Thursday, April 24, 2014

Subversion and Subversives

A client whom I consider a friend, a graduate student in cultural studies, sent me an e-mail yesterday actually asking my opinion on cultural matters. My answer was informal, but I like it, so ...

On 14/04/22 22:49, [friend] wrote:
Do you think that Subcultures still present a subversive attitude ? I feel that subculture has become mass culture and actually more common than mainstream culture.

Hi, [friend],

Your question has started my day out right. I hope my answer doesn't convince you that I'm crazy as well as outside the box.

Definitions are important here. Mainstream culture and subculture literally or etymologically refer, respectively, to the dominant culture in a society and a non-dominant culture in that same society. When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, mainstream American culture was people of European descent, nominally Christian, desiring to be "respectable" (i.e., seen as honest, chaste, hard working, etc.). Short hair and neckties were pretty much the symbols of the culture. Blacks and immigrants were subcultures. With the exception of Motown music, on the one hand they kept to themselves, but on the other they were trying to blend in to mainstream culture: melting pot and free market were the watchwords. Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King would be the names best known with that mentality: blacks trying to get whites to open the door to the mainstream -- i.e., transplanted European -- culture. (This is a very broad brush I'm painting with here -- there were many exceptions.)

But things have changed in 50 years, so you're close to right: what was once a subculture has become not "more common than mainstream culture," it is the new mainstream culture. Most "white-collar" workers don't wear ties at work anymore. More importantly, "respectability" is frowned upon. For years after 2006 I used to walk 25 minutes each way from my office to the train, and I was amazed that even if I only heard five seconds of a consversation on the sidewalk as I walked by, almost all of them included words related to pelvic functions or anatomy. We didn't talk that way when I was growing up, and anyone who did would have been shunned. Now everyone does it, and people whose names everyone knows consider it a worthy goal to have these words appear on TV without being beeped out. And of course, tattoos, sagging, piercings, etc., are all part of the new mainstream.

Then there's the immigration situation. Because I believe that the Bible teaches that people and their property are sacred I have no problem with people coming here from other countries. They are human beings. I have no right to stop anyone from coming here peaceably (i.e., without threatening people or their property, which means there should be no government subsidies for them or anyone else either). My job as a Christian is to convince them that God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. Period. (And yes, that's why I'm so eager to keep the conversation going with you and anyone else I can get to interlocute.)

But when people come, they will bring their ideas. At least some Muslims will bring with them a sense of justice that includes blasphemy laws, honor killings, and the like, which are not part of the mainstream culture I grew up in. Almost everyone brings with them the idea that free markets are bad things, and most of the descendants of white free-market-loving native born have been convinced of the same idea. As these ideas have become more popular, the culture is changing. Ideas once considered crazy, like jailing people who sell raw milk (or hemp, for that matter) are now the law of the land -- i.e., mainstream. Much of that change happened before I was born, other was being touted by the popular media when I was growing up and wanting to fit in, so I took it on without question. It was only when a crazy guy asked me the right questions that I decided I wanted out of the mainstream.

So yes, punk is now mainstream. As consumers demanded punk clothing, music, tattoos, whatever, businesses mass produced them. You can buy punk clothes at Penney's, right next to the sports logo apparel. The regime has tamed the punks; they are now docile bodies happy to be ruled, as their almost unanimous votes for Obama testify so clearly.

The only remnant of the old subversive subculture is us free-market anarchists. Only we are asking if killing Muslim women and children overseas is a good idea. (Even the Muslims at the local mosque people from my church meet with for discussions a few times a year speak of the US military as "us" and the Iraqis and Afghans as "them.") Only we question subsidies for favored corporations (Monsanto) and unions (e.g., teachers unions in tax-funded schools), the growing police state (NSA, DEA, ICE), etc.

Gotta make some money, so I'll quit. Thanks as always for writing. . . .

Enjoy your day. I'm supposed to expect a paper from you sometime soon, right?

Hanna w sihha!


Friday, April 18, 2014

The Centurion and His Wife

— Hi, honey, how was work today?
— Not quite the usual.
— That’s what I was thinking. It got really dark about noon. Perfectly clear sky, but still dark. It was scary. I hope you weren’t outside.
— Well, I was.
— Another bunch of crucifixions?
— Yeah. But this group was different. Well, one of the guys was different.
— How so?
— From what I could understand he hadn’t done anything wrong. The other guys were thieves. They had it coming. But this guy was just – remember earlier in the week we heard there was a disturbance at the kikes’ temple? Some guy came into town on a donkey with a bunch of kikes waving branches and then went in there with a whip and messed up the merchants’ tables, right? It was that guy.
— Well, that’s not good.
— Maybe not, but remember, nobody asked us to prosecute him for that.
— True.
— And I guess all week he’d been back in the temple and everyone treated him like nothing had happened.
— OK, so?
— So last night the kikes arrested him, and this morning they got the gov to have him crucified. So we beat the ever-livin’ crap out of him and crucified him.
— Didn’t that bother you, having your men do that to an innocent man?
— Hey, sweetie, we’ve been through this before. I don’t issue the orders. I just follow them. We took him out, nailed him up, … You know, the usual.
— Except that the sun went dark.
— Yeah. That was when I started thinking there was something different about him. Not just that he was innocent, but, like, maybe he was in league with the sun god.
— A kike in league with the sun god? You really thought that?
— Hey, they don’t pay me to think about these things. But anyway, there were a couple of other things that were weird. Usually when people get crucified they’re either screaming curses at everyone or just feeling sorry for themselves. This guy was thinking about people’s sins. One of the guys up there with him talked to him like he was a king who could forgive his sins, and the kike said his sins were forgiven. Then he – it was like he prayed for his god to forgive the sins of those who had had him crucified. Then just before he died, his last words were “It is finished,” like the whole thing had been his idea from the beginning.
 Maybe the pain made him crazy.
— May be. But I couldn’t help saying, “This man is truly God’s son.”
— Just like that?
— Just like that. So if you want to know how my day went, I have to say I spent it killing God’s son.
— Does that bother you?
— Like I said, I was just following orders. What’s for dinner?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Will You Abandon the Cross?" Ja, You Betcha

Apparently there’s a cross at the Mount Soledad Veterans’ Memorial in California that the feds want to rip down. I just heard about it in this e-mail:
 Dear Henry,
California’s 9th Circuit is at it again.
But this time they’re not forcing homosexual “marriage” on the people of California.
They’ve now launched an all-out war on ALL Christians by ordering the Mount Soledad Memorial Cross be ripped up and torn down.
Henry, I’m going to stand up and DEFEND the cross.
And I’m counting on you to stand with me and defend the cross by signing your Mount Soledad Cross Statement of Support to Chief Justice John Roberts IMMEDIATELY.
As you’ll see, your Statement of Support -- which cc’s the ENTIRE U.S. Supreme Court -- urges John Roberts to review the 9th Circuit’s outrageous decision and overrule this blatant attack on our Christian faith.
But before I give you the link to sign your Statement of Support, let me explain why this fight is so important -- and how you and I can stop the Mount Soledad Cross from being torn down.
For nearly 60 years, this 29 foot cross has stood as the centerpiece of the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego.
Surrounded by nearly 3,000 granite plaques honoring war heroes from every war in American history, this cross casts a peaceful shadow upon those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
But after 24 years of litigation, California’s 9th Circuit Court recently ruled the famous Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross violates the U.S. Constitution -- and ordered the cross be TORN DOWN.
Henry, this is outrageous to say the least.
But it’s not surprising.
After all, the God-hating liberals have been attacking our Christian values for more than four decades now.
And that’s four decades too long.
If you’re as fed up with these attacks on our faith as I am, please sign your Mount Soledad Cross Statement of Support right away!
You and I cannot allow this assault on Christianity to go on any longer.
The anti-religious Left has attempted to BAN prayer, along with all symbols of Christianity, in public schools across the nation.
Dozens of Christian entrepreneurs and business owners are facing lawsuits, government investigations, court orders, fines, and even jail time for their religious convictions.
They’re persecuting Christians in the military by FORCING soldiers to announce support for homosexual “marriage” -- even if it directly contradicts their religious views.
And they’ve banned Military Chaplains from praying in Jesus’ name and quoting scripture in their classes.
If you and I allow California’s 9th Circuit to get away with this blatant attack on Christianity, what’s next?
Forced removal of the crosses at Arlington National Cemetery?
Outlawing crosses on headstones marking a loved one’s grave?
BANNING Christian religious symbols from churches, homes, schools, and private property?
I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to sit around and find out.
If the 9th Circuit’s outrageous decision isn’t reversed, the Left is sure to use it as precedent to STOMP all public expressions of Christianity out of society for good.
You and I can’t allow that to happen.
That’s why I’m counting on you to sign your Mount Soledad Cross Statement of Support right away.
The good news is, you and I have a real shot at stopping the radical Left from tearing down the Mount Soledad Cross.
And that’s by urging Chief Justice John Roberts to take up this case and overturn this outrageous ruling by the 9th Circuit Court.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up the case because the lower courts hadn’t reached a final decision yet.
But Justice Samuel Alito issued a statement saying the Supreme Court would consider taking up the case should the lower courts not reach a favorable decision.
So please sign your Mount Soledad Cross Statement of Support to help encourage Chief Justice John Roberts and the Supreme Court to review and reverse the 9th Circuit’s ruling.
For more than thirty years as the president of Public Advocate of the U.S., I’ve led the fight in Washington against the anti-Family forces’ attacks on Christianity.
As a result, my family’s been stalked, I’ve been threatened, assaulted and called every manner of vile name.
Even my little children became targets.
The threats were unspeakable.
But God called me to this place, and I’ve stood my ground. Not just my ground or my family’s ground -- OUR ground.
But today I’m coming to you, asking for help like never before.
I’m asking you to put it on the line for what we believe in. I’m asking you to stand with me for Christ and DEFEND the cross.
If you’re willing to stand up for the cross, please sign your Mount Soledad Cross Statement of Support IMMEDIATELY.
My hope is to generate a FLOOD of Statements from good folks like you all over the country to help urge Chief Justice John Roberts to do what’s right and reverse the 9th Circuit’s outrageous ruling.
But to help generate a massive outpouring of support for the Mount Soledad Cross, I’m going to have to ramp up all of Public Advocate’s efforts.
In the next few weeks, my hope is to contact up to eight million Americans nationwide via mail and email, work the blogs and the talk radio lines, write op-eds, and run hard-hitting newspaper, radio, internet and TV ads designed to mobilize millions of Christians to stand up and defend the cross.
Of course, such a massive grassroots mobilization program isn’t easy -- nor cheap.
But I’m afraid it’s the only way to save the Mount Soledad Cross from being torn down.
So please -- in addition to your signed Statement of Support -- I must ask you to make your most generous contribution TODAY to help me FIGHT BACK against the Radical Left’s attack on our Christian faith.
I don’t know what you can afford. Perhaps you can give $20. Perhaps all you can do is chip in $5 or $10.
Whatever you can do, it will make a tremendous difference.
I believe you and I do have the numbers to beat back the left-wing attempt to deal a massive blow to Christianity by TEARING DOWN the Mount Soledad Cross -- if we can mobilize in time.
But that depends on you.
So please sign your Statement of Support and chip in $10 or $20 TODAY.
Please don’t let this email sit in your inbox. Please don’t tell yourself “I’ll just get to it later.” Please act at once and DEFEND the cross!
For the Family,
President, Public Advocate of the U.S.
P.S. The war on Christianity has reached a new fever pitch.
My  response:
Dear Mr. Delgaudio,
Actually, yes, I will abandon the cross. The Mount Soledad Cross is not the cross of Jesus. It’s the cross of an entire nation of Christians fooled into thinking that their government was interested in their freedom.
If you think California’s 9th circuit court is evil, and in the light of the other examples you give of government hostility to Christians and our message, consider the possibility that our government is no more our friend than Pilate’s was to Jesus or Herod’s was to the apostles.
Two examples of Christians being deceived en masse should suffice (1 Tim 5:19).
There was no reason for Christians to fight the Progressive Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s war in 1917. The Germans had no desire to invade even England, let alone the US. The Lusitania was carrying everything the Germans said they would sink ships carrying. That the passengers didn’t know about the cargo is Wilson’s fault, not Germany’s. The Christian church should have stood against Wilson’s policy of conscription, if on no other basis than 2 Cor 6:14.
The second example is Vietnam: this was sold to the US public by the Progressive Democrat Lyndon Johnson on the lie that our freedoms were in danger from the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese. While it is true that we have been losing our freedoms ever since the fall of Saigon, we have been losing them not to the Vietnamese (who, if you will remember, were the ones who stopped the murderous rampage of Pol Pot), but to those who sent my neighbors to fight and die there. These are the same people now behind our current wars whose commander-in-chief is the liberal Democrat Barack Obama.
The evidence is plain to me that the power elite in our country cares less for US soldiers than sex traffickers care for their slaves -- that they arguably treat them better is more a testimony to their access to other people’s money and their knowledge that willing slaves are more profitable than captives than to any concern for justice. Furthermore, the rise of Naziism, the captivity of Eastern Europe to the Communists, the ongoing stalemate in Korea, our current ability to trade with Vietnam, and the flourishing of al-Qaeda (in Syria and God knows where else with the support of US taxes) tell me that World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War (never called such by the Pentagon), and the Global War on Terror have been Satanic plots to distract US Christians from the Great Commission. Add that to the slaughter of the American Indians, the imperialist war against the Confederacy (which was itself an evil empire, but no threat to the North), and the conquests of Hawai’i and the Philippines, and I have to say that the US military is nothing any serious Christian should associate himself with.
May the dissociation of the cross of Christ with the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial be immediate and final.
Sincerely in Christ,
Henry Whitney

Monday, April 14, 2014

Taxes: The Downside of Being Smarter than God

If you don’t believe Uncle Sam is smarter than God, just ask him.
The Bible, at least as most people read it, dates the beginning of life on earth at a few thousand years ago. Uncle Sam knows better. The Bible deals with theft through restitution. Uncle Sam knows better and puts thieves in cages. God tells us to care for the poor through voluntary actions. Uncle Sam in his superior knowledge (and morals, don’t forget) has created agencies to take care of every concern the poor might have: health, education, food, entertainment–you name it.
How nice to be free from all those nasty strictures in the Old Testament: resting on Saturday, not wearing mixed fabrics, not eating pigs, having sex only with one’s spouse, and that only for the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle.
And what a small price we pay: Uncle Sam and his state and local cohorts take close to forty percent of our income, plus we need dozens of hours to keep track of every dollar. For family this year that meant we had to keep track down to the .002% (that’s two-thousandths of a percent or two one-hundred-thousandths) of our income. If I had been a millionaire, I would have needed to account for the millionth part of my income. What fun!
Does it bother you that other people consider it their business to force you to account for every dollar you handle and reserve the right to go through your records?
The Mosaic system told the people to keep track of the tenth part of their goods. There’s debate whether they could keep nine-tenths or seven-tenths or whether the amount changed year by year, but in the end there was no IRS coming through to check on them. God commanded his people to be truthful with him and open handed with the poor. If they chose to challenge him, “‘Vengeance is mine,’ says the Lord, ‘I will repay.’”
Is that really worse than IRS agents whose job is to make those they audit look as bad as possible? (Let me know if you can name anyone whose audit showed they had given too much money to the IRS.)
If you’re still resentful of Uncle Sam’s prying into your private life so he can extract as much wealth as he can before you revolt, consider the possibility that God promises his people a society in which people deal honestly and generously with their neighbors because they are convinced from the inside out that that’s the best way to live. Consider the possibility that such a society might be something to hold out to unbelievers as a city on a hill, a light in a dark place, rest for the weary, a serious reason to consider the claims of Christ.
Then again, if the tax man is just Jesus’ boots on the ground, maybe not.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Who were Jesus’ Good Soldiers?

You must not follow a crowd in doing evil things. (Exod 23:2)
Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 2:3)
You will recognize them by their fruit. (Matt 7:6)
I have been involved in a discussion with Christians I otherwise highly respect in regard to the defense given by the soldiers who killed the Jews in the concentration camps. After forty years of believing that “I was just following orders” was morally invalid, I find myself listening to seminary-trained Christian leaders saying that the only people guilty of the Holocaust were those at the top who issued the orders – the people who actually did the killing were innocent because they were indeed just following orders.
I can’t just dismiss their argument out of hand. I have recently read Treblinka, the autobiography of Chil Rajchman, one of the few Jews to escape the Treblinka death camp. He was able to survive by deceiving the Germans into thinking he was a barber, and so spent his days of captivity shearing naked women before they were stuffed into the gas chambers. When there were no women to shear, he helped dispose of corpses. While the physical and emotional agony drove most of Rajchman’s co-workers to suicide, he lasted months, escaped during the revolt, and managed to stay hidden until the war was over.
If I consider it OK for Rajchman to become a barber to survive the Holocaust, why should I condemn Calvinists and other German evangelicals for donning the uniform of the Reich as a survival strategy? After all, Rajchman was just following orders. And if I don’t condemn Rajchman, why do I hassle US evangelicals for joining Uncle Sam’s army and fighting his wars?
The best I can do is to say that the soldiers were being paid; Rajchman was running as fast as he could to escape the Grim Reaper, so he incurred no guilt. Therefore, to the degree the soldiers were conscripts, they were also staying out of range of the Reaper.
But I don’t find even that satisfactory. There were non-Jewish Germans who refused to join the Wehrmacht: Jehovah’s Witnesses. Rather than following the crowd to do evil, they were suffering for what they would call their Christian faith. Maybe there were Calvinist guards who treated the doomed Jews with some sort of unusual courtesy – I can’t even imagine what that would mean – but I can’t imagine Rajchman saying that he regarded them more highly than he did the Witnesses who were interned.
So I ask you: is Jesus more pleased with those who endured suffering rather than participating in evil, or is he more pleased with those who were “just following orders”?
“Well,” I hear you say, “to the degree that the Calvinists truly trusted Christ they were saved, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are lost because they don’t believe that Jesus is God, so yes, he was more pleased with the Calvinists. They were obeying Romans 13 by just following orders. You don’t believe that Rajchman was saved, do you?”
OK, you’ve got me there: salvation, reconciliation with God, comes through Christ alone. So if Rajchman has rejected Jesus, he is not saved; his sins against God are worse than the Nazis’ sins against him, and even the suffering he endured at Treblinka cannot wash those sins away. While I seriously question the wholesale writing off of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I’ll assume for the sake of argument here that they are not saved either. Whether guilty or not, God’s people are instrumental in the progress of evil while his enemies suffer it. Are you happy now?
For that matter, given that paradigm, should we even call the Holocaust evil? I’ve never yet heard a Christian deny that God was working out his eternal purposes through the Holocaust, so if God is working out his purposes, is it really evil? If “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord like channels of water; he turns it wherever he wants” (Prov 21:1), then government leaders are themselves “just following orders,” are they not? If the soldiers who actually did the dirty work have not incurred guilt because they were “just following orders,” how can even the government leaders have incurred guilt? If there is no human guilt, and God is by definition good and therefore innocent of guilt, then who is guilty? If no one is guilty, then how can the Holocaust be evil? Can we not only say that it just was, like the death of krill eaten by a whale?
Maybe you can live in that kind of universe, but I can’t.
On the other hand, if every person is always a moral agent who will “be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor 5:10), we cannot follow the crowd to do evil and then claim innocence because we were “just following orders.” We have to evaluate the morality of every decree of those with power over us and decide whether or not we need to “obey God rather than people” (Acts 5:29).
The only government decree I remember hearing any Christians say they could not obey is some variant of “deny Jesus,” like “say, ‘Caesar is lord’” or “don’t preach Christ.” But according to my seminary-trained interlocutors stuffing naked Jews into gas chambers is OK for soldiers because doing so is “just following orders.” It wouldn’t be OK for private citizens to do this, of course, but following the order of a lawful authority is OK.
My response is that if God has not commanded us in the Bible to kill people – that is, the likes of murderers and kidnappers (let’s pass on the question of sexual deviants for now) – we incur guilt by killing them. It’s that simple. Nowhere in Scripture are we admonished to round up Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or anyone else who otherwise respects their neighbors’ bodies and property and imprison them, let alone kill them. To do so is to disobey God to obey man – to proclaim Hitler as lord more loudly than by uttering the words. It would be better to suffer with the oppressed, as Corrie ten Boom’s family did. If our first priority is the spread of the gospel, it is to such as they – not to the thousands (I’m guessing here) of Calvinist Wehrmacht soldiers – we can point today as evidence that our God is good.
When it comes to today’s evangelical church in the US, to whom will our grandchildren point to support their claims that God is good? Will they point to the thousands of soldiers who put themselves at the beck and call of a man who called the Constitution he swore to uphold “a piece of g*dd*m paper”? Who appointed the Supreme Court Chief Justice who gave us ObamaCare? Who bailed out the richest people in the world at the expense of the rest of us? And another who arrogated to himself the task of killing his own subjects with no judicial oversight? Will they look back and be glad that today’s Calvinists not only followed the orders issued by these men but prayed for them as well (see Rom 1:32)?
Or will they wonder why there were so few Micaiahs and Jeremiahs who questioned the morality of the policies those men promoted and warned the church to stay away from them?