Sunday, April 06, 2014

Book review: 58 to 0, How Christ Leads through the One Anothers - Jon Zens and Graham Wood

You don't often see Christians addressing the great apostasy that took place after the apostles, the change from the freedom and the rule of the truth in those days to the rule of men and domination by a special priestly caste which has been the way it's done ever since.  And let's not say this is an especially Roman Catholic problem; rule by "Protestant" mini-popes is often even worse.  Exactly this issue is addressed here, by a number of contributors.  This book really gets to the roots of things.

The point of the title 58 to 0 is that there are about 58 directions in the New Testament regarding what to do to one another - love one another, encourage one another, exhort one another daily, and so forth - and those are how Jesus said his people must be governed. 

It begins with how Jesus contrasted authority in the world - concerning which Jesus told his apostles, "It shall not be so among you" - with how it is supposed to work among us, and just about never does. 

There is quite a bit in the New Testament to warn us that this apostasy from apostolic teaching was coming. 

In Acts 20:29-30, Paul warned the elders of Ephesus that after Paul's departure grievous wolves would come in, not sparing the flock, and that from among themselves would arise people that would speak perverse things, leading the disciples astray after themselves.  And that perversity arising from among the elders appears to be a response to the attack of the grievous wolves from outside.  This is an altogether worldly response: the same is seen in the destruction of American liberty by American rulers such as George Bush, Richard Cheney, and Barack Obama with the excuse being threats from outside.  When this happens in the churches, as Paul warned it would, we see what being conformed to this present world looks like.

The letters to the seven churches in the Revelation are among the latest of the New Testament writings.  They warn several times against the teaching of the Nicolaitans, which Jesus hates.  The word Nicolaitan means ruler or conqueror of the people, which is about all we have that's reliable on who these people were.  What Jesus hates is abundantly clear in Luke 22:24-27, Mark 9:33-37, Matthew 20:25-28, Matthew 23:8-12, and Matthew 24:45-51 - and certainly Ezekiel 34, which Jesus certainly had in mind.

This book doesn't fully handle every detail, but that's not to be expected.  It's a great start on a very big issue, and it feels good to find that I'm not alone in having seen this problem.  In a way, we're making progress.  Back when, church rulers could reliably kill you by the hands of the state if they didn't like what you had to say.  Now mega-church pastors can bully people in their congregations and even push the local school board around by threatening to vote their congregations against them, but they can't kill you.  Maybe we're coming to the point where nobody will listen to us unless we have the truth and people see it because God is clearly backing it up, and for no other reason.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

St. Patrick's Day - things to remember

"Skibbereen" - Sinead O'Connor
"Skibbereen" - Irish Brigade
Driven out by the Great Hunger.

"The Foggy Dew"
Song about the the 1916 Easter Rising

"Going Home At Last" - Irish Brigade
"Pardon me for smiling as you're waving me goodbye" - Northern Ireland: Iraq and Afghanistan too!

"Joe McDonnell"
The Long Kesh hunger strike

"Come Out You Black and Tans" - Celtic Football Club
References to Charles Stewart Parnell, Iraqi struggle for independence against the  British 1920-1921, Zulu war in 1879 - worth looking up.

Famine to Freedom
The Irish flight from the Great Hunger

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

An eventful month

It became clear last month that I have a prostate cancer.  This has not been verified by biopsy, because I didn't like the cost benefit analysis.  But the PSA had gone up to 10.9, and the free PSA was only about 10%.  The crab is nibbling.

I had started modified citrus pectin, frankincense, and an enzyme supplement called Wobenzym N in December, along with turmeric and black pepper.  6 weeks later the PSA was down from 10.9 to 9.4.  I agree with the doctor that that is rather impressive.  So the crab will not be clipping me right away, seemngly.

Also, CA Technologies laid me off last week, along with a good number of others in our group.  I had gotten quite sick of it, and had spoken to the Lord about getting me out of there in the best way.  A week later, they sent me on my way, and this way I get a year severance pay.

So I will need to get started getting paid more often on the special ed advocacy work.  I did fight a 5-day hearing in Redlands last month over Independent Educational Evaluations.  Closing arguments are due 10 AM March 24th, so I won't be doing too much else for a bit.  But I am working a bit with a couple of lawyer friends on a case in Fresno, which is fun, and we'll learn something. 

It's an interesting case in the district court, which the Fresno Unified School District filed against her about a year ago now.  Meanwhile, the mom, abandoned by two lawyers, won a due process case against the district last month, all by herself except for a little help from a friend on the closing argument.  The Administrative Law Judge really kicked Fresno Unified and their snotty lawyer in the soft parts, and they had it coming.  And then the Fresno Bee followed up an editorial about the district's conduct.  Their attorney was unavailable to comment, for some reason.  Justice occasionally happens.


Sunday, February 02, 2014

Cultish ideologies and perverted nationalism - and freedom through the truth in Jesus

I recently saw a post comparing Osama bin Laden to Adolf Hitler, which stimulated some thoughts.  If everyone is in Hitler's class, then is anyone?  But from one valid point of view, Hitler was indeed far from unique - except in one detail: he committed his crimes in Europe, against Europeans, instead of against the usual and accepted victims.  Ten million or so Congolese - each made in God's image and likeness - knocked off in the Congo Free State by the Belgians, and who classes King Albert today with Hitler, since these millions were only niggers?  Or the near annihilation of the American Indians by the city on a hill, the light of the world, the champion of liberty for the holy purpose of robbing of them of their land?  In fact, Hitler did notice, justifying his policy of genocide in the East by the American precedent. 

People entangled in cultish ideologies frequently have no trouble seeing what's wrong with other cults, while being wholly blind to their own.  Indeed, their blindness concerning their own makes them expert in seeing problems elsewhere and even in exaggerating them.  Jesus nailed this: the log-in-eye problem.

12 years later, I still run into people all the time who make such a big deal of the 9/11/2001 attacks as though nothing else so evil has ever been done.  But they are wholly indifferent to what the United States did in Chile on 9/11/1973, in which many more thousands were murdered, thousands more tortured and disappeared, and an entire nation terrorized for years.  So they can't see why Latin Americans were notably unsympathetic in September 2001.

Then, too, bin Laden plainly stated how this consequence was earned - notably the casual murder by sanctions of over 500,000 little kids in Iraq on Bill Clinton's watch, acknowledged as such and justified by Madeleine Albright on 60 Minutes in 1996.  And there is far more, which Americans - especially so-called Christians - are indignant about when done to our group, but which are just dandy when done to others, along with much worse.  George Orwell described this phenomenon, and the cultish mindset in general, in a little essay he wrote in 1945 which anyone wanting to be cured of bondage to cultish thinking, log-in-eye disease, and conformity to this world could learn from: 

These in every way characterize the American mindset, especially toward the rest of the world, and it has come home, as such wickedness can be counted on to do.  This brings me to another useful essay, by Vaclav Havel in 1978, describing the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia and what was needed to get free of it.  Its mode of bondage, what he calls the "post-totalitarian system," perfectly describes how cults actually work, as well as the present US regime.  He even explains why they are in every way so utterly suffused with lying.  Consider just this perfect description of the American regime and of the cultish "churches" we're talking about:

The post-totalitarian system touches people at every step, but it does so with its ideological gloves on. This is why life in the system is so thoroughly permeated with hypocrisy and lies: government by bureaucracy is called popular government; the working class is enslaved in the name of the working class; the complete degradation of the individual is presented as his ultimate liberation; depriving people of information is called making it available; the use of power to manipulate is called the public control of power, and the arbitrary abuse of power is called observing the legal code; the repression of culture is called its development; the expansion of imperial influence is presented as support for the oppressed; the lack of free expression becomes the highest form of freedom; farcical elections become the highest form of democracy; banning independent thought becomes the most scientific of world views; military occupation becomes fraternal assistance. Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing.

Havel has some hard news for us, in agreement with Jesus: the only remedy is to live in the truth, because you're not necessarily dealing with a classical dictatorship but an ideology which enslaves everyone and in which everyone participates.  Thus you could get rid of General Secretary Gustav Husak, and the Czechoslovakian Socialist Republic would continue unchanged; Doug Phillips and Vision Forum "ministry" can disappear, and that perverse woman-hating religious ideology will continue to enslave its adherents in the same way; George W. Bush can be replaced by Barak Obama, and the consequences for the empire's victims, everyone abroad and the 99% here, are largely unchanged.  In all these cases, the real ruler is the Lie.   Considerable repentance, in which we all have to divorce our dearly beloved illusions, is unavoidable.  Hasn't Jesus put us on notice of that?  Havel, The Power of the Powerless:

Monday, January 27, 2014

The cruelty of ideological pacifism

There's no question that war arises in us from no good place - as James 4:1-2 says, from our lusts that war in our members.  So Mennonites and others in the Anabaptist tradition have rightly opposed the love of war and rationalizations for it that generally characterize other Christians.  But the apostles and Jesus were not that categorical about it, and the prophets and Moses certainly were not.

This blog post shows how non-resistance and pacifism as generally understood in that tradition is cruel and oppressive, why the more nuanced view in the Bible makes more sense:

From the blog post:

Especially poignant are the connections Brandt draws between the teachings of our Mennonite faith and the cultivation,  protection and even encouragement of sexually predatory behavior in our communities. From the time I was small the teachings were clear:

  • immediately forgive anyone for anything no matter the cost to yourself
  • God does not want us to bring lawsuits against persons who break the law
  • disobeying our parents threatens our salvation
  • if we want to truly live as Jesus lived we must love our enemies no matter how heinous the crime against us
  • we must never, ever become angry
  • we must never, ever engage in combative behavior (including self-protection) that might fuel a conflict
  • we must always return evil with good
  • we dress modestly so as not to cause men to sin 
It's not non-violence to encourage oppression and iniquity.  Many times this means guaranteeing that they won't be reported to the civil authorities, which is to say, obstruction of justice.

Yes, the Bible teaches that we are to judge our own disputes and not have the courts of the unjust straighten out those disputes.  But it is written again that the authorities do not bear the sword for nothing, that God has ordained them to punish evil - indeed that they are the ministers of God for our good.  And Paul was talking this way about imperial Rome!

Let's take the above points one at a time:

1. We do need to forgive people promptly, but that can seldom be immediate because it often takes time even to sort out what wrong has been done.  So this is always a process and often rather lengthy if done right.  Moreover, there are different sorts of forgiveness, just as there are different levels of relationship.

There is that spoken of in Romans 12, simply recognizing that vengeance is the Lord's and that we simply lack jurisdiction.  It's the Lord's, and in stepping out of the vengeance business, we leave place for God's wrath.  This is not exactly letting them off.  From this Paul moves straight to Romans 13, where he says to be in subjection to the civil authorities, which means reporting to them criminal activity, including abuse within our ostensibly Christian communities.

Then there is the requirement that we show mercy because we too need mercy.  Here forgiveness is simply paying our insurance, forgiving because we need to be forgiven.  That doesn't mean letting people get away with doing evil, just as God may let me escape punishment, but not so I can keep it up.

And beyond this, when someone acknowledges wrongdoing and wants to make things right, this leads to a degree of forgiveness that we don't get if we say we have no sin.  That's how it works with God, and we can do no more ourselves.

2.  Actually, the Bible discourages us from bringing suit over being wronged, and forbids us to bring actions in the world and not before the saints.  But what if the "saints" decline to judge rightly?  And Paul is not talking here about lawbreaking, still less actual crimes such as sexual assault.  People who do such things are to be put out - in fact, to be judged outside.

3.  With disobeying parents, it depends what we're disobeying.  It remains that we ought to obey God and not men.  Asa went so far as to depose his mother from being queen mother, and was commended for it.  And when Mary went with the rest of the family to fetch Jesus so as to lock him up, Jesus blew them off.

4.  Anger resides in the bosom of fools.  It's not something to delight in.  But people in the Bible, including Jesus, were frequently angry, and rightly so.

5.  "There is a time for war and a time for peace."  We need to seek peace and pursue it.  However, "evil men praise the wicked, but the those who keep the law strive against them."

6.  The Bible doesn't say we must always "return evil with good," which I suppose means returning good for evil.  It says that we are not to return evil for evil but to overcome evil with good.  Overcoming evil and enabling evil - making the wicked comfortable - are very different things.  And good isn't smooth and pleasant; it's good, and the wicked don't like it.  Jesus didn't end up on a cross by making nice on the wicked.

7.  Failing to dress modestly doesn't cause men to sin.  They're drawn aside by their own lust and enticed (James 1:13).  Dressing modestly is prudent; I wear a suit when I go to hearing, which I never do otherwise.

The Bible says to speak for the mute and defend the weak.  For me that means applying legal pressure to wicked school administrators and even litigating against them.  Those who wish to act that way do not like me, and as Franklin Roosevelt said, "I welcome their hatred."  May I earn the hatred of such every day.

But at the same time, I need to seek peace and pursue it.  Fighting is right only when failing to fight is dishonorable.  God does not delight in war.  But that is not an ideology into which we jam human beings no matter the injustice.   Peace is the disposition to treat others as we want to be treated, not using unnecessary roughness.  It even means wanting others to restrain me if I need it in the same way that I should sometimes restrain others.

Jesus said that they've made the Lord's house into a den of thieves.  These people using the Bible to make God's house a refuge for abusers and even rapists are doing exactly the same thing.  They do so whenever they give refuge to the wicked, whatever the excuse.  The religious people of the gospels, who nailed Jesus to a cross, are still around, still using religion to crucify him afresh.  We need not fear them.

Monday, December 09, 2013


Non-Christians are pretty impatient with the whiny complaints of persecution that many American Christians emit when they don't get their way in public policy.  As I've said many times before, the problem of American Christians originates in the quest of settlers 400 years ago to live godly without being persecuted, in the face of what Paul rightly wrote to Timothy: anyone who wishes to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.  From that founding folly, American Christians have sought for 400 years by a combination of bullying and sucking up - conforming to the American world while trying to conform it to ourselves - to eliminate any real conflict between our faith and the world, hoping in this way to live godly and at the same time not be persecuted for it.   This can never be.

If we mean to follow Jesus, we will indeed suffer persecution, just as Paul wrote.  And the first of these persecutors is none other than ourselves, our own flesh.

On one level, obviously, God likes flesh and the material world.  He made it and said it was very good.  However, it was meant from the beginning to be subdued to God's purpose, along with the rest of the earth (Genesis 2), and that would have to be done.  We are of the earth, and our flesh is constituted to pursue pleasure, to avoid pain, and to avoid needless effort.  That's all good as far as it goes, but it's designed to work right only when we realize that our provision comes from God who made us, and that only in Him will these goals actually be met.  Of itself, my hungry belly does not know that man lives by every word from God's mouth, and not by bread only.

My flesh on its own will devise various strategies to meet its goals, and they all amount to getting it from around me, including your hide, rather than looking up to God for my needs.  Allowed its needs in its own way, my flesh will pursue its own destruction, and yours too - all we like sheep have gone astray.  It will not listen to reason. God has to intervene, and the life of God that results when he does will provoke the opposition of my appetites.  I am regularly persecuted by myself.  Paul write of this in Romans 7; it's every Christian's problem, all the time.

We avoid that persecution by making a deal - indulging our appetites while keeping our religiosity and taking the fight out there which we're not up to waging where it needs to be.  So Jesus said, "Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do the things that I say?"  It's not a bad question.  Any Christian ought to be giving it a lot of thought, and having a word with God about it.

When we're not dealing with ourselves, we'll displace our strife to those outside.  Saul wouldn't deny himself and obey God, so he compensated by murdering the Gibeonites.  In the same way, American Christians aren't about to do what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, so they get up a crusade against the Muslims, and before that the Communists - and always against various non-Christians in the US.  And when these push back against this aggression, it's not persecution!

Here's the obvious: if we are not following Jesus, because we want to indulge ourselves, nobody can persecute us for living godly in Jesus Christ, because we're not doing it.  Only those who are living godly in Christ Jesus get persecuted for it, and when those people are persecuted they don't whine about it.  They rejoice that they are found worthy to suffer shame for the Name (Acts 5:40-41).

Does the American Christoid know any of this?


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The freedom in being small and despised

Psalm 119, which I read again recently, always does me plenty of good.  119:141 says, "I am small and despised; I do not forget Your precepts."

I had always read this to say that not forgetting God's precepts is consolation for being small and despised.  That's true, but there is more to it, which I had overlooked.

Being small and despised, one has the freedom to believe and state the truth,because what more can they take away from you?  It is the freedom that Solzhenitsyn found in camp.  It's a lot easier to remember God's precepts when you're free to believe and state them.  The more pressure we're under to bow the knee to the Lie, the more likely we are to forget God's precepts, principally by rationalizing them away.  "It is exceedingly difficult to make a man understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it," said Upton Sinclair, and how right he was.  The way Jesus put the same thought was, "How hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."

American paganism - that is, its civil religion - recently celebrated one of its chief holidays, Veterans Day.  Americans on this day are supposed to thank veterans for their service, as though invading and bombing people all over the world who are minding their own business - so that war contractors can get rich - is something to for us to be thankful for, rather than the shameful act of oppression and mass murder that it is.

I had a conversation with a Christian preacher recently about these things, and it came together for me.  This guy publicly subscribes to this whole mythology - goes out of his way.  But he also knows better and has said so.  He clearly has to play along because if he doesn't he will get punished by his congregation and probably lose his pulpit.  They love and admire him, or so it seems, but if their love is real, would it not continue if he were to walk in the truth instead of being conformed to this world?

I have wanted to be more esteemed than I am by the world, including the Christian world.  But I think that God has done me a favor by keeping me from the temptation of prominence and the esteem of many.  Such worldly glory is another manifestation of Mammon, operating just like money and being readily translatable into it, just as money is in turn easily transformed into fame and the praise of men.

Of course the regard of men is useful, and it even allows you to do good.  And in this is maybe its most seductive power.  How much more Jesus could have accomplished in the world, if he had just bowed down to Satan!  Yes, and how often are we offered that deal and accept it?  What is it to bow down to Satan, if not to make some deal or other with the Lie?  The preachers in Germany in 1937 who kept the freedom to keep preaching the gospel by making their peace with National Socialism - only what gospel did they have left to preach?  The preachers in Montgomery in 1956 who abstained from supporting the bus boycott in order to avoid offending their white congregations, likewise preaching the gospel of worldly godliness. 

Of course, the self-respecting cannot make such compromises honestly, truthfully acknowledging their cowardice.  They must rationalize it.  So they sincerely convince themselves that their betrayal of the truth is in fact the truth.  And so is fulfilled the word of Upton Sinclair, "It is exceedingly difficult to make a man understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."  Indeed, it is far better for one's life in this present world to understand how true the Lie really is.  

I have no cause to believe that I am any better than these guys.  I have every reason to think that if it is presented to me the right way, I'll go there too.  Such virtue as I have in this matter may be credited to my lack of opportunity, no more - and that blessing and mercy is from God.

The heart of the matter: given that I can either learn to observe God's precepts or to be honored in the world, let me choose always to be small and despised, if that's what it takes to learn to observe God's precepts.  Up to now, I have not been clear enough about this.  Indeed, I have a lot to learn, and lots of crap to unlearn.