Archive for November, 2011

Jesus: Gandhi or Patton? Part I

Posted on November 29, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Government |

Norse Warriors

Image by Dunechaser via Flickr

As my household prepares for a deployment, I’ve found myself studying up on what the Bible has to say about war, violence, and self-defense. While there is enough material to make Tolstoy blush, I thought my readers might appreciate some brevity, so I’m going to break this up into a few posts.

I think too often Christ gets painted as a dove. People, even some Christians, portray him as some sort of Gandhi that believed violence is always wrong. I’m finding this isn’t so.  One of the last instructions he gave his followers was to be prepared to physically defend themselves against their enemies.

After  the Last Super concluded, Jesus turned to his disciples and asked if He had provided them with all they needed during the ministry to which they affirmed. But then Christ said to them, “But now, take your money and a traveler’s bag. And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one! For the time has come for this prophecy about me to be fulfilled: ‘He was counted among the rebels.’ Yes, everything written about me by the prophets will come true” (Luke 22:36-37).

While he was on earth, his followers had Christ’s divine protection in every sense of the word. God was going to ensure that his message was spread and that no physical harm would come to Jesus (or his followers) until the appointed time. Jesus knew his time was coming to an end, and wanted to be sure the disciples knew that he wasn’t going to be around to provide everything for them anymore; they would have to take care of themselves.

While sitting in my house, I have the  protection of the local and state police; I trust they will protect me. But if someone wanted to hurt me or my family, it surely improves my odds of staying safe when I keep the doors locked, have the protection of my fierce teufel hundens, and know how to use my handgun. In the same way, God will protect us, but He won’t take away the free will of our enemies to do harm to us (see Revelations).

So that means Jesus wants us to be Vikings swinging around battle axes against those who threaten us right? Not exactly. When the authorities came to arrest Christ, Peter uses his sword to cut an ear off of the priests (John 18:10). Jesus scolded Peter and said the infamous, “Put away your sword, those who use the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Keep in mind a few hours earlier Jesus told Peter he needed a sword, what gives?

This wasn’t a mob with pitchforks or really angry 99% signs. The men who came to arrest Jesus were acting on behalf of the Jewish authorities and had jurisdiction to be there. Christ corrected Peter’s actions (and even gave the priest his ear back) because a) this was all part of God’s plan b) we do not have the right to use violence against those acting in just authority (it is illegal to shoot at the cops after all). I think the ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’ means those who act unjustly will be capitally punished by those in authority, a topic for another day…

So bottom line on this one, self defense is a good thing and something Christ encouraged provided it was defensive against the unjust rather than offensive against the just.

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Were the Hebrews Unionized?

Posted on November 19, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Economics |

Botox is so sexy

Image by ekai via Flickr

Twice this week I had two family members discuss unions with me. One has the joy of employing union workers while the other is friends with many union-membered firefighters, and both are from the state of Ohio. For those unaware, last week, Ohio’s voters rejected Issue 2, which limited public employee union benefits. (Oddly enough, while Ohioans voted to overturn a law that returned more freedom to Ohio’s citizens, those same voters overwhelming rejected the Federal government’s ability to mandate healthcare on the grounds that it violated…freedom.) Apparently, 299 cloudy days a year has a side effect of making residents schizophrenic. So how would Jesus feel about Issue 2, or more broadly speaking, unions? Does the Bible say anything about whether we should support bargaining ‘rights’ or the ‘rights’ of the employer?

Both, actually. Jesus gives the account of the Parable of the Tenants in Mark 12:1-12. This parable tells the story of a man who planted a vineyard, rented it out to local farmers to work the land, and left for a nice vacation. After some time, the owner sent servant after servant and eventually his own son to collect some of the vineyard’s yield. But each time, the farmers beat the messengers and eventually killed the owner’s son (and heir) so they could claim the land for themselves. Jesus said as a result, the owner would eventually kill the tenants and lease the land out to other farmers.

For some historical context, it was not uncommon at the time for wealthy foreigners to purchase land and employ locals to work the land in exchange for an agreed portion of the land’s produce. With such a system, it might be easy to relate to the frustration of the workers who did all the work while the owner reaped the benefits. Some might argue that since the workers toiled, they are entitled to the land that the owner doesn’t even oversee, but Christ doesn’t appear to support this way of thinking. Instead, He argues that ownership still lies with the owner, something the farmers recognized at the beginning of the contract, but later forgot (ignored?). Furthermore, taking a land (or company’s) fruits (or profits) by force will lead to the destruction of those who sought to steal it, along with collateral damage for others not involved.

So, what is a over-worked and under-appreciated worker with no benefits to do? If you flip on back to Exodus, it starts off recalling the plight of the Israelites in Egypt. The Egyptians were worried because the Jews had taken God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” to heart. Even more worrisome for the Egyptians, the Jews occupied the land of Goshen located along the north-eastern border, ideal for any army interested in invading Egypt. If the Israelites sided with such an army, the results would be disastrous for the empire. Therefore, the Pharaoh “put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor…and worked them ruthlessly” (Exodus 1:11-13). Eventually, he ordered the death of all male babies (Exodus 1:22).

Pretty hard times for those workers. Pharaoh topped it off a few years later demanding bricks without providing them straw (Exodus 5:7). Could you imagine the UAW being forced to make cars with no steel? The NEA to teach without books? SAG to make films without botox? Some might think the Hebrews had no other option but to leave, but not so. Clearly, they had the numbers to pose a serious threat as illustrated by Pharaoh’s concern. And scripture attests the Israelites left Egypt armed for battle (Exodus 13:18). But these people didn’t respond by using their numbers as a weapon. Instead, they simply protested the freedom to go their own way and left peacefully.

Taken together, I believe God is trying to show us that the employee/employer relationship is based on mutual respect for each party’s freedom. Freedom for the employer to risk his capital on an investment that may or may not yield any fruit while employing workers to aid him in his quest. But this relationship should also be free of coercion, theft of property (which also means profits), and other hostile measures. Both employee and employer should have the freedom to leave the relationship once it is no longer mutually beneficial. Enslavement, on either side, is wrong.

So where does that leave unions in this country? Well, the private sector, where union membership has dropped to 6.9%, seems to have realized that it doesn’t pay to be unionized. But it doesn’t appear the public sector has gotten the message yet with 36.2% of government employee union membership. But if unions are banning together to fight for their ‘rights’ and opposing freedom for it’s employer (tax-payers), one has to wonder, how many servants will the tax-payer send and how many servants will unions beat before they both realize future generations are the ones setup up to be slaughtered.

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You Can’t Handle It

Posted on November 12, 2011. Filed under: Culture |

Kim Kardashian at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festiv...

Image via Wikipedia

Has anyone ever told you, “God wouldn’t give you something you can’t handle”? I’m not quite sure where I heard this, but it has given me comfort throughout my life. Most recently, I’ve found myself telling…myself…this as I prepare for the reality that my husband will being deploying in a few weeks, leaving me to handle our  home, finances, 15-month-old and giving birth to our second child on my own. “I can handle this. God wouldn’t give me something I can’t handle.”

Over the last couple of weeks our small group has been reading Weird by Craig Groeschel.  The author claims that this phrase does not appear in the Bible.  So I found myself asking, “Why do most Christians (myself included) say that God won’t give us anything we can’t handle?” Is this slogan biblically based, or just Christian mythology?

Take a look at these verses:

“…For the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared” (Prov 3:26).

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:30-31).

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me” (Psalm 28:7).

These verses don’t say “give yourself confidence,” “hope in yourself,” or “you have the strength.”  They don’t say to rely on family or friends to help you with all your troubles.  And they certainly do not claim that troubled times won’t come at all. In fact, I can guarantee that life will present you with more than you alone can handle.  Whether it be imprisonment in a Roman jail, struggling to make ends meet in economic downturns, shattered dreams of a Kardashian happily-ever-after or deployments to forsaken countries. God doesn’t want us to focus on ourselves for strength (see commandment #1), we need to turn to Him. He will guide us and provide for us so that we can do the otherwise seemingly impossible.

Paul proclaims in his letter to the Phillippians, “I can do all things in him who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13 ). God gives us strength; we cannot handle everything on our own. So, would God give us something we can’t handle? Absolutely. It would appear that it is in those trying times we should be reminded that we do not need to struggle alone. As Christians, we know we can call on Him to help us. And if God is for us, who or what can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

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