‘Tis the Season to Rethink Equal Outcomes

 

The Progressive’s notion of equal outcomes: “income equality” realized through redistribution; test results based on tests revised so that certain people could pass the test; participation-trophy type merit; laws that ‘fix’ opportunity for certain people; verdicts and sentencing of activist judges who rule based on a defendant’s social circumstances rather than by the crime committed upon another; homosexual ‘marriage’ as marriage equality; “equal pay for equal work” which dismisses the resultant quality of what each worker produces; a state in which people have approximately the same material wealth and achieve equal levels of income; equating equal opportunities with equal results…

Economist Thomas Sowell gives us some insight into Progressive thinking:

Equal opportunity does not mean equal results, despite how many laws and policies proceed as if it does, or how much fashionable rhetoric equates the two.

An example of that rhetoric was the title of a recent New York Times column: “A Ticket to Bias.” That column recalled bitterly the experience of a woman in a wheelchair who bought a $300 ticket to a rock concert but was unable to see when other people around her stood up. This was equated with “bias” on the part of those who ran the arena.

The woman in the wheel chair declared, “true equality remains a dream out of reach.” Apparently only equality of results is “true’ equality….

…Confusion between equal opportunity and equal results is a dangerous confusion behind many kinds of spoiled brat politics. -Thomas Sowell from Spoiled Brat Politics, The Thomas Sowell Reader

To put us in the proper reflective mood for the Season to Rethink Equal Outcomes, below are three accounts from Scripture which reveal to us God’s concept of equal outcomes.

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. 2 Samuel 24:24

The first thing I notice about the above account is that forms of capitalism have been around for a long time. That is, capitalism, simply defined, as an economic and social system in which property, business, and industry are privately owned and directed towards making the greatest possible profits for successful organizations and people, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.

In the above account there was a cooperative exchange of private property between two individuals. Both were satisfied with the outcome. And, apparently God was satisfied with the outcome. David’s desire was to not give God the impression that he was doing something good for God, a.k.a. virtue signal or tokenism, but to pay proper respect and attribute worth to God through his offering.

David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered his prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped. 2 Samuel 24:25

The second thing I notice is restraint. Though Araunah offered his property freely to king David (2 Sam. 24:23) the king did not accept it without paying Araunah its worth to Araunah  and perhaps more. That cost David. The king could have just taken the property to begin with. Beastly kings and rulers throughout history have seized property for themselves and for “the masses”. David was not about to disrespect his neighbor Araunuh or his God by stiffing either. The king did not exploit Araunuh for righteous ends.

Worth had to be accounted for with regard to Araunah’s property and with regard to a show of respect to God. “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” That is what David said and that is what the widow thought.

Then Jesus sat down opposite the offering box, and watched the crowd putting coins into it. Many rich people were throwing in large amounts. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny. He called his disciples and said to them, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the offering box than all the others. For they all gave out of their wealth. But she, out of her poverty, put in what she had to live on, everything she had.”  Mark 12:41-44

The first thing we notice in this account is the virtue signaling and tokenism of cha-ching-ers who want to appear to profit God while incurring little or no cost to themselves. In kingdom contrast, the unassuming widow, like king David, gave an offering that cost her appreciably and was God’s Temple worthy. The widow gave her financial security. The Lord was pleased to acknowledge her gift acknowledging the God Who is Faithful (Psalm 146: 8). She loved God more than life itself. Now, did you notice in these two stories that taking into account the worth of each party and their property creates equal outcomes – both parties being satisfied and even pleased with what is exchanged? This method of accounting, making sure the ‘other’ is considered and is valued as at least equal with ourselves, can be applied to all interactions.

In a previous post I wrote:

We are told by Jesus to “love your neighbors as yourself”. To do this we must consider our own self-interest and then apply the same measure of self-interest toward our neighbors. This parity of accounting is not unlike the Lord’s accounting of forgiveness: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others their trespasses.” […,] the resentment worldview has a perverted accounting system: the self is to be credited and others must be debited for there to be parity in their world. If the word “fairness” is ever to be applied socially and economically to our culture then these two commands of our Lord define its limited and personal application.

As shown from Scripture, God endorsed equal outcomes are marriages of opportunities with offerings. The outcomes are not forced or determined by a higher power or the state. The individuals involved come to an agreement about the outcome. A marriage of a man and woman is the archetype of this union of opportunity and offering.

The man and woman exchange vows and rings and, over time, their lives. The opportunity: they met and each determined that an exchange of their life for the other would make both happy. The offering: they give themselves which costs everything. They do so freely. The exchange is not coerced as in a shot-gun wedding or when those in power decide to take your property by force. When things are forced and a person is acted upon without it being offered it is called rape. It is called stealing when a person’s property is forcibly taken.

The equal outcome of marriage is that the two become one. The transaction creates a greater good (including little ones) and both parties equally, with God’s help, continue to be satisfied with the outcome.

One more illustration from Scripture regarding the marriage of opportunity and offering. Remember this woman?

While Jesus was at Bethany, in the house of Simon (known as “the Leper’), a woman came to him who had an alabaster vase of extremely valuable ointment. She poured it on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw it, they were furious.

“What’s the point of all this waste?” they said. “This could have been sold for a fortune, and the money could have been given to the poor!”

Jesus knew what they were thinking.

“Why make life difficult for the woman?” he said. “It’s a lovely thing, what she’s done for me. You always have the poor with you, don’t you? But you won’t always have me. When she poured this ointment on my body, you see, she did it to prepare me for burial. “I’m telling you the truth: where this gospel is announced in all the world, what she has done will be told, and people will remember her.”

Matthew 26: 6-13

 

 

What do we learn about opportunity and offering from this account of a woman pouring a very expensive offering onto Jesus’ head? We learn that the Progressives around Jesus were highly offended when they couldn’t control the outcome of the “alabaster vase of extremely valuable ointment”. We also learn from Jesus about the opportunity that brought them together: “… you won’t always have me”. The woman’s offering was what she could have lavished on herself. Maybe she applied David’s words to her head: “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

The extravagant and expensive offering given freely was freely accepted by Jesus in preparation for his burial. In fact, he tells us that the equally shared outcome of what she had done was worth proclaiming: the marriage of opportunity and sacrificial offering as an act of love.

Tis the Season to Be Partisan

 

Despite the fact that Macy’s has their enormous Christmas tree lit up right now, signifying the coming season of glad tidings and of peace and of unbridled consumerism, the TV reminds us that it is knock-down-drag-out Partisan Season as candidates throw punches at their labeled-as-a-Grinch opponents. Democracy gives one the impression that with your vote, and with other’s who vote like you, that you can create a government in your image. Therein lies the boxing match. Campaign ads require a different metaphor.

As witnessed firsthand, the almost endless torrent of unbridled derogatory and prejudiced campaign ads spews like raw sewage from the digital spout. Based on the ads, hatred for the opposing candidate appears to be the biggest lure to pull voting fish out of the drainage.

I’ve come across those on Twitter who will vote for a Democrat because the other candidate is a Republican and therefore, based on the media narrative, is a tainted Trumpist. The Twitterer’s animosity towards Trump is stoked by a fight manager – the Leftist media. The combined one-two punch of hate and vote is meant to KO anyone on the Right.

“I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.”
― Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Neediness for government to make their lives better (basically, government taking responsibility for their lives) feeds many folk’s compulsion to vote for the unctuous Democrat who is often Trumpian unctuous but vies for the anti-Trump vote amongst the media-fed lions as the “right thing to do” pol. Their candidate freely offers healthcare and untethered no-cost sanctimony regarding giving illegal aliens a pass on our laws. A free lunch is offered to all at no cost to the candidate.

One such candidate is a local Democrat. She is running against an incumbent Republican for a U.S. representative seat. She is an Africa-American female so she is definitely an unTrump figure. But like Trump her presence is ubiquitous. Her yard signs are everywhere. Her campaign volunteers wave her sign as they stand along the bridge I cross on my way home from work.

She is a healthcare candidate. This means she wants to give everyone government run healthcare. But like Obama’s ACA con game and Ocasio-Cortez’s socialism con game in New York, she has not provided the details of how to pay for the enormous bureaucracy to run your life and your healthcare. She does not talk about unintended consequences such as the lack of competition in the medical industry creating higher costs or the loss of incentive for doctors to practice because they become wards of the state or for the lack of desire for new doctors to enter the medical field. The consumer loses out when government chooses your options for you. Unlike the toothy candidate with the hope and change grin, government is impersonal. It is not altruistic.bureaucrat

Her campaign, her partisanship, is that she is not like the cold-hearted other guy who is hands-off in his approach to government and our lives. Her campaign, her partisanship, is that she wants your vote for government to be the cold-hearted hands-on entity to care for you.

 

 

So, in the spirit of the Season of Partisanship, I offer my own partisan views.

I am a conservative libertarian. That combination may sound like two terms which negate each other but I assure you it doesn’t. As a follower of the Way who walks on resurrection ground, I seek heaven on earth just as Jesus taught us to pray. That kingdom of God venture is not something I want to impose on my fellow citizens. Rather, I want them to have freedom to do as they please within the law and to receive the reward of their behavior. This, in essence, means that I do not want government to be a lifestyle safety net nor the means to bail you out if you decide to live your life with drugs or in sexual encounters or as parachute jumper. I want gravity and not government to be the force in our lives.

I am conservative with regard to social issues. And, again, I do not want to impose my kingdom view on others. I can impose that on myself and be the salt and light that the rest of the world will need when trouble comes knocking.

I am a small government fiscal conservative. Government has no business running my life or healthcare or bailing me or any industry or bank out. Taxpayer money could instead be used by the taxpayer to help his own neighbors and to pay for their medical care. The thinking that government has deep pockets if everyone was made to pay in denies the reality of escalating costs based on that assumption and the monopoly of government control you’ve created when vote that assumption.

“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”
― Alexis de Tocqueville

 

Our government, as I define it, is a secular entity that provides protection from enemies foreign and domestic (including illegal aliens), provides transportation infrastructure and which enforces the Constitution and the laws of the land. Government is also to enforce contracts. The government is not to be a church dispensing Good Sarmatianism.

 The Constitution is the cornerstone of our republic. It aligns the foundation our nation is built on it. It should not be chiseled away by “living Constitution” jurists who put their finger in the wind for their opinions and judgments.

Having said all this, I want to further post my partisanship: I am by no means a Progressive. And you should know that there is no such thing as a Progressive Christian. Progressivism is a belief, not in God and His well-documented narrative, but in an ideology which requires that God’s well-documented narrative be changed for the Progressive to live his narrative. Progressivism negates Christianity.

I am follower of Jesus first and foremost. I vote libertarian-conservative. This means that I want to preserve what is good. I seek a small boring government and allowance for people’s freedom to do as they please within the law. I want people to take responsibility for the outcome of their choices. I also do not want to be forced to have to affirm their choices (the Progressive definition of “rights”).

I voted early. And, I did not vote for the statist or for her healthcare unicorn or for her “do the right thing” campaign. I have never voted for a Democrat. The fact that Democrats promote abortion is beyond the pale and is ironic for a party platform that promotes itself as “for the people” and wants you to “do the right thing” with your vote. Isn’t it telling that a Democrat woman can presuppose and visualize a problem for her future existence if she has a child and so aborts the child. But the same woman can’t presuppose and visualize her unborn child as a human.

Identity politics, created by Democrats, pits male against female and humans against those who choose to dehumanize themselves. There is also class warfare fueled by Democrats Obama, Sanders, Warren and Ocasio-Cortez. But Democrats want you to perceive something else. Democrat candidates would love to have you think they are the saviors from hate and discord (they have stoked) if you just give them control.

Democrats promise all kinds of bennies at the expense of others. So, let it be known that there is a major cost to the U.S. and to its people when illegal aliens enter the country with values that are not shared with Americans. Remember these aliens left countries they trashed with their values and votes. Many are victims of their votes.

 

In the spirit of the Season of Partisanship I leave you with a well-informed conservative economist – Thomas Sowell – and his three very important questions:

 

Tis the season to Be a Responsible Voter.

~~~

Hypercatastrophic Cardiomyopathy

 

A recurring diagnosis in Scripture, as the augmented title suggests, is the enlarged and unresponsive heart. We can read accounts when God brings into certain character’s lives situations which reveal the true condition of that character’s heart. I am reminded of Pharaoh and the Exodus account. 

Pharaoh, you will recall, wanted Israel to remain slaves. Pharaoh wanted the cheap labor for his building program. God, seeing His people’s suffering, wanted them to be set free and go to the Promised land. And, God wanted Exodus for Israel in order to fulfill His covenant promises. Now, of course, God could have just snapped His fingers and made that happen. But, as we read Scripture, we find that God hardens Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 4:210) so as to bring about the necessary change of heart.

Signs and wonder were produced to reveal a different authority, but to no avail:

Each one threw down his staff, and it became a serpent. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up the other staffs. Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said. Exodus 7:12-13

Sending plagues on Egypt exercised Pharaoh’s will. But, the only change to his heart condition was that it became enlarged and unresponsive. After the fourth plague we read…

and the LORD did as Moses requested. He removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh and his officials and his people; not one fly remained. But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go. Exodus 8:31-32

The last test of wills, the death of the Egyptians’ first-born children, was a Pharaoh heart-changer:

Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, “Get up, get out from among my people, both you and the Israelites; and go, serve the Lord, as you said. Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and [ask your God to] bless me also. The Egyptians [anxiously] urged the people [to leave], to send them out of the land quickly, for they said, “We will all be dead.”  Exodus 12: 31-33

As we read on, we find Pharaoh rejecting the pain and suffering of his people and hardening his resolve once again. He pursues the Israelites. But, the Red Sea dissolves his resolve.

In book of Daniel we read of kings who are heart-tested. King Nebuchadnezzar receives a dream and a vision (signs and wonders) which clearly delineated the outcome of his life. Yet this king went on his way, without a change of heart and full of himself. He just accommodated himself to there being another god to account for. Daniel, the scribe, recounts the king’s life for king Belshazzar:

O king [Belshazzar], the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar kingship, greatness, glory, and majesty. And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. He killed those he wanted to kill, kept alive those he wanted to keep alive, honored those he wanted to honor, and degraded those he wanted to degrade. But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he acted proudly, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and his glory was stripped from him. He was driven from human society, and his mind was made like that of an animal. His dwelling was with the wild asses, he was fed grass like oxen, and his body was bathed with the dew of heaven, until he learned that the Most High God has sovereignty over the kingdom of mortals, and sets over it whomever he will.  Daniel 5: 18-21

 

Unlike king Nebuchadnezzar, King Belshazzar was not given the opportunity to have a change of heart. In the presence of thousands of his party guests, Belshazzar sees a mysterious hand writing on the wall. Belshazzar empties his bowels (Daniel 5:6). Above is the introduction to Daniel’s interpretation of the writing. The interpretation, revised for this post: “King, you have been weighed on the scales and you’ve been found to be deficient of heart-health. You are going the way of all enlarged-hearted people.”

And so it came about …

During that same night Belshazzar the [last] Chaldean king was slain [by troops of the invading army].  So Darius the Mede received the kingdom; he was about the age of sixty-two. Daniel 5:30-31

Israel’s prophets declared the hardness of Israel’s hearts.

“But they will say, ‘It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart. Jeremiah 18:12

Jonah took a hard heart with him as he walked away from God’s calling – preach to the city of Nineveh. But his hard-heart period ended with some fish oil in the belly of a great fish.

The prophets were referred to in describing Jesus’ kingdom ministry and mankind’s heart condition:

Although Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still did not believe in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.” Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. The gospel of John 12:38-41

The end condition of mankind with self-induced Hypercatastrophic Cardiomyopathy is given to us by the Apostle John:

The rest of humankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands or give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk.  And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their fornication or their thefts. Revelation 9:20-21

The end result of mankind with self-induced Hypercatastrophic Cardiomyopathy is given to us by the Apostle Paul:

But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. Romans 2:5

~~~

How does one self-induce Hypercatastrophic Cardiomyopathy? Here’s a short but comprehensive list:

By dehumanizing yourself. By becoming like the idols you give yourself to.

Denying one’s human existence is an act of God.

Through practice. Deny yourself nothing. Indulge yourself and call it liberty, freedom and rights.

Practice porneia (i.e., adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, use of pornography).

By valuing your existence in terms of dollars or sexual encounters.

By calling yourself “gay”.

By defining truth as what your friends let you get away with saying; by saying 2 + 2 = 5

By lying.

By denigrating your senses with alcohol, drugs and Epicurean pleasures.

By deceiving your yourself. By saying sin is what people do to me or sin is what I get caught doing.

By giving ideology preeminence over truth.

By attributing the spiritual, including recorded signs and wonders, to sentimental wishful thinking.

With complacency, lethargy, lack of spiritual exercise. By sitting in front of the TV or the internet.

Never acknowledge sin you’ve committed; refuse to tolerate any sense of sin, see guilt as weakness.

Scapegoat.

Surround yourself with affirmations of your behavior

By equating things which are not equitable: equal rights with equality, i.e., male/female union as equal to a homosexual union; equating wealth with gain and poverty with loss.

When the love you sought rejects you, you seek power over others.

By not forgiving.

By grieving the Holy Spirit.

By needing a life at gunpoint every day to provoke a change in your heart: “She would have been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor

 

How do you recognize those with enlarged and hard hearts? Let’s start with these characteristics:

They act like Richard III, a man who killed family successors to the throne to secure England’s throne of power for himself. Aka, a self-absorbed monster in Shakespeare’s play Richard the III: “I am determined to prove a villain/And hate the idle pleasures of these days.”

They seem to be wearing a Full Metal Jacket: Self-protected and fully inured against any outside stimulus that might affect their mindset. They are deadly to others.

They are glazed over and Gargoyle-like.

They seem to be shrinking. They are becoming the miniscule citizens of C.S. Lewis’ “grey town” in the Great Divorce.

Their thick skin is really dragon skin (see Eustace Clarence Scrubb in C. S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)

They do the exact opposite of the now well-known Five Love Languages:

They seek affirmation at all costs to others. They do not affirm others unless those others have affirmed them.

They avoid touch. Anyone touching them would know the cold, hard empty shell that they have become.

They demand gifts of power, of rights. They vote for those who give them these “gifts”. They, instead of giving gifts, seek more tokens to put in their pinball machine life. Giving gifts is intolerable to them unless it brings them more affirmation and more power over others.

Their acts of service consist of virtue signaling (which costs nothing) and voting for those who affirm their lifestyle and for socialism to pay for it.

They spend no quality time on anyone except for those who feed their narcissism.

~~~

How does one reverse Hypercatastrophic Cardiomyopathy before your time is up? It will take some life-saving surgery. And, there is only instrument that is able to cut through an enlarged hardened heart:

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrew 4:12

Post-surgery, be prepared to have your eyes wide open, your hearing passages enlarged and your unresponsive heart quickened.

For my brothers and sisters in Christ I pray with Saint Paul:

To have the eyes of your utmost self opened to God’s light. Then you know exactly what the hope is that goes with God’s call. Ephesians 1:18

 

A prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of heaven and earth, have mercy upon me a sinner.

Though you have been faithful, I have been unfaithful. Though you have been true, I have been untrue. I have hardened my heart and have received only a portion of the results of my stubbornness and pride. Have mercy upon me and forgive me. I repent of my wickedness and my resolve to harden my heart.

I ask that you put within me a new heart, and a new spirit. Remove the heart of stone from my flesh and give me a heart of flesh. I ask this in your name. Amen.

Who Can Stand Upright?

 

The unjust cry out for revenge justice: “No Justice, No Peace!

The envious shout for equal outcome justice: “Fair Share!”

Feminists rally for Pro-choice justice: “Abortion is a Civil Right!”

The LGBT coalition demands lifestyle justification justice: “We demand equality and not your approval!”

Social justice advocates crave an inclusive world: “Check Your Privilege!”

Environmental advocates seek justice “against the onslaught of oppressive toxins and toxic oppressions that threaten to submerge out homes!”

Parents call for education justice: “No Child Left Behind!”

Those who have lost loved ones to inhuman acts petition for criminal justice

…the scales of justice are constantly tugged on by the just and unjust. Yet, in the end, God determines who stands to lose everything and who stands to gain everything.

 

It would appear, looking at just a sampling of recent events, that we have been created by God with a need for justice. There seems to be within us a deep-rooted desire for things to be put right. And because things are not right in our eyes, there is a constant clamor for resolution. Humanity longs to be restored and reassured among the inhuman events occurring every day. Yet justice, in a world of people dehumanized by sin, is often abstracted and ad hoc, and even beastly. And for many today, human rights have morphed into individual rights to justify inhuman behavior.

When man’s justice bypasses deliberative and evidence-producing due process it has deteriorated into kangaroo courts, lynch mobs, mob rule, vigilantism, Cain-killing-Abel retribution and whatever feeds the beast within with power. Diametrically opposite of man’s degraded justice, God’s justice is not a knee-jerk reaction. Rather, it is consistent with God’s character which God has made know to us. Mercifully and within the surety of God’s name, God’s justice is also restorative and humanizing. It is universal and fair – it applies to everyone for all time. And, it includes due process and evidence.

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the LORD comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. -the Apostle Paul, 1 Cor. 4:5

And,

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. – the letter to the Hebrews 4:12

Not only does God’s word go to the heart of the matter, Scripture gives us the means to learn of God’s character and the nature of His justice. Scripture reveals God’s justice in history and God’s justice to come.

With dreams and vision, the books of Daniel and The Revelation of Jesus Christ graphically depict the beastly empires and their beastly rulers. The empires and their rulers do not acknowledge God as sovereign. When they do they oppose God. Both books describe in vivid detail God’s justice in dealing with the de-humanized beasts in the world.

In 587 BCE king Nebuchadnezzar and the ruthless Babylonians conquered and pillaged civilizations. The king’s army captured Jerusalem and plundered the temple. Israelites were taken into exile in Babylon, a city which historically and metaphorically represents a center of man’s opposition to God.

Daniel’s account describes the exiled Israelites being commanded by the king to pay homage to that which isn’t God. Implied in the account, the four Israelites had been taught early on about the One True God and that idolatry was forbidden. They understood from reading the Psalms (115:8) that those who worship idols become like the idols – inhuman.

Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.

And, from Psalm 135:15-17 the futility of seeking justice from idols:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths.

Daniel and his three friends are told they must worship a towering gold statue of king Nebuchadnezzar. They resist, making it clear that that they “walk in the name of the Lord our God”. God saves them and vindicates their stance. From this episode we learn that God vindicates those who wait for his justice. Again, the Psalms provided their pleadings:

Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, And I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.  Psalm 26:1

Vindicate me, O God, and plead my case against an ungodly nation; O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man! Psalm 43:1

Save me, O God, by Your name, And vindicate me by Your power. Psalm 54:1

God’s sovereign justice is revealed to king Nebuchadnezzar in a vivid and perplexing dream about a statue. Daniel’s God-given interpretation describes the king as the statue’s head of gold. The statue’s body is made up of different material elements each representing different kingdoms. In the dream the kingdoms come and go. Daniel goes on to say that an everlasting kingdom – the Kingdom of God – will not be crushed but “it will crush all these kingdoms” and “will endure forever” (Daniel 2).

In Daniel 3 we learn that the king hasn’t learned a thing from the dream or about the One True God other than Daniel’s God is just another god to be respected. The king goes on to create an enormous image of gold. He demands for it to be worshipped like a god.

Daniel 4 records the king’s vision. Another interpretation follows with Daniel describing a tree being cut down and the king being humbled “until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes”. We learn that the king’s mind becomes the end result of his self-worship – inhuman and like a wild beast of the field.  The book of Daniel gives us insight into God’s vindicating justice. We see God seeking to spread knowledge of himself within a beastly empire.

 

The Revelation of Jesus the Messiah is a long letter relaying what Jesus was told by his Father about future events. Jesus communicates what he has been told to an angel. The angel then reports the revelation to the Lord’s servant John. And John, we learn in Rev 1:2, is someone in God’s court room who “bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus the Messiah”.

John also bears witness to the judgments that will rain down, like stars falling from the heavens, on the “…kings of the earth, the leading courtiers, the generals, the rich, the power brokers, and everyone, slave and free” as they run to hide themselves “among the caves and the rocks of the mountains” screaming.

“Fall upon us!” they were saying to the mountains and rocks. “Hide us from the face of the One who sits on the throne, and from the anger of the lamb! The great day of their anger has come, and who can stand upright?” – Rev. 6: 12-17

The letter is from “He Who Is and Who Was and Who is to Come”. The Son of Man – the True Human and Lord of Creation– is introduced in Revelation chapter 1. He is the one who can rightly judge the beastly rulers and their empires and the Beast itself and those who allowed themselves to be marked by the Beast.

The letter records God’s accounting of those entrusted with the Gospel at one time. Seven letters are read to seven churches. These written assessments remind me of the writing on the wall in Daniel’s day (Daniel 5: 24-26), condemning a ruler who held authority over others and acted against God and man. Ultimately, beastly rulers will not stand before God. They will be removed from power.

“Then the hand was sent from Him and this inscription was written out.

      “Now this is the inscription that was written out: ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.’ “This is the interpretation of the message: ‘MENE’—God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. ‘TEKEL’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. ‘PERES’—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.”

And, like the seven symbolic days of creation, there are seven seals which are opened and seven trumpets are blown and seven bowls of God’s wrath are poured out onto creation. In the day of the Lord the world will be purged of its patterns of perverted tyrannical power and of those who have rebelled against God and took on an inhuman existence, even to the extent of murdering those loyal to God:

When the lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been killed because the of the word of God and because of the witness they had borne.

 They shouted at the tops of the voices. “Holy and true Master!” they called. How much longer are you going to put off giving judgment, and avenging our blood on the earth-dwellers?” -Revelation 6:9-10

 

Revelation, as it describes the beast that comes out of the sea, parallels Daniel’s vision description of beasts (Rev. 13). Both the beast from the sea and the beast of the earth are defeated in battle.

Before we “see a new heaven and new earth” (Rev. 21) the enemy of man and the Son of Man, the Deceiver, the Great Beast, the Satan, will be dealt with once and for all:

… the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

 

Unlike many of the world’s attempts at justice, God’s justice names evil for what it is and deals with it. Evil’s power was dealt with on the cross. Jesus took all evil upon himself and defeated it. Evil no longer has power over us, unless you decide it to be so. For the loyal, God is Just and Justifier:

God put Jesus forth as the place of mercy, through faithfulness, by means of his blood. He did this to demonstrate his covenant justice, because of the passing over (in divine forbearance) of sins committed beforehand. This was to demonstrate his covenant justice in the present time: that is, that he himself is in the right, and that he declares to be right everyone who trusts in the faithfulness of Jesus. – Romans 3: 25-26

 

Will God’s final justice have you crying out about acts of justice on your terms: “Hide us from the face of the One who sits on the throne, and from the anger of the lamb! Who can stand upright!?” Or, will God’s justice vindicate your loyalty to His faithfulness?

Will God’s justice be the sum of all your fears or the sum of all your fealty?

Dreams and Dragons

 

Headlines daily declare man’s beastly behavior. Here are just a few of today’s headlines:

From the AP: “Indictment: Woman poured toilet water in roommate’s drink”

From ABC News: “Husband who had blamed cold medicine pleads guilty to killing his wife, stabbing her 123 times”

From Chicago Sun Times: “Saturday shootings kill 2-year-old boy, wound 8 other people”

And, “Man, 36, shot during argument in South Austin”

And, “2-year-old toddler dead, 18-year-old wounded in Hermosa shooting”

 

Going back in history, a Babylonian Times headline might have read:

“King Nebuchadnezzar Loses Mind, Lives with Beasts of the Field”

King lives like wild animals, eats grass like the ox

Nebuchadnezzar – William Blake

 

We read in Daniel chapter 4 of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and of Daniel’s God-revealed interpretation of the dream. We find out that the king, depicted as an enormous tree in the dream, has grown in pride and presumption and power over many. He will be cut down. We further learn that the king will become beast-like until he acknowledges God as sovereign. Those who walk in pride God is able to humble (Daniel 4:37).

In Daniel 7 we read of Daniel’s dream. In his vision he sees four great beasts. Daniel is able to describe them in detail. There are disturbing images of the earth’s rulers as terrifying unearthly monsters. These beasts rule over four kingdoms.

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.
Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.

Daniel goes on to describe a protruding animal-like horn: “This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.” He then describes heaven’s court room where thrones are set up and books are opened and where the Ancient of Day presides. And where a human figure comes into the vision:

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. Daniel 7: 13-14 (emphasis mine)

Take note. A “son of man” designation is another way of saying a human. Ezekiel the prophet used this form of address (93 times) to remind Israel of their place: that they are not God but mere humans accountable to God.

In apocalyptic literature, Daniel is called a son of man, a human, in chapter 8 vs.15-17.

While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man.
And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.”
As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. “Son of man,” he said to me, “understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.”

Where am I going with all this talk of beasts and kings and kingdoms and humans? To stop the presses. This will require an explanation.

The “Son of Man” title is used by Jesus throughout the Gospels. Mark records the title 12 times in his account. What we are to understand when Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man? That Jesus represents the human that God intended when he created the universe.

To clarify his ministry of redeeming fallen and often beastly humanity, Jesus, the Real Human, talked about servanthood and sacrifice and about his relationship with the Father. He talked about justice, and about the means to nourish the true human in each of us: “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”

 “…and just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28

And He said to him [Nathanael], “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:51

“For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matthew 24:27

So, Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. John 6:53

You see, only a True Human – the Son of Man and Last Adam – who has been given all authority in heaven and earth, can redeem and restore humanity from its “red in tooth and claw” ways and from its beastly rulers. And, that reminds me.

C.S. Lewis, in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, describes the agonizing redemption process the boy Eustace Clarence Scrubb goes through after Eustace became less than human. Eustace was selfish, whiny and cruel. Such a boy had turned into a beast – a dragon.

With Eustace’s permission, the lion Aslan claws off Eustace’s think scaly dragon skin until Eustace’s humanness is uncovered. The de-scaling has left Eustace raw and in a lot of pain. Aslan provides him a cool bath to recover in.

You see, being Son of Man human is the destiny of the sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve. We will be like him when we see him as he is (1 John 3:2).

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. Revelation. 1:12

 

Roll the presses: “Dragon Skin Found Among the Ruins”

The Rise of Resentment

 

Ressentiment is the French translation of the English word resentment. In philosophy and psychology it is a concept that was of particular interest to the existentialist philosophers. According to the existentialists, ressentiment is a sense of hostility directed at that which one identifies as the cause of one’s frustration, that is, an assignment of blame for one’s frustration. The sense of weakness or inferiority and perhaps jealousy in the face of the “cause” generates a rejecting/justifying value system, or morality, which attacks or denies the perceived source of one’s frustration. This value system is then used as a means of justifying one’s own weaknesses by identifying the source of envy as objectively inferior, serving as a defense mechanism that prevents the resentful individual from addressing and overcoming their insecurities and flaws. The ego creates an enemy in order to insulate itself from culpability. – Wikipedia

 

The resentment worldview has a perverted self-interest value system:

The resentment worldview has a perverted accounting system:

“Most economic fallacies derive from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another.” – Milton Friedman

 

We are told by Jesus to “love your neighbors as yourself”. To do this we must consider our own self-interest and then apply the same measure of self-interest toward our neighbors. This parity of accounting is not unlike the Lord’s accounting of forgiveness: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others their trespasses.” As mentioned above, the resentment worldview has a perverted accounting system: the self is to be credited and others must be debited for there to be parity in their world. If the word “fairness” is ever to be applied socially and economically to our culture then these two commands of our Lord define its limited and personal application.

Apart from the resentment worldview of “fellow travelers” and socialist sympathizers, I believe that many of us know that self-interest is not selfishness. We take care of our bodies. We wash and feed and exercise them. We think and dwell on good things and not on twaddle. We work and seek to pay our bills on time. We take our responsibilities to our family and to those around us seriously. In all of our transactions, social and economic, we strive to maintain a good name.

Going beyond a universal self-interest, a Jesus follower’s self-interest takes into her accounting what appears to be the opposite of self-interest – losses (see Mark 9: 43-47) or dying to self. Her losses (and subsequent gains) go right to the bottom line of her P & L statement: “What shall it profit a woman if she gains the whole world and loses her own soul?” The bottom line is what she gives out of in parity and fairness to her neighbor.

Scripture gives us God’s world view. And, early in Scripture, we read of contrasting worldviews: the worldview of resentment and its perverse self-fulfillment accounting and the worldview of God and His “on earth as it is in heaven” accounting.

In the familiar Genesis narrative (Genesis 37) of Joseph and his brothers, the brothers took account of how they thought they were treated and compared that to how they thought Joseph was treated. From their recorded behavior we find out that jealousy in the face of the “cause” generates a rejecting/justifying value system, or morality, which attacks or denies the perceived source of one’s frustration.

Joseph became the source of their envy. Born in Jacob’s old age, Joseph had the gift of his father’s love. Joseph also had the gift of dreams – presumptuous dreams the brothers thought (Gen 37:8). And Joseph was given an ornate robe from his father Jacob. They also considered Joseph a tattle tale (Gen 37:2).

Resentment rose in the brother’s hearts. Heated arguments followed and then boiled over. Joseph became the stated enemy of their egos. The brothers acted on their resentment. Joseph was sold into slavery after almost being done away with under a Democratic death sentence (Gen 37:18).

Years later in Egypt, when tables are turned, Joseph did not hold resentment in his heart. He did not reciprocate (Gen. 45). He dealt with his brothers, not by returning upon their heads the evil done to him, but with God’s accounting worldview: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.’

 

Resentment worldview onlookers that day would have testified that something bad happened years ago and now someone had to pay. And that brings us to today.

The Final Protest

 

The whole world is watching” was a chant by antiwar demonstrators outside the Conrad Hilton Hotel the evening of August 28 during the 1968 Democrat National Convention in Chicago

-Wikipedia

“Prologue, August 29, 1968”

 

If you lived through the 60s as I have you will remember the numerous protests across the nation. If you lived in Chicago during that time you will remember the local newscasts showing nuclear armament protests, civil rights protests and antiwar protests. At the time of the DNC Convention in August of 1968 downtown Chicago was flooded with protestors. The violent confrontations between anti-war protestors and the police and the responses of Mayor Richard J. Daley were shown on our family’s black and white with rabbit ears every night.

The national and local protests appeared to me, a teenager, to be a release of anger, frustration, hatred and anarchy. The protests, in a way, looked familiar. They appeared to a be a rebellious teenager’s emotional response to the authority in his life.

The signs, the shouts, the shoves and the protest songs were captured on tape for the whole world to watch and to listen. I said all you got to do is listen. Ironically, as witnessed in Chicago, many antiwar protests turned violent, as protestors incited a civil unrest to make their point about wanting peace in our time.

Protests have been around since day one. And many if not most of those protests focused fault for an objectionable situation away from the protesting party and outward onto a larger amorphous party – The Man. The Man is typically God or government or a boss or “the system”.  Any authority figure can be in the index finger’s protest sights. Here’s Adam (the man) protesting God (The Man) questioning him (the man):

But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

 The man said, “The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Genesis 3: 9-12 (emphasis mine)

Behind many protests today there is an “It takes a village” mindset that says everyone is responsible while making no one personally responsible except for The Man – an authority figurehead. Making every one democratically responsible then puts the onus for change dangerously into the hands of those elected – the political and religious elite – and away from personal accountability. When those in power are offered more power, totalitarianism follows. The State – The Man – then confiscates your liberty to control those situations and people you want controlled.

There are protests that hamstring or hamper others. These protests are meant to cause others to feel the protestor’s pain. One such protest happened in Chicago recently. Protestors shut down Lake Shore Drive on a Thursday afternoon. They carried signs decrying the ongoing violence on the west and south sides of Chicago: No More Violence Black Lives Matter, Help My Community and Enough is Enough.

Violence should be a matter of concern. Yet, in my view, the LSD blockage protest was a redistribution of responsibility for the choices the protestors had made. Consider that most of those protesting were the same people who voted for Chicago’s mayor and city council. And, if you recall, those elected officials made Chicago into a “Welcoming City” allowing in a criminal element composed of drug lords, MS-13 gang bangers, sexual predators, molesters and pedophiles, to name a few generators of imported violence. Consider also that most of those protestors are Democrats who continue to vote for programs that foster government dependence and not self-reliance and responsibility. The pols these protestors vote for offer to assuage fears by throwing money at a problem. And that means raising property taxes, which creates more poverty and more dependence on government, which, by lack of ownership and responsibility, creates more gang violence in neighborhoods. Therein is a Self-Induced Catch 22 for the protestors.

There are protests as marches which are meant to be a show of strength, and perhaps intimidation, in numbers. Union protests, the Million Man March and The Woman’s March in DC are these types of protests. In the end the marchers have had their fifteen minutes of fame and then often go on with nothing changed but their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts.

Many protests are about perceived injustices, inequities and intolerable conditions. As I see it, the cries for “equal rights for all” is often conditional on others being treated unequally.

Did you know that there is a Chicago protest website called Chicago Protest? Today you will find the following protests scheduled:

All Out – the Jason Van Dyke Trial

Rally to #End Money Bail

MeToo MacDonald’s

SayHerName: A march to end the violence against trans women

There are protests against personalities which represent The Man. The #Resistance protests against Trump. As they do, have you noticed that many of those who protest Trump’s behavior act as bad or worse than Trump as if by projection of their own immaturity? The #Resistance appears to justify its jejune behavior by saying Trump is The Wrong Man and anyway he should be a better-behaved (but not like those of the #Resistance). Of course, such personality protests are egged on by deep political and ideological divides which are stoked by media personalities who have their own following. Like all else regarding human nature, personality protests are not new under the sun.

In Paul’s day there was such a protest within the young and immature Corinthian church. The protest involved personalities Paul, Cephas and Apollos. It seems that these three each represented to the Corinthians a unique style presentation of the Gospel. The Corinthians, eager to take sides, had lined up behind the personality who was the most pleasing to their ears. Some chose Cephas, the hands-on fisherman who had walked with Jesus and could tell tales of his time with Jesus. Some chose the didactic deep thinker and talker Paul and others chose the polished speaker with the locally familiar Greek god name – Apollos.

Paul, writing to the church, reprimands the Corinthians for their partisan protests based on worldly wisdom.

In my own case, my dear family, I couldn’t speak to you as spiritual people, but as people who were all to obviously merely human, little babies in the Messiah. I fed you with milk, not sold food, because you weren’t able to take it—and you still can’t, even now! You’re still determined to live in the old way! Yes, wherever there is jealousy and quarreling, doesn’t that mean you’re living in the old way, behaving as any merely human being might do? When someone says “I’m with Paul!” and someone else says “I’m with Apollos!” are you not mere humans?

– 1 Corinthians 3:1-4

Personality protests are self-serving protests. They derive from a person’s worldly human wisdom which generates errant expectations about how things should be – for me.

In Mark’s gospel account (Mark 8: 31-33) we read of Peter’s protest of Jesus announcing his coming suffering and death. Peter was expecting a Messiah who lived out Israel’s’ covenant hopes.

Jesus now began to teach them something new.

“There’s trouble in store for the son of man,” he said. “The elders, the chief priests, and the scribes are going to reject him. He will be killed – and after three days he’ll be raised.” He said this quite explicitly.

At this, Peter took him aside and started to scold him. But he turned around, saw the disciples, and scolded Peter.

“Get behind me, Accuser!” he said. “You’re thinking human thoughts, not God’s thoughts.”

How should we frame our thinking about protests? With human thoughts? Or, with the “mind of the Messiah” (1 Cor. 2:16)? After Jesus protests Peter’s mere human wisdom, Jesus, the Messiah, goes on to tell the crowd his mind: what protest should be about and about the Final Protest:

“If any of you want to come the way I’m going,” he said, “you must say no to your own selves, pick up your own cross, and follow me. Yes: if you want to save your life, you’ll lose it; but if you lose your life because of me and message you’ll save it. After all, what use is it to win the world and lose your life? What can you give in exchange for your life? If you’re ashamed of me and my words in this cheating and sinning generation, the son of man will be ashamed of you when he comes in the glory of his father with the holy angels.” – Mark 8:34-38

Jesus calls us to a protest that is personal, self-effacing and not world attention-grabbing. In fact, it is the opposite of the social media-grabbing, exploitive and often violent protests occurring in the world today. The violence of the Jesus protest is directed toward one’s ego and fleshly desires and even to one’s self-esteem. We are to sever all claims to self and all protesting rights from our thinking.

Be warned if your worldly human wisdom has you say “I’m behind the person that gives me the gospel the way I like it”. Be warned if your worldly human wisdom has you say “I will march for and demand my rights because my rights define me.” Be warned, also, if you protest the Lord’s claim on your life. Jesus, as we read above, warns of a Final Protest where he reveals his total displeasure with your cause to gain the world of self-interest and his embarrassment to be seen with you in the company of heaven.

 

 

~~~
Here is how the Apostle Paul understood the Jesus Protest:
“…I didn’t come and proclaim God’s mystery to you by means of a superior style of speaking or wisdom. No: I decided to know nothing in my dealings with you except Jesus the Messiah, especially his crucifixion. I came to you in weakness in great fear and trembling…” Paul’s first recorded letter to the church at Corinth, 2: 1-3
And…
“As for me, God forbid that I should boast – except in the cross of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, through whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, 6: 14

Livin’ the Dream

 

Livin’ the Dream

 fruit_cocktail

Lew spooned out fruit cocktail from a can as he sat in front of the TV. The fruit squished in his gums. The sweet syrup dribbled down from the corners of mouth. A chunk of cherry flew into the air when he yelled “Those corporate fat cats! There’s nothing left for us!” The cat lapped up the sticky red dot and looked up.

“Scoot!”  Lew shoved a foot under the cat’s belly and picked it up. The cat yowled and leaped forward onto its front paws. The hind legs followed, scrambling for footing on the wet vinyl floor.

The can of hot plate-warmed chili and two cold beers for his dinner had made Lew drowsy. He struggled to keep his eyes open to watch the cable news program. He rubbed his eyes twice and yawned each time. As he put his head back on the chair his eyelids came down. Another program came on…

 

I was Lew’s armored car route partner before he retired ten years ago. Here is what Lew told me about his dream the night before:

“A big cat was sitting in my chair. The cat looked all pleased with itself. It was licking its fir and purring like our truck’s diesel engine. The cat took a bite of a cheese sandwich and mice ran up to eat the crumbs. I was looking up at the cat waiting for food to drop. When it did the mice ate it up before I could get any.

The cat then handed me a plaque. It said, “Thanks for piling on 40 Years with Us”. Then I saw the front door open and you poked your head in. You said, “You’ve always been in the driver’s seat, pal.”

Then, I saw my dad on TV. He was in a Stockpile Self-storage commercial. He was sitting in his recliner smoking a pipe inside a storage unit full of his stuff. There was an auction going on and he was in buying and storing mode, like when he was alive. He said to me, “As a man thinketh in his chair so he is. And I think it’s no crime to have more than you want.”

Then, a stray cat walked in and read a fortune cookie fortune: “If continually give, continually have.” And that’s when I woke up.”

Lew, speaking through his screen door as I stood on the “Welcome” mat, then asked me “What do make of that crazy dream?”hoarders

I told him “Pal, I was lucky to get into your dream since I can’t get into your house to check on you. There is so much stuff in there. You’ve kept everything and now everything is keeping you in that chair.” I told Lew to lay off the cans of chili and fruit cocktail which I saw strewn in the yard and to enjoy his big fat pension. “Get out of this house.” I told him. “C’mon, buy yourself and your old partner a good meal in town before there’s nothing left of you to hold on to.”

 

© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2018, All Rights Reserved

Circumstantial Evidence

You don’t feel right. You feel unsettled and unable to sleep at night. You feel achy, restless and depressed. You wonder if there is something in the air. You feel that there is something going on but you can’t put your finger on it.

One day, on the way to work, you stop for a “Caramel Macchiato, Venti, Skim, Extra Shot, Extra-Hot, Extra-Whip, Sugar-Free” at Starbucks. Getting out of your Subaru, you see a sign across the street: “GOT CARE?” The sign is out front of the Hope and Change Clinic. Another yard sign says that the clinic accepts all patients and rejects none. You say to yourself, “Maybe this is what I need.” You call and make your first appointment.

On the day of your appointment you find the waiting room full of scrutinizing looks. You meet with Dr. Betterman. He doesn’t examine you. He tells you right off the bat what ails you. He says, “I see this all the time in my practice. My patients sense that something isn’t right and they become anxious. They often feel stigmatized by their choices. I counsel them not to worry. The problem, I tell them, is not behavioral. It is not anything you ate or did. It is not you. The problem is who and what is going on around you. A fundamental transformation is required. You will need to see me at least once a week to work through this. For payment, we accept cash, credit cards and all kinds of insurance and reject none. A copy of my best-selling book “Think Through You: 17 Steps Toward Transcendental Reasoned Being” is available for purchase at the front desk.”

Already feeling chipper, you reschedule and then stop at Starbucks, book under your arm, before going home.

Our Common Problem

 

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see… Genesis 11

To counter the threat of disintegration and to triumph over insignificance, they build a city and a tower “with its top to the heavens. A single “place”, a single “tongue”, and a single “tower” will provide the pillars for a centralized political, economic, and religious system with universal pretensions. Humanity will be securely unified and great. -Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace

 

On the plain of Shinar the whole world acted out of fear. The whole world feared loss of group identity through scattering. They feared the differences that would evolve once “scattering” began. Out of fear the whole world decided that they needed to build a towering edifice as a symbol of their identity and intransience. Out of fear, the whole world acted like the woman who believed that having a child would solidify her identity and her relationship with a guy.

For their One World Project it could be assumed that the people living on the plain of Shinar used clay and straw for their bricks. The plain had stones but they were likely smooth river stones. Shinar translated literally is “country of two rivers”, the two rivers being the Tigris and Euphrates. River stones were not going to work for a towering monument to themselves and for their socialized labor effort. Besides, to achieve structural integrity for both the tower and a One World society, the bricks and the people had to be uniform or be tossed onto the rubbish pile.

We learn from Genesis 10:8-10 that the Land of Shinar was the site of the kingdoms founded by Nimrod. We also learn that the name-making business had already started with Nimrod:

 Cush became the father of Nimrod, who was the first on earth to become a powerful man.  He was a powerful animal-killer in the eyes of the Lord. So, it is said, “Like Nimrod, a powerful animal-killer in the eyes of the Lord.”  The beginning of his nation was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

The tower was meant to create a unifying One World name for the people. We never hear of a name later on. Maybe the tower would have been named Nimrod Tower to honor a mighty hunter and self-made man.

The narrator, with tongue-in-cheek, relates “But the Lord came down to see” the finger in His face. In that same narration (Genesis 11:5-9) we learn of a God who is “us”.

Come, let Us go down and mix up their language so they will not understand what each other says.”  So the Lord sent them everywhere over the whole earth.

Why would God mix up their language and then scatter the Shinar plain’s people? Well, God earlier had commanded their forefathers (and remnants of the flood judgment) differently:

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.  The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands.  Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. – Genesis 9:1-3

In response to a centralized obstinate hunkering down in disobedience tower building people, God confounds their language. The people are scattered, fear and all.

 

Scattering (and moving people out of their comfort zones) happens throughout Scripture. In the next chapter of Genesis (12), we read of the beginning of God’s people:

The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

Like the remnant theme, the scattering theme is repeated throughout Scripture. The people of God are scattered into exile when they choose other gods and the ways of the world.

When men or a nation hunkers down as an immovable force and starts going vertical with pride and not horizontal in obedience, God scatters. Read Daniel 2. Daniel reveals the king’s dream. The dream portrays the knocking down of the towering kingdoms man has built up and affixed their name to. God scatters the remains.

To be sure, God doesn’t scatter for the sake of scattering. God is good. Listen to the what the prophet Jeremiah wrote (Jeremiah 29) to God’s exiled (scattered) people:

This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:…

 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

 

“I will be found by you.” Consider how God, by sending his Spirit, communicates (without towers) the gospel at Pentecost to those who had been scattered. From Acts 2:

There were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem at that time. When they heard the noise, they came together in a crowd. They were deeply puzzled, because every single one of them could hear them speaking in his or her own native tongue. They were astonished and amazed

“These men who are doing the speaking are all Galileans, aren’t they? they said. “So how is it that each of us can hear them in our own mother tongues? There are Parthians here, and Medians, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia (the land of Shinar!), Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt, and parts of Libya that belong to Cyrene; there are people from Rome, proselytes as well as Jews; there are Cretans and Arabs. We can hear them telling us about the powerful things God has done—in our own languages!”

 

Scattered people come together in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost. They hear the Apostles speak in their own native tongue. They hear about “the powerful things God has done” (and not about the powerful hunting of Nimrod). They return home to announce the Gospel – “Jesus is Lord” – in their own tongue. They were filling the earth with the knowledge of God.

 

Notice in Genesis 9 (above) that the fear of going without has been lifted off of mankind. Mankind has to choose to live in fear. Yet, when we live in fear and act out of fear we make terrible decisions. We become codependent in relationships. We become sexually involved. We overeat. We make monetary demands of others for socialized this and that. We shun others who are not the same as us. We lie. We steal. We kill. We take revenge. We isolate. We hoard. We surround ourselves with the like-minded. We build mega-churches to make a name for ourselves. We become territorial. We become ultra-nationalistic. We spend our days making bricks of straw and clay for a tower that will symbolize our efforts to secure our brick and straw identity.

By scattering and filling the earth with the knowledge of God, God desires to drive out fear from the whole world as each embrace his perfect love for us. And, God makes an endearing name for the scattered – adopted sons and daughters.

By scattering and filling the earth with the knowledge of God, God desires to prosper us as we seek first His Kingdom and not the kingdom of the clay tower. Man’s vertical projects are always redirected into God’s horizontal filling the earth with the knowledge of God.

God knows that our being scattered, redirected and moved out of our comfort zones involves risks of the unknown. But, God is there. Like Abraham, I want to go into the unknown and follow God to where God is working and communicating. Don’t you? That is the only way for us to experience God’s character and His presence. You won’t gain that experience with your head in the clouds at the top of Nimrod Tower.

 

As people are “fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” they will find the earth full of God’s love. As the Psalmist wrote (Ps. 33:4-5):

For the word of the Lord is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.
 The Lord loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.

 

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Remember:

“We are to regard existence as a raid or great adventure; it is to be judged, therefore, not by what calamities it encounters, but by what flag it follows and what high town it assaults. The most dangerous thing in the world is to be alive; one is always in danger of one’s life. But anyone who shrinks from that is a traitor to the great scheme and experiment of being.” G.K. Chesterton

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Scattering appears to be consistent with God’s character. Consider the creation of the universe. The Big Bang unleashed atomic particles which later formed into mass. The universe continued to expand and so did the evolution of species. Pentecost reminded me of another Big Bang, a Kingdom Big Bang.

Consistent with man’s character: tower building with the accumulating and hoarding of mass.

Because the human heart remains the same throughout millennia there is a current political ideology of “a centralized political, economic, and religious system with universal pretensions.” Progressivism is its name and it is based on fear. It is also based on the fear of scattering.

God’s command mankind to “fill the earth” is certainly not a directive for a One World centralized tower top down collectivism.

For Progressivism to be about “Hope and Change” it must first invoke fear: fear of going hungry, fear of medical bills, fear of going bankrupt, fear of having to pay for one’s college tuition, fear of not being accepted, fear of having to care for an unborn child, the fear of being insecure, and fear of an unapproved of group, to mention just a few of the promoted social insecurities. Progressivism’s answer to fear is to centralize, homogenize and to be given totalitarian authority.

For Progressivism to be about hope and change it must reach the heavens. So, it uses the words of a well-being gospel Jesus (aka, a prosperity gospel). When it invokes Jesus, Progressivism can then justify its means to an end. The means can be socialized medicine, socialized income, and socialized well-being all done under totalitarian control.

The ends are to remove differences in income, differences in thought, and differences in morality. Progressivism suppresses differences that do not fit their narrative. Progressivism seeks to homogenize, repress and to pull suckers into its social tar, the mortar holding the clay bricks together. To build their tower of hope the bricks are to be handmade – formed by all the same to be all the same. The bricks are to laid, one on top of another, until they reach the pinnacle of Tower Utopia.

“With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.” – from FDR’s First Inaugural Address

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The Tower of Babel…

…reminds me of top down centralized government.

…reminds of the high places mentioned in the OT. They were places where false gods were worshipped.

…reminds me of the Eye of Sauron.

Added 8/21/2018, fixating on a problem:

The belief that everything is getting worse paints a distorted picture of what we can do, and makes us more fearful. But while getting the facts wrong – or willfully misrepresenting them – often results in misguided policies, fact-based recognition of what humanity has achieved encourages policies that can achieve the most good. –  Bjørn Lomborg “A Better World is Here