I am victim II: A dialogue with Steve (a progressive Christian)

Craig Carter has written an interesting post entitled, “Secular Politics Infiltrating the Church: Hell’s Scheme to Bring Down Evangelicalism.”  There I’ve entered into a rather lengthy discussion with a self-proclaimed progressive who apparently believes himself to be Christian.  I reproduce here my comments and his responses.  I think it demonstrates that while progressives claim to care about people, they really despise people and are more concerned about re-engineering society to make it more equal–who cares who dies or suffers along the way, just so long as the rich can no longer parasitically leech off of others.  I responded first to his manner in which he responds to Craig Carter and Gordon (another correspondent), while mercilessly libelling the Tea Party.  Later, I explained how progressive, with their need to enlarge the state, had forced me to renounce my US citizenship, resulting in my suffering the loss of my birth right.  The reason that I insist on telling my story about how I’ve suffered is that I still can.  Those whom the progressives around the world have murdered can no longer tell their story.

Peter W. Dunn said…

That’s amazing Steve. You praise Craig and Gordon for civil tone of their responses to you, and then insult the Tea Party, libelling them as liars. Wow. An entire movement of people who want smaller government libelled as liars. You called Ron Paul demonic.

I think you should read my blog Steve: The Righteous Investor. You could start with this:  Worship the invisible God or our modern Idols:  which? 

You wrote:

“Progressives are not trying to replace a deity through gov’t, as you suggest, but progressives do not believe in a theocracy. We believe that ended with Jesus. The gov’t should meet the needs of all people, not just those who are wealthy or favoured by majority status.”

Well with these lines you have proved Craig Carter’s main point in the post. Because a god or an idol is what we have faith in to meet all our needs. You suggest that it is government. I suggest that Jesus is still alive and that it didn’t end with Jesus but he still lives in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. I’m not advocating theocracy–like the progressives who believe in big government that meets all our needs–I believe in small government that doesn’t suck up all the oxygen in the room and thus allows other institutions, like the family and the church, to breath a little too. But you advocate government as panacea and that ultimately is evil.

The socialists, of course, reject God as Jehoveh Jireh, because they believe in government-jireh, which provides everything we need. Who needs faith in a God who strictly prohibits in his Ten Continue reading

Intolerably Pharisaical Progressive Christians

Randal Rauser, Associate Professor of Historical Theology, Taylor Seminary, Edmonton, says that evangelicals who drive SUVs are hypocrites.

Poser or Prophet, Dan Oudshorn concludes that I am neither generous nor counter-cultural in my giving on the basis of zero evidence. (My tax returns are protected by Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act).  My wife says that if this is the kind of slim basis upon which he makes judgments, he is a very poor scholar indeed.

Brandon, a missionary in South Africa, judged me because I mentioned making a six fold increase in my RRSP through investing of which he is also critical.  Yet he doesn’t seem to ask his donor base whether their funding was appropriately gained, i.e., not through ill-gotten investments or usuary. As a donor to missions, I would certainly be less inclined to give to a missionary who is critical of the way I make money. I am not at all sure how such progressive views are going to help collectivist Africa either.

The one thing all three of these people have in common is that they depend on those who work hard and those who make risky investments in the real world.  They can sit in an ivory tower pontificating about how evil investors are; meanwhile, their bacon, their very livelihood, depends on the real-world risk taking of investors, who provide jobs, who pay taxes and who make it possible for missionaries, educators, and street workers to get paid to do their jobs.

On PoserorProphet’s advice

PoserorProphet challenged me yesterday:

It ain’t easy, eh, Peter? You might discover a new and more joyful life if you sold everything you have and gave the money to the poor (not something I usually suggest but it seems appropriate to what I’ve seen of you). Just a thought.

This challenge is evidently based upon the story of the rich young ruler (Mark 10.17-30 and parallels). I suppose that PoserorProphet is right, and I would be happier and certainly more care-free if I sold everything and gave it to the poor:

Nah, there ain’t nobody in this whole wide world
Gonna tell me how to spend my time
I’m just a good-lovin’ ramblin’ man
Say, buddy, can ya spare me a dime?

Yeah, I don’t care when the sun goes down
Where I lay my weary head
Green, green valley or rocky road
It’s there I’m gonna make my bed

(Barry McGuire and Randy Sparks, “Green, Green”)

I just have a couple questions about the application of this advice to my life:

(1) After selling everything I have, may I just leech off my wife?  I am more than happy to do that.  Or must she also sell everything she has too?  If that’s the case then:

(2) If we both sell everything we have and give it to the poor, what are we supposed to live on  here in Canada? Do you want us to go on welfare? Should we live in government housing. You see as an investor and my wife as a business woman, selling everything we would mean unemployment. Or after selling her third of the business, should my wife return to her brothers and beg for her job back and work a salaried position? Why would that make her more joyful? Tell me what shall life be like after selling everything and giving it to the poor?

(3) Who is going to support our church, our priest and his family, when our contribution to the church is lacking. Surely some others will rise up, but wouldn’t you (Poser) require that they also sell everything they have?

(4) What of the numerous Christian ministries in theological education, evangelism, and benevolence that we have supported over the years? We will have to end our continued support for such ministries. That’s ok, as long as others step up, but then wouldn’t you tell those people too that they must sell everything they have and give it to the poor.

(5) Just exactly which poor are we supposed to give it to? The homeless? The almost homeless? The working poor? The poor in Spirit? The poor in Africa?

(6) Will the poor use the money in a responsible fashion? Let’s say I just go to downtown Toronto and hand some poor homeless person a $100,000 cheque? How would that change his life? Would it help him or would the money just be squandered within a matter of days or months? Would he just go buy blow and blow his brains away? Or would it actually change him so that he could become like I am now so that you would have to tell him too to sell all he has and give it to the poor? Then wouldn’t it just be better if I keep the money rather than putting him into the situation of you having to tell him to sell everything?

(7) What should I tell my employees? I suppose the 25 employees Cathy has would carry on after she sold her business to her brothers. But what if Cathy’s contribution to work is what holds the thing together and the business ends up bankrupt without her sound fiscal management. What will happen to those 25 employees, their wives, children and their other dependents? What of the Wycliffe student I promised a year long job too? What about my housekeeper? What are they supposed to do? I suppose they are certainly industrious and could find other employers, but wouldn’t you tell those employers too to sell everything they have and give it to the poor?  And once there are no rich people left, who is going to employ the people looking for work? Sean Hannity has a refrain:  “No poor person ever gave me a job.”

(8) What about the other people that depend on me? If we sold everything we have, there would be another family besides us that would be homeless, and then what should I tell them? Sorry, PoserorProphet called me to sell everything I have and you can come with me and live on the streets of Toronto too or in some homeless shelter (where ever it is that you are calling us to live).

(9) What about the volunteer work that we do for our church?  We use our home as the base of operations. So we should just tell the church, sorry we can’t do that work anymore because we don’t have computers and the other equipment that we need to do those ministries?  But we are more than happy to come and eat your food.  Can you please pick us up from the shelter and give us a ride?

Craig Carter wrote this just two days ago:

Liberal Christians seem awfully confident that you can be half socialist and not go too far and lose all liberty. Maybe they depend on conservatives to keep them from going all the way – sort of like teenagers depending on parents to say no when they want something harmful. Instead of thinking for themselves they just rely on parents doing the agonizing and deciding where to draw the line.

I urge you to grow up a little bit and think about this flippant advice. Your current crop of professors don’t seem willing to give you this admonition (correct me if I’m wrong); either that or you’re not listening to them.  Your counsel lacks wisdom.  I know that you aren’t really open to taking me seriously because you think that I am hilarious.  But what would be the personal ramifications to each “rich” person, their families, and their other dependents?  What would be the effects upon their churches and the other ministries that they support, if they followed your advice?  What would be the economic consequences on a macro scale if all the rich people in the world took your ill-conceived and juvenile advice?  What if every responsible person took your advice?  What would happen to all those who depend on them to be responsible and to work hard?  “And the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

I know it was what Jesus commanded the rich young ruler.  But Jesus was a prophet, not a poser, and he knew that man and the ramifications of his selling everything.  Unlike this new generation of socialist and radical Christians, Jesus did not give this same advice to every rich person he encountered.  And how do you know that it wasn’t just a test, like the requirement that Abraham sacrifice Isaac?  Is it not enough for God to know that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son?  So had the rich young ruler showed his willingness, maybe Jesus would have said that he’d passed the test and would have permitted him to remain rich provided that he live for the advancement of the Kingdom of God instead of for his own personal kingdom.  The vast majority of rich Christians in the early church were not required to sell everything but admonished to remain generous and supportive of the mission of the church, to be hospitable and to provide for widows and orphans.  I.e., not too much different from what my wife and I endeavor to do, with the little money that the governments permit us to keep after taxes.  And actually, we could retire now and go live well in some tropical country.  But we still feel called to work so as to have something to give (Eph. 4.28).

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.