circumstances, like when it appears that a "higher good" will be acomplished? From a Christian perspective we are made in God's image and are supposed to reflect that image accurately. Therefore, if God made us such that morality was relative then how does one know if God is not lying at times to us? One would have to begin to suspect God's so called "promises" as suspect. This blows the whole of Christianity out of the water. We often times rationalize our actions and say "if I had not done this in this case then such-and-such a thing would have happened." But we are to trust that God will honor our reflection of Him:

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil." (Prov 3:5-7)

There are some instances where it may seem that God is employing deception against His enemies. One such instance is in II Kings 3 (see verses 22 & 23 in particular). There God brought water out onto the plain and into trenches that Israel and her allies had dug. Then in the early morning the enemies of Israel came to their own false interpretation: that Israel and her allies had slaughtered one another and the field was covered in their blood (the red morning light reflecting off of the water). But is God really deceiving them? God did not create a falsehood or illusion - it was real water and real morning sun reflecting off of it. The water was also brought there with the intent of quenching the thirst of Israel and her allies. But God of course knew that the enemies of Israel would be deceived by it and allowed them to be. He did not warn them of their error. Did God act unethically here? Well, humans have looked at many things in the world that God has allowed us to come to erroneous conclusions about. Today is no different than any other time as far as that goes. But God's strategy here is to unveil our nature.

So, in conclusion, there is no relativism among God's moral laws. All other laws are derived from them or model them on some level (like the ceremonial laws of the Sinai Covenant).


Rick Young

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And my response to Rick's response:

Posted by Erich Walrath (64.1.3.22) on April 12, 2002 at 20:44:54:

In Reply to: Re: Rick: On Indians and Israelis posted by Rick Young on April 11, 2002 at 02:17:52:

Hi Rick,

This rather extensive response focuses on three elements of your post.

First, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict;
Second, terrorism and the targeting of “soft targets” per Michael Neumann;
Third, the nature of social morality and moral absolutes/hierarchy

1) The Palestinian/Israeli conflict

We’re in agreement on some fundamentals regarding both the nature and origin of moral absolutes, as well as the hierarchy of moral imperatives. We’re in general agreement on the Israeli-Palestinian war, on at least a few of your points. We are also in general agreement on the nature and use of terror. Still, there are some areas that could use clarification. Lets start with some specifics concerning the Barak plan.

The Barak plan was probably the best that he could offer, given the political clout of the Right. Its incorrect to suggest, however, that the plan would lead to a formation of a Palestinian state encompassing the West Bank and Gaza. (In fairness, I’m not certain that you did suggest this, but this is a common misconception about the Barak plan.) In fact, Israel did not offer a plan for Gaza at all, except in the broadest terms. In addition, the West Bank itself was carved into areas of settlement control, Israeli security zones, and a virtually non-contiguous Palestinian statelet encompassing 80% of the West Bank.

The result, per Noam Chomsky, (Z Magazine, 07-27-00) would have been a “Palestinian state (that) would consist of four cantons on the West Bank:
· Jericho,
· the southern canton extending as far as Abu Dis (the new Arab "Jerusalem"),
· a northern canton including the Palestinian cities of Nablus, Jenin, and Tulkarm, and
· a central canton including Ramallah.
The cantons are completely surrounded by territory to be annexed to Israel. The areas of Palestinian population concentration are to be under Palestinian administration, an adaptation of the traditional colonial pattern that is the only sensible outcome as far as Israel and the US are concerned.

The plans for the Gaza Strip, a fifth canton, are uncertain: Israel might relinquish it, or might maintain the southern coastal region and another salient virtually dividing the Strip below Gaza City. “

For their part, Palestinians were asked to release claim on 80 percent of their homeland by recognizing Israel’s right to exist within pre-1967 borders. In addition, they were asked to accommodate Israeli incursion on their territory in the form of the security zones, as well as the annexation of the West Bank settlements. In all, the Palestinians were asked to accept 17% of their former homeland.

All of this is documented in, among other places, a Flashpoint presentation on the Gush-Shalom site. I recommend it to you. Gush-Shalom is self-described as “the hard core of the Israeli peace movement”.)

I agree that this was the best that the Palestinian side could hope for, given the ferocity of the Israeli Right. I further agree that Arafat let his people down by refusing to sign onto the agreement, although, arguably, he was as constrained politically as Barak. However, while I agree that “. It's an intellectually dishonest statement to go through all of the litany of Israeli violations and never remind the Palestinians that they turned their backs on an offer, which could have led to a Palestinian state.” its also an intellectually dishonest statement to point to this refusal as evidence of Palestinian turpitude. All one can say is that the best is often the enemy of the good. This was the best that Barak had to offer. It was not good enough. In any case, the offer is no longer on the table. We now have Sharon.

In any case, your statement: “The Palestinians are not in danger of being exterminated and never have been. Israel has never had a Nazi-like "Final Solution" for the Palestinians. The Barak offer at Camp David made this evident.” Is correct. What they are in danger of is continuing their existence as a subjugated and colonized people.

The Israelis are not Nazis. They are not the equivalent to the Serbs in Bosnia. Nor are they like the Indonesians in East Timor. If they are like anyone, they are similar to the British of the Palestinian Mandate. In that case, of course, the shoe was on the other foot. Instead of talking about suicide bombers, we would be discussing those notorious Zionist terrorists, Irgun, and the Stern Gang

2) Political Terror

This provides a great segue to the subject of terror generally and terror in the service of national survival specifically. Here is Neumann’s thesis: “… [Palestinians] will kill children to prevent the destruction of their society. If peoples have any right of self-preservation, this is justified.”

This statement indicates the author’s own moral hierarchy. The death of children in service of national survival is justified. This sentiment is certainly not unique to the Middle East. Every time a dirty war has been fought, this sentiment has been expressed. This always begs the question as to whether a given society is worth preserving. After all, the argument used by Neumann in defense of Palestinian terror was also used by the French colonialists in Algeria as well as the Death Squads of Central America.

For that matter, the supposition that there are no innocents, and that anything belonging to the enemy, including children, is a legitimate target, under girds the White Separatist movement here in the good ol’ USA. Neumann may wish to acquire a copy of Timothy McViegh’s favorite book “The Turner Diaries” in which entire cities are nuked and genocidal pogroms are carried out in defense of White national survival.

I personally don’t see how one can subscribe to Fascist tactics without eventually becoming a Fascist. The Red Terror of Lenin, a historic tragedy that seamlessly fits Neumann’s proposition - the Bolsheviks faced almost insurmountable odds against an intractable and cruel enemy - leads directly to Stalin. Given their history, from where could the moral opposition against Stalin have arisen?

"Freedom is a bourgeois prejudice. We repudiate all morality which proceeds from supernatural ideas or ideas which are outside the class conception. In our opinion, morality is entirely subordinate to the interests of the class war. Everything is moral which is necessary for the annihilation of the old exploiting order and for uniting the proletariat. Our morality consists solely in close discipline and conscious warfare against the exploiters."
- V.I. Lenin (http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/terror/terror.html)

What it all comes down to, then, is first principles. If the guiding moral precept is the pre-eminence of national survival, then the rest of the moral code is necessarily subject to interpretation in light of national survival. This is a fairly reasonable definition of Fascism. In this regard, all that separates Neumann, or Lenin, from Mussolini, is the spin placed on the term “National Survival”.

In fairness to Neumann, to V. I. Lenin, to Dr. Habash (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - http://www.pflp-pal.org/main.html, those fun loving folks that brought us the 1972 Tel Aviv Airport Massacre), to those lovely folks in Abu Nidal , and, yes, in fairness to his Satanic Majesty – Osama Bin Ladin, we need to remark on the following:

Thus far, you and I have, in fact, addressed only a part of Neumann’s thesis. The terror addressed thus far is that of the politically and militarily weak. Neumann suggests that these constitute a special case and would further indicate that we have ignored social context at cost to our argument. We have not addressed the terror against the weak, as employed by the strong.

We’ve already addresses Israel, and the Barak plan. You and I can see the daily devastation of the Palestinian territories for ourselves. I’m willing to bet that you are not excited about defending Sharon. So lets talk about us. Here. In the US of A.

Rather then recite a litany of the various abuses perpetrated in the name of OUR national survival; we should speak to that part of our national ideology, wherein the morality of actions is entirely to be judged by consequences, particularly in foreign affairs. This is where national purpose intersects with Professor Neumann.

Consider the following exchange:

Lesley Stahl, speaking of US sanctions against Iraq: "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And -- and you know, is the price worth it?"

Madeline Albright, US Secretary of State: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it."
--Madeline Albright, May 12, 1996 statement on "60 Minutes"

Let me repeat to you a passage from your missive with some minor changes:

“But what about Madeline Albright’s justification, which is moral relativism? If moral relativism is true then no one could ever justly criticize anyone for any action for who could say what is right or wrong? Who is Madeline Albright to judge one act as "justifiable" and another act as "not justifiable"? By what standard? But, you see, we all know when certain things are wrong.”

I would absolutely agree with that statement, except in one regard. Unlike Neumann, she was not a mere academic. She was Secretary of State. She spoke for the Government and the People of the United States. She has the authority of her office behind her. So let me ask you: given imperatives of morality, as you understand them, does Romans 13 apply here? Does obedience to authority trump our ability to “justly criticize” our government for this action?

If you reluctantly come to the conclusion that we are constrained against protesting the death of Iraqi children, and given the largely fictional nature of Neumann’s exploding daycare centers, (as opposed to the all to real nature of over 500,000 dead Iraqi children), – can you see Neumann’s point?

We are applying a moral relativism of our own, which accords a higher value to authority then to life. Where do we get off in decrying Neumann’s relativism?

I stated what I perceive to be the Conservative Christian political worldview in an earlier post; I don’t recall any disagreement on your part:

“…there are certain conditions: poverty, war, civil strife, etc. which are preordained. The test is how one endures without resorting to wicked measures such as murder. To extrapolate a bit, God presents us with tests in the socio-political-economic sphere, as well as within the personal realm. Our temptation is to revolt against those authorities that have been mandated by God, yet are the authors of these conditions. Our ability to withstand this temptation to revolt against authority demonstrates our faith. It’s through God’s grace that these conditions change; this is predicated on His ability to transform hearts. It’s through the conversion of the soul and the subsequent transformation of the heart that true social change can occur.”

Contrast that statement with the Christian moral imperative.

3) Moral Imperatives

So what is our response?

When Rabbi Hillel stated "Whatever is hateful to thee, do not unto thy fellow man: this is the whole Law; the rest is mere commentary", he was stating the primary directive of Judaism. When Jesus borrowed that statement from Hillel, and expanded the directive to include love toward God, he laid out the basic moral precept of Christianity. These two precepts: love God; love your neighbor encapsulate the entirety of Jewish, and by extension Christian, ethics.

St. Paul speaks to this as well. The famous “Love Chapter” in 1st Corinthians lays out a series of negative statements regarding the nature of true religion, in order to emphasize and underline the aforementioned moral imperative.

I Cor. 13:1: If I speak with human tongues, and angelic as well, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal.

I Cor. 13:2: If I have the gift of prophecy and, with full knowledge, comprehend all mysteries, if I have faith enough to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

I Cor. 13:3: If I give everything I have to feed the poor and hand over my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Herein are three arenas in which the early Church played, and in which, I dare say, the modern Church continues.

A part of the Church was given to ecstatic and mystical experience, per I Cor. 13:1. Similar, perhaps, to the charismatics of today.

According to I Cor. 13: 2, part of the Church was given to study and to defining correct doctrine. That’s probably a fair description of Peninsula Bible Church.

Part of the Church, the part that I identify with, emphasized humanitarianism and service, as described in I Cor. 13: 3(a). Sounds like the “Liberal” denominations to me.

I Cor. 13:3 (b) speaks to asceticism . Hutterites? Amish?

Interestingly, each of the branches of Christianity, Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Protestantism, have “special interest sections” which deal in mysticism, doctrine, service, and asceticism. Paul says that each of these is equally worthless without love.

Can we therefore posit that, along with Hillel and Jesus, Paul of Tarsus has identified the primary imperative which is behind all other moral obligation? I believe that we can, and that this is the beginning of understanding of the nature of the Kingdom of God.

Its also the beginning of understanding as to how the Kingdom of God is brought to fruition. Instead of saying with Albright: “blessed are the sanctions against Iraqi children”, or with Neumann: “blessed are the bombers of daycare centers”, we can say, with Jesus: “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.”

(We can also say “blessed are the POOR and LOWLY”, as opposed to the successful, beautiful, and rich – but I’ll leave that for another post.)

The point is that God has already come among us. The Kingdom is already here.

“Every boot that trampled in battle, every cloak rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for flames. For a child is born to us, a son is given to us, upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (Is. 9: 4-5)

And the Kingdom, my friend, transcends all. It transcends national survival, national security, foreign policy, domestic policy, national borders.

The Kingdom transcends nations, period. There is no America in the Kingdom, no Palestine, and, with apologies to dispensationalists everywhere, there is no Israel. Its just the Kingdom.

As a Kingdom it has a socio-economic policy, and a foreign policy, and a domestic policy. Collectively, they are called Love of God and Love of Neighbor. Its probably up to us to figure out the ramifications of these policies, but I’ll bet its not to sit by idly when anyone for whom Jesus died is oppressed.

Its not enough to call Professor Neumann wrong. What is our alternative?

Regards,

Erich

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And Rick's ersponse to my response to his response:

Hello Erich,

It all comes down to God's authority. Either one submits to it or not. Peter and Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote that people, including Christians, are to submit to the authority that God has delegated into human governments. We see many such examples in the New Testament where the people of God had, according to the world's standards, a legitimate right to rebel against a government, but they did not. We see in early Christian history that the Christians did not try to undermine the civil authorities, though those civil authorities supported the blood sports where slaves were killed in gladiatorial games for the amusement of the population, infanticide was allowed at the whim of the father, and the Christians were persecuted. The Bible tells us that the Lord is absolutely sovereign over everyone and everything in the Universe at all times. But God has delegated His authority through His creation. We see this demonstrated in things as simple as the physical world as it sustains our life. That is, all life comes from and is sustained by God; but He sustains life by delegating this into the physical environment (air, water, food, sunlight, etc). God has delegated various parts of his creation to maintain life, though He ultimately directs their activities. Jesus summarized our relationship to human authorities well when he was confronted with the question of whether to pay taxes (an appropriate subject considering today is April 15). Jesus said, "give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and to God that which is God's." He did not say "protest by withholding a portion of your taxes that you feel goes to support the blood sports or the military or the oppression of the Gauls."

So it comes down to this. Either we believe God or we don't. Either we believe God is sovereign or we don't. How God uses these human authorities to accomplish His tasks can sometimes be readily understood and at other times they are beyond our ability. But God provides us with cases that we can understand and then calls on us to trust that He is doing similar things in other circumstances that we don't understand. Consequently we are told:

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." (Prov 3:5-6).

God expects us to use the mind He has given us, yet e must realize that we are very limited in our understanding of His mind and thus must ultimately trust in His character. In the movie "The Desperate Hours" with Humphrey Bogart, Bogart plays an escaped convict who takes over the house of a family. In one scene one Bogart is holding the son of the family with a gun to his head. No one but the father knows that the gun is empty. The father tells his son to come to him. Bogart tells him if he does that he will kill the boy. The father tells his son to trust him and come to him. Although the boy is frightened he trusts his father's words and not the circumstances of a gun pointed to his head by a desperate criminal. Bogart pulls the trigger but only a "click, click, click" is heard. His threat did not have any substance behind it and only the father knew it. The son has come to his father and is now safe. We have to trust the word's of our Father who knows more about our situations than we do.

So what about civil disobedience? Peter tells the authorities that "We must obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29). Since the Christian belongs to a different "kingdom" than those of the world does this mean that he is not under their authority and can thumb his nose at civil authorities? Is this what Peter is doing? In a previous posting I referred to Ray Stedman's study of Acts 4:13-31 "When the Establishment is Wrong." Ray goes into the criteria for God sanctioned "civil disobedience" and whether our conscience can be used as the criterion. It is on-line at:

http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/acts/0419.html

Allow me to copy the major pertinent portions here:

----------------------
...
At this point the whole question of civil disobedience comes into view. Here is a clear case of it. These apostles were forbidden by the properly constituted authorities (the establishment, we would call them), to preach in the name of Jesus. The apostles told them to their faces that they would not obey the rule. This incident had been used through the centuries since, and especially in our own day, to justify many activities such as racial strife, draft evasion, violent demonstration, boycotts, strikes, etc. We cannot read this account without the question being raised, and quite properly: Is it right for a Christian to disobey a law because of a conscientious scruple? The clear answer of this account is, "Yes!" There are times when it is necessary, when it is right to disobey properly constituted authority. The establishment can be wrong as well as right.

But it is important also to notice from this account that civil disobedience occurs here only because the conscience of these men rested directly on a clear and unmistakable word of God which contravened the human law. That is most important to notice. The issue is so clear here that Peter actually calls on the rulers to be the judges as to what the apostles should do. He says, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge." You are religious men, he implies, you know which is the higher authority. This issue is so clear that we must choose between one or the other; you tell us, which should we obey, God or you? God or man? The matter was so clear that these authorities cannot say a word. In the face of the evidence, the only thing they could say was, "Obey God rather than us." But they do not want to say that so the only alternative is to threaten and bluster and try to maintain control by the threat of force. They feared the people who were convinced that this was a remarkable sign from God.

Here then are the biblical grounds for civil disobedience. The Scriptures are very clear that governments are given by God. Romans 13:1-7 makes that unmistakable. Paul says there that government authorities are the servants of God. It is instructive to note that the emperor on the throne when Paul wrote those words was none other than Nero, a wicked, vile, and godless man, and one of the worst emperors the Roman empire every had. Yet Paul could write that the governing authorities were the servants of God and those who resist them resist what God has ordained. He acknowledges that governments have certain powers, derived not from the people but from God -- the power to tax, the power to keep law and order, the power to punish evildoing, even to the point of death. The Scriptures make perfectly clear that all this is right and ordained of God, and believers are exhorted to obey the authorities.

From this we can conclude that the human conscience, operating alone, unsupported by a word of revelation, is not enough grounds to disobey the law. The law of man, even bad law, is superior to conscience unless that conscience rests upon a direct word of God. That is what this account makes clear.

"Conscience is not intended to tell us right from wrong. Consciences can be wrong as well as right. In fact, apart from the help of revealed truth, everyone's conscience would be wrong and would lead us all astray. Let me share a quotation from a very clear-thinking writer, H. C. Trumball,

"Conscience is not given to a man to instruct him in the right, but to prompt him to choose the right instead of the wrong when he is instructed as to what is right. It tells a man that he ought to do right, but does not tell him what is right. And if a man has made up his mind that a certain wrong course is the right one, the more he follows his conscience the more hopeless he is as a wrongdoer. One is pretty far gone in an evil way when he serves the devil conscientiously."

The clear instruction of Scripture is that conscience is not to be followed unless it is based upon the Word of God, a clear and unmistakable command of God. When the issue is in doubt, then the law is superior to conscience. It is only when there is a clear-cut case of conflict between the word and will of God, and the word and will of man (as in this case) that conscience is superior to law. But notice now the action of the apostles, and where it is they go for redress and support:

When they were released they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said,
"Sovereign Lord, who didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who by the mouth of our father David, thy servant, didst say by the Holy Spirit,'Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth set themselves in array, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed' -- for truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever thy hand and thy palm had predestined to take place." {Acts 4:23-28 RSV}

These apostles did not go out to organize a revolutionary committee to overthrow the Sanhedrin. They did not even try to arouse a popular march or demonstration. The clear evidence of this passage is that they had popular support. The people were behind them, and the high priests were afraid because the people supported the
apostles. But the apostles do not rely for even one minute upon political or popular pressure. They cast themselves upon the unique resource of the church in any age, which, when it forgets it, becomes nothing more than an instrument of distortion. They cast themselves wholly upon the sovereign power of God at work in history. That is the greatest force to alter a power structure that the world has ever seen. It has been ignored by the church many times and thus Christians have frittered away their efforts in relatively useless activities which make a lot of noise and smoke but never accomplish anything.

The apostles found encouragement in two things: First, the sovereignty of God, his overruling control of human events. The very first word of their prayer recognizes this, "Sovereign Lord." The word in Greek is in the word from which we get our word, despot.

"O Mighty Despot, [Tyrant, Ruler over men], who didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them." God holds the world in the palm of his hand, and is intimately involved in every human event. They found great consolation in that, but I find many Christians have forgotten it. A year or so ago I brought a message on the war in Viet Nam, and spoke of what God was doing in that situation. After the meeting a young man came up to me, livid with rage. He said, "I'm so angry I can hardly contain myself!" I said, "What about?" He replied, "The idea that you suggested, that God is involved in the war in Viet Nam." I asked him, "Are you a Christian?" He said, "Yes, I am. I will admit that the Bible teaches that God involves himself occasionally in human affairs, but he certainly has nothing to do with the war in Viet Nam!"

That is certainly a badly distorted and mistaken concept of history. These disciples had no such idea. They openly recognized that God had even predicted the very opposition they faced. They quoted the second Psalm in support of it. They had clearly been doing what Christians ought to do under pressure: They had gone to the Scriptures. They had found in the second Psalm the prediction of the actual opposition they were facing. The psalm said,

'Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples [the Israelites]imagine vain things? The kings of the earth set themselves in array, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed' -- {Acts 4:25b-26 RSV}

When they read that they said to themselves, "There, that's exactly what has happened. Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the others, the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, have set themselves against the Lord Jesus. We saw it happen right in this very city. It's not surprising, not unexpected; it's exactly what God said would happen." They found great encouragement in the fact that this event was not beyond divine control; the opposition they were facing was anticipated for no human event gets out of hand, as far as God is concerned. He has power to overrule in any situation, and that is what they counted on. They did not try to arouse a popular uprising because that only creates violence -- violence begets violence. But they relied upon a God who works in strange and unusual ways through human events to change them without violence.

This second thing they saw is what we might call, the mystery of history. You can see it in the last sentence of the account. "Herod and Pontius Pilate and the Gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together to do whatever thy hand and thy plan had predestined to take place." Did you get that? In other words, the God of history uses the very opposition to accomplish his purposes! That is what they saw. God worked through the free will of man. These people opposed the plan of God. They tried to thwart God's purposes. They tried to derail his program. But God operates in such a marvelous way that he uses even this opposition to accomplish his will. That is the story of the cross and of the resurrection of Jesus.

*********************************************

: According to I Cor. 13: 2, part of the Church was given to study and to defining correct doctrine. That’s probably a fair description of Peninsula Bible Church.

One may get the wrong impression of PBC from the Paraclete Forum. This Forum is for a particular purpose. Within PBC are some who are concerned with reaching out to the disabled, others to those with unwanted pregnancies, others adopt myriads of children, and on and one. We of the Paraclete Forum have our own area that represents one aspect of PBC's purpose.


- Rick Young

"When the Establishment is Wrong" (Acts 4:13-31)

************************

And more response to my response to his response

Posted by Rick Young (196.3.48.10) on April 15, 2002 at 16:34:10:

In Reply to: Re: Rick: On Indians and Israelis posted by Erich Walrath on April 12, 2002 at 20:44:54:

: Consider the following exchange:

: Lesley Stahl, speaking of US sanctions against Iraq: "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And -- and you know, is the price worth it?"

: Madeline Albright, US Secretary of State: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it."
: --Madeline Albright, May 12, 1996 statement on "60 Minutes"

: Let me repeat to you a passage from your missive with some minor changes:

: "But what about Madeline Albright's justification, which is moral relativism? If moral relativism is true then no one could ever justly criticize anyone for any action for who could say what is right or wrong? Who is Madeline Albright to judge one act as "justifiable" and another act as "not justifiable"? By what standard? But, you see, we all know when certain things are wrong."

: I would absolutely agree with that statement, except in one regard. Unlike Neumann, she was not a mere academic. She was Secretary of State. She spoke for the Government and the People of the United States. She has the authority of her office behind her. So let me ask you: given imperatives of morality, as you understand them, does Romans 13 apply here? Does obedience to authority trump our ability to "justly criticize" our government for this action?

: If you reluctantly come to the conclusion that we are constrained against protesting the death of Iraqi children, and given the largely fictional nature of Neumann's exploding daycare centers, (as opposed to the all to real nature of over 500,000 dead Iraqi children), - can you see Neumann's point?

**************************************************

Part of God's delegation of His authority into humans is that He uses nations to bring about His justice on other nations. In the book of Habakkuk we have the following exchange (paraphrased by me):

Habakkuk: God, why do you let the sin of Judah go unpunished?
God: I'll take care of it. If I told you what I was going to do you wouldn't believe me.
Habakkuk: Go ahead, tell me.
God: OK. I'm going to bring the Babylonians to Judah and they will punish Judah as my instrument.
Habakkuk: What?!? I don't believe it! The Babylonians are even more wicked than Judah. How can You use THEM to punish US?
God: Don't worry, Babylon will be punished as well. Justice will be done and faith will be rewarded.

So, in WWII, for example, the atheist nation of the USSR was used by God to help destroy the Nazi regime. Does this mean that the USA is more wicked than Iraq? Not necessarily. It just illustrates that God is sovereign and uses whomever and whatever He wills to execute His justice in His time. The difference between Israel, when it was used by God to execute His justice on other nations, and the USSR is that Israel knew that God was using them because He told them so and the USSR was oblivious to this fact.

War is justifiable, for we see it done in the Scriptures by Israel with God's direction. And when John the Baptist was confronted with the question about a man of God serving as a soldier we read that,

"Some soldiers were questioning him [John the Baptist], saying, 'And what about us, what shall we do?' And he said to them, 'Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages'"(Luke 3:14).

Note that John did not tell the soldiers to put away their weapons and forsake their duties as soldiers. These soldiers were likely a branch of the Roman auxiliary that consisted of Jews. But then we also see Jesus tell Peter to put away his sword:

"And behold, one of those who were with Jesus [Peter] reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, 'Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?'"( Matt 26:51-53)

So what is the difference between Peter and the soldiers that came to John the Baptist? Peter was acting on his own authority. Even if he acted with the backing of the other apostles it would have made no difference for none of them had the authority to do this. Vigilantism and bands of terrorists are nothing more than outlaws acting outside of God's authority.

So then, is it OK for the US to bomb Iraq or Israel to sweep through the West Bank looking for terrorists because the PA refuses to do so even though there is a chance that innocents, including children, may be killed? How is doing this different than flying a jet fuel laden plane into the WTC or a "suicide-bomber" in a Haifa bus or a Jerusalem restaurant where innocents, including children, are killed? Does the US or Israel have special privileges that others don't have? Governments have been given certain authority, which if abused, they will be held accountable for. But what Neumann is suggesting is that a policeman who happens to kill an innocent bystander while taking out a dangerous gunman randomly shooting people in the street is equivalent to the gunman he is taking out. Even in our judicial system we recognize the difference between manslaughter and first-degree murder. The Mosaic Law also recognized this difference. To go with Neumann we would have to say that accidental death is equivalent to pre-meditated murder.


******************

Even more response et. al.

Posted by Rick Young (196.3.48.10) on April 17, 2002 at 00:31:19:

In Reply to: Re: Rick: On Indians and Israelis posted by Erich Walrath on April 12, 2002 at 20:44:54:

: So let me ask you: given imperatives of morality, as you understand them, does Romans 13 apply here? Does obedience to authority trump our ability to “justly criticize” our government for this action?

: We are applying a moral relativism of our own, which accords a higher value to authority then to life. Where do we get off in decrying Neumann’s relativism?

**********************************

The administration of justice on earth by God through humans appears flawed to us. This is only because we fail to see that this life is not all there is and that God will ultimately have justice done. The book of Ecclesiastes presents the viewpoint of life when all considered is life “under the sun." Fools are sometimes in high positions and wise men are ignored. The innocent sometimes die when they should live and the guilty sometimes live when they should die. But both fools and the wise die anyway. Life “under the sun” is not fair. So let’s examine a case of God’s administration “under the sun” and see where it leads.

Under the Law of Moses a person could receive a death sentence on the testimony of at least two witnesses:

"On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst." (Deut 17:6-7)

If death is to be given then this seems a good idea as a safeguard, for one witness may speak out of personal corrupt motives and no one would know it except the one witness. Two or more witnesses puts up a hurdle to an innocent man being falsely convicted and consequently put to death. Under this law, then, the accusations and at least two witnesses were set before the public who acted as jury. God gave this judicial law to the nation of Israel. Paul says that "the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good." (Rom 7:12). But even though this is from God it not foolproof and could allow for an injustice to occur. We see this very thing happen in I Kings 21. Ahab, king of the northern kingdom of Israel, wanted to buy a vineyard from Naboth, but Naboth refused to sell it. Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, engineered a plot where Naboth was accused by two witnesses of a capital crime. Jezebel rigged the jury and the witnesses. The whole outcome was fixed and the proceedings were a sham. Naboth never had a chance because the witnesses and jury were all rigged against him. Yet, this law, set up by God himself, was used to send this innocent man to death. Opponents to the death penalty - in any form - would point to a case like this as proof that the law is hopelessly flawed because it allowed an innocent man to die; therefore this law must be struck down because it allows for an injustice at man’s hand (man is not capable or may be corrupt) and so let God judge in His time. The only thing that could have protected Naboth would have been an abolition of the law that God had given Israel. But God had given this law to Israel and God wanted them to abide by it even though it was subject to abuse. And here is the difference between the man who lives “under the sun” and the man who lives with God as Sovereign King of the Universe. God is the final Judge and nothing escapes His eyes. The justice that occurs on earth is an indicator to all that justice will occur. God did not execute His judgment on the spot for Ahab and Jezebel lived for quite a while after this event. Jezebel ruled for an additional 10 years after Ahab was killed in battle. But God lets us know that they received God’s wrath (see II Ki 9:30-37). Ahab and Jezebel could have died quietly in their sleep 50-years later and it would not have made a difference as far as God’s justice. But for Israel to know that justice does exist in God’s plan He implemented laws for them.

Now here is the link to our ongoing discussion. God has imparted some of His authority into human governments. They were set up by God, much like the law of “two or more witnesses” of Deut 17:6-7. And similarly, both are subject to abuse, and, indeed, both have been abused. But God did not tell Israel to throw down their “two or more witnesses” law for capital crimes. In the same way, God has not thrown down His principle of delegating His authority in human governments. In the end, God will judge righteously. In the meantime we are to seek justice and protection of the weak, though this is not to be done by throwing off God’s order.

However, this does not mean that citizens are "yes-men." When wrongs are being done it is right to let the authorities know. A simple example is in Acts 6:1-7 where we see the Hellenized widows complaining of their "second-class" treatment relative to the Hebraic widows. If the Hellenized widows had never spoken up and just "endured" then justice would not have been done.

***************

Finally, some more response:

Posted by Rick Young (196.3.48.10) on April 19, 2002 at 11:30:29:

In Reply to: Re: Rick: On Indians and Israelis posted by Erich Walrath on April 12, 2002 at 20:44:54:

: Consider the following exchange:

: Lesley Stahl, speaking of US sanctions against Iraq: "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And -- and you know, is the price worth it?"

: Madeline Albright, US Secretary of State: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it."
: --Madeline Albright, May 12, 1996 statement on "60 Minutes" (http://maic.iraqimusic.com/)

: Let me repeat to you a passage from your missive with some minor changes:

: "But what about Madeline Albright's justification, which is moral relativism? If moral relativism is true then no one could ever justly criticize anyone for any action for who could say what is right or wrong? Who is Madeline Albright to judge one act as "justifiable" and another act as "not justifiable"? By what standard? But, you see, we all know when certain things are wrong."

: I would absolutely agree with that statement, except in one regard. Unlike Neumann, she was not a mere academic. She was Secretary of State. She spoke for the Government and the People of the United States. She has the authority of her office behind her. So let me ask you: given imperatives of morality, as you understand them, does Romans 13 apply here? Does obedience to authority trump our ability to "justly criticize" our government for this action?

: If you reluctantly come to the conclusion that we are constrained against protesting the death of Iraqi children, and given the largely fictional nature of Neumann's exploding daycare centers, (as opposed to the all to real nature of over 500,000 dead Iraqi children), - can you see Neumann's point?

: We are applying a moral relativism of our own, which accords a higher value to authority then to life. Where do we get off in decrying Neumann's relativism?

*************************************

This is sort of out of the scope of this Forum. We don't want to turn this into a politcal debate but keep it centered on the gospel. However, I thought I would share some thoughts from a career soldier on this topic and perhaps get some perspective. Bill is this fellow's name. I went to high school with him where we ran track and cross-country together and shared an interest in the Beatles. However, at that time he was a Christian and I was a skeptic/atheist. Well, to make a long story short we came in contact with one another about a year ago. And soon after Sept. 11 he wrote me a letter about his thoughts on this subject. Because it is somewhat related to the topic that Erich brought up I have decided to share some excerpts from that letter here...

---------

I was in northern Iraq and was a team member of an investigative team that visited villages gassed by Iraqis during the pullout just after the Gulf War. I still have nightmares of seeing putrefying bodies of men, women and children lying in contorted positions as they died in agony. Sarin is not painless, believe me. I was also in Bosnia and won't tell you what I saw there, other than lots of bullet holes in skulls of children. Now, America is being attacked from both without and within. The enemy has reached us. Americans are stunned and now angry of how this could have happened, as were we associated with the military. However, what we do now is a moral imperative.

I have pulled the trigger on an enemy twice in my career. I can remember each second, despite the fact that it was justified. Do I have nightmares? You don't want to know. The "us versus them" scenario will always involve the just versus unjust. My fellow soldiers and I inflicted damage on an enemy that did not believe in freedom, but only repression. Did they have a right to live? Yes, they had a right to live. But they too had taken up arms in opposition to my fellow citizens and me. Do I feel remorse? Absolutely not. Should I? Frankly, I wouldn't want to face God on judgment day and try to make excuses of why I was afraid to pull the trigger and died when I could have spent another 40 years of my life taking care of my family and fulfilling my responsibilities.

You can probably surmise that these statements come from a career soldier. I served 24 years to preserve peace, not as a tool for America's economic strength. I am saying this because our path is clear. Either we do this work and justly end this menace or we allow bin Laden and his crew to further their work of undermining world peace. We must allow justice to be done. This isn't retribution. It's justice.

Bill












SUPRISE!

The Soviet threat was bogus

A British Tory figured it out.



Thursday, April 18, 2002
Welcome to A20: Another protest of everything, and nothing

"Among the glorious gifts Seattle gave to the world with its anti-WTO protests in 1999 was one I could definitely do without: the conceit of naming protests by the first letter of the month, followed by the date. What was kind of cute on N30 became derivative at A16, cloying by J20, and a ridiculous cliché by the time J18 rolled around. At this point, less than 30 months and several light years removed from N30, it has the parodistic ring of a holiday commemorated in a totalitarian regime: "All hail the glorious martyrs for the revolutionary deeds of D14!" And so on.

So welcome to A20..."




Wednesday, April 10, 2002
Further proof that Corporate Culture is to Culture what Military Music is to Music...

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Company songs top Internet hit parade of cringe


Monday, March 04, 2002
Dr. Gary North is something of an oddball. He has been on the scene as a Right-wing activist for most of his life. He is a Reconstructionist, which as near as I can figure, is a bit like the Taliban - only Calvinist.

There is no lack of information concerning his views. In fact one could spend the better part of one's life rummaging through www.freebooks.com . Here one will find North's views on such riviting subjects as Theonomy, Dispensationalism, and, one of my favorites, Franky Shaeffer, Please Shut Up!. This man has an opinion on pretty much everything.

One of the more fascinating essays, which I'm so delighted to share with you, dear reader, is: The Unannounced Reason Behind American Fundamentalism's Support for the State of Israel. This essay rips open the whole question of "The Rapture", and provides a great jumping off point for discussion on one of the weirder beliefs of the Fundamentalist world.

Lest the reader be unaware, the Rapture is to occur as follows:

Jesus returns. Kind of.

He meets Christians in the air, which is to say, whatever Christians happen to be doing, they suddenly stop doing it. They are physically transported up some 12,000 feet, where they meet Jesus, and then everyone troops off to heaven. This is the basis for those paintings of people whooshing out of their cars toward what appears to be a 60 foot Jesus, as their now driverless vehicles plow into unbelievers who have been left behind.

There follows the Reign of the AntiChrist, whom Jerry Falwell says is alive today and is a Jewish Male. In addition to the AntiChrist, there is the False Prophet, a dragon, a Whore of Babylon, and various and sundry other characters, all of whom conspire to mislead the unbelievers into blasphemy.

Then there is a period of Tribulation, wherein two thirds of Israel gets whacked. The remaining third become Born-Again Christians.

Then there is a big battle in the field of Meggido, which looks about as big as several contiguous football stadiums, after which Jesus returns again…sort of a SECOND second coming, touching down on the Mount of Olives.

With Jesus are all of the aforementioned raptured people.

This theory has been around for about 150 years. It was promulgated via the Scofield Reference Bible, which is one of those very large books that Very Serious Students of the Bible carry on their persons at all times.

The theory, known as Dispensationalism, has been widely accepted in Fundamentalist circles. It apparently, per Gore Vidal, had a real impact on Reagan. One can assume that, given Dubya’s predilection for simple, old-timey religion, that the theory is now playing out in our current foreign policy.

Dr. Gary North would beg to dissent from this view. He too is a (very) conservative Christian. However, for him, the pre-millennialist belief is a fabrication. It allows Christians to cheat death. They will be caught up in the air to meet Jesus.

Unfortunately for some other folks, this bright future for Christians portends a disappointing future. They are to be slaughtered.

As North puts it:

"In order for most of today’s Christians to escape physical death, two-thirds of the Jews in Israel must perish, soon. This is the grim prophetic trade-off that fundamentalists rarely discuss publicly, but which is the central motivation in the movement’s support for Israel. It should be clear why they believe that Israel must be defended at all costs by the West. If Israel were militarily removed from history prior to the Rapture, then the strongest case for Christians’ imminent escape from death would have to be abandoned. This would mean the indefinite delay of the Rapture. The fundamentalist movement thrives on the doctrine of the imminent Rapture, not the indefinitely postponed Rapture.
Every time you hear the phrase, "Jesus is coming back soon," you should mentally add, "and two-thirds of the Jews of Israel will be dead in ‘soon plus 84 months.’"

North says: not likely. From his book Rapture Fever he provides the following table:


Key Dates in Dispensationalism's History
1830 The initial development of the pre-tribulation doctrine, either by the trance-induced 20-year-old Margaret Macdonald for by John Nelson Darby.
1855 John Cumming announces that Russian will invade Israel: The End; Or, The Proximate Signs of the Close of This Dispensation, Lecture 7.
1878 Publication of the immensely popular book by William E. Blackstone (W.E.B.), Jesus Is Coming.
1909 C. I. Scofield's Scofield Reference Bible is published by Oxford University Press.
1917 Balfour Declaration promises British support for the creation of a State of Israel in Palestine.
1925 The Scopes' "Monkey Trial" results in a public disgrace for William Jennings Bryan and the voluntary withdrawal of American fundamentalism from public discourse.
1926 Founding of Dallas Theological Seminary.
1948 The creation of the modern State of Israel, May 14: the "generation of the fig tree" supposedly begins.
1970 Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth creates a huge new market in "ticking clock" prophecy books: an unstated but obvious rejection of traditional dispensationalism's doctrine of any any-moment Rapture, which insists that the 70th week of Daniel begins only after the Rapture.
1980 The presidential race and victory of Ronald Reagan: the New Christian Right becomes visible in the U.S.
1981 Rapture postponed: 1988 (40 years after the creation of the State of Israel), minus 7years for the year of the Great Tribulation = 1981.
1988 Rapture postponed: May 14, the 40th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel.
1988 Rapture postponed: Edgar C. Whisenant's prediction of a September Rapture during the Jewish Rosh-hosanna. His book sells millions of copies, July through early September.
1989 Fall of the Berlin Wall in October.
1990 Iraq invades Kuwait on July 2. Dallas Seminary's Charles Dyer announces the revival of prophesied Babylon.
1991 January-February: U.S. obliterates Iraq's army.
1991 August 21: Defeat of the attempted Soviet coup; Soviet Union begins to break apart.
2000 The final year of the second millennium after the birth of Jesus. What if the Rapture is again postponed?
2001 The beginning of the third millennium after the birth of Jesus. What if the Rapture is again postponed?





I spend a fair amount of time on something called the Paraclete Forum, wherein I've tried to dialog with conservative Christians about social stuff. Anyone who's really interested in teh entire thread should probably go there...but here is a taste:

Hi Rick,

Thanks for your thoughtful response. You’ve provided a cogent argument for Evangelical political passivity. I’m going to try to sum up your position as best I can, and then attempt to argue my own. For this purpose, I’d like to start a new thread, since we’re currently off-topic.

What you’re saying, (if I may jerk a passage out of context), is similar to Rev. 13: 9-10:

9 Let anyone who has an ear listen:
10 If you are to be taken captive,
into captivity you go;
if you kill with the sword,
with the sword you must be killed.
Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

In other words, there are certain conditions: poverty, war, civil strife, etc. which are preordained. The test is how one endures without resorting to wicked measures such as murder. To extrapolate a bit, God presents us with tests in the socio-political-economic sphere, as well as within the personal realm. Our temptation is to revolt against those authorities that have been mandated by God, yet are the authors of these conditions. Our ability to withstand this temptation to revolt against authority demonstrates our faith. It’s through God’s grace that these conditions change; this is predicated on His ability to transform hearts. It’s through the conversion of the soul and the subsequent transformation of the heart that true social change can occur.

I think that’s half of the story. The other half is provided by the life and socio-economic makeup of the early Church. This organization, in my view, operated as a subversive force within the Empire. The members may not have intended subversion. However, it’s doubtful that they were unaware of the stark differences that they were demonstrating.

Here is a description of the Acts and Pauline Church. (Please bear with me: you know the scriptures far better then I do, so I’m going to be lazy with my references on the assumption that you’ll know where to find them):

The Church was Communist – they shared all things in common, held no private property, shared according to need. The Marxist dictum: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” was lived out in the Church.

The Church was Egalitarian – Slaveholders were explicitly told that they were slaves to Christ; slaves were told that they were freemen in Christ. I challenge you: how could slavery have continued to exist in an environment where slaves and freemen were treated with equal dignity? Further, there is constant direction to forgo favor based on social status.

The Church was Democratic – at least for its time: “let two or three prophets speak, and then let the people judge”. What I understand of early Church government is that leaders were chosen by consensus; that leadership was open to all, including, interestingly, women.

The Church identified with the Poor, not with Power – It is the Rich who hounded the people of the Church and brought them before magistrates. The Church was enjoined against the use of secular power. Whether you accept it as normative today or not, the Church was pacifist.

Now obviously the Church was much more then a Communist-Egalitarian-Democratic organization which was interested in the Poor. It would be a gross caricature to suggest that this is the sum total of the Church’s role in the early centuries. I grant that the mission of the Church was to preach redemption through Jesus Christ, not to proclaim Class Struggle or the birth of the Communist Man.

My point, however, is that, whatever else the Church was, it was at least a social phenomena that turned the Roman social structure on its head. In contrast to the Church, Rome was oligarchic, hierarchal, militaristic, and existed for the pleasure of a few. Its in this sense that the Church was subversive: it turned the entire social structure of the Roman empire upside down, and lived out this new reality in the midst of the Empire. The Church turned away from relationships based on power, and substituted brotherhood.

Back to the question of Evangelical Passivity… I will buy your argument regarding the necessity of the transformation of hearts as necessary to any true social transformation, if you accept that those who are thus transformed will then work through these issues. In the first days of the Church, this working through of Christ’s message meant the creation of an organization that stood in very sharp contrast to the Empire. It was, ipso facto, a political organization, whether or not Christians believed it to be so.

The Romans certainly believed it, and persecuted the Christians horrifically as a result.

Its one thing for those who live in contrast to the “dominant paradigm” to speak of pre-ordained suffering. They are trying to flesh out something of God’s Kingdom. In this case, its not passivity, but submission.

Its quite another for those who have become comfortable with the dominant paradigm, and who strive to preserve their relative comfort and privilege to speak in these terms. In our current state, insofar as one does not address that “complex of social relationships”, I’m afraid the stance you’ve outlined, (no offense intended), smacks of passive neutrality to deep social evil.




Monday, February 11, 2002
Why TV Sucks.




Monday, February 04, 2002
George W. Bush is on a crusade. Not only against the Evil One, nor the Axis of Evil, but also our "feel good" culture.

"Our culture has said, 'If it feels good, do it,"' he said in a speech at an emergency operations center. "Our dream, or my dream for the country is that we usher in a culture that says 'Each of us are responsible for the decisions we make in life."

As if our laid-back, do what thou wilt; love is the law - love within will; neo-Crowlean, pseudo-Nietchzean, post-Counter Culture, New American Idioms of free love, hot tubs, and peacock feathers actually exist any more. (They don't, and haven't since the days of St. Ronald... who blessed us with the nation of the uninsured, unemployed, and terrified) We now are given to understand that our hedonistic lives have given rise to Terrorists at the Local Level!

Buried in a story regarding Dubya's irritation with our "Feel Good" culture (Bush to Americans: Change Your Soft Culture, is the following:

"Bush has unveiled plans for a USA Freedom Corps to oversee an unprecedented expansion of volunteer programs, including a new Citizen Corps to fight terrorism at the local level..."

The Hell?!! A new Citizen Corp to do WHAT?

One suspects that this is the logical conclusion of the story of John Walker, the American Taliban member, who grew up in the posh and liberal environment of Marin County. There has been more then a little gloating at the prospect of an upper-middle class bobo accepting Osama into his life amongst our Tories. This is the lesson of following Secular Humanism/Liberalism/Multicuturalism etc. It leads, they chortle, directly to Religious Intolerance/Fascism/Xenophobia - as if John Dewey is the first step down the slippery slope to Hasan-i-Sabbah.

One feels compelled to ask: if our "feel good" culture encourages terrorism, can we expect a SWAT anti-terrorist raid on "Oprah"? Will Richard Simmons be frog-marched into Camp X-Ray? Does hope spring eternal?

Of course the ominous news is that we are to have a Citizen's Corps to watch for terrorist activities in our own neighborhoods. I'll leave to the side the obvious analogies to all totalitarian regimes ranging from Mussolini to the Moonies - each of which has its own version of a Committee for Public Safety.

A far more immediate concern is, once this thing gets going, who is going to join? I suspect that the usual yahoos, thugs, and busybodies will have found their life's work in the Citizen Corp. As a result, anyone who does not shiver with excitement at the complete Disneyfication of American Culture will be suspect.

What to do?

I suggest that we all join.

Imagine a Citizens Corp made up of civil libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, left-anarchists, radical feminists, radical socialists, and so forth. It could never get off of the ground: the anarcho-capitalists would argue for drawing and quartering the local FEMA representative; left-anarchists for the hanging of anyone whose income is over 40,000.00; radical socialists for the immediate reeducation for everyone in the neighborhood except themselves, and the radical feminists for the chemical castration of all men everywhere, since they are the source of all terror.

Imagine in every neighborhood in this great land of ours, entire evenings wasted away in futile arguments over which half of the town represents the insiduous terrorist threat. Rastafarians with "Eat the Rich" t-shirts could square off with khaki-clad WASPS, who in turn dribble on about "the Politics of Envy". Civil Libertarians can attack religious displays as portents of a Christian Taliban, whilst upholding the right to read pornography. Feminists can hold Magic Circles, call upon Isis, and decry the approach of "The Burning Times". Townspeople everywhere would be absolutely enthralled at the performance.

Civic culture would be renewed. Imagine board meetings, packed to the gills with spectators, waiting to see what the Citizen's Corp will come up with next. The whole idea would finally flop with the weight of its own ridculousness.

As a tactic, this would be the first time that the entire opposition to the Oligarchy, left - right - green - feminist - whatever, could join hands, and simultaneously beat each other to a pulp for a greater cause; that of sabotaging one of the worst projects ever to be foisted upon the American People.



test


I've felt for a long time that American Christianity, specifically Evangelicalism, is morphing into the ideological basis for the Modern Conservative State. (A statement that any other time in American history would have been a contradiction in terms).

There is a direct line from Norman Vincent Peale, through Billy Graham, to Robert Schuller and the Crystal Cathedral, which mirrors the transition from main-street conservatism, through Nixon and the foundation of the Imperial presidency, through the merging of State interests with corporate America (culminating in the coup-d'etat of November 2000).

Here is the logical conclusion of that progression (all emhasis is mine):

Marketplace Ministries, a faith-based Employee Assistance Program

"Marketplace Ministries is a faith-based, proactive and personalized Employee Assistance Provider. Client companies receive a team of chaplains who visit the work site weekly and are available for crisis care and pastoral activities 24 hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year. Chaplains help meet the needs of company employees and their families under an umbrella of compassion and concern.

"Based in Dallas, Texas, Marketplace Ministries has expanded in the last 18 years into 34 states and 329 cities. Client companies with multiple locations are able to have chaplain teams at each of their sites. Additionally, through a nationwide network of on-call chaplains, Marketplace Ministries is able to care for employees and family members anywhere in the United States.

"We take care of a company's most important asset: employees and their families. Our Employee Assistance Program reaps many benefits for the client company as our trained chaplains offer work site relationships, pastoral care ministries, crisis care, and company support activities. Increased loyalty to the company, reduction in absenteeism, enhanced appreciation for management, increased productivity, and reduction in employee turnover are just a few of the many dividends a company can receive by partnering with Marketplace Ministries.