A lawsuit? No way!

At the last Regent breakfast at the New Orleans SBL, I had the opportunity to share with some friends that I had become an investor.  After finishing my PhD in 1996, I was an adjunct for a year and a half, and after that I began to teach pro bono in Africa for period of eight years between 1998-2006.  During that period, my wife and I started the Barnabas Venture, so that we could raise funding for scholarships to make up for the lack of qualified African professors in French-speaking Africa.  Then, with some spare time on my hands between trips to Africa, I began to dream about how we could make more money so that we would be able to give even more than ever before.  That is when I began to take some serious risks in our personal and registered DIY trading accounts.

When I shared this with Prof. Rikk Watts who presided the Regent breakfast he was extraordinarily positive.  I particularly appreciated his encouragement to “thrive”.  I spent some time one evening with a number of Regent alumni, both men and women (Prof. Watts was there too), and I appreciated their joie de vivre, as we had a time of sharing in the apartment of an alumnus, and then we went to listen to live jazz music in New Orleans.  I took my leave after listening to some spirited trombone solos.  It was a great time.

Recently someone asked me in the comments section if I was going to sue Prof. Stackhouse.  I pretty much hold that as Christians we can be wronged because Christ forgives us.  This person then said that he/she was planning to sue Regent because of being forced to accept Intelligent Design. I find that unacceptable.  I am not interested in winning a battle in the courts.  The courts are predominantly leftist institutions and I am a conservative.  I hate it when those who can’t get their way through legislation force their agenda through court-made law.  This is an usurpation of democracy.  I would hope to be able instead to make cogent arguments for my views and hopefully win in the court of public opinion.

I am now told by a member of the Regent staff that my blog is being read with “great interest and passion”.  This surprises and daunts me.  And I feared that my blogs would be misinterpreted as the rantings of malcontent. But I admit that my recent postings are based upon a narrow experience with just a few from the Regent community: debates with the student PoserorProphet, interactions with full-time Prof. Stackhouse on his blog, and my recent reading of some writings of a summer-school professor, Dr. Diewert.  But this is an admittedly small sample of what Regent College has to offer and I am by no means writing off the school.   So I asked a few people what they thought, including a full-time professor at a theological school with years of experience in administration.  For the most part, they have encouraged me not to back down.  Indeed, I had the impression that as someone outside of academics, I am able to say certain things insiders might wish to say, but for various reasons are not permitted.  E.g., I can openly argue that the diversity created by affirmative action has seriously lowered quality–a position usually only maintained by retired professors who no longer fear repercussions for expressing unpopular opinions.  I can also see why students would be reluctant to criticize the administration or a faculty member, or why fellow professors would hesitate to criticize their colleagues.

I am an alumnus and an historical supporter of Regent College and no lawsuit has entered my head.  I am appalled by the person who suggests taking a lawsuit against Regent.   But I’ve questioned the wisdom of allowing certain anti-capitalist and anarchist tendencies to find a home at Regent because I am wondering aloud in the blogosphere how those who are making the money which supports theological education, through risk taking and hard work, should react when that education evidently promotes views which if implemented would undermine their ability to “thrive”–and this doesn’t apply to Regent College only.  Obviously Regent is a wonderfully diverse place and there must be some differences of opinions, at least I hope that there is.  And one could question why I would chose the public space called “the internet” to try to initiate a discussion.  Well the answer to that is quite simple:  It seems entirely appropriate to me to express the disagreements that I have with the views of Prof. Stackhouse, PoserorProphet or Dr. Dave Diewert, here in the blogosphere, because that is where I became acquainted with their views.

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Streams of Justice: Against recycling

The latest endorsement from Streams of Justice, Dave Diewert’s social justice group, is of “The One ‘R’ Posse”:

Communiqué from The One ‘R’ Posse!

Operation Knock Over Recycle Bin and Strew The Contents All Over The Street!
Just say no to Recycling! If you Reduce and Reuse, there is no need to Recycle. Recycling is just a way for capitalism to ride the back of environmentally conscious people with out ever having to actually change their fundamental system.

In Seattle during the anti-WTO convergence, in 1999, we set a dumpster of cardboard recycling on fire. This action was widely misconstrued as a bunch of hooligan police provocateurs attempting to besmirch the good name of respectable protesters and rioters alike.

Our goal in Operation Set Cardboard Dumpster On Fire was to prevent the recycling trucks from coming to pick it up, using fossil fuels and ever increasing road networks to bring it to the recycling depot, process it then transport it in more trucks to factories to manufacture it into goods consumers would drive their cars to malls to yet again purchase, starting this whole ‘recycling’ charade all over again. How many times can one recycled box be recycled before the recycling process itself becomes just another toxic pollutant!

After being lambasted in the corporate media and ruthlessly chastised by all factions in the Left, we stopped everything we were doing and retreated to re-evaluate and perfect our strategies. After a decade of intensive internal theoretical and strategic development, we finally returned, only to find our actions meeting the same merciless critique by our allies.

On Feb 13, 2010 as part of the convergence against the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, the One ‘R’ Posse knocked over a recycle bin in solidarity with the Left, and to move forward our own cause of stopping the ‘recycling’ ruse consumers have been duped into by so called environmentalists who are decreasing their carbon footprint with one foot while just making another one with the other foot!

The One ‘R’ Posse took into consideration that setting that cardboard dumpster on fire, while preventing the production of greenhouse gasses in transport and manufacturing only added to Global Warming by adding milligrams of smoke into the atmosphere. After being thrust into the global spotlight of criticism and a decade of internal reflection, we changed our tactic. We realized the world just wasn’t prepared for the radical reality of a dumpster fire. We needed to take action that makes sense under current social conditions. Littering was the solution we chose. City workers were thus employed to clean up the plastic bottles, creating jobs and showing solidarity with Union workers. At the same time Environmentalist NGO’s can rest easy that no carbon emissions were unnecessarily created. Workers and environmentalists are finally united over the same bin!

This is beyond satire. I’ve tried to satirize these people. But the reality is so much more farcical and ridiculous than any satire that I could imagine.

This sort of thing on the part of Christian social justice group makes Glenn Beck’s recent statements seem not only justified but eminently fair and sober minded:

In recent radio show, that was broadcast on more than 400 affiliates, he told his listeners to leave any church that uses the phrases “social justice” or “economic justice.” “I beg you, look for the words ’social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site,” he said.

“If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!” He went on to say, “If you have a priest pushing social justice go find another parish. Go alert your bishop and tell them. [Ask them] are you down with this whole social justice thing?”   (Read more: http://network.nationalpost.com/; The National Post is now on Facebook. Join our fan community today.)

Of course in the National Post article did not interview Canadian theologian Dr. Craig Carter who has a series on the problem with the term “social justice” that pretty much agrees, in a sophisticated manner, with Glenn Beck’s warnings.

Craig Carter did two recent posts on “social justice”:

What is my beef with social justice I

What is my beef with social justice II

Are Christian Anarchists the new Zealots?

Note:  This post has been edited to remove an error that the author acknowledges he made.

In my post Donate to Theological Education or Not:  The case of fighting anarchy, I wrote of my alarm that certain young Christians had begun to adopt socialism / communism.  As a donor to theological education, I’ve been asking myself whether if it is wise to give to schools like Regent College, of which I am an alumnist, that associate with professors like Dave Diewert who advocate such views. If these people succeed with their agenda, they will take away our ability to give to places like Regent.  One of Regent’s students, a self-acknowledged friend of Dave Diewert, has come out on his blog advocating violence and the abolition of private property:

However, as I have progressed down this road, I have become convicted that our efforts in this regard must be more intimately linked to solidarity with the abandoned, to the abolition of private property, to potentially more ‘violent’ means of resistance, and to the greater goal of building a social movement.

It had been suggested to me by one of Regent’s full-time Professors that the new left-wing Christians  were the New Pharisees; I’ve changed my mind about Christians like PoserorProphet who advocate violent resistance to the “economy of death”.  They are not the New Pharisees–they are the new Zealots.  Well, occasionally the two categories can overlap,  for Rabbi Akiba, a Pharisee, supported Bar Kochba, a zealot.  Poser has actually found inspiration in the actions of the Zealots:

Or, to pick a third example, we can find inspiration in the actions of the Jewish revolutionaries who immediately burned the records of debt after gaining control of the Jerusalem Temple in the first century (Josephus writes about this – although it probably reminds the modern reader of the conclusion to Fight Club!).

I wrote to Poser at City of God the following:

Now you advocate violent means of resistance and the elimination of private property. Just how much violence would you tolerate? You’re caught up in things that are way over your head, and you yourself could end up getting burned in the process. You mentioned favorably also the zealots who burned the papers of debt and murdered the priestly class. Did you know that all of those people ended up dead within four years? (Except through treachery, Josephus himself survived to tell the story). So you find inspiration in people who were exterminated by war, and those who survived the war only to be crucified and their women and children to be sold into slavery? They perished as Jesus predicted (cf. Matt 24-25); but he told his followers not to participate in the war but rather to flee (Matt 24.16-20). But of course you know better than Jesus–you’ve read more books than he did– and so you find inspiration in the actions of the people who perished in accordance to Jesus’ prophecy!

There was a time when the Republican party had to excommunicate from their ranks the John Birch Society because these people brought discredit to the party with their extreme conspiracy views.  I wonder if evangelical Christians, particularly those involved in theological education, need to clean things up a bit too, before they lose their credibility through their association with such people.  Or are they representative?  Do they actually speak what so many people want to say but are afraid to?

Would Jesus have opposed the Olympic Games?

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places and calling to their playmates, ‘We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” Matthew 11.16-19 (RSV)

WWJD:  What would Jesus do?  It is a good question for Christians to ask because we want to be like the author and perfecter of our faith.  The protesters have objected to the Vancouver Olympic Games for the following reasons:  (1) they used unceded native lands; (2) they dispossessed the poor of Vancouver; (3) the games are a big party for rich people to which the poor are not invited; (4) they have been compared to the games in antiquity, an entertainment to mollify the masses.

In particular, Dr. Dave Diewert argues as follows (“A Call to Olympic Resistance”; emphasis mine):

One can hardly imagine Jesus, who in the wilderness temptation scene rejected the invitation to use his power and privilege to secure his own personal comforts, guarantee protection and security in his mission, and ascend the throne of political and economic domination, advocating support of the Olympic Games. The movement of liberation that he brought, the reign of God that he instantiated, was marked by standing with the weak and the vulnerable, challenging the powerful, and paying for it with his life. Loyalty to Jesus and his way requires saying NO to the temptation to power; the kingdom of God is expressed in solidarity with the poor, resistance to the ways of the empire, and liberation into a community of generosity, justice and mutual care.

The Olympics are the antithesis of the kingdom; they are the grand spectacle of the Empire, and its purpose is to lure us into its grasp. Herod the Great, the political ruler who ordered the slaughter of innocent children in an effort to eliminate the threat of Jesus’ birth, was a strong supporter of the Olympic Games. They are the mechanism of the economic elite and the politically powerful to seduce us into serving their interests. We need to stand with those destroyed or exploited by such power (indigenous people), with those expelled and displaced (poor people), with those punished and removed from sight (homeless people), because that is where our Master stood. It seems to me this puts us in a place of explicit non-cooperation with the Olympics.

Like Jesus in the wilderness, our stance should be one of resistance, dissent and non-participation. This might be expressed as public protest, or standing with the victims of exploitation and displacement, or engaging in educational strategies – all of which disclose the destructive power masked by the spectacular convergence of wealth and coercive force that the Olympics represents and promotes. The way of Jesus, the crucified one, is a narrow path that leads us into the company of the poor, the outcast, the afflicted; it is the way of solidarity with the victims of power, resistance to dehumanizing modalities of social existence, and liberation from destructive political and economic arrangements and into communities of shared resources, life-giving justice and care for all creation.

I suppose Diewert would think it inappropriate for a Christian athlete to participate in the competition.  According to CBC News, he is on the record as saying that it is even inappropriate for Christian groups, like the Billy Graham rapid response teams, to provide hospitality and support to visitors to Vancouver during the Olympics:

Dave Diewert, an organizer with the Christian social advocacy group Streams of Justice, which works on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, says it is inappropriate for Christians to associate themselves with the Olympic juggernaut.

“It seems unthinkable to align ourselves with the massive corporate enterprise as the Olympics,” Diewert told CBC News.

Dr. Diewert, please tell me that you didn’t say that and that you were taken out of context by CBC News.  But excuse me if I find this position just a bit moralistic.  I don’t think the term that I’ve dubbed for you and your Christian associates, the New Pharisees, is out of place.

I remember my first few months in Vancouver in 1996.  It was dismaying to learn that I shouldn’t drink most brands of coffee or tea because the workers weren’t paid enough or that I shouldn’t buy gas from Shell because the company was in collusion with the Apartheid regime in South Africa.  I just got to the point where I couldn’t function anymore with all the rules:  You can’t eat meat, that’s bad.  You can’t wear fur, because that means killing a fuzzy animal.  Now days you can’t breath because that contributes CO2 or fart because of the CO, evil greenhouse gases that are destroying the environment.  Young Christians fret about their carbon footprint.  They have so many rules it’s not inappropriate to call them the New Pharisees.  Now we can’t participate in the Olympics. It’s gone from Eric Liddell refusing to run on a Sunday to forbidding any kind of participation whatsoever, even providing aid to those in distress, because that would be displeasing to our Lord Jesus.  “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is an Olympian” (cf. Luke 7.39).  I don’t see how this is different from certain fundamentalist Christians who measure their faith based upon their adherence to rules, “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t chew, don’t go with girls who do.”  I went to a Bible college.  I know something about rules.

Diewert claims that Jesus identified with the concerns of the poor.  Here is the conclusion of his unsigned paper (I assume it is his) on Matthew 4.1-11 (“The Wilderness Temptations [Matthew 4:1-11]” emphasis mine):

The wilderness testing scene finds Jesus, recently baptized by John, recipient of the divine spirit, and identified as God’s son, in a time of intense preparation for his mission. Hungry and weak, he is offered opportunities to use his status and privilege to secure his physical needs and desires, guarantee his protection and safety, and increase his political and economic power. Acquiesence to these offers would entail abandoning the mission of the kingdom he was sent to proclaim, and set him on a path that was incommensurate with the way of the cross. The path before him was one of solidarity with the poor and afflicted, resistance to the structures of oppression and exclusion and those who backed it, and invitation into an alternative reality of healing, forgiveness, community and love.

He remained true to this way, even though it would mean encountering hostility, conflict, suffering, torture and death. It was a path of non-compliance to the dominant institutions of power and control, and the embodiment of another vision of life in a truly human community. Using our privilege and entitlement to ensure our needs and wants are met, to guarantee the protection and security of our lives and our way of life, to lever more social, political and economic power constitute great temptations indeed. Increasing personal comfort, security and power is what we are socialized to desire and actively pursue. Yet to seek these is to turn aside from the way of the kingdom that Jesus brought, it is to declare allegiance to another god.

The Olympic Games event, it seems to me, functions as the grand festival of another god; it is the seductive spectacle that summons our allegiance to another master. It constitutes for us, followers of the Way who are embedded in the Empire, a profound wilderness-like test, an occasion for clarifying our loyalty and devotion to God’s movement of liberation embodied in Jesus.

Diewert claims that Jesus mission was one of solidarity with the poor.  Diewert can therefore justify his own work, as a community organizer who rationalizes envy on the part of the poor and violations of property rights.  He calls for political action to force taxpayers to provide housing and other kinds of funding for the homeless in Vancouver–thus, he is not against the wielding of political power; he just simply wants to shift power away from the status quo to a movement which will restructure our society to help these homeless folks.

Arch of Titus, Rome

Before we accept Diewert’s position, I would like to point out that Jesus at the end was rejected by everyone: the rich and powerful, the elite, the priests, the Jews, the Gentiles, the rabble, and yes, the poor.  As the scripture says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3.23).  Arguably the poor Jewish crowd had much more to complain about than Vancouver’s poor.  They were oppressed by a foreign power who employed some of their own people to tax them.  Their own Jewish leaders worked in collusion with the Romans to maintain this status quo.  This was not just a few thousand poor people but nearly an entire nation in the millions that suffered as result of Roman rule.  But they maintained a strong hope of a deliverer, the promised messiah, who would save them and deliver them from the hands of the foreign oppressor, just as the Maccabees had succeeded  at overthrowing the Greeks in their recent past.  Jesus did not protect these poor people and he did not fight their battle.  Rather, he offended their sensibilities, causing them to withdraw from him (John 6).  Instead of delivering them from or resisting their oppressors, the Romans, he predicted their demise (Matthew 24-25) and told them that because of their rejection of him, the blessings of God would be stripped from them and given to the gentiles (Matt 22.1-14; cf. Luke 4.23-27).  When Jesus said “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven was at hand”, he affirmed the message of John the Baptist who said that the ax was laid at the root of the nation (Matt 3.10), and that judgment was coming, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”  So Jesus left these poor unrepentant Jews in the hands of their oppressors–though Christian tradition tells us that the Christian Jews escaped to a place called Pella in the trans-Jordan region (Eusebius, h.e. 3.5; cf. Matt 24.16).  While Jesus fed the poor and tried to heal them, ultimately he refused to deliver them from their oppressors on their terms, but allowed himself to be crucified, while the Romans triumphed–the Arch of Titus’ triumph of the Jewish nation stands to this day in Rome.

Diewert’s application of Matthew is tendentious; he attempts to show Jesus’ agenda as aligning himself with the poor. This is not the case.  He didn’t stand with the weak and vulnerable, as Diewert contends, but rather he stood alone before Pontius Pilate.  He was rejected by all people and he died for all people, men and women, slave and free, Jew and Gentile (cf. Gal 3.28) .  He called upon all people to repent, the rich, the poor and the religious and political leaders of his day.  That is why the position of the Billy Graham rapid response teams, of Eric Liddell, and of Christian Olympians seems far more balanced than that of the New Pharisees.  They can shine the light God in dark places of the world, so that some may be saved.  Jesus was apparently not against a big party, with dancing and drinking (Matt 11.16-19).  In my opinion, Jesus would not have refused to participate in the Olympics.  Why would he have refused when he was a friend of the prostitutes and the sinners? Jesus was even a friend of the very tax collectors whom the Romans used to oppress the poor.  Paul used athletic metaphors to make his point (e.g., 1 Cor 9.24-27), the very games that Diewert says that Herod loved so much.  There is in Paul a tacit acceptance of games, as having admirable virtues which were worthy of emulation.  So today, the Olympics games, while flawed, have many virtues that are worthy of admiration and emulation.

What is envy?

At City of God, Dan repsonded to my comment on his post on Olympic Oppression at City of God.  Here is correspondence between us:

_____________________________________

You really didn’t bother to read my post. First of all, I don’t know what would make me a “new Pharisee” and therefore I very much doubt I can speak intelligibly about one. What I said I found troubling about the Olympics is how we are all expected to derive some noble sentiment from them how Canada as a nation was supposed to “come together” and support the games. Being critical about something like that may hardly have anything to do with envy. Accusing the poor of envy does not provide the rich with anything more than an ad hominem attack. Calling someone envious is almost as sneaky an attack as calling your opponent “defensive.”

_____________________________________________

Dan,

I did read your post several times. Originally, after hurriedly writing my comment, I wondered whether I’d unfairly lumped you with the new Pharisees. But I see from your comment that it was probably fair, at least to certain degree. For you accept uncritically the argument that the Vancouver Olympics were a just a big party for the rich. You add in fact to that argument by mentioning the price of hockey tickets. Of course, Maple Leaf tickets and Raptor tickets are also very expensive. Does that make the NHL or the NBA a party for the rich? Should the funding that goes into these sports be spent on the poor instead? Let’s be consistent. Certainly the sins of professional sports are greater than that of the Olympics, because they do their gig every year, week after week, and not just every two years. Maple Leaf gardens, the SkyDome, and Air Canada Centre take up an inordinate amount of space in downtown Toronto that the Federal government and evil Stephen Harper should use to build low-cost housing for the poor and homeless which number nearly 10 times the homeless of Vancouver!

The first definition of envy according Webster’s is (11th ed.): “painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.” This perfectly sums up the protesters’ complaint: they resent the Olympics; it is being done to their detriment and to the advantage of the rich; the money should have been spent on them instead so that they can have housing and adequate support. This is an unadulterated case of class envy. The community organizers like Diewert and Oudshoorn contribute by stirring up and adding legitimacy to the envy of the poor; it doesn’t usually take much to get that emotion stirred up after all. And once stirred up, it doesn’t take much more before it leads to vandalism, theft, and eventually in certain cases, to murder, which too often happens when the masses rise up and murder those that those that they believe to have wronged them. The most recent example that I can come up with off the top of my head is the Rwandan genocide, where the Hutus were stirred up to murder as many as a million Tutsis (a less dramatic example would be the recent anti-Kikuyu riots in Kenya)–if the mass murder doesn’t happen here in Canada, it’s because the envious poor and their organizers are still a relatively insignificant proportion of the population. But it seems that the number of sympathizers is growing.

So you start with the premise that is based upon envy. It is this notion that the Olympics are done for the sole benefit of the rich for their own selfish pleasure all others be damned; it is an unfair assessment of the Olympics which is full of envy. Many people benefit from the Olympics, not simply the rich, but every poor schlub who got a job providing security or hammering a nail (who managed to show up for work not wasted), First-Nation owned businesses, vendors selling hot dogs, my chiropractor, my sister who rented out her condo at Whistler, the athletes (they’re not rich are they?), and many others.

And nobody, not even one person, ever told me that if I wanted to be a good Canadian, I had to somehow cheer for the Olympics. I didn’t follow the events on TV but only heard about the news through newspaper reports or third hand. So I am a neutral and indifferent observer with regard to the Olympics.