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Monday, 29 June 2015

In which twelve people display a little-known and seldom-seen Christian virtue

[You can begin a chain of linked articles on this topic by clicking here.]

There's something striking about the Charleston Massacre that's not, to my knowledge, yet been commented on. According to news reports a week in (early reports of tragedy always being overturned by later ones), on June 17, 2015, a young man named Dylann Roof joined a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. The twelve others present at the Bible study welcomed him, although he had apparently never been seen by any of them before.

What they didn't know was that Dylann had come with one purpose in mind, and that was to kill them--evidently in hopes of starting a race war. What happened was probably different than anyone would have expected, because when he pulled out a .45 pistol and started shooting, none of the twelve resisted him. Rather than a war, it was nothing but a massacre, and when the shooting stopped, nine more martyrs had joined the celestial ranks.

What's unusual about this is that Methodists aren't known for non-resistance. Yes, several Methodists were persecuted for refusing to take up arms against England during the Revolution, but that was probably more due to their loyalist sentiments than their adherence to any biblical doctrine. Yes, the senior pastor of the church, as a South Carolina state senator, had voted for gun control and had even banned guns from his church--but gun control, far from being about the elimination of firearms, is all about the concentration of firearms in the hands of law enforcement, denying them to everyone else but criminals.

Yet for all their lack of theological reasons for doing so, all twelve victims practiced the primeval Christian response to violence: they didn't fight back. Some even jumped in front of the gun, like the girls did in the Nickel Mines shooting, to take a bullet for their friends.

So confused was Dylann by this turn of events that he forgot to count his bullets, and, after reloading twice, failed to save the last one for himself. He put the gun up against his head and pulled the trigger on an empty chamber. Not having had an escape plan, he fled in disarray and was easily captured the next day.

So, in taking all 15 of his bullets, the congregants at Mother Emanuel saved one more life: that of their killer. There's no other explanation for this, other than that non-resistance, and loving one's enemies to the point of laying down one's life for them, is an inherent Christian virtue.

This was reinforced at Dylann's bond hearing, where the survivors were unanimous in offering him not hate or acrimony, but love and forgiveness. In short, the Methodists of Mother Emanuel acted like Christians.

All hail the martyrs of Mother Emanuel. All hail the Christian virtue of non-resistance.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Nickel and pencing us to death

I was in the store the other day where the cashier had run out of pennies, and was giving out change in nickels to the person ahead of me at the checkout. I pointed out that there were plenty of pennies (and a few coins of a more valuable denomination) in the 'penny jar' which is often found at the checkout counters of small stores. But the cashier wouldn't touch those pennies; apparently using them for any other purpose than providing a cash-strapped customer with access to free pennies needed to complete a purchase is culturally unacceptable. I intended to put a few of those pennies, and maybe even some of the larger denominations, to that very purpose--but as my purchase was being rung up, another store employee returned from a run to the bank, rolls of pennies in hand. I'm sure that bank run cost more than the store saved that day by giving out exact change (an inevitable result of ending all of their prices, already plenty low enough, with the digit 9).

It's been quite some years since I wrote on the upcoming demise of the American penny, and word out now is that not only the penny, but also the nickel, costs more than its face value. Yet the US Mint continues to churn them out, despite my prediction that the Obama administration would see an end to the penny. Well, in the meantime, Canada's penny, which is worth even less than America's, and produced of even cheaper metal, has in fact been pulled from distribution.

So what happens next? If the nickel and penny alike are too expensive to produce--as well as being worth less than a twentieth of what they were a century ago--the next logical step is remonetizing our currency down to the next order of magnitude; perhaps in conjunction with putting the visage of a woman on the new $10 bill.

That's probably the only way it would happen overnight.

Monday, 15 June 2015

A review of Doug Kutilek’s article on Christian Pacifism and Non-Resistance

I have earlier reviewed Peter Hammond’s take on this question; Doug Kutilek has, I believe, a more balanced approach, but it remains to be seen how it will fare under my scrutiny. I earlier reviewed an article by Doug Kutilek here. This article was printed in his most recent issue of As I See It, which has yet to go online at kjvonly.org. In fact, none of last year's issues have yet been put online, so don't hold your breath. But a copy of the article can presently be seen here.

From a quick glance at the title, one would naturally conclude that Mr. Kutilek knows the difference between Pacifism and Non-Resistance. Alas, he treats them merely as half-segments of a longer phrase, without distinguishing the two. All he distinguishes is between the Old Testament teaching on retributive violence, and that of the New Testament. The only question he sets out to answer is, do the OT laws still apply?

He doesn’t get off to a very good start—citing James 5:7 when he actually has verse six in mind. Verse six talks about the (presumably poor) righteous man being oppressed by the evil rich man, and not resisting him. Aha—this takes us at once back to our previous review of Mr. Kutilek, when he attempted to prove that Psalm 12: 6 was not, as many suppose, referring to God protecting His Word, but rather to God protecting, as verse five of that psalm indicates, the poor who are being oppressed—presumably by the evil rich. Now, if Mr. Kutilek won’t link his exegesis of Psalm twelve with that of James five, then we shall. Here we have two verses—one in the Old Testament, and one in the New—which both appear to reference an oppressed poor person crying out to God for protection from his rich oppressor. Yet God’s approach in the Old Testament is not to provoke the poor man to violence, but to promise to protect him. If God would do this in the old dispensation, how much more so in the new?

Indeed, Doug Kutilek does find harmony between the testaments. He quotes Jesus quoting Exodus 22 to show that the Old Testament model was intended not to encourage retaliation, but to curtail it. He quotes Romans 12:20-21 as encouragement to love and be kind to our enemies. So far, he’s right in step with the doctrine of non-resistance. But this is as far as he is willing to carry it; his criterion for deciding whether to submit to one’s persecutors, or to take up violence against them, seems to be strictly utilitarian, and consists of lovingly submitting to persecution only if hopelessly outnumbered—as Israel was under the Romans, who could compel any able-bodied man to carry their rucksacks a mile. Thus, Jesus’ admonition to his outarmed and outnumbered disciples not to resist his arrest.

Now, it is significant that Doug’s son served as an infantry commander in the American forces occupying Afghanistan, and often found himself enforcing US foreign policy through the barrel of a gun, until he was himself disabled by a bullet to the leg. Bear that in mind when Doug writes, “Jesus’ words, “All who take the sword will perish by the sword,” . . . seems[sic] to address specifically those who as a matter of course resort to violence to force their will on others (robbers, gangs, bandits, and the like)." It would appear that the Kutileks exegete Jesus’ words to apply only to those who take up arms for their own personal benefit, rather than for the elusive benefits of a state.

As in the case of former South African Army commando Peter Hammond, we see that the author has a personal stake in parting ways with the non-resisters once the rubber meets the road. Should he accept Jesus’ words at face value, he condemns his own son as a murderer. Or does he? At this point in his essay he attempts to turn the tables on the non-resistors, to show their position as beset with hypocrisy: “Some pacifists and ‘non-resisters’ would insist that Jesus’ words are plain: ‘Do not resist an evil person,’ (Matthew 5:39), which they would take to mean at all times and under all circumstances, that is, we should never defend ourselves with physical force, weapons, etc. no matter what. However, if they really took literally and at face value the admonition (v. 39)--‘Do not resist an evil person,’ then they would never lock their houses or cars, remove their car keys from the ignition switch, or conceal their bank ATM password. And of course they do not do these things. They do resist evil persons’ in matters involving property crimes. And if one may legitimately resist evil in matters of property, how much more may one resist evil when threatened in one’s health, well-being, safety and life?” 

First of all, Mr. Kutilek is committing a exegetical fallacy here, by ignoring other biblical uses of the same word. The word translated ‘resist’ in Matthew 5 is anqisthmi, which is translated as ‘withstand’ in Ephesians 6:13 (KJV): “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day.” Clearly God wants His people to resist evil on the spiritual and moral planes; concealing one’s house or car keys—or bank codes—is resisting evil; not physically, through threat of violence, but by avoiding what is called in legal terms “an attractive nuisance,” to avoid placing temptation in the way of an evil person, easily drawn away by his own lusts (James 1:14). 

Now it is that Mr. Kutilek shows his ignorance of the crucial difference between pacifism—which rejects the biblical authority of a government to wield the sword—and non-resistance, which affirms it. The question then raised is, could it be right for a Christian to participate in the sword-wielding activities of the government (as did Peter Hammond and Captain Kutilek)? Doug naturally says “yes,” and points to several biblical examples in his defense. Alas, neither the soldiers who questioned John, nor Cornelius, are ever depicted as doing anything militant. Nor was the centurion of Galilee, in whom Christ found such faith. Significantly, the only soldiers mentioned in the New Testament as doing anything that involved the use of arms were those charged with hunting down and killing the Christ Child, those involved in his arrest and execution, and those who guarded Paul the Apostle following his arrest. If being commended for one’s faith justifies one’s normal occupation, then the soldiers mentioned in Matthew 27:54, who, as Luke records, “glorified God,” justified their occupation of crucifying an innocent man, whilst gambling over his possessions. Would Doug Kutilek commend his son for doing that?

Mr. Kutilek takes another exegetical leap in his last point, “There are times when threats and violence are imposed on us unprovoked, and in such cases we are not required to be “at peace with all men” (in reference to Romans 12:18). Of course it is not required of us—we cannot be at peace with anyone who is unwilling to be at peace with us. Paul’s entreaty here simply means that, insofar as the peacefulness is ours to bring about, we should do so. We can’t be held responsible for a war which someone else declares. But neither do we have any biblical responsibility to fight back. On the contrary, Scripture insists that we should leave that up to God, either through His direct agency, or through His ordained ministers who bear the sword not in vain. And, failing that, we must joyfully submit to any persecution suffered for His Name’s sake, with an attitude of love for our persecutors. To fight back bodily against such persecution—or even to participate as one of those ordained ministers in wielding the sword against evil—is neither commanded, nor ever commended, on the pages of the New Testament.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Duggar Scandal--What Next?

First of all, let me say that one of the things that most concerns me about this whole Duggar scandal is how it is polarizing the Christian community over 'what should have been.' "There's no use crying over spilt milk" is a very old saying, and as hard to implement as ever, but we need to keep in mind that this is NOT a current situation. We all agree that what Josh did was bad, and that it is good that he stopped doing it. If there's anything else we disagree on, we ought to be able to keep the Duggars out of it.

Secondly, I see people flocking to the position that the government has a role to play in keeping boys from falling into sin. That has NEVER been a responsibility of the government, and ESPECIALLY should not be a responsibility now that our government has itself undergone such moral decay. Do these people realize what they are suggesting when they say that the Duggars should have turned Josh over to the government as soon as they realized he was failing morally? A government that applauds homosexual experimentation, even among teenagers? A government that promotes public obscenity under the guise of supporting the arts? Remember, it was Lisa Miller's government-approved counselor who urged her to try homosexuality, driving her into the arms of the very woman who poured all her energies into stealing the heart, soul, and body of her only daughter.

Saying that only the government, and not anyone else, can be trusted to handle a problem is to give up on ever solving it, because the government is just people, and if people outside the government.can't be trusted, then neither can people inside the government. Such trust is guaranteed to be violated, on the principle that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Okay, on to the questions.

1. Is what Josh did really all that uncommon?

No. Talking about it is uncommon, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. What happened to Josh's sisters happened to my sisters, to my wife, and to her daughters. In other words, to an overwhelming majority of the women who are in a position to have disclosed it. Read any woman's biography who is open about the abuse she received as a child, and it's there. Attend any women's conference that dares to open that can of worms, and it's there. Boys have an extremely powerful urge to fondle girls, and no one has yet found a way to eliminate that urge in such a way as to leave those boys capable of becoming fathers of their own girls later on.

2. Was the approach the Duggars took effective?

Their first attempts weren't, but when the abuse continued, they ramped up the treatment. Josh finally had to be removed from the home entirely, with intensive counseling and mentoring, before he got his passions under control. But it did work. Everybody who has any standing to comment on the question agrees that Josh is cured. That they did it without government intervention is commendable, given the total lack of success of any government program at curing pedophilia.

3. What can be done to keep boys from molesting their little sisters?

Ah, there is the rub. By now, everything has been tried at least once. If any approach has been proven to work 100% of the time, I haven't heard it. But I do suspect that the fact that the little Duggar girls are never seen without pants on under their dresses is part of the Duggars' post-tragedy strategy, and is in line with the recommendations of Myron Horst.

4. What good could still come out of this disaster?

I believe that until you can name an enemy, you cannot defeat it. I hope that out of this, parents will be much more open about telling their sons to keep their hands out of their daughter's pants, and much more cautious about allowing their daughters to sleep in the presence of their brothers. I hope that the conspiracy of silence that has long fed the monster of child sexual abuse by family members will be broken for good.

5. What BAD could still come out of this disaster?

A lot. I won't predict it, lest I give out any ideas, but I have my concerns. I will express one concern, and that is that pundits are proclaiming that Josh's sisters had NO RIGHT to forgive him for what he did to them. Anyone too young to give sexual consent, goes the expressed thinking, is not yet mature enough to grant forgiveness. That idea is totally inconsistent with Christianity, and if it prevails, countless lives will be condemned to ruin that could have otherwise been redeemed.

Please remember: This is not about protecting abusers, or covering up ongoing abuse. It's about learning how to prevent abuse in the first place, and to protect its victims from having to experience the trauma all over again, when what was hidden comes to light. The way this has played out so far in the headlines has done no one any good. If any redemption comes out of it, it is probably going to have to happen through the Duggar girls themselves. May God give them strength.

UPDATE: Yes, it's happening. Bravo, girls.