Friday, September 26, 2014

The Babylonians Were Not the Canaanites

You don’t have to look far to find people accusing the Bible’s account of Israel’s conquest of the Canaanites of being a warrant for genocide, whether Protestants and Catholics killing each other (e.g., the religious wars in Europe during the Reformation), or Christians of any stripe killing non-Christians (e.g., the conquest of the Plains Indians or the current attempt to conquer the Middle East). One of probably countless examples is found in this post and its comments, as is a reasonable rebuttal by an informed Christian. (I have opined that being an agent of genocide is a horrific experience here.)
I would like to add that the full story doesn’t end with the conquest of Canaan. It actually ends with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians centuries later. And to the degree the European “Christian” conquest of the American Indians and the Confederacy is indeed somehow a reflection of God’s will the same way the Israelites’ conquest of Canaan was, we need to be afraid, be very afraid, that our nation will go the way of Israel and Judah—“Happy is the one who pays you back for what you have done to us. Happy is the one who takes your babies and smashes them against the rocks!”—as a reflection of God’s will, and for the same reason: ungodliness.
In Israel’s early days in the land, once the Canaanites had been (pretty much) annihilated, the enemies to be dealt with were the Midianites, the Amelekites, the Ammonites, and the Philistines, those who had settled the land before Israel left Egypt. As spiritual decline set in in Israel, it was these barbarians whom God raised up to chasten his people. It was to lead God’s people in battle against these people that Israel asked for a king, and by golly, the kings did indeed get rid of those enemies.
But they didn’t get rid of the real enemy: the belief in Israel that they were God’s people no matter where they ranked God in their list of priorities and no matter what they did as a result. God’s response, as so many have pointed out, was to treat the Israelites precisely the way they had treated the Canaanites (and were treating each other):
The kings of the earth did not believe, nor did any of the world's people, that enemies and foes could enter the gates of Jerusalem. But it happened because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed within her the blood of the righteous. Now they grope through the streets like men who are blind. They are so defiled with blood that no one dares to touch their garments. (Lam 4:12-14)
By the end of the seventh century BC, Israel rightly had no fear of the Canaanites or the Philistines. But God had another enemy in mind to chasten them, one they could not have foreseen when they were conquering Canaan centuries before: the Babylonians.
A cruel and violent nation … will march across the world and conquer it.  They are notorious for their cruelty. They do as they like, and no one can stop them.  Their horses are swifter than leopards. They are a fierce people, more fierce than wolves at dusk. Their horsemen race forward from distant places. Like eagles they swoop down to pounce on their prey.  On they come, all of them bent on violence. Their hordes advance like a wind from the desert, sweeping captives ahead of them like sand. (Hab 1:6-9)
God had taken something precious to him, his reputation for goodness (Ps 25:8; 34:8; 100:5; 106:1; 107:1; 118:1, 29; 135:3; 136:1), and put it on the line by commanding his people Israel to exterminate the Canaanites. That so many people take that command as proof that the God of the Bible is not good is evidence of how great that risk was. For him then to sit back and allow the Israelites to create a society as evil as the one they had exterminated would have been further “proof” that the God of Israel is no better than any other deity people use to excuse their predatory actions.
Now I don’t happen to believe that the God of the Bible approved of the conquest of the Cherokee and other Indian tribes of the east, the Confederacy, northern Mexico, or the Plains Indians and tribes to the west of them. But he did at least let it happen, and the church of Jesus Christ in the conquered territories has prospered economically in ways that would make Paul the apostle’s, not to mention Stephen the first martyr’s, head swim. We have been taught all our lives in the movies, at school, and in Sunday school that God was on the side of right: the Indians were savages, the Confederates were slavers, the Spanish were papist imperialists, and all were evil.
But for the sake of argument, let’s say that’s all true: let’s say that just as God displaced the Canaanites to make room for Israel, God displaced the pagans and slavers to make room for evangelicals.
If this is so, what can we expect if our society becomes as evil as those it has displaced? What if outright paganism replaces biblical Christianity as the default (nominal) religion of the land? What if Christians support slavery (justifying it by calling it “conscription” or “regulation” or “taxation” or “duty”) and imperialism? Will God sit still and allow himself to become just another deity who justifies rapacity? Or is he likely to raise up new enemies?
These are no-brainer questions, and however simple the answers are, they are hard to swallow. God has already raised up the enemies, and as the Babylonians pretty much eviscerated Judah before destroying Jerusalem and dragging the people off to exile in Babylon (2 Kgs 24), so the church in the US is losing its substance to God’s enemies. Most obviously, taxes are rising: not only are the nominal tax rates increasing, but government “borrowing” continues, which means more dollars in government budgets at all levels are going to interest payments, and the Federal Reserve is devaluating our currency. By even moderate accounts, Uncle Sam has run up a quarter of a million dollars of debt and liabilities for every man, woman, and child in the country.  All this is happening faster than we can increase production, so our net income is being lowered. Our government is run by special interest groups as rapacious as the Babylonians but wise enough to know that if they provide bread and circuses their subjects, far from rebelling against them, will zealously defend them.
Then there’s ISIS, or ISIL, or just the IS. According to the media narrative, they’re just a bunch of savage terrorists, “notorious for their cruelty.” I have no evidence to the contrary. But I have every reason to believe that they recruit new members every day by playing on the legitimate anger that Muslims in the Middle East harbor toward US imperialism. And Muslims in the US with family in the old country may also harbor that anger, just as Jews living in Rome in the first century no doubt resented Rome’s treatment of the residents of Judea.
Just as Babylon was a non-entity in Joshua’s day, the banksters and the IS are both enemies Sherman and Sheridan, let alone Washington and Jefferson, could never have imagined. But we see the success the banksters have had, and if the same government who has enslaved us to the banksters were to arm Muslim murderers in the US as it has in the Middle East, the possibilities are endless.
Why couldn’t 2.6 million Muslims take over this country county by county, state by state, over the period of a few decades? They are immigrating from countries with billions to spare, and, more importantly, they are reproducing faster than neopagan European Americans. And they vote. And they care how the vote goes. And to the degree that “it’s not who votes that counts, it’s who counts the votes,” they’ll be interested in counting the votes.
Meanwhile, Evangelicals salute the flag, send their kids to tax-funded schools and cheer louder when those kids join the military than they do when they sign on as missionaries, let alone commit to be entrepreneurs and employees who will win to Christ those they interact with in the marketplace. And we lose half our kids to the world by the time they’re out of college.
The jig is up. The Babylonians are at the gates. It’s not a matter of if, it’s only a matter of when the system will collapse. As it collapses, we can expect Uncle Sam to enact draconian measures supposedly aimed at preserving justice, liberty, and prosperity. But to the degree that the kingdoms of the world are under Satanic control—for example, a presidential election held in the US today would be won by a bloodthirsty lesbian—we can expect that the true ultimate goal of those actions will be to seduce or exterminate the Christian church.
When the Babylonians get through the walls, will we be in Zedekiah’s party, trying to escape to Egypt? Or will we stay in the city and watch our children be dashed on the rocks? Or will we be like the wise people of the land who surrendered to the Babylonians and were allowed to stay? Indeed, how do we translate these questions into our current situation?
I don’t know for sure. But I do know that Jesus said no man can serve two masters. While Jesus was warning us to make sure we don’t allow Mammon to rival God in our loyalties, it’s reasonable to at least hypothesize that the same warning applies to loyalty to Uncle Sam.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sparing Dagon in East Ramapo

It’s usually, you know, just a given in our country that, you know, people who don’t drive still pay taxes for roads, and people who hate the outdoors pay for public parks, and people without kids in the public schools pay for the public schools. Just, that’s the deal. We all know it. And so what happens when people who do not want to pay for the public schools take over the school board? —Ira Glass, This American Life
Do not rejoice when your enemies fall into trouble. Don't be happy when they stumble. For the LORD will be displeased with you and will turn his anger away from them. (Prov 24:17)
The Bible warns me about celebrating when statists get screwed by their own system – the system they consider us immoral for wanting to bow out of. No matter who suffers how much, they don’t seem to learn anything when it happens, which is frustrating, but when someone’s dog keeps you up all night with its barking, it’s hard to feel bad when it bites its owner.
Last Sunday’s episode of National Public Radio’s This American Life was as clear a showcase of the moral bankruptcy of statism as one is likely ever to see. It tells the woeful tale of East Ramapo, New York, a lower-middle-class town where “most of the people … were not Hasids, but most of the children were. Two out of three children in the school district were Hasidic.” The Hasids didn’t want their children in the public schools, and they didn’t want to have to pay for the public schools they weren’t sending their kids to in addition to the yeshivas they were paying for. But they agreed to a truce for a while: “The school board won’t call in the state to check and see if math and reading and history are being properly taught in the yeshivas, like the state mandates, if the Hasids will just stay away from the polls.”
That worked fine until the number of Hasidic children with special needs reached a critical mass: “Hasidic special-ed students, like other special-ed kids, … need expensive therapies and services and education. And the government will pay for those, is required to pay for them. But for that to happen, the district would usually require that the kids go into a public school setting.” And, of course, the whole point of the yeshivas is to keep the Hasidic kids out of the public schools.
East Ramapo refused to go the fascist route of using tax money to pay for special-ed facilities in the yeshivas, so the Hasids ended the truce and over a period of years voted the goys off the school board and Hasids on. The goys were understandably upset, but the Hasids were unimpressed. A letter to the editor in the local paper put it in what seem to me reasonable terms:
Dear fellow taxpayer in the East Ramapo school district, again and again, I read about how upset you are about the members of the school board, how we bloc-voted them in, how we don’t have the interests of the schoolchildren at heart. Well, let’s take a closer look at that.
For many years, you took our tax money, year after year, increase after increase, and you never had any problem with that. But when we finally get together and say, that’s enough, that is a problem.
I have a solution. How about giving all of us the option to bow out of the public school system and keep our money in our pockets? You want our money and our silence. Sorry, you cannot have it all your way.
And, of course, the goys had no intention of giving them the option to bow out.
What’s so immoral about asking to keep your own money and spend it on what you want? If I’m to believe Ira Glass as quoted in the epigraph, it’s immoral because we’ve never done it that way. (Actually, we did do it that way two hundred years ago, but that’s another story.)
So democracy is wonderful until it creates a situation that the democrats don’t like. I remember hearing during the Vietnam “conflict” years that if an election were held at the time, the Communists would win, so we had to keep fighting. As Tom Lehrer put it then,
For might makes right,
And till they’ve seen the light
They’ve got to be protected,
All their rights respected,
Until someone we like can be elected.
If the Vietnamese want to vote in the Communists, don’t they have that right? (As it turned out, of course, the Communists won without an election.) The Iranians voted in Mossadegh; we removed him for the Shah. The Chileans voted in Allende; we removed him for Pinochet. The Palestinians voted in Hamas; we let Israel blow the place to hell. The Ukrainians elected Yanukovych; we putsched in the neo-Nazis. The Hasids get tired of paying taxes for schools they don’t use, and—well, I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but I expect the State of New York and Uncle Sam his very self are rubbing their hands in gleeful anticipation.
The Hasidic school board could have simply defunded the public schools. That’s what I would have done. Dagon was flat on his face (see 1 Sam 5:3), and they could have ground him to powder. But they didn’t. They even raised their own taxes, increasing the school budget by 30% over ten years. But that’s not enough for the democratists.
Every comparable school district in the county grew its budget by an average of 50%. …
The costs the Hasidim and other conservatives say are out of control actually are rising alarmingly fast—pensions, health care, union contracts, cost of living. Those things grow by so much that a 30-some percent budget increase, that isn't growth. That's devastation.
So, while families are losing their jobs, losing their buying power as the Fed devalues the currency, and tightening their budgets, the schools somehow have the right to raise taxes to pay for pensions, health care, and union contracts. And if, as is to be expected, those union salaries are higher than the incomes of those paying the taxes, isn’t that the rich extorting money from the poor? This is moral?
And why are the costs “rising alarmingly fast”? Could there be any relationship between that and the coercion (as opposed to cooperation) inherent in fiat currency, union monopolies, and, of course, tax-funded education?
If the goys in East Ramapo want to pay more for their schools, why don’t they pass the hat? Charge user fees? Ask local businesses whose taxes have gone down to sponsor classes or students? If it works for potato chips and Little League, why not for schools?
My answer is that they don’t want to pay more. They want to force other people to pay for their kids’ education. If that’s the American way, I want no part of America.
And to the degree the Christian church is part of the exploitation of the Hasids—they are, don’t forget, the “Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria” that precedes the “the uttermost parts of the earth” to whom we are to proclaim the good news of Jesus—we are cutting out our own tongues.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Patrotic Bikinis

This month our nation has been celebrating two important events in its history. Last weekend marked the two-hundredth anniversary of Francis Scott Key’s writing of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” and of course Thursday was the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11. Fans at baseball and football games have been treated to military flyovers and color guards, giant flags have been displayed, patriotic music is everywhere, and military camouflage and other patriotic themes have adorned everything from baseball uniforms to football cheerleader bikinis.
Now our leaders are telling us that unless we go to war in Iraq again, and possibly in Syria and Ukraine, our future as a nation is in doubt.
In light of all that, think it is well to remember the old Bill Gaither song that goes
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
There’s just something about that name.
Master, savior, Jesus,
Like the fragrance after the rain,
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Let all heaven and earth proclaim:
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away,
But there’s something about that name.
I’ve seen videos of a Sunday morning service in an evangelical church where the congregation sang “The Stars and Stripes Forever”: “By our right and by our might it waves forever!” They even repeated “forever” three times. But I’d like to suggest that there will be a time when that star-spangled banner will no longer wave. Just as today we talk about “the former Confederate States of America,” “the former Soviet Union,” “the former Yugoslavia,” and “the former Czechoslovakia,” someday people will speak of “the former United States of America.”
The Bible promises that we Christians “are receiving a Kingdom that cannot be destroyed.” It is to that kingdom that we owe our allegiance. So “Let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.”
Let us pray.
Dear God,
We thank you for the blessings of our nation. We thank you that we have lived most of our lives without fear of famine, war, or disease. We thank you for the freedom to worship, and we ask forgiveness for the times that we have complained that this or that peripheral aspect of congregational worship has not been to our liking.
We thank you for President Obama, for Congress and the Supreme Court, for Governor Corbett and the state assembly and courts, as well as for our local government officials. We thank you for those who are willing to risk their lives to go into harm’s way to protect innocent life. Like us they are all people made in your image, and like us they are rebels against you and your law. Forgive them and us of our sins, and give us all reverence for you, courage to stand against injustice, and a desire to do justice, to love mercy, and most of all to walk humbly with you.
We have sinned against you, both in the evil we have done and in the good we have left undone. Forgive us, we pray.
Please use your church to heal the nations. May those who know you be able to bring peace to Ukraine, Syria, Gaza, and Nigeria by living lives of service, by presenting your vision of justice to ease the oppression of those who don’t know you, and most of all by fulfilling the Great Commission and making disciples. May your people in this nation be quick to listen, slow to speak, and especially slow to go to war. Instead of a great warrior nation, may we be known as a nation that heals the victims of war and knows how to keep wars from starting.
We pray for our enemies both personal and national. May we learn how to make our enemies into our friends, and most importantly into your friends.
We thank you for missionaries who leave their comfort zones to go around the block or around the world to tell the good news of Jesus. We thank you for those who give money to make that work possible. Please bless them, keep them safe, and enable them to bear fruit that will last for eternity.
We thank you most of all for sending your Son into the world. We thank you for his life of service, his words of life, for his death to pay for our sins, and for raising him to life to make us right with you.