Wednesday, December 30, 2015

It's not as though the word of God has failed

Ray Stephens here sings a wonderful song that expounds the obvious, just as true now as in 1987:

These disgusting people, and the suckers they deceive, certainly proclaim to the world that the putative disciples of the Wisdom of God are more filled with folly than anyone else - which is not to mymind proclaiming the name of Jesus or his gospel.  But the nice thing is that this foul desert is what we are told to expect.  If it proves the warnings of Jesus and the apostles to be true, it is surely not evidence that we should not believe them.

But in this one thing I resemble Elijah: he was wholly unaware of 7000 faithful people who had not bowed the knee to Baal nor kissed him, and these days so am I.  God willing, in the coming year that may change.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Fear vs Cowardice

The rising fear and hatred of Muslims now in progress in the United States has made me think more about this lately.

The Bible certainly expects us to be fearful of many things.  For one thing, we ought to be afraid to do wrong.  But it's also expected that we should be afraid of much else from time to time, and that is not necessarily a problem.

When does it get to be a problem?  Clearly, when it becomes cowardice, which is indulging our fears so far as to do evil. 

I have concluded that, unpleasant as it is, fear is a craving we love to indulge, like gluttony or sexual immorality, and cowardice is indulging and taking pleasure in that fear.  I have to treat it the same way, with mixed results.  I'd give myself a C-, to tell the truth, and I don't know how people handle it who don't know God, although many evidently do.

We all know that advertisers have known forever that sex sells - cars, beer, toothpaste, vacation packages, pretty much anything they want to sell us. But we haven't laid to heart that fear sells just as effectively, and so they use it the same way.

The nice thing about fear is that you can sell ugly politicians with fear, where sex might not work so well.  Fear really works for Donald Trump - fear of Muslims, fear of Mexican rapists, fear of black people - and legitimate fears, too, such as the fear of people's jobs being exported for the convenience of the corporations that own the other Republicans and Hillary Clinton.  But using sex to sell the Trumpster - I'm not a woman, so maybe I'm not fit to judge, but I don't think so.    

I think that most Christians know that letting advertisers stroke our sexual lust is not good for us.  It really is pornography, and it must lead to trouble, besides corrupting our judgment so as to make us buy crap we would otherwise leave alone, just as the advertisers intend.  I wonder why Christians don't realize that indulging fear in the same way is similarly corrupting.  It's actually a lot worse, because sex is a lot more normal and right than fear is.  Perverting sex in this way encourages sexual immorality and disrupts family relationships, but perverting fear in this manner entices us to every sort of cruelty, up to murder, against the innocent.

C. S. Lewis was right about a lot of things, but he was wrong when he had Screwtape write to his young disciple Wormwood that the demons had managed to glamorize every sin but cowardice.  That one, too, they've succeeded at.  Cowardice is successfully  sold as prudence, security, self-defense - even courage to go out and kill people.  It has often been said that US society is obsessed with sex, and the popularity of pornography makes that point.  But, much more, US society is obsessed with fear, and enjoys it in the same way - although like all other lusts of this kind, it's insatiable, and therefore painful without end.  If Christians, especially, don't thoroughly repent of this depravity, it will end very badly - fascism being only one possibility.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Out of Weakness, Strength

We completed the 4th day of hearing yesterday in Student v Colton Joint Unified School District and San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools.  The day before, the opposing lawyer had cross-examined me trying to prove what a bad guy I was, having advised my clients not to talk to the districts and so forth - complete nonsense as the evidence shows, a really shameless nuts and sluts defense that began with her opening statement. All good clean fun, and I think helpful to our case.

But mom was on yesterday.  Mom speaks only Spanish.  She just told the story of how they lost her non-verbal son for hours, how nobody knew where he was, and how the County principal just laughed at her.  She cried.  The trauma inflicted on her is obvious.  I cried. 

I see a lot of horrible stuff that the education industry does to kids and their parents, and the rest of society, but I seldom cry about it.  That mom's testimony is certainly the most compelling in the hearing.  She doesn't know any law.  She doesn't know any English.  But she obviously knew more than anyone else about the things that matter.  God has indeed chosen the weak things of the world to bring to nothing the strong, and you see it now and then.

Two more days are set for hearing, on the 8th and 9th, and the lawyer for the districts will have another hour with me to try to prove that 2+2=13.  But I'm pretty sure it won't be like mom's testimony yesterday.   

Monday, November 23, 2015

Malcolm X and Christoid niceness

It seemed good to reread Malcolm X's autobiography, and especially Alex Haley's epilogue, and I was right.  This is what someone who has received the love of the truth looks like.  He was always finding out that he was wrong, and changing his mind, and that's what counts.

I am reminded by his life that even when we're wrong, we're still telling the truth if we're wrong for the right reasons.  For some years he mistakenly thought that all white people were devils, but for the right reasons: all the white people he ever ran into supported that proposition.  Later, in Mecca, he learned better, so he began rethinking everything. 

I was in Kenya when Malcolm visited, but unfortunately I never got to meet him.  He talks about one American ambassador that he talked to that told him that in Africa he was conscious of language rather than of race, unlike in the States.  That ambassador was my father.  I remember that at least my mother didn't like Malcolm at all, remarking that he was almost white, as though that somehow made his black nationalism improper.

I've never really gotten over the grief and loss of his death.

A couple of weeks ago, a Christian publisher told me that my book had a couple of problems:

1. I had described the US plantation system as designating some as "house niggers" and others as "field niggers," and I had to make nice by calling them blacks or African-Americans.  I told them that those holding them under the lash were not concerned with politically correct language, just as their descendants today are not concerned with politically correct deeds, when they grant impunity to police officers that assassinate even little kids like Tamir Rice, and that they weren't concerned with describing African-Americans correctly but with euphemizing the system I was describing.

2.  They didn't like me stating that the white phosphorus the Americans dropped on the population melted the flesh off children.  That's just what white phosphorus does, but it's not OK to say so; it's just OK to tolerate it, concealing it with euphemisms if we mention it at all.

Unlike Malcolm X, Christoids aren't interested in truth, as Malcolm was, but niceness.  Jesus was and is interested in truth, in shining light on evil in order to dispel it.  That's why they assassinated Malcolm, why they nailed Jesus to a cross.

It was after I finished rereading Malcolm Sunday morning that I was able to write these truths to the Christian publisher.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"The stars in their courses fought against Sisera"

Read all about it in Judges 4 and 5.

I was reminded of this recently by the recent news that glyphosate, the active ingredient of Monsanto's weedkiller Roundup, has been declared by the World Health Organization to be a carcinogen.  Once WHO is ready to say such things, they're obvious.

Now when the need of human beings to be free from cancer and other such diseases comes into conflict with the need for Monsanto to make money this quarter, our rulers - bought and paid for - heartily agree that Monsanto must be taken care of, at whatever cost.  There are countless other examples, for instance the need for corporations to keep making money even if the resulting extinctions, environmental destruction, and climate change result in the collapse of the civilization that sustains these corporations and the political rulers that they own.

A small example that I run into daily is the education industry's commitment to destroying the lives of kids to save money, knowing that the eventual cost of prison or institutionalization - never mind the ruined lives - will be far higher, inflicted on the society that they look to for their own sustenance.

Shocking as all this is, it is no more than the fruit of idolatry.  The worship of Mammon means to exalt it above all other gods, and certainly above concern for God and his money, the coins that bear his image and likeness, which is to say, human beings.  We are seeing what it looks like when Mammon matters more than human beings, a point that Pope Francis has been making lately.

But then, since no one else will do anything about Monsanto raping the earth and destroying the earth for profit, the earth itself is doing so, just as the Bible teaches.  The defiled earth is raising up glyphosate-resistant "weeds" such as Palmer amaranth to make glyphosate of no effect, as in this cotton field, beginning to compel the abandonment of this poison.  Palmer amaranth - pigweed - is fighting for us.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Book review: Strange Glory, a Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer is especially relevant to American Christianity, because US Christianity is so like the German churches of the 1930s in its adulation of the world, combined with its sense of entitlement to worldly privilege and its deference to nationalism. 

What I find encouraging in the story is that Bonhoeffer bore faithful witness to the gospel even though he was emotionally immature, a brilliant intellectual but in many ways with no sense.  He had earned a doctorate by age 21, but he was financially dependent on his parents and often lived at home until the Nazis locked him up.

Significantly, he learned a great deal of the gospel from his time in black churches in the United States.  Not that black churches are, or were, in very good shape.  Indeed, most black preachers opposed the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, or at least had serious reservations.  The imperative to suck up and be respectable was  by no means absent, which is what caused Malcolm X to reject the Christianity of the black church in disgust.  But Bonhoeffer found more reality and discipleship there than in the German churches or American white churches. 

Although Bonhoeffer was a prominent theologian, he could seldom endure to go to church on Sunday - which certainly reminds me of myself.  Even though I am far from being a prominent theologian, I am serious about the faith and more of a theologian than most that I know, and what I've learned in the Bible makes what generally happens in churches insufferable.  It feels good that Bonhoeffer had the same experience.

In the seminary at Finkenwalde from 1935 until 1937, when the Gestapo closed it, Bonhoeffer and his small community learned about Life Together, the book he wrote from it.  His preaching, in contrast to the histrionics of Hitler, aimed to be free of rhetorical manipulation.  I would like to encounter a church some day that even makes that its aim, never mind attains it.

Bonhoeffer returned to Germany in 1939, when he could have spent the war in the United States.  I wonder if I will stay in the United States, with my eyes open, if God has me do so, when I might be of service elsewhere, or even if I should.

Like Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany, faithful Christians must desire the defeat of our own country in its violent aggression around the world, even though that will bring us considerable personal discomfort.  After all, American affluence rests on the domination and plunder of the rest of the world, indeed through the device of debt that will never be repaid, as it was with the Chaldeans in Habakkuk.  The price of justice will be to live with a lot less luxury.  Are we up for that?       

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Greece followup

As I thought likely, the Germans followed the path they took with Yugoslavia in 1941 and crushed them, and Tsipras caved.

However, his coalition is coming apart over this betrayal, and it remains that the debt cannot be repaid, and therefore won't be.  And the greater significance is this: the whole business has made it clear that the European Union and the single currency are not about the ideals of a united Europe for the benefit of its people; it's a wealth pump from the poorer south to the north, notably Germany, and a design to makes sure that the banks are cared for at the expense of people.

It turns out that through the Euro, Germany has largely established Hitler's dream of the New Order, Europe dominated by Germany and economically integrated with German industry - without war and without killing people, which does, incidentally, remind us that war is often not the smart way to get what you want.

However, Germany's victory in this matter, by exposing the nature of its regime, has undermined its legitimacy.  Once that happens to you, you don't last.  Mark Kurlansky, writing 35 years later in August 2003, persuasively traced the collapse of the Soviet empire to the revelation of its nature in its invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968.   It deserves a careful rereading today:

Written in August 2003, five months after the US had invaded Iraq in the same manner, and with the same lying excuses with which Germany invaded Poland in 1939, the piece predicted that this disgraceful act would have a similar effect on the US empire.  And so it is proving to be, especially because, unlike the Soviet Union at the time, the US has doubled down on its folly, doing all it can since its Iraq adventure to make clear to the world that the US is indeed a rogue state.

The crushing of the Greek government's resistance, as Germany did to Yugoslavia in 1941, has already led to the beginning of the breakup of the Syriza coalition.  Whoever comes out on top will somehow have to follow through as Tsipras failed to do, because reality cannot be repealed.  The plunder of the Greek economy to pay the banks just isn't sustainable, because the resulting collapse of the economy precludes the economic activity and resulting tax revenue required to pay.  The debt, which is largely odious anyway, must be repudiated.  That's arithmetic, not a policy question. 

We've already seen here the fulfillment of the proverb, "The borrower is the lender's slave."  We'll soon be reminded that it is written again, "The cruel man troubles his own flesh."  It would be a very different world if rulers paid any attention to the counsel of the Bible!