God and Government: The Cartoon Thing

Have you heard about the whole Muhammed cartoon controversy? Every other blog in the world is talking about it as though everyone is entirely up to speed, but I can’t really trust you people to read the news, so let me summarize.

Islamic tradition (law?) holds that it is wrong to draw images — particularly cartoons — of the Prophet. This seems to be akin to the “using the lord’s name in vain” thing, but I’m no expert on Islamic tradition (law?). No, really.

Well, anyway, last December a small Danish newspaper printed a series of comics depicting the prophet, the most notable one featuring him wearing a turban that looked like a bomb. For some reason, it took a long time for anyone to notice, but sometime last week a lot of Muslim nations and organizations began creating a huge stir over it, demanding an apology and organizing a widespread boycott of Danish projects (that actually severely hurt several Danish organizations in a very short period of time). The government and the editor of that paper both offered a…sort of restricted apology, but then newspapers throughout Europe picked up the cartoons and started to run them in a show of solidarity for the little Danish paper, and for freedom of speech in general.

The argument seems to be this: that the Western world is not subject to Islamic law, and shouldn’t be expected to operate under it. Furthermore, that the Western media has long used political cartoons to attack Western political and cultural icons, as well as (of course) Christianity and Judaism. When “they” start to cause a ruckus over this, try to tell our media what it can and can’t print based on their religious doctrines, we have to remind them that most of what makes us separate from them is the sort of freedom that allows our media to print stupid political cartoons.

(That is, as I understand it, the basic argument in favor of the cartoons — not necessarily mine.)

And then, on the other hand, the big point is, simply, “Well, yes, sure, you can print anything you want in your papers, but why would you choose to print something viciously offensive to millions and millions of people?”

And whoever is asking that question has never really paid any attention to Western media….

But all of that is background. As I was driving to lunch yesterday, I was listening to a story on the topic, and I was thinking, “If I were a cartoonist, I would draw one showing Mohammed rolling his eyes, with a little chat bubble that said, ‘Stop killing people!‘” And I thought about it a little and decided that, for historical reasons, I’d probably go ahead and throw in Jesus there next to him, and the two of them together reprimanding their audience.

So that got me thinking that, really, it sounded kind of like a message incompatible with my own beliefs. The actual line running through my head was, “No religion has any good reason to go killing people.” That’s the line that got Jesus added in, actually. But, then, it comes across as kinda pacifist, which I obviously am not.

So, pondering these things, I came to this conclusion. “Every government has good reason to kill people.” It goes without saying, really. Doesn’t necessarily mean they will, or should (after all, there may very well be better reasons not to), but they’ve got a vested interest in making some people dead. Religions don’t. Religions benefit most from living people, although all of their offered rewards tend to be for the dead. It’s an odd situation.

But here’s what I’m saying: if the United States is in a war because of Christianity…that’s an atrocity. If the United States is in a war for territory or resources, well, that’s a practicality. Such wars have been the foundation of most every nation you could name today, the United States very much included. If it’s in a war to protect its citizens from an external aggressor (even, yes, preemptively), then it’s serving the interests of the citizens which is, in fact, a state’s first responsibility. States have good reasons to go to war, but religions don’t.

So, yeah, I stand behind my cartoon. Any decent Prophet would stand up in front of his followers, and roll his eyes, and just shout in exasperation, “Stop killing people!” He’d be right, too.

God: The Magic Architect

Once upon a time there was a Magic Architect and he was the best Magic Architect that had ever lived. The Magic Architect was able to build any kind of house or building just by wishing for it. Anything he could imagine, he could create, with just a word! His own home was a huge mansion, and it was filled with delightful things, but there were very few surprises there. Everything was simple, and beautiful — every wall, every room, every decoration.

Then one day the Magic Architect had a child! A beautiful baby boy was born, and the Architect was very happy, and very in love with his little son. As the boy grew older, he began to play with toys, and his favorite toys were little blocks. The boy would sit for hours, building, and the Magic Architect saw that his son, too, would be a Magic Architect.

(Continued in comments…because it is REALLY long.)

Government: On Self-Government

One of the most bitterly fought debates in human history is the nature and extent of a state’s authority over its citizens. The histories of all cultures are filled with stories of rebellion, revolution, and contention between the citizens and the state, and yet every culture in history returns to government authority in one form or another. In fact, it is by organizing into States and submitting to government authority that Man is consistently able to overcome his Natural environment and prosper in strong communities. Just as individuals learn self-control, submitting the demands of their animal selves to the authority of reason, societies must submit the demands of the individual to the authority of government in order to reach their potential — greater potential than any individual could achieve.

Throughout history, individuals have demonstrated the basic human need to organize into groups for greater strength. Whether motivated by fear of an outside force or desire to accomplish a difficult task, communities form when Man tries to overcome his base potential and become something more. (The philosophical term “State” refers to any relatively persistent, organized community of individuals. The term “Government” is used to refer to a state’s organizational structure, whatever it may be.) States emerge from individuals’ need for greater power, and States are consistently more powerful than individuals for some very simple reasons. When individuals collect into a State, they are able to pool together their various resources, creating (for the State) more opportunities than existed for any individual within the group. Furthermore, the increased number of workers (and, therefore, man-hours available per daylight hour) create more productivity — the State is able to get more done with the resources available than any individual could. Also, and not the least significant, each individual within the State brings his own point of view and his own educational background. Faced with any given problem, the State can consider it through many points of view and thus has greater available creativity than any individual considering the problem through his own narrow focus.

While these benefits obviously provide States with immense potential, the realization of this potential is greatly limited by the very individuals that create it. While individuals provide a State with the resources, labor, and insight to meet its goals, these same individuals will naturally tend to want to spend their resources, labor, and insight on tasks of personal (not State) benefit. It is natural for a person to want to spend his own resources (and, in fact, any available resources) on himself. Similarly, he will want to work toward his own goals, not (necessarily) those of the community. This selfishness can be mitigated to some extent by homogeneity within the community — that is, if all of the State’s individuals have the same resources available, they are less likely to be jealous of others’ resources. Similarly, if they all desire the same goals, the community can more easily work toward those goals. However, the greater the degree of homogeneity within the State, the fewer benefits arise from community, particularly because of the loss of points of view. In other words, States with high degrees of similarity among their citizens will tend to have the easiest time remaining incorporate, but the least reason to do so. Meanwhile, States of highly diverse individuals will have the most difficult time remaining incorporate, but will achieve the greatest potential.

Government, then, should not be the method of oppressing individuals, but the organizational method that best balances the tension between majority rule and individual freedom. That is, Government should use the resources of its citizens, not only to satisfy the needs of the State, but also to satisfy the needs of individuals. Similarly, Government should organize the efforts of the many, not toward any individual’s goals, but toward projects that expressly improve the welfare of the State (including its individual citizens). Similarly, Government should encourage the exchange of ideas for the good of the State. It is never the right role of Government to protect the rights of individuals against the State (that is, in ways directly harmful to the State). Rather, in all things the Government should seek to protect the whole, never its individual parts. Bear in mind, though, the distinction between Government and State. It is expressly not the Government’s role to protect the Government, but to protect the State — that is, the whole community of individuals. Inasmuch as the Government promotes the interests of governors above other citizens, it is no longer protecting the State, but subverting it for personal gain.

Such abuse, of course, creates the rebellion, revolution, and contention that have plagued every State ever born. In spite of such turmoil, though, Man’s greatest potential can only be found within a community; and so men have continued throughout history to organize into powerful States. The most powerful have been those best able to harvest the abundant resources of a diverse population, while maintaining the singular identity of a community. This unnatural complement, this amazing construct of the hearts and minds of Man, has defied nature and allowed Mankind to overcome extreme adversity and accomplish extraordinary goals.

(Click on Comments for links to previous posts on this topic.)

Government: The Cycle of Revolutions

I actually wrote up these ideas for a paper my junior year in high school. It fits into the conversation very well, here, given that I just posted my views on relationships and society.

It goes like this:
When people work together, they become more than the sum of the parts (as I said a couple days ago).

People do not naturally work together, though. Also as I said, it requires some external force to keep them together.

Moreover (with regard to government at least), the greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts aspect can only be achieved when the community is, to some extent, working toward a common goal or in complementary manners. (Not to be confused with “complimentary manners,” which are also helpful). In a family or group of friends, they will generally be working toward common goals (maintenance of the family, maximization of opportunities to get carefree-drunk, that sort of thing), but a government based simply on linguistic or geographic similarities generally will not have that sort of natural symmetry of purpose.

In times of wealth or general prosperity, a community can afford a great degree of inefficiency, thus it will tend to operate on a natural, ungoverned level. This encourages the diversity within the group, but the group also acts less and less as an effective whole.

Eventually, times of prosperity will be challenged. It is the Nature of Things. It’s practically what they do, when you get right down to it. Golden Ages End. Write that in large letters.

When the community is faced with hard times, its inefficiency becomes a great weakness. In order to succeed, the community will seek out efficiency. This is the role of government. Government organizes and orders the diverse elements of a community to act toward a common purpose, using coordinated efforts. You can see this build-up very clearly in the conversion between a peaceful state and a wartime state, but it can happen in any event that threatens general prosperity.

In order to eliminate the threat, the community provides for itself powerful leaders. This is equally a description of the processes that established King Saul, King David, Julius Caesar, George Washington, Hitler, and G. W. Bush — most powerful leaders, good or bad, democratically elected or not, gain their prominence when their community feels threatened and helpless. If the leader that emerges is ineffective, the community will either find a stronger one, or suffer further hardship.

If a successful leader is found, that leader will guide his community through adversity. This can only be achieved by maximizing the community’s efficiency, as I said before. Maximizing efficiency is a process of oversight and organization. Again, consider any historical example you care to. I like Charlemagne and Caesar in particular, but take your pick.

Once the leader has attained success, you will find a nation of extraordinary capacity, given its organization and efficiency. Consider the post-war boom in America during the 50s, or the decadence of the Roman Empire following Caesar Augustus’ consolidation of power.

This level of success emboldens the members of the community who, no longer faced with an external threat and clearly aware of their own power, resent the oppressive regime that dictates (that is, organizes and oversees) their lives. As the community achieves a greater degree of general prosperity, the efficiency provided by strong government becomes less necessary, and the people, in one way or another, pull down their leader, preferring to operate on a natural, ungoverned level.

Now, if the community has long been accustomed to strong leadership, they may immediately feel a sense of fear and weakness following the overthrow of their leader. In such a case, they may immediately restart the cycle, by seeking out a strong leader to comfort them. This may also happen if the process of removing the previous leader is drawn-out or exceedingly difficult. Consider the French revolution as an example of the latter (and the terrible Robespierre), or the tyranny of Cromwell on the overthrow of King Charles I in England.

On the other hand, the revolution may go peacefully, and the people are left with relatively impotent government, and a period of general prosperity. They will be happy in this natural state for a while.

But remember: Golden Ages end. It seems to be the nature of man to promote tyrants in times of need, and detest them in times of prosperity.

God and Government: Christian Leadership

I’ve got two words for you: “oxymoron.”

Now, admittedly, that comment is going to get me a lot of flak (“flack”? whatever) from everyone who read Christian Leadership and thought about those retreats we went to in youth group and the really eloquent speakers you’ve heard at a workshop or lectureship. That’s not really what I’m thinking about here — I’m thinking about Christianity in government — but some of the same ideas apply.

Listen, before Jesus died, he spent a lot of time talking. A lot of people miss out on that, especially because, later, Paul spent a lot of time writing, so he kind of eclipses a lot of what Jesus had to say.

But Jesus had a lot to say about leadership and authority. He said most of it (that is, the most important bit) when he wrapped a towel around his waist, got down on his knees, and washed his apostles’ feet. We all know that story so well, and what it represents, y’know, metaphorically, that we kinda disregard what he was saying there. That is, we focus on the theological aspect of an act that is, first and foremost, a political one. Whereas, in Christ’s teaching, he chose instead to put forth the political lesson, and let us derive the theological.

Hmm…that might sound like I’m saying the same thing. The problem here is that we, as Christians, are reading the New Testament in exactly the same way we get so frustrated at scientists for telling us to read the Old Testament. (That sentence might be grammatically correct….) The thing is, something can be metaphorical or figurative and still hold literal meaning. In fact, a good metaphor ought to be wholly accurate on both levels of perception: the literal and the figurative.

So when Jesus said we ought to wash each other’s feet, and what he meant by that was that we ought to serve one another’s physical comforts, and what he really meant by that was that we ought to serve one another’s spiritual comforts…we follow that line of reasoning, and teach our kids that Christians should look out for each other’s spiritual comfort. And how can you tell? Why, because Jesus himself said that we should look out for each other’s physical comfort.

Now, if you’re one of those trying to rush ahead of what I’m saying, then you’re probably getting annoyed at my choice of passage, because this isn’t a perfect one for what I’m trying to say. It’s an excellent illustration of how we misuse Jesus’ metaphors, though. Now that we’ve seen that, though, let’s focus on another passage. There’s a story in the New Testament where a couple of the apostles (I’m going to take a wild guess and say “James and John,” rather than actually looking it up) ask Jesus if they can be first in the Kingdom of Heaven — following him, of course. Jesus rebukes them, and the other apostles get in on the rebuking because, y’know, they should probably have asked, but Jesus calls them all down. Here’s the passage:

When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that in this world kings are tyrants, and officials lord it over the people beneath them. But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must become your slave. For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.”

Okay, we’ve all heard that, and we understand that this means Christians shouldn’t be tyrannical. That’s not the point, though. The point is that Christianity cannot be achieved through authority. It’s earlier in that paragraph that Jesus talks about the Vineyard Workers (a parable I wrote on in an earlier post), and that parable ends with these words:

“And so it is, that many who are first now will be last then; and those who are last now will be first then.”

We also have the passage where some trickster challenges Jesus on paying taxes, and Jesus talks about giving unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. In that passage, Jesus clearly recognizes the temporal authority structure without participating within it.

And that wasn’t a new attitude, when we saw it there. We’d already seen it in the desert, when the Tempter offered Jesus dominion over all the world. Jesus turned it down.

He turned it down, and then he didn’t go to the politicians, to change the world. When he was brought before Pilate, he answered him in silence. In fact, we have no record of Jesus deliberately seeking out politicians or trying in any way to change world or national politics.

Jesus’ message is one of a personal relationship with God. The lifestyle he teaches is a self-sacrificing one. It is not a message that makes for good government — it’s one that makes for good people. If people were good, we wouldn’t need government. Got it?

I know my dad thinks there ought to be more Christians in government — he’ll vote for one any chance he gets. The problem is, a good Christian has to be ready to forgive every offense against him. A good Christian has to be ready to give more than he is asked for, to respond to violence with submission. These things will make a good person.

But they will only make a good governor when all the rest of the world’s governors are prepared to respect like that. Or, alternately, when every one of the governed is precisely as devoted to the governor’s Christianity as he is. In the first case, none will take advantage of the governor or the state he represents. In the second case, although others will take advantage of his state, the people of the state will accept it, as they accept the same within their personal lives.

Show me a world where all of the powers are Christians, and I will vote for a Christian leader. Show me a state where all of the citizens are Christians, and I will vote for a Christian leader. Otherwise, in any other circumstances, you are either willfully sending sheep among the wolves, without any sort of defender (note that we are talking temporal authority, which Paul claims God has put in place to serve its purposes, even as the Pharaoh who enslaved the Jews served God’s purposes), or you are placing a Christian in a position that will force him to curb his own faith in order to fulfill his job. That is, a good Christian placed in a position of authority must, within that authority, be a worse Christian to properly fulfill his responsibility.

If you, as a Christian, decide to take on a leadership position — perhaps you think that, by acting to protect the weak, you can do enough good to offset the evil of not turning the other cheek, for instance — then you have made that choice for yourself, and power to you. However, I will not (or, to be more accurate, would not) advocate voting for you on the sole grounds that you are a Christian. That is because, inasmuch as you are a good leader, you become less of a good Christian. And inasmuch as you are a good Christian, you become less of a good leader.

Now, to perfectly clarify, I am talking about temporal authority. There are other forms of leadership than temporal authority, clearly. The foremost, with regard to this conversation, being that of a role model. Christ was clearly a leader, and his Christianity made him a better leader, clearly. That’s the whole point of the washing of his apostles’ feet. Jesus was not one to say “Go and do,” and have others obey him on his authority. Rather, he was one who said, “This is what I do.” And others could choose to be like him because they saw the effect Jesus’ actions had in his life and in theirs.

And this all speaks directly to my opinion concerning elders within the church. I flatly stand against the idea of elders who meet, decide what the church should do, state their opinions, and then the church does it. Which is to say: elders.

That is not what eldership has represented for the bulk of human history, and it is not what Christ called for. “Elder” is a name we use (not one the elders themselves use) to indicate someone who, by the evidence of his life, has established himself as a role-model and source of information, who we would like to follow. It is the very heart of Jesus’ method of leadership and it is (this is the most important part) an entirely optional authority. That is, it is one that you can approach and say, “I choose to live like you.” And if you do, so much the better, and if you don’t, it in no way detracts from the leader’s authority.

Ehff. I’ve gone on too long, and I’m onto another topic altogether now, but it shows what I’m getting at. In fact, it highlights it well. The very best I think we could hope for, in electing Christian leaders, would be to achieve something like the elderships we’re all so familiar with. Imagine the board of elders from your congregation as the House and Senate of the U. S. That’s the ideal of that system. That is the best that it could achieve and, honestly, it’s not much different from what we already have. You could probably name nine key political decisions that would be decided, once for all, if that were the case. Other than that, replacing the Senate with your church’s eldership would pretty much be the same as electing a bunch of Republicans.

And, no, that’s not utopia. Honestly, it’s not much better than everyday. It might be more comfortable — that is, your personal opinions on some topics would be more accessible within the community — but you can achieve that with a political action committee. And, if you think about it, that really just means someone down the street is less comfortable.

And none of that sounds like the kind of authority Jesus promoted. No, Jesus’ solution to the world problems takes place inside individual folks, not in halls all made of marble. That’s what it boils down to.

Government: Freedom of the Vicious

On the drive to work this morning, I was listening to NPR and there was a brief discussion of the current scandal wherein the Pentagon has paid Iraqi journalists to publish pro-American stories in Iraqi newspapers.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Freedom of the Press, like the right to vote, is a liberty that is inherently most likely to be used by those most likely to abuse it.

The thoughtful, the careful, the mature and concerned citizens are going to have a degree of self-control and reasonable restraint that will prevent them from ever remotely competing with the arrogant, brash, impulsive twits who rush out to impose their worldview on an undeserving public because it is their right.

Honestly, anyone who refers to his right in that tone of voice is probably insisting on his liberty to abuse a generous system.

I guess this gets back to the Active Way versus the Contemplative Way that I established in the KJW excerpt. I’m talking about the difference between Larry King and … I don’t even know any opinionators who I would hold up as a thoughtful and educated example. And this has nothing to do with Right of Left. Even the ones I agree with in principle, express their opinions in ways I could not condone and do so with the full protection of the State behind them.

But that’s what gets to me. I’m embarrassed to hear Hannity or Limbaugh say things that I basically believe about our government, because of the way they say them. But, as a student of history, it just burns me up to hear the sea of voices decrying our government and demanding that the same government protect their right to say it.

Why? Why should a government protect the power of its opponents? Admittedly, sometimes we do. We trained bin Laden, to fight the Russians. We armed Hussein, to fight Iran. These were short-sighted mistakes, and all of us now regret that we made them, but somehow we expect the State to provide its domestic enemies with the weapons necessary to wage a war against it? It’s absurd.

It’s guaranteed by the Constitution. Yeah, I get that. I understand why the American government protects freedom of speech now. I just stand opposed to the initial promise. It is wrong to protect speech, particularly politically-motivated slander.

There should be some level of oversight, some extent of control, and I accept the loss of liberty that goes with it, because (and listen closely here) living in a Governed Society means the sacrifice of some individual comforts for the sake of a strong (and, in theory, supporting) community.

It makes sense that individuals would want Freedom of Speech. And, moreover, it makes a lot of sense that a community founded entirely on scandal and slander (that is, journalists) would want Freedom of the Press, specifically. It also makes sense that a man would want his neighbor’s possessions, and human law is about subverting that individual desire for the sake of a community that offers security and order. We do not let men do whatever they wish — why would we dare let them say whatever they wish, especially since saying is so much easier than doing.

Free speech is the strongest weapon against established government — it is the foundation of Anarchy.

Now, Toby challenged me on this in one of my recent posts (for a given value of “recent”), and the same issue still stands: societies must choose the extent to which they are willing to sacrifice personal liberties for the sake of strong government. And, naturally, the government has as much capacity to abuse its powers as citizens have to abuse their liberties. These are real problems, and a totalitarian government like Hussein’s Iraq can use a State-run press in abominable ways.

But that is not the inevitable result of government oversight. I think that’s part of the problem with the American cultural conception of Strong Government — we believe any government power must necessarily end in totalitarian control.

Did you know England does not have a protected Freedom of Speech? Certainly the country has been affected by the pervasive American culture, but the government today does not recognize Free Speech as an inherent right of its citizens. Of course, this isn’t a huge surprise, since it was England’s totalitarianism we were rejecting when we penned the Bill of Rights.

Yeah. England. Not Iraq, not North Korea, but England. And you can see any day of the week that the English population still expresses dissent, that the government is not an iron-clad structure of favoritism and nepotism. It’s a free nation, a democratic nation even, but with a measure of reasonable restraint.

I’ve just read “V for Vendetta,” a graphic novel that Daniel got me for my birthday, and it mostly focuses on the collapse of British society into a police state following World War 4. So these topics are very much on my mind, and I’m seeing in graphic detail the objections some of you would raise, but I want to make it clear: all government is a sacrifice of individual liberties for the sake of security and order. And, as I said at the top of this post, Freedom of the Press, like the right to vote, is a liberty that is inherently most likely to be used by those most likely to abuse it.

God, Government, and Greatness: Adoption

I have my doubts that I will get across everything that needs gotten, but there is a base concept of Adoption which I really need to establish.

I may have mentioned this to some extent in my earlier posts on Goverment (Monarchy specifically), but I couldn’t find it if so, which means I didn’t go into enough detail.

First, I’d like you to read a passage from Romans 7. It’s verses 13-19, 22-23. The two verses I omitted do not significantly change the meaning of the text, so I’ve cut them for clarity. By all means, feel free to read the entire passage in context — I’m just not quoting it all here.

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed….

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

This is not, of course, the only place we see reference to God-the-Father or, by extension, the members of the church as his sons and daughters. In the book of Romans, though, Paul is able to draw upon that concept more fully and powerfully because of the Roman cultural practice of Adoption.

Our culture has established its own ideas concerning adoption, specifically the conception of a second-class status for adopted children. It’s silly, it’s an easily-dispelled idea, but it’s one that persists in our culture and, honestly, that’s how we feel in relation to God. When Paul says that we’re the adopted sons and daughters of God, that makes perfect sense to the American mind. We’re not his REAL kids, but he was generous enough to adopt us.

That’s not how Adoption worked in the Roman empire.

(I referenced Goverment in my tagline, and that’s about to come into play, too.)

Y’see, when we think of old-timey inheritance, we generally think of a system called “primogeniture” whereby the first-born son inherits the entire wealth (including titles) of the father. This is one of the huge stumbling blocks of monarchy as we imagine it — that terrible corruption of passing the throne from Louis I down the line to Louis XVI.

The Romans had a system in place to prevent that, to some extent. Adoption. It was the responsibility of a Roman man to choose his own heir. It could be his first-born son, but a first-born son was not actually born with any inheritance rights. In order to pass his estate on to his first-born son, the Roman gentleman would have to adopt his son as his heir. He could just as easily adopt a nephew or a brother-in-law or, more likely, an apprentice or assistant. It was his responsibility to choose an heir who could effectively maintain the estate he would inherit.

Obviously this system was open to abuse of its own. I’m pretty sure most of you are already thinking of Nero and Caligula, and after all, who is going to try to hold an Emperor accountable for living up to his social responsibility? The Emperors did hold their followers responsible, though, and there were dozens (hundreds?) of kings within the Roman empire who were compelled to choose fitting heirs, and bound to that decision by the process of Adoption.

Adoption, then, was not an act of mercy or compassion, but one of investiture. When a Roman adopted a son, he proclaimed to the world, “I approve of this one. He deserves to one day own all the wealth and power that I possess.”

And that is what God has done with us. That’s the entire point of this passage in Romans. God has Adopted us into his sovereignty — not just into the comfort of his home, but into the position of wielding his great might. We have been proclaimed worthy of becoming like God himself.

Here’s the important bit “we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

We have been made Sons of God. We have been given all the power Christ bore when he walked the earth, but more than that. We have been promised the full power of God. This is the confidence he has shown in us. This is his expectation of us. Because adoption is a responsibility as well. We must live like Princes, in training to someday assume the throne. That’s the “sharing in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” bit. And that’s an amazing position to be caught in.

And — this is what irks me — it’s a role that we are not taught! My dad taught me about Roman adoption, and what it means to be a son of God. Other than that, I heard not a word. Have any of you heard of this before, from anyone other than me? We’re taught that every one of us is a foot soldier in God’s army. We’re taught that we’re prey the lion is stalking. We’re taught to think like the Israelites, for whom God provides manna. We’re taught that we’re like the lillies, and God will clothe us in beauty, or that we’re like the birds of the air, and God will fill our needs.

But that’s not even the point of that passage. Jesus cries out, “how much more, then, will he do for you?” We are not just soldiers, we are not just cute little animals and pretty flowers. We’re not even like the trackless Israelites, but like Moses who led them, all radiant from the Glory of God. We’re Princes. We’re Kings and Queens, arrayed before our Emperor. Stand up! Be proud, ye heavenly powers. The armies of angels are our armies.

Remember the parable of the prodigal son? Remember how he went away and sinned, and because he had squandered his wealth, he lived among the pigs, and lived like a pig. That’s what we’re doing, and the whole point of the story was that it was never necessary. Stand up! Go back to the wealth and the power that is your due — not on your own merits, but because you have been adopted by the most powerful benefactor reality has ever known.

Live like it. That’s your responsibility.

Government and Greatness: The Contemplative Way, and the Active Way

This is an excerpt from King Jason’s War, that I enjoy. It is, here, entirely out of context, but I’m hopeful that it will still make some sense. It describes, I think, some of what’s going on between the radical Liberals and the radical Conservatives, in these days.

“It’s amazing, really.” Jason sighed. “They have their expectations of the world, of how it works, and the world just seems to shape itself around them.”

“That is generally the way of it, with noblemen.”

Jason growled, “It’s not just the people. Sure, you’d expect it to be that way with people. All the commoners know that the nobles are in charge, so they conform to the world as the nobles see it. But…I mean…everything. The Eskiem certainly don’t credit our Peers any authority, but look what has happened. The Peers want a war, and the events of the last few hours seem to guarantee one! Reality shaping itself around their expectations.”

“There is more to it than that, Jason—”

“But the worst part is,” Jason took a deep breath, eyebrows furrowing, “the worst of it is being me, living in this world of my own that doesn’t conform to their expectations, but watching their world move right along in spite of me. They see a war as right and necessary, and my little objections—”

“You have not been entirely sure of your objections, Jason.” Robert interrupted, softly, but Jason stopped speaking and listened closely. “Are you suddenly sure that you stand against this war?”

“Not…well, yes, but…. No, I see your point, but even so—”

“They believe, and stand by their beliefs. You doubt, you take time to consider, and your search for real understanding makes you hesitate, makes you wait for more information. Meanwhile, they act in their quick confidence, and the world has left you behind.”

“It’s not fair, Robert. It’s not right that recklessness should have the upper hand.”

Robert started to answer, but then stopped, thinking. Finally, he said, “It’s not necessarily recklessness, Jason. Their path, their whole worldview, is one of confidence and action. Yours is one of contemplation and philosophy. Yours requires patience, and care, and long years to attain its end.”

“But what do I do about this war? This decision must be made today, no matter my own patience.”

Robert looked over and met his friend’s eye. “Are you truly asking my advice? Do you want my answer to that question?” Without hesitation, Jason nodded. “Then here it is: your path has nothing to do with this war, or any one war. Your philosophy is not one that shapes decisions, but worldviews. If you stand against this war, the war will happen anyway. If you become king, you will have a lifetime to change the way this nation views the world around it. My advice, good and true, is to say your piece, and then let the Council make its decision in this matter. Then commit your reign to crafting a world where we will never have to face this decision again.”

Government: America is NOT a Democracy

HaHA! I have fooled you all. You expect me to spend a page and a half talking about how, technically, it’s a Republic. To that I say “Pshaw!”

America is a very polite, Practical Anarchy.

We are a nation so founded on hatred of tyranny that we established a non-government government. Our greatest political pride comes from our Bill of Rights — protecting the citizens of the country from any actual government — and our Checks and Balances — protecting our government from the terrible responsibility of actually being able to accomplish anything.

Seriously, consider your education in the nature of our government. How much focus was given to checks and balances? You know what “checks” are, in this sense? They’re things that stop forward motion. We have a system in place to prevent the government from going anywhere. We have “balances” to make sure that these checks are equally restrictive on all branches of our government.

We are the first nation (at least to my knowledge) to wholly gloat in the deliberate and successful construction of an impotent government.

We’ve done okay, though, haven’t we? I’m not denying that. When I claim that the U.S. is an Anarchy, I do so in the terminology of political philosophy, not popular media. We have constructed a system that politely tells the American government to stay out of the lives of the American people, and everything will be fine.

What amuses me most is that our Founding Fathers recognized Government as an inevitable aspect of human society so, instead of trying to establish a nation free from Government entirely, they quarantined it.

We provide our government with just enough power, just enough resources, and just enough attention to keep them concentrated on their nonsense, while we go about our lives. Our corporations act, our entrepreneurs act, our charitable organizations and special interest groups and legal teams and community organizations all act, while our government blusters and talks.

We don’t have a representative government at all — instead we have direct representation, in that we have built a society to enable the citizens to express themselves without the interference of a Government.

No, it’s not a perfect Anarchy, and I didn’t claim it was. I called it polite Anarchy, and then I went on to acknowledge that we do have an established government structure. My point is that, practically, the main political concern of most Americans is to keep the government out of their lives. We’re still the Colonialists, who built their own cities, who managed their own affairs, and who were willing to pay taxes to keep the king on the other side of the sea, but willing to fight a war when he actually tried to control their lives.

It’s worked, because of the massive amount of resources available to everyone in our society. When our poor are better off than most of the world’s middle class, we don’t need government in the way so many nations do. We have, in Practical Anarchy, what most nations need rigorous Socialism to achieve.

We have Corporations so wealthy they don’t need tarriffs. We have Charitable Organizations with sufficient volunteer funding to dwarf the public works projects of many developed countries. We have, in our individuals, what most societies only have through the organization and administration of a careful government.

In other words, we’re spoiled. Furthermore, as all spoiled children do, we’re squandering. Governments develop in order to help a society make the most of its resources. Governments organize and control independent elements so that the productivity of the whole can be greater than the sum of their parts. That’s what Governments do.

It’s also what we call tyranny. The importance of the individual must be placed below the importance of the society for the society to fully attain its potential. We as a nation dread that pragmatism, and so we designed a self-contained, cannibalistic system of Government, encased it in a fancy marble shell, and got on with our lives.

Listen to the outcry right now against the Federal government’s response to the Katrina disaster. It’s too slow, it’s unproductive. When it should be rushing in to save people’s lives, something has stopped its forward motion. When the Government should be acting, it is instead quibbling, attempting to assign blame to all of its balanced members.

Look: that’s the way the system was designed to work. That’s what we’re so proud of, in our civics classes. We chose to hamstring our Government and that’s why, right now, the volunteers and the aid organizations and the independent assitance groups have so much more to offer than the Federal response. It’s not a matter of resources, but of structure, and the philosophy that designed our nation in the first place.