Sunday, February 26, 2006

John the Apostle on Light and Darkness

My friend Judy and I were talking last week about how John could say so confidently that the darkness is passing away because the true light is already shining. Indeed, far from passing away, the darkness seems to be growing, as it was in the 1930s, as the nations become more unrestrained in savagery, and as people everywhere grow more enamored of lies that justify them in slaughtering other people, growing ever more callous and licentious. And just as Paul wrote, in the churches they cannot endure sound teaching, but turn away from the truth - and as Jesus said, when the light in them is darkness, how great is that darkness! How then can John say that the darkness is passing away?

The first thing to remember in reading John's writings, and especially First John, is that he is writing as a witness. This is what he has seen, heard, and handled (1 John1:1-3). What John experienced and wants his readers to experience is that the true light is shining, enlightening everyone who receives it, and that whenever that happens darkness must always yield. When light and darkness meet, light always prevails. When we are deceived, it must always be by our becoming darkness ourselves, as we turn away from truth and hide in some lie. Light wakes us up in the face of any darkness, but darkness never puts us to sleep when we are yielding to truth.

So how then can darkness grow so strong and increase its power if it really is passing away? In Revelation 13, we see that the rise of the beast is the direct result of Satan's defeat in heaven (Rev. 12). Precisely because Satan loses his authority to accuse God's people in heaven, he sends forth his hand on earth, using what he has in place of what he has lost. We see it work this way all the time in life.

John Toland, in his history of the Japanese empire, dates its decline from the irrevocable decision in 1936 to go to war in China. Japan set out on uninterrupted expansion from 1936 to 1942, but it was all decline, because it was a panicky grab for rubber and petroleum and to dominate China, leading first to a quagmire in China resembling the American wars in Vietnam and Iraq and the Soviet war in Afghanistan - and then to a war with the United States which the Japanese navy, in particular, knew would lead to total defeat.

When the wicked come like a storm, then is the time to dig deep into the truth, which is always to learn and turn away from our own darkness, and then to stand fast in that truth. We may not change the world - although occasionally that happens - but we will alwaysrescue our own lives, and as Jeremiah reminded Baruch, that's plenty (Jeremiah 45).

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Sundown Towns and Missing Christians

I recently read Sundown Towns by James Loewen, and I was struck by one incident of many - how Corbin, Kentucky drove all its black inhabitants out of town on Halloween night 1919. Any town of 3400 people in 1919 had churches, especially in Kentucky, with lots of people calling themselves "Bible believers" who had "asked Jesus Christ to come into their hearts."

Where were these people on Halloween night 1919? Where were their pastors? And where were they during the following 70+ years in which Corbin made sure that no black person could live there?

The Bible says that a Christian is a "disciple" of Jesus. "Disciple" means "apprentice." The apprentice spends time with the master and in this way becomes like him, coming to think, to do, and to teach as he does (Luke 6:40). Where did this pack of "Bible believers" learn from Jesus to act this way or to silently go along with others who did?

I don't mean to pick on Corbin. Around the same time every town on the Illinois River except Peoria ethnically cleansed its black people the same way, and they performed the same ethnic cleansing in Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and countless other places over the next 35 years as they had for 30 years before that. Everywhere the "Christians" went along when they were not actually taking the lead, being enemies of God because they were such firm friends of their white supremacist world (James 4:4). It is precisely because Corbin is in no way unusual that it compels us confront what we mean in the USA by "Christian."

This history is present, not past. The sons of those who acted so cruelly and inhospitably while singing "Just As I Am" - thereby acknowledging that Jesus, unlike them, is hospitable to all - are now foremost in supporting precisely the same ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their own homes. They even twist the Scriptures to justify it in the same way that their fathers did to justify white supremacy - while denying any relationship to them, like the Pharisees who likewise distanced themselves from those who killed the prophets (Matthew 23:29-36). They are firm friends of this world, as conformed to its present passions to rob, slaughter, and dominate others as they were in 1919, and so they are enemies of God in the same way.

Asking Jesus into your heart doesn't make it, as far as the apostles are concerned. Receiving and becoming a doer of his word does - and his word testifies that this world is evil, not justified in what it does. As John the apostle wrote, we know God's word is in us if we love our fellow humans made in God's image and likeness. The one who does not love does not know God, no matter what religious commitments he has made or prayers he has prayed (1 John 4:8). If that's you, you are a Christoid, just as a gorilla, a chimpanzee, or an orangutan is an anthropoid but not a real human.

There's the problem, so here's a cure. If we say we have no sin, the word of God is not in us, because God says we do have all kinds of sin, so that we are calling God a liar - and that's what causes us not to be like Jesus. We need the word of God in us, to work in us as it worked in Jesus, and that word will constantly be telling us we're wrong so that we can be healed and made right. John the apostle wrote that if we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This is because when we no longer assert our rightness, we stop kicking the truth out of our hearts (Revelation 3:20). Learning our wrongness all the time is what is called repentance, by which we cause more joy in heaven than 99 righteous who need no repentance. When we cause joy in heaven, heaven will cause joy in us. So don't be a Christoid, fool - be a Christian!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Gabriel Kolko on War

I just finished Gabriel Kolko's book "A Century of War," and I found it most profitable. I mostly hoped to learn through the examples of others about my own folly in this matter - what's the use of learning about the stupidities of others in history, if not to learn how we're like them so as no longer to do likewise?

I was by no means disappointed. Here's some of what I learned:

1) War looks predictable and easy, but it always springs big surprises on everyone involved, and often brings disaster that would never have happened otherwise to those who want to bring it on. As Sun Tzu also noted, protracted war is always disastrous, whether it's the "Long War" the Pentagon is now planning or the personal enmities we cling to in our personal relations.

2) We think we have to fight to establish the credibility of our power - the same stupidity whether it's the Americans in Vietnam, the Germans coming to the aid of Austria-Hungary, gangbangers in the 'hood doing drive-bys to prove someone messed with the wrong person, or me and you refusing to give in for fear of being ripped off or despised. Credibility is established by being credible, and that happens if we believe the truth ourselves. If we believe lies and reject the truth, it's perfect justice to find ourselves receiving the judgment owed to the lies we love. If we believe the truth of the credible God, maybe He will establish our cred for us - so I've been learning.
3) Finally, Kolko shows the futility of utopian thinking and elitism, specifically on the Left, whatever that means. He reaches this bottom line: "a quite simple dedication to being on the side of the oppressed, the disadvantaged, and the people who really work to earn what they spend." That sounds like Jesus, and the prophets and Moses before him. No system is going to settle that once for all! It was right there with the unlicensed 15 year-old kid who rolled a stop sign in front of me in his father's uninsured truck last Friday as I approached at 45 mph, nearly killing us both. Was I going to be merciful, or punish them, or just hold them for ransom? I picked right because I saw my own need for mercy - all the times I went unpunished when I could have hit someone, all the times like this one that I've escaped unhurt from some pretty bad crashes.

If you don't need mercy you won't deal it out to others, and if you do you will - and you won't think you're doing anyone except yourself a favor when you do. I think these are the only two political positions in the world - and the wiser of these doesn't win many elections. How do these parties do in your elections?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Attwood Among the Christoids

I too wound up starting this blog through posting a comment on Juan Cole's "Informed Comment" ( Juan's blog is a great read, but to my mind he wants to blame Bush and his buds for everything wrong with American behavior. American mass murder, especially since World War 2, didn't start with Bush. Consistent American identification with dictators over the past 60 years, a history acknowledged by Bush himself in his speech on Middle East democracy, didn't start with Bush either.

As a biblical Christian, I don't expect the empires of the earth to behave other than what the Bible tells us to expect, so I don't expect imperial America to think or act differently from other empires of this world, especially its acknowledged ancesors - Greece, Rome, and the genocidal European civilization that arose from Rome. But I intend to remind those who apply the name of Jesus to themselves that John the apostle defines the faith as follows: Those who kill with the sword must be killed with the sword, and those who lead into captivity must be led into captivity (Revelation 13:10). Since to know these truths is the "faith and perseverance of the saints," it follows that those who rely on slaughter and slavery cannot possibly persevere in the faith of Jesus, even if they do shout "Lord, Lord," with the best of them as they blow off what he says. And it happens, not coincidentally, that American Christianity is entangled from its beginning with the genocide and slavery in which the American empire was founded, and which it has held to ever since - just as the Bible shows the kingdom of Samaria clinging to the end to the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat its founder.

Receiving the mark of the beast is simply to be transformed by the religion of antichrist - to count on the sword, depleted uranium, and 500 pound bombs on civilian populations to keep us safe, and to count on American-sponsored puppet governments to keep the gooks and ragheads in line to feed American luxury so that we can be "free" - just as their overseers kept the niggers in line back in the day.

So long as our comfort is in killing, as it was for the Puritans who butchered the Indians so they could steal their land and thereby "live" through their blood, we may know jive religion, but we will never know the real life of Jesus. So long as we're "free" by oppressing others, like Thomas Jefferson and his friends who wrote eloquent words on liberty while their slaves were kept under the lash, we will never know the liberty that Jesus offers the poor through the truth (John 8:31-32).

Thus to receive the mark of the beast is damnation because it prevents us from ever knowing the perseverance and faith of the saints, which depends on knowing the futility of killing and enslaving others. Indeed, as Jesus said, the way is broad and easy that leads to destruction, and lots of people go that way; and the way is tight and narrow that leads to life, and few they are that find it.

It's not subtle or complicated - it's just the true saying: "What goes around comes around" - but how many "Christians" miss it.