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Are conservative Christian theology and liberal politics compatible?
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
The corporate conscience and the end of the U.S. middle class
Topic: Political and economic

This posting is in response to the Yahoo Finance article entitled "The Middle Class in America is Radically Shrinking.  Here are the Stats to Prove it."  The problem identified is that the American middle class is disappearing, resulting in a polarization of the US population into the very rich 1 or 2 percent and the 99 percent poor service sector servants.  The Yahoo commentator, it seems to me, has a part of the cause right, but has not completely identified the causes.  The prmary cause, as I see it, is the transition from the historic situation in which the economy was run by rich people to the current situtation in which the economy is run by rich corporations.

There was a reason the framers of the Constitution, and nearly everyone in the Federal and various state governments in the U.S. until about 1870, deeply distrusted corporations. In the early days of our republic, corporations could be created only by a special act of Congress or a state legislature, and were created only for carefully limited purposes for a set period of years.  The framers distrusted corporations because they are not human. Individual wealthy people, like the framers of the Constitution themselves (all of whom were wealthy and influential men) have consciences and normal human ties to their community and nation.  Corporations are artificial people that have no conscience, no ties to the community, and no motives except their own continued existence, expanding power, and, above all, profit.  We are seeing the fruit of going completely and unreservedly corporate in the destruction of our middle class and the impoverishment of almost all of us for the benefit of immortal corporations. 

See my Warning Concerning Idolatry, first posted October 8, 2000, for a related warning about trust in corporations.  I've been saying this for some time!  

 


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 1:55 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 28 July 2010 9:51 AM EDT
Sunday, 18 July 2010
Christians should pray that Muslims' daily prayers will be answered!
Topic: Positive prayers and posi

Observant Muslims offer Salat prayers five times a day, repeating the same core prayer each time, with some variable additions from the Qur'an.  At the heart of the Salat prayers is Al Fathihah, the first Surah of the Qur'an, which I present here in Yusuf Ali's English understanding:

(1)In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful;

(2)Praise be to God,
the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds;

(3) Most Gracious; Most Merciful;

(4) Master of the Day of Judgment.

(5) Thee do we worship,
thine aid do we seek.

(6) Show us the straight way,

(7) The way of those on whom
Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace
Those whose (portion)
Is not wrath,
and who go not astray.

Qur’an, Surah 1.

I believe as Christians we should pray that, as our Muslim friends, and Muslim world leaders, pray this prayer sincerely, God would graciously answer their prayers.  In this regard, note particularly ayas 6 and 7: "Show us the straight way, the way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed  Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray."  On its face, this is a prayer for wisdom, a prayer to be shown the right way.

Of course, the Bible speaks to prayers for wisdom.  James tells us that "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."  James 1:5 (KJV). This text doesn't distinguish between Christians and others, it says that God is willing to give wisdom to anyone who asks.  The next few verses explain that the only qualification for asking and receiving direction from God is being willing to listen and obey:

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Bible, James 1:5-8 (KJV).

Bible, James 1:6-8.

God promises wisdom, if we will follow it. But He doesn't give advice.

Jesus himself also said that the only qualification for knowing the truth is willingness to follow it:

Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

Bible, John 7:16-17 (KJV).

Bible, John 7:16-17 (KJV).

So, it would appear that, as Muslims pray to be shown the straight path, we should pray that God will answer these prayers.  May the best understanding of God win! 

 


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 6:41 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 18 July 2010 6:50 PM EDT
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
A psalm speaking to politics, politicians and their promises
Topic: Where in the Bible

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men who cannot save.  When their spirits depart, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them--the Lord, who remains faithful for ever. 

He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.  The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. 

The Lord watches over the alien, and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

The Lord reigns forever...

Psalm 147:3-10a (NIV). 

 


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 8:29 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 10 March 2010 8:37 PM EST
Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Taxes levied by private corporations: A constitutional question, now that health care reform is officially dead
Mood:  sad
Topic: Political and economic

My constitutional question is this: Is it within the enumerated powers of Congress to delegate to a group of private corporations the power to lay and collect a Federal tax for their own benefit? 

Now that all proposals for real health care reform are officially dead, I will raise a constitutional question that I would not have dared to raise while there was still any chance of real reform.  I support real reform, and would not wish my constitutional question to prevent it from occurring.

It seems to me that all of the proposals that were on the table after the death of the public option, by requiring almost everyone to purchase health insurance from private corporations, created taxes for the benefit of those private corporations--the health insurance companies.  That the payment of premiums was to have been, in effect, a tax for the benefit of the insurance companies is demonstrated by the fact that, under all proposals, nonpayment of premiums was to be subject to punishment by the federal government, starting with administrative monetary penalties (collected by the IRS!) and progressing to the threat of criminal prosecution and imprisonment.  The political rhetoric often likened the tax to the requirement to maintain proof of insurance to be licensed to drive.  However, that analogy breaks down because no one is actually REQUIRED to maintain auto liability insurance on threat of criminal penalty.  One only need maintain auto insurance if one chooses to drive--and it is possible to live without driving (many people do it).  The health insurance tax was to be made a condition of simply living.  The choice not to drive is not at all analogous to the choice to commit suicide.

I will grant that such a tax for the benefit of the insurance companies by itself would clearly have been within the powers of Congress under its taxing power (Art. I, sec. 8, cl. 1) and the "necessary and proper" clause (Art. I, sec. 8, cl. 18) IF the proposal had been for the Federal government to collect a tax, in an amount set by Congress, and pay the proceeds over to the health insurance companies to provide coverage. 

However, none of the proposals that died after the Senatorial election in Massachussetts did this.  Instead, all of them merely required individuals to pay the insurance companies directly, in an amount to be determined by the insurance companies themselves.  Moreover, the insurance companies and their premium-setting processes would remain regulated by state law, rendering the amount of this tax geographically non-uniform.  But the most potent objection to this arrangement is simply that it would have given the insurance companies, private entities, the power to determine the amount of the tax without any further action on the part of Congress, that is, the power to lay and collect a tax enforced by the federal government.

According to Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the Constitution:

The Congress shall have power

To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States...

The Constitution gives the power to lay and collect taxes to Congress--and only to Congress.  The Sixteenth Amendment gave Congress the power (formerly denied it by Art. I, sec. 9, cl. 4) to impose proportional income taxes on individuals, but it did not change the fundamental principle that only Congress may lay and collect Federal taxes. Neither did it change in any way the requirement of Art. I, sec. 7, cl. 1, that all bills for raising revenue must originate in the House of Representatives and be concurred in by the Senate.  So bills setting tax rates are to originate in the House, also pass the Senate, and be signed by the President or enacted by Congress over his veto. (Art. I, sec. 7, Cl. 3). 

Congress has in the past on several occasions attempted to delegate some of its Constitutional powers to the Executive Branch, and been rebuked by the Supreme Court for attempting to do so.  Perhaps most relevant to this discussion is the Supreme Court's opinion in Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417 (1998), in which the Court invalidated the Line Item Veto Act--which directly involved Congress' powers to raise and spend money--as impermissibly delegating Congressional powers to the President.

If Congress may not delegate a part of its power to spend tax revenues to the President, it seems inconceivable that the courts would permit it to delegate a part of both its taxing and spending power to private corporations that are not subject to the will of the electorate at all.  (Remember the great slogan of the Revolution: "Taxation without representation is tyranny!") 

These constitutional objections would be competely eliminated by going to a Federal single-payer system (which I have supported).  Under a single-payer system, Congress would both levy the taxes to support health care and determine how to appropriate the resulting revenues.

These constitutional objections would also probably be overcome by a system in which individuals could choose either private insurance or a public option.  Such a system could be analogized to a uniform tax, from which individuals could exempt themselves by taking the appropriate actions (purchasing private insurance).  Much of our present income tax law already operates in this way.

But if I were a gambler, I would wager money that the only, or nearly the only, part of health care reform that WILL survive the Massachussetts election will be the requirement that nearly everyone buy health insurance--at whatever rates the insurance companies want to demand.  The companies will gladly let this part of the proposal pass, because they really WANT the subsidy! 


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 9:26 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 20 January 2010 9:28 PM EST
Sunday, 10 January 2010
Zimri ben Salu, a true modern American in ancient Israel
Topic: Where in the Bible

The story of the modern American who had the misfortune of living among the Israelites during the lifetime of Moses is found in the Bible in Numbers 25.  The Moabites, and, as is stated later, the Midianites, attempted to defeat Israel by seducing its young leaders--first into sexual immorality with foreign women, then into worship of their new girlfriends' gods.  The result was predictable: "and the Lord's anger burned against them." Numbers 25:3.  Because God's wrath was burning, there was a plague among the people.  Numbers 25:8.

God instructed Moses to end the plague by exposing publicly the men who had joined in worshipping false gods, and commanding the judges to put these men to death.  Numbers 25:4-5. 

Nevertheless, a family leader named Zimri brought a Midianite woman to his family right before the eyes of Moses while the people were mourning.  Numbers 25:6. 

However, it is Flavius Josephus who adds a description of what Zimri said on this occasion that makes him sound like a true modern American:

"Yes, indeed, Moses, thou art at liberty to make use of such laws as thhou art so fond of, and hast, by accustoming thyself to them, made them firm; otherwise, if things had not been thus, thou hadst often been punished before now, and hadst known that that the Hebrews are not easily put upon; but thou shalt not have me one of thy followers in thy tyrraanical commands, for thou dost nothing else hiterto, but, under pretense of laws, and of God, wickedly impose on us slavery, and gain dominion of thyelf, while thou deprivest us of the sweetness of life, which consists in acting according to our own wills, and is the right of free men, and of those that have no lord over them.  Nay, indeed, this man is harder upon the Hebrews that were the Egyptians themselves, as pretending to punish, according to his laws, every one's acting what is most agreeable to himself; but thou thyself better deservest punishment, who presumest to abolish what every one acknowledges to be what is good for him, and aimest to make thy single opinion to have more force than all the rest; and what bI do now, and think to be right, I shall not hereafter deny to be according to my own sentiments.  I have married, as thou sayest rightly, a strange woman, and thou heares what I do from myself as from one that is free, for I truly did not intend to conceal myself.  I also own that I sacrificed to those gods to whom you did not think fit to sacrifice; and I think it right to come at truth by inquiring of many people, and not like one that lives under tyranny, to suffer the whole hope of my life to depend on one man; nor shall any one find cause to rejoice who declares himself to have more authority over my actions than myself."

Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book IV, Ch. 6 (W. Whiston, Tr.) (italics added).

While the writings of Josephus are not Scripture, Josephus' account of Zimri's speech shows Zimri to be a true American, concerned above all things with what he wanted, felt, and believed to be right.  Zimri's self-centered attitude is highly prized in America.

Moses, however, did not prize Zimri's attitude, and neither did God.  The plague among the people ended when Phinehas, son of Eleazar the high priest, followed Zimri into his tent and put a spear through Zimri and his new wife together.  Numbers 25:7-9. 

 

See also, Substantive Errors Involving Individual Believers.


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 9:21 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 10 January 2010 9:32 PM EST
Announcement of two updated pages

Two pages on the site hosted "behind" this blog have been modified, one substantially, the other one only slightly.  The two pages are:

Some Biographical Information about Ian B. Johnson, which is links to biographical information.

Clear Creek (Iowa) Bible as Textbook Referendum, 1981, which presents the text of a historic document in which I was involved, with some discussion and links.

The curious are invited to look at these pages and guess which one was changed substantially, and which one was changed only slightly!


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 2:33 PM EST
Wednesday, 30 December 2009
OK, I know what is wrong with the picture I painted in the last post
Topic: Political and economic

OK.  I confess that I really know what is wrong with the picture I painted in the last post.  The problem is that many of the wealthy and powerful (note that I said "many," not "all") worship wealth and power, live for it, and are willing to sacrifice anyone ELSE, besides themselves and their friends, to get it.  Wealthy oppressors have been around as long as man, as, for instance, the Apostle James wrote

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.  Your wealth has rotted and moths have eaten your clothes.  Your gold and silver are corroded.  Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire.  You have hoarded wealth in the last days.  Look!  The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you.  The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.  You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.  You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.  You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.

James 5:1-5 (NIV).

Those who really believe they are "pulling the strings" that run the world (because God is presently leaving them in that delusion) worship power, and those they have set up as public figurehead leaders in government, the economy, the media, the arts, and the other areas of life, worship wealth (material "progress") and sensual pleasure and urge us to do likewise.  But all such worship is idolatry.  (Ephesians 5:5).  They also, incidentally, urge us to view other human beings as expendable for our own collective purposes, and the visible Church itself has largely adopted this view.  (See, The Human Expendability Fallacy ). I saw more than nine years ago that the end of this would be an economic collapse that would ultimately be so deep that the Church will be absolutely forced to rely on God rather than on the means of this world, and those who refuse to do so will perish.  See my

Warning Concerning Idolatry

first posted October 8, 2000.  The collapse started only a few months after I issued my warning, and is now visibly approaching its climax.  The solution is still what I said nine years ago: the Church must repent! 

What I didn't see nine years ago, however, was that the "elite," the small group of very wealthy people whom God permits to labor under the delusion that they are in control, are orchestrating the final disaster DELIBERATELY and WITH CAREFUL CALCULATION, believing that sacrificing the rest of the world will gain them even more wealth and power.  I picked up this piece of the puzzle from a quite lengthy video presentation

The World Elite, Testimony of Lindsay Williams.

Pastor Williams claims to have inside information, from a member of the world's real ruling elite, to the effect that the United States will be put through an economic collapse from which it can never recover, in approximately two years' time (i.e., about 2011). He also predicts that a great war that will start in the Middle East, likely with Iran (and a few others) and Israel, that will precipitate the entire world into war, at about the same time.  The real, hidden objectives of this economic disaster and great war will be 1) the complete impoverishment of the U.S.A. and the enslavement of its citizens; and 2) the great increase in the wealth of the elite.  Some whole nations of people-notably Israel and Iran-will likely be sacrificed tomake the enslavement of the rest of us possible.

I do not know Pastor Williams, and it is possible that he has misunderstood his sources or been deliberately misinformed about the details.  But, regardless of the accuracy of the details of Pastor Williams' predictions, the MECHANISM he believes will lead to the great disaster is entirely cosistent with what the Bible says about the behavior of the wealthy and powerful, behavior which will become increasingly prominent as the end times approach.  But the "joke" will be on the powerful, as God will bring them violently out of their delusion:

Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain?  
The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers gather together, against the Lord and against his Anointed.
"Let us break their chains," they say, "and throw off their fetters."
The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.
Then he rebukes them in his anger, and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
"I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill."

Psalms 2:1-6

 

 

 

 


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 8:43 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 30 December 2009 9:40 PM EST
Saturday, 26 December 2009
2009: Bailouts, record profits, profiteering but no jobs: What is wrong with this picture?

Here are a few political, economic and personal financial notes from 2009:

At the end of 2008, the previous administration started the process of pumping a record amount of new money into the financial and insurance industries, mostly earmarked for very large entitites that were publicly declared to be too large to be permitted to fail.  We were assured that the industry was on its last legs, and would promptly collapse if not granted a massive, almost no-strings-attached, bailout.  Job losses and home losses had started already, and we were told that the bailout was necessary to reverse this.

At the beginning of this year, the new administration pumped another record amount of new money into the economy, some of it also bound for the financial industry.  This money had some strings with it, but the strings appear now to have been largely ineffective restrictions added for show.  This second economic bailout was supposed to buy jobs.

The job market has not yet recovered.  Indeed, job losses continue in many industries.  But, according to published reports, the financial industry reported RECORD PROFITS in 2009.

A year ago, there was much hopeful talk of health care reform that would benefit average people.  The insurance industry--the same insurance industry that our taxes had just so massively bailed out--threw a lot of money (money the taxpayers had recently indirectly given them!) into a massive PR campaign opposing any "new regulation" of the "free market" in health care and health insurance.  However, to those who really understand the health care market, the insurance companies' propaganda defending the "free market" really resembled the old folk story about Br'er Rabbit and the briar patch.  "Please, PLEASE!!!," Br'er Rabbit begged, "DON'T THROW ME IN THE BRIAR PATCH!!!"  But the briar patch was Br'er Rabbit's home.  Likewise, heavy, anti-competitive state regulation is the home of the health insurance industry.  The insurance industry does not really object to regulation, or even to uniform federal regulation, as long as the regulations that are made all profit the industry at the expense of consumers.  The health insurance industry is not at all opposed to a law that requires EVERYONE to buy their product, as long as they get to collectively agree among themselves to set the price and no real competition is permitted.  So they held out for a health care bill that was everything they wanted--mandated coverage, with no antitrust restrictions, no public option and no nonprofit cooperatives.  Business as usual, except that now everyone will be REQUIRED to buy their product.  The Senate health care bill will produce RECORD PROFITS for the health insurance industry, when it goes fully into effect in four years.  The industry will continue to publicly oppose it because, somewhere in the 2000 pages of the bill, there are a few details that aren't preceisely what they would prefer.  But they are really crying all the way to the bank.

Finally, at the beginning of this year there was a lot of talk about regulating the greed of credit card companies.  Of course, credit cards are provided by banks--often the same banks that received bailout money in 2008.  In May 2009, Congress enacted the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, which, on its face, at least, limited a few of the credit card issuers' most notorious methods of entrapping honest customers into additional fees and penalty interest rates.  However, the law does not go into effect until February 22, 2010.  This gives the industry plenty of time to put the screws to its existing customers before the law goes into effect.   And, as I have learned in the last month, the banks--the same banks that had record profits this year due to my generosity in bailing them out--are doing exactly that.  In spite of a good payment record, my credit cards have increased, or soon are increasing, my interest rate to 24.49% or 24.99%.  These used to be PENALTY rates.  Now, they are the NORMAL rates, and penalty rates are even higher.  So, the banks also have thanked the American people for their generosity, in giving the banks a record profit year, by ripping us off.  

But this is still a "jobless recovery," very profitable for rich corporations and their insiders, but very hard for everyone else. 

What's wrong with this picture?    


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 2:52 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 26 December 2009 3:00 PM EST
Saturday, 21 November 2009
Health Insurance: How is an antitrust EXEMPTION essential to the preservation of a FREE MARKET?
Topic: Political and economic

About the health insurance reform bill now before the Senate, I have a question I'd like someone to answer:

How is the continuation of the insurance industry's antitrust exemption necessary to the preservation of a free market in insurance?

I thought the purpose of antitrust law was the preservation of a free market. 

I suspect the answer is that, when politicians use the term "free market," they lie.  The code words "free market" are a smokescreen; they do not mean what they say.  What they really mean is not "free market," but "status quo." 

The truth is that the health insurance market as it presently exists is not a free market at all.  Entry to the market is carefully regulated by state insurance departments that are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the regulated industry, that are enforcing state laws written largely by the industry.  The terms that will be offered to insureds are agreed upon in a formal oligopolistic fashion by the major insurance companies and their trade associations, then written into state laws and regulations.  Risk rating practices and premiums are similarly a matter of open agreement within the industry.  Real competition in these matters is strictly prohibited.

Therefore, it is clear that Senator Reid's version of health care reform is trying to give the industry the best of both worlds--and the consumer the worst of both worlds.  We are all going to be required to buy health insurance, on whatever terms and at whatever premiums the industry itself decides together to give us.  In the end, there will be no "public option" competing with ythe industry's offerings, and the existing "public options" for certain vulnerable groups (Medicare, Medicaid and VA) are all having their funding reduced to raise funds to support the insurance industry option. 

Moreover, because the industry will retain its complete exemption from the antitrust laws, its decisions about what coverage it will offer in exchnge for its large new subsidy and at what price will be made entirely by the industry itself, behind closed doors, with ABSOLUTELY NO PUBLIC SCRUTINY.  We can be sure that these decisions will be made in favor of maximizing short-term profits, not in favor of better or less expensive health care.  The consumer will pay, not profit.

Of course, the consumer is an ordinary person with real needs, quite insignificant in comparison to a faceless corporate stockholder!

That's what the "free market" is all about, isn't it!

 


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 10:52 AM EST
Tuesday, 3 November 2009
Christians: Is Intolerance a Correct Response to Islam in our Midst?

Recently, I received a mass-forwarded e-mail message entitled "The Joys of Muslim Women," that argued that Muslims in this country are committed to the task of imposing Islamic law on all of us, and that if this happens it would be a disaster for the rights Christian (and other) women now enjoy.  Some of the forwarders expanded on the original article, suggesting that we must not be tolerant toward Muslims, lest they achieve majority status here and use our own government to oppress us.  This e-mail raised for me quite clearly the question whether intolerance is a correct Christan response to Islam.  The answer I returned to that e-mail (using "reply all") is given below:

Yes, this is scary, just like the comment of one of the forwarders says, and I don't mean to be understood to say that it isn't. In fact, as a postscript to this e-mail, I quote a respected Islamic source explaining the intent to make Shari'a the law of the land in ANY country, once Muslims are in the majority. This is not a hidden agenda--they state it quite openly and without apology.

I fully agree that we need to be praying for our national leaders, including President obama.

However, I respectfully dissent from the implications of this comment made by one of the forwarders of the article: "boy do we need to wake up as a country and not become so tolerant as to take ANY steps down this road." Intolerant treatment of Muslims and attempts to use the legal system to forcibly suppress their message are not the answer. These people are not the enemy, as I will explain below, and intolerant actions toward them are both unscriptural and 100% certain to backfire. The answer, I'm afraid, is much more difficult than any political solution: we Christians need to start living consistently with the Christ we profess.

First, we need to observe that Muslim people are NOT the enemy. At church lately, we've been hearing sermons about the "Whole Armor of God," preached out of Ephesians 6. I observe that God never tells us to buy guns, tanks and planes, to go conquering real estate in His name. Instead, He tells us to put on spiritual armor to stand firm against a spiritual enemy. Indeed, Ephesians 6:12 says quite plainly that we are NOT engaged in warfare against "flesh and blood"--i.e., our real enemies are NOT other people--but our battle is against the SPIRITUAL forces of the darkness of this world. I also observe that ALL of the pieces of armor named in Ephesians 6 are positive spiritual qualities of our own lives; none of them are useful for attacking other people.

Even more to the point is 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, which says: "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ..." We are not fighting an earthly battle against human enemies, and we are not fighting using human weapons or methods of combat.

It's a battle that cannot be fought with guns, with harsh words and grandstanding, or with laws. We shouldn't try to fight it that way. Instead, the only way to fight the battle is by putting on the spiritual armor--spiritual qualities of life--and standing. This is true whatever the ideology we want to call the enemy. The Church has spent far too much of its energy fighting ideologies, declaring people who hold those ideologies to be the enemy and fighting them with human weapons. Just in my lifetime, I've seen great attempts to mobilize the Church to fight against Communists, Liberals, Secular Humanists, Evolutionists, Neo-Pagans, New Age followers, Abortion Providers and Muslims, each as if the people involved were The Great Enemy of Christ. Each of these mobilizations has failed to eradicate the people who were incorrectly identified as the Enemy, because God isn't a part of our attempts to fight people. Instead, God's approach to people who follow ignorant ideologies is this: "For it is the will of God that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men." I Peter 2:15. It is our lives, not our laws, that is to silence ignorant talk about God.

We also need to be aware that persecution of Muslims and warfare against them is 100% certain to backfire on us if we undertake that course. Why? Because it will confirm in their minds that the Quran is right. Mohammed warned his followers that many among the other "People of the Book"--i.e., Jews and Christians--would violently reject their message, persecute them and attempt to kill them. They were told to expect this treatment from us, and that receiving it and standing up to it leads to a great reward in the hereafter. Unfortunately, since Mohammed , Christians have seldom disconfirmed his prediction. As a group, we have rarely practiced Jesus' instructions in Matthew 5:39-48 in our dealings with Muslims.

Mohammed was not a prophet, but he was a fairly astute observer of Christianity as it existed in Arabia in his day. He wrote one rather startling observation that should challenge us, because it is still too true of much of the Church: "From those, too, who call themselves Christians, We did take a covenant, but they forgot a good part of the message that was sent to them: so we estranged them, with enmity and hatred between the one and the other..." Quran 5:14 (A. Yusufali, Tr.).

The point of the quotation is this: what will win Muslim people to Christ is seeing our consistent Christian lives, not forgetting but remembering what Christ told us in the way we live, starting with the way we treat each other. It is our consistent lives, and our open love for each other, that will overcome Mohammed's criticisms of our faith.

But this is really no different than what we need to win people in any part of the unsaved population to Christ. "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another." John 13:35.

Ian Johnson

P.S.: Here is the quotation from an Islamic source that I promised. This is from "The Basics of Shari'a" by Dr. Hassan Hathout (at http://www.islamicity.com/voi/transcripts/Shariah.htm):

<<

Some religions live on morals only. The ethic of this morality is when someone smites you on the right cheek, turn the other cheek. It is noble in a moral sense. But can people live by this? If I smite you and you take me to the judge, then the judge will rule that I be punished. So there are both the moral and legal wings in Islam.

Hence Islam caters for moralities and for societies. Yet when my Christian friend asks me, "How do you feel about the separation of Church and State?"

I tell him, "Excellent, it is the best think America and Europe have done."

Then he asks, "Why are Muslims keen on the Shariah, and want to live under Islamic Law?"

I tell him, "The difference is that in Christianity there is no State, and in Islam there is no Church." If you apply Christianity as Jesus taught it, then you will give to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s. In Christianity there is nothing about catering for a state and a law. Jesus didn’t say that. When the church took over, the church was wrong and the people had to separate the church from the state.

But when Muslims are living in their land and they are a majority and they want to be ruled by Islamic Law, it is their democratic right. It would be a folly if people would protest that people want to be ruled by Islamic Law. It is their right.

In Islam, if you remove the parts about governing the Islamic State, then you will have remaining a mos-haf which is thirty or forty pages. This is because Islam is a comprehensive way of life.

So, please let us in America separate the church and the state and let it be sufficient that the Freedom of Religion is safeguarded.

But please don’t blame Muslims if they want to be ruled by Islam. It is the prerogative as a majority in their land, and it is part of their religion and nobody is in a position to tell them, "Do not be ruled by your religion."

>>

Quotation from "The Basics of Shari'a" by Dr. Hassan Hathout.


One final note: God has never promised us a life free of persecution, and avoiding persecution should not be one of our major objectives. Indeed, both Jesus and the Apostles told us that if we were living righteously and presenting the truth, we would without any question be persecuted. See, for example, Matthew 5:10-12, Mark 13:9-13, John 15:18-23, 2 Timothy 3:12, James 5:10-11, 1 Peter 4:12-19. The key is not to avoid it, but to bear it correctly.

I am reminded of Stephen. Stephen was faithful, and he acted and preached with such power that none of his enemies could refute his words or resist the Spirit in which he spoke. Acts 6:10. But, instead of believeing, many of his hearers hated him, and had him arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin for trial on false charges. Acts 6:11-15.

Now Jesus had promised that when his followers were brought before kings and councils to answer for the crime of believing in Him, the Holy Spirit would give the right words to say. Mark 13:11. Stephen was listening to the Holy Spirit, and preached a powerful sermon to the Sanhedrin--so powerful, in fact, that they were enraged and quickly stoned him to death. Acts 7. Did Jesus' promise fail? No, Jesus hadn't promised Stephen (or us!) a long life in this world. He had promised that Stephen would have the right words to say. This promise was kept. Stephen had precisely the right words to say, and obediently said them. In fact, on his way out of this life, Stephen saw Jesus STANDING, not sitting, standing, at the right hand of God, applauding him! Acts 7:56.

But that isn't the end of the story. Present at the trial of Stephen was a young man named Saul, from Tarsus. (Acts 7:58). saul also joined in the rage of the council against Stephen, fully agreeing, the scriptures say, to his death. (Acts 8:1). Saul held the clothes of his elders while they killed Stephen. He then, for a time, became the greatest persecutor of the Church, and was responsible for the imprisonment and death of many of our brothers. (Acts 8:2-5).

But Stephen's great sermon, the one that got him killed, wasn't lost on Saul. It planted a seed.

If Stephen had refused persecution and death, we would never have had the Apostle Paul.

Think carefully about that!


Posted by ian_j_site2 at 11:16 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 3 November 2009 11:27 PM EST

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