Revisiting the Christian and State Relationship.

Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

The rebel Jesus

Interesting song by Jackson Browne. Kierkegaard would like it, perhaps Ellul and Eller too.

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Prayer of a Christian anarchist

The prayer of a Christian anarchist is much like the prayer of the mainstream Christian. But not exactly the same.

FOR MYSELF. I always start by praying for myself, because my own spiritual need is the number one point at issue. I am hungry and thirsty for Christ, but I am also adept at sinning. I know that Jesus came to save me from my sin (Matthew 1:21), and that part of my role in the divine purpose is to bring glory to God. Seventh-day Adventist Ellen G. White writes, “Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend” (Steps to Christ, p. 93). This I endeavor to do. God is my friend and He wants to visit with me.

FOR REPENTANCE. Instead of praising Him with my lips (the kind of “praise” which He hears in abundance from those who do not do what He says), I want to praise Him with my heart. My first plea is that He will create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me (Psalm 51:10). This is a plea for the gift of repentance; I need this gift from Him; I need to turn ever more to Him. Unless I seek with desire such turning it will never happen. Give me the desire, O God, to be the most authentic follower of Jesus today that I can be. Why? Because God’s kingdom is on display in me. Others will be impressed (or unimpressed!) by the claims of Christ, very largely based on my daily sermon—the life I live in interaction with them.

FOR MY FAMILY. In my prayer, I pray next for my spouse and children. And yet, my primary expectation is that, while I am “arming” God to justly intervene positively for them in their lives, really this part of my prayer is a plea for God to transform me so that I am a godly spouse and parent to them respectively.

FOR MY CHURCH MEMBERS. Since I am a pastor, the next portion of my prayer is for my parishioners. The shepherd knows his sheep, and the pastor knows his parishioners. For some of them, the only person on planet earth who prays for them today, may be their pastor. I pray for them.

FOR THOSE IN AUTHORITY. I also pray for “kings and all those in authority” (1 Timothy 2:2). Today, this mostly means praying for presidents and legislators of republican democracies (which as Hans-Hermann Hoppe so carefully sets forth in Democracy—The God That Failed (in my opinion, one of those very few “MUST READ” books), means that we are praying for the leaders of a civilization pointedly in decline). My prayer is not that they will excel in violence, usurpation, exploitation, slippery politics, military conquest, and empire, but for their personal conversion and salvation. I also pray that while they are perceived as being “in authority” they will take a minimum of steps that would lead to wars, to economic disaster, or to the repression of believers.

Because the anarcho-capitalist vision is the way things are naturally set up to run in God’s creation, I pray for the realization of a just society and the advancement of these principles that will prepare us for our eventual life on earth after this age has closed and the next begun. That is, I want to live by principles of holiness and peace with all men (Hebrews 12:14). My Bible says not only in Tanakh but in New Testament that you reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7). This is Austrian economics in one short phrase, after all.

I do not know if we will get there during this age, but I think with Ellul that “the anarchist fight, the struggle for an anarchist society, is essential” and that “the more the power of the state and of bureaucracy grows, the more the affirmation of anarchy is necessary as the sole and last defense of the individual, that is, of humanity” (Jacques Ellul, Anarchy and Christianity, pp. 19, 23).

This is not a prayer for revolution, which replaces one repression with another. “Anarchy” in the sense of “Christian anarchy” does not mean chaos, but simply the refusal to seek power over others, and the insistence on obeying God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Those who should be the most consistent in praying for those in authority should be us—we who recognize the state as an enormous engine of exploitation and destruction. And yet, all of this is overruled by the asking that God’s will be done. If His will is to throw down the state altogether, then go for it. Jesus is Lord.

FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO SHARE CHRIST. The Christian seeks opportunities to share Jesus with others. If we seek them, if we, through concrete acts, actually make a dent in our local community, God will open the way and grant us opportunities to interest others in His things. If He is in it, He will help us to be efficient, facilitating our work for those whom He has already prepared in some measure to receive our life and teaching.

My daily prayer is not invariant; it is not a rote, always mind-numbingly the same. But the above is the general pattern. Possibly the reader will also find it useful. After all, taken all together, it is little more than an expression of the prayerful desire, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth” (Luke 11:2).

Seeing the cold monster

Friedrich Nietzche, for all his strangeness and antipathy toward Christianity, was equally as unsparing regarding the state:

A state? What is that? Well! open now your ears unto me, for now will I say unto you my word concerning the death of peoples.

A state, is called the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly lieth it also; and this lie creepeth from its mouth: “I, the state, am the people.”

It is a lie! Creators were they who created peoples, and hung a faith and a love over them: thus they served life.

Destroyers, are they who lay snares for many, and call it the state: they hang a sword and a hundred cravings over them.

Where there is still a people, there the state is not understood, but hated as the evil eye, and as sin against laws and customs.

This sign I give unto you: every people speaketh its language of good and evil: this its neighbour understandeth not. Its language hath it devised for itself in laws and customs.

But the state lieth in all languages of good and evil; and whatever it saith it lieth; and whatever it hath it hath stolen.

False is everything in it; with stolen teeth it biteth, the biting one. False are even its bowels.

Confusion of language of good and evil; this sign I give unto you as the sign of the state. Verily, the will to death, indicateth this sign! Verily, it beckoneth unto the preachers of death!

Many too many are born: for the superfluous ones was the state devised!

See just how it enticeth them to it, the many-too-many! How it swalloweth and cheweth and recheweth them!

“On earth there is nothing greater than I: it is I who am the regulating finger of God”–thus roareth the monster. And not only the long-eared and short-sighted fall upon their knees! (First part. Zarathustra’s Prologue. Zarathustra’s discourses. 11. XI. The New Idol).

Nietzche tells us that the state is not the people after all. It is unliving; relentlessly it comes and obesely squats in everyone’s pathway. It is its own machine, with its own laws and ways; a bloated, unnatural, deadly virus. It is a machine of violence and pillage, attracting unthinking drones whose ready obeisance it turns to its own cold ends. It entices and swallows them, consumes and reprocesses them. They accept the squatting idol and acquiesce to its demands. They bow down to it and serve it and they live through its death. His thought continues:

Everything will it give YOU, if YE worship it, the new idol: thus it purchaseth the lustre of your virtue, and the glance of your proud eyes . . . . Power they seek for, and above all, the lever of power . . . . There, where the state ceaseth—there only commenceth the man who is not superfluous (Ibid.).

No Christian will subscribe to Nietzches’ philosophy on every point. Still, he seems to have had fundamental insight into the nature of the state. The state is Babylon all over again. It is man rising in rebellion against God and against His laws.

The psalmist, of idol-makers wrote, “Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them” (Psalm 115:8 ESV). The state invites our trust. It beckons us, offers men hope that they may build a tower, rewrite morality, and remake the world in their own insidious image. It is a cold and dead competitor with God. It suggests an alternative virtue, where men are prey to men, and this is a good thing.

The image in Daniel two, representing the kingdoms of man is at last broken at its feet and destroyed by the kingdom of God; so the idol, the coldest of all cold monsters, is likewise destined. Its place will not be taken by a society of persons shining with their own glory, for that would only be another cold, new, dead statue. Jesus came to give to man life and that he might have it more abundantly (John 10:10). In Him and only Him is life (John 1:4). He is the opposite of the cold monster.

Power versus unpower; Jesus chose the anarchist perspective

Anarchism is a repudiation of power. As an anarchist I do NOT want power over others. I do not seek it. I am satisfied if I can have power over myself, opportunity to make my own choices for myself, to choose good or to choose evil. I am made in God’s image. I live—unremittingly—in the moral domain. Because of what I am I can do no other.

Having said that, I am a weak creature. I am designed to worship but live in a nature that has been set against itself. We are all like sheep that have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). We wander on the mountainside as coyote howls in earshot. We exist in a moral domain, but our race has strayed from our Creator.

Consider the contrast between our adversary (which is the literal Hebrew meaning of “Satan”), and Christ.

In Isaiah 14:12-14 we are granted a peak through the divine window into the heart of Satan:

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High'” (Isaiah 14:12-14 ESV).

The very next verses in 14 and also in Ezekiel 28 record not this self-intended fate, but the actual: Satan will be destroyed. A fire will come from from his own midst and consume him (Ezekiel 28:13-19). Here is a creature who sought to set himself above the stars of God—stars being a biblical symbol for his fellow angels. That is, he sought to be worshipped, one creature by others. He longed for God’s power but not His character. Listening to the Isaiah 14 passage we see his problem: “I, I, I, I, I,” that is, “me, me, me, me, me!”

But there is a contrast in Scripture. While Satan seeks power, Jesus does not. His labor occurs in unpower. Listen to Philippians:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV).

Whereas Satan seeks power and is destroyed, Jesus gives power up, and in the following verses is exalted (Philippians 2:9-11).

Nor did Jesus walk through earth crackling with electrical energies, zapping stuff. He “made himself nothing.” The Underlying Greek literally says that He “emptied Himself.” The miracles He wrought He did not directly do. John 14:10 says of Jesus that “the Father who dwells in me does his works.” If you prefer King James, “the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” Jesus asked His Father and His Father did the miracles. Jesus had emptied Himself of His own power. Satan sought power to defeat God; God gave up power to defeat Satan (Hebrews 2:14).

Jesus who had had absolute power, refused to be corrupted by it. It is not true that absolute power corrupts absolutely—not for God. But for any other being, (that is, for all other beings, for all others are created beings), surely it is true that the more power one gathers, the more readily the character is corrupted.

When Christians seek to link arms with the state, they choose to run with the multitude to do evil. Why do they do it? They think that they can turn the world by guiding, accessing, or participating in the power of the state. They choose the satanic course. The course of Jesus was to give up power, to let things stand on their own footing, to make His case for living justly by actually living justly. He took the form of a servant and humbled Himself. And unpower triumphed over power.

So. Which method and which mind will you have in you?

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