Friday, August 20, 2010

The Peace of Jerusalem

Brother Peterson shares Christ with more strangers in a week than I do in a year. He stands at the entrance to the Market East railway station every afternoon during peak hours with hand-lettered signs calling on passersby to repent of their sins and come to Christ. At least once a week I see him talking with someone who has stopped by, and judging by the body language, they are nonbelievers who are trying to figure out what this crazy old guy is all about.

Brother Peterson is old, probably in his mid-sixties, he hobbles with a cane, he's missing a few teeth, and he is unlettered, but he's not crazy. And he genuinely loves the Lord. His face has somewhat of a basset hound sadness to it, and the first few times I saw him, I avoided him, thinking, "What a horrible advertisement for the gospel." But God convicted me, and one day I decided to break the ice by offering to buy him a smoothie from the nearby fruit stand. He turned the smoothie down, but we got to talking about the Lord, and the basset hound turned into a beagle in an instant. His eyes lit up, and he was very chatty. I don't spend enough time at Market East for it to depress me much, but in four years I've spent probably as much time there as he did his first month on duty, and I have grown to appreciate how hard it is for him to smile: there isn't much there to cheer one longing for heaven. That man is a soldier of the cross.

I was early arriving today, and Brother Peterson didn't have anyone on the line, so I stopped to say hi. After the initial pleasantries, he said, "Brother, I want you to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the apple of God's eye, and those Iranians . . . ."

Great God who lives in heaven above, Lord of glory, Lord of love, what has gotten into this man? Who is the apple of God's eye? Is it a nation of people who reject the Christ who is truly the apple of God's eye, or is it those who have given their lives to Christ?

Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring. (Ro 9:6-8)

Who are the children of the promise? Is it not Christ's brothers?

Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written,
"Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear;
Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor;
For more are the children of the desolate
Than of the one who has a husband."
And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. (Gal 4:25-28)

It is only the heavenly Jerusalem that really counts today; it is only those who have surrendered to Jesus Christ who are headed for an afterlife worth looking forward to. It is only those who love the one whom God loves above all else who have the possibility of pleasing God in this life.

I'm not writing this to beat up on Brother Peterson. I sang his praises because he is an exemplary Christian. Unfortunately, he is not alone in having his priorities out of order. I don't know if the ones who have bewitched him and others (Ga 3:1) are the media mouthpieces of the American-Israeli Politcal Action Committee or the spiritual heirs of C. I. Scofield, but someone has done great damage to the cause of Christ and to men of goodwill like Brother Peterson by promoting the idea that one can please God apart from Christ.

He went on to talk about how the United States is crumbling before our eyes and we need to pray that God will keep it from total destruction. Again, I had to shake my head. Our nation is literally going to hell; every year a smaller proportion of our fellow citizens who leave this life are headed for glory. I like to think that a massive turning to Christ would stay God's hand of judgment against our wicked society, but it didn't happen in Jeremiah's day, so I'm not counting on it now. But whether or not God's hand is stayed, these are individuals no different from me who are facing an eternity of suffering. Yes, they will receive justice; but God calls us to urge them to receive grace and mercy (2Co 5:20). I like good neighbors and want to live in a prosperous society, but not if it means people who have lived as good neighbors die without Christ. And if it's true that the bigger they are the harder they fall, and Uncle Sam is getting bigger every day, I say the sooner he meets his doom the less bad things will be.

Brother Peterson is in the convinving business, not the listening business, so I didn't waste too much of my breath discussing the matter with him. And as I left, he called, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!"

I replied, "I'll be praying that they come to Christ. Beyond that, nothing matters." I hope I'm not missing something, because more people than I would have planned on heard it. Imagine that: me preaching the gospel at a train station!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"We're from the Government, and We're Here to Help You"

That wasn't quite what they said. What they said was, "Hands off your computers." There were about twenty of them in flak vests, most with sidearms. They just walked in the front door of my workplace this morning, and just like that, all productive labor ceased.

Oh, they were friendly enough. No "sorry for the inconvenience," but one can be grateful for no drawn weapons, no shouted orders, and no patdowns or strip searches. The atmosphere was essentially, do what we ask and there won't be any trouble—exactly what a robber or rapist would want to communicate. We were pretty free to walk around and chat, and even go home. (I took the option to leave and am writing this on the train home. But before I could leave, they inspected my laptop.) They asked us for identification, addresses, and what we do at work, and they videoed and photographed the whole office and were going through all books and anything else that might contain the information they were looking for. We were properly obsequious (except for RMP-M, a petite lady who had the balls to say out loud what we were all thinking and didn't suffer for it), so there were no "incidents."

But let's run some numbers.

There are about twenty of us in the office. Given my salary and bennies, plus other costs the company has that they amortize into employee costs, I'm guessing I have to produce about $35 per hour for the company to break even. I'm far from the sharpest knife in the drawer, but we've got a lot of new hires, so my rate is probably near the middle for the office. So, for every hour we can't work, the company loses $700, $5600 for the day. That's my company's costs.

I would guess that the agents' salaries and bennies are well over twice mine, but let's call it twice mine, $70 per hour. That's $1400 per hour for the crew that came in. They estimated a six-hour on-site investigation, but government projects are always estimated low and delivered high, so I'll call it eight hours there; and the analysis stage of any operation is always more time consuming than the data-gathering stage, but let's assume they realize quickly that we're innocent and they only match the data-gathering time. So, $1400 x 8 x 2 = $22,400. The money Uncle Sam has spent on the investigation of this office alone is worth the price of a nice new family-sized car. One can safely assume that the investigation will target other people, so a total cost of $100,000 is probably not unreasonable.

Now what wickedness, you ask, was my workplace involved in?

According to the piece of paper the head of the Criminal Investigation Department (I guess; the caps only said "CID") of the FBI, the Treasury Department, and the IRS (they were all represented, at least on the clothing) waved at our office manager, they were investigating "a whole laundry list of violations" having to do with a nonprofit organization with which someone in our company has had some connection. I had heard about the connection when I first began working there in 2006, but I heard no specifics then or and have heard nothing since. It is the sort of organization of which only Ayn Rand would disapprove (though she would not think of forcibly disbanding it). There are some people you can tell are crooked almost when you meet them, but the person involved has had ample opportunity to reveal streaks of unscrupulousness or dishonesty and so far has not. In fact, another worker said that the same matters were under investigation before I started working there and the investigation came to nothing. So, to put it kindly, it would appear that someone has too much time on his hands.

In my rants about jury duty, I pointed out that in my case the system pulled a dozen not-rich people away from their jobs to settle a dispute between two wealthy people (which, after one day of trial, they settled out of court; I almost forgot the dozens of people who lost a day of work but were not selected to be on the jury). Today an innocent man lost $5600 and at least two of his clients didn't take delivery of goods they needed to serve their customers, other business owners will likely each lose more, and US taxpayers will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars. For what?

I don't know the dollar amount at stake in the nonprofit organization. Maybe it was thousands of dollars, maybe it was millions. I don't know who the plaintiff is or what he thinks he lost. But the men and women who barged into our workplace today were all federal agents, so I'm guessing that the problem was i's not dotted and t's not crossed. Maybe the nonprofit forgot to pay some fees; more likely they forgot to follow some procedure that would have been grossly inconvenient for them, of little benefit to the government, and of no benefit to anyone not a net receiver of tax revenue. I can't believe that the monetary loss to the federal government amounted to the hundreds of thousands of dollars it is spending to investigate the matter.

I have a coworker from Kenya, one of those awful, nasty, third-world countries US citizens pride themselves on not being part of. She has been at government-run boarding schools that dictate when you get up, what you wear, what and when you can eat, when you can pee, when you can go to bed, what you can learn, and I forget what else. Her family has at times literally had to drop everything and run into the woods to escape gangs of marauding bandits. She half-whispered to me before I left, "I've never seen anything like this."

The numbers I ran are pretty good evidence that the issue is not the money. That this matter has lain dormant for more than four years tells me no one is suffering any great injustice. I think the issue is power.

Adam ate the fruit because he wanted to be "like God." That is the essence of rebellion against the God who is there: the desire for power, autonomy, and the pleasures that we think will follow them. Uncle Sam is nothing if not a personification of rebellion against God, and he's out to eliminate his rivals. The obsequiousness in our office was proof that we got the message of who's really whose servant in Uncle Sam's dominion.

Whatever "our brave men and women" are fighting for in Southwesta Asia, it isn't freedom—not ours, anyway. And the sooner we divorce the Cross from Old Glory, the more chance we have that our grandchildren will not be trapped in the police state we see growing before our eyes.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

USPS Muslim Stamp

A friend sent me an e-mail today that is essentially the text found here. I wrote a response before checking to see whether the information was a hoax. Apparently it is. However, the passion behind the e-mail calls for a response, so I'm offering one here.


America is the idea that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Wake up, Americans! The Post Office is simply the little toenail on your worst enemy, the “powers and principalities” that have Uncle Sam on strings. Our government is no more American than Sweden’s or Burkina Faso’s.

Remember the thousands of Muslims tortured by the US-CIA-installed Shah of Iran? You can bet the Muslims do!

Remember the thousands of Muslims gassed by then-US ally Saddam Hussein in Kurdistan and killed in his US-funded war against Iran? You can bet the Muslims do!

Remember the thousands of women oppressed under the US-funded Taliban in Afghanistan? You can bet the Muslims do!

Remember the hundreds of thousands of Muslims killed by the Bush-Clinton sanctions on Iraq after Desert Storm? You can bet the Muslims do!

Remember the thousands of Muslim women and children killed by shock and awe and predator drones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen, what General McChrystal called the “amazing number of people who meant us no harm”? You can bet the Muslims do!

Remember the money Uncle Sam gives Planned Parenthood! Do you think perhaps that callous disregard for life could extend to his foreign policy?

Remember the bankster bailouts that your grandchildren will never finish paying for! Do you think the business interests that profit from our wars really care about the Kingdom of God?

If nothing else, remember who “our President” is! If he’s willing to play fast and loose with the truth about his domestic programs, what makes you think he’s telling the truth when he says our foreign wars are all about protecting us little guys?

End the Federal Reserve! End the federal government! Better still, get rid of the idea that some people have rights (like taxation, censorship, regulation, and war) that others don’t have.

We are all children of Adam through Noah. A Christian’s citizenship is in heaven, never (according to the NT) in the country that collects his taxes (except when such is expedient, Acts 16:37). Otherwise we are our neighbor’s neighbor, not our brother’s keeper, and charged only with being an ambassador for Christ to persuade men (2 Corinthians 5:11, 20-21).

No one’s sin nature goes away when he gets a government job. He simply finds himself in a position to exploit his fellow men with impunity. Not all tax-feeders are evil, but those who aren’t can probably testify that they could get away with less good and more evil than they do; that is, the system provides perverse incentives. We need to get rid of the system. See Deuteronomy 17:16-20.

The greatest nation that ever was has devolved into tyranny and debt beyond repayment. It’s time to scrap it and start over. The Torah would be a good place to start.