White Churches aren’t Biased

Recently a new book on Housing Bias has been published and the author, Paul Boudreaux is doing the radio interview rounds.  The Federal Housing Administration was created in 1934 in the midst of the Great Depression (my parents’ era) to encourage home ownership by federally guaranteeing home loans, making it possible to purchase a house with only a 10% down payment. Today, instead of the bank required 20% down, a new home buyer can put only 3% down and FHA will help the buyer qualify for a house loan.

Except in 1934 the FHA refused to guarantee loans to black people, or any loans to people who lived in mixed neighborhoods or neighborhoods anywhere near black people. Why? Because those neighborhoods were deemed unstable, and the FHA was afraid if the house went down in value and they had to repossess it, they couldn’t resell repossessed houses in those neighborhoods. After all, who wants to live in a black neighborhood?

Redlining_0The FHA had maps of all the black and mixed race areas of town (in red) to make sure they didn’t guarantee any loans on houses in those areas. White neighborhoods could only receive FHA guaranteed loans if they included restrictions in the deeds, making sure owners could not sell to black people, in order to make sure the neighborhood didn’t lose its value.

In this way huge amounts of money flowed into white neighborhoods, while no federally guaranteed loans flowed into black neighborhoods, as in NONE. Therefore the white neighborhoods looked rich, and the black neighborhoods looked poor.

“Why are these houses so small and ugly, Mommy?”

“Black people don’t know how to take care of their houses, honey.”

On top of that, cities would zone areas for warehouses and industry, predictably, not in the new white suburbs awash in lucrative federally backed mortgages. No, the black neighborhoods were zoned for warehouses and industries that belched black smoke and loud noises, and had big trucks trundling back and forth.

When black people wanted to buy houses, there were no neighborhoods available to them. So their existing neighborhoods became overcrowded.

As housing prices appreciated over the years. Whites who had been given the opportunity to buy houses in the suburbs had houses to borrow money against, to buy things like cars, second homes, investment property, new businesses and college for their kids.

These FHA policies continued through the boom of suburbs after WW2 in 1945. As white soldiers came home from the war, they bought houses in white neighborhoods, backed by the FHA. As black soldiers came home from the war, they could not receive an FHA loan, and were not permitted to buy a home in the suburbs. Through the Civil Rights protests of the 1950s, the back-of-the-bus boycotts, the voting rights marches, white flight into the suburbs, school desegregation, the hysteria of the Beatles, the race riots (that proved to white people that blacks were uncivilized), these policies continued, only changing in 1967, when I was 10 years old.

In 1967 the first black family moved into Plainfield, Indiana, a white suburb of black dominated Indianapolis. We were astounded when a black child appeared in the cafeteria of our school. We kept on standing up so we could see her. Finally the teacher placed her at the head of the long cafeteria table. So we could all stare at her without having to stand up. She was in the third grade. looked down at the table and chewed her sandwich slowly, as the children laughed and whispered the N word. (The black family did not move to Mooresville, where there was an active KKK group.)

By this time my family owned two houses. One we lived in, and one we rented out.

Today an average black person earns about 60 cents for every dollar an average white person earns. But the average black person still owns only 6% of what an average white person owns. Why? Because housing appreciates in value and is inherited through the generations.

My grandfather was a high school teacher who bought a house in San Bernadino, California in the 1930s, probably with FHA guaranteed loans. Then my grandparents opened a not very successful diner, probably borrowing money on their house. In the same way they bought farm land in Mississippi. When my grandparents died, their assets were inherited by my father and my aunt. None of this was available to black households until 1967. So my family, at the lower end of the middle class, has a huge financial jump on black families. The average white household now owns $111,000 in assets (mostly in their house), while the average black household owns only $7,000 in assets. Latino assets are similar to black assets.

What led to the change in government policy that opened up the FHA to let blacks have ANTI INTEGRATIONfederally backed mortgages and buy housing wherever they could afford it? Racial unrest in the 1950s and 1960s. The bus boycott of Montgomery, Alabama, when blacks refused to sit in the back of the bus, the lunch counter sit-ins in the 1960s when blacks sat at whites-only lunch counters for days, waiting to be served, while whites spat on them. Voter registration marches, when blacks had fire hoses set on them, dogs and horses from state police attacking them with batons.

A preacher friend of mine who grew up in Arkansas said he remembers a preacher from the pulpit in a Church of Christ referring to “Martin Lucifer Koon.” Such was the hatred of blacks changing the lives of whites.

As blacks moved into white areas, high schools changed their dress codes. They banned all Afro hair styles, or made the rule that no student with an Afro hairstyle could have their picture taken for the student yearbook. Some of these rules were unconscious, white people were scandalized by black culture, seeing it as eroding the morals of white culture. Didn’t everyone know that blacks were much more promiscuous than whites?  That’s why they are so poor! Would you want your daughter dating a black man? (Black maids and field workers were often expected to sexually service their white employers long after slavery officially ended.)

My parents relate how deacons or elders would stand at the back of the church in the 1960s and if a black family would come in, they would  let them know that there was a black Church of Christ across town where they would feel more comfortable. My mother said, “And they thought they were doing that family a kindness!”

After the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1967, President Nixon launched the War on Drugs, in which distributing powdered cocaine (used by white people) received a much lower prison sentence than distributing crack cocaine (used by black people), which received a mandatory 30 year sentence with no chance of parole. Enforcement was uneven against blacks vs whites arrested for drug offences. Many believe the War on Drugs was a substitute for the housing bias against black people. All you have to do is put 5% of black people in jail with felonies, and they can never vote again, their voting power is weakened enough so they cannot gain power. Most presidential elections are won by narrow margins.

Now (mostly) white evangelical churches are longing for those bygone eras of white neighborhoods and white schools. During the 1950s and 1960s one factory salary could support a wife, kids, house in the suburbs and a car in the driveway. Whites look back with nostalgia, confusing global imports with the integration of the last 50 years. Most factories have moved to countries who pay 15 cents an hour. The only jobs left here are ones that cannot be exported: food, delivery, leisure and hotels, technology, housing, construction, education, finance and healthcare.

White churches voted for racial inequality in the last election. They deny it, because they know racial inequality is a sin. They justify it by saying poor people are lazy, generations are on welfare, taking up our healthcare system, translation: blacks. White churches also justify their voting by saying that they were saving the lives of the unborn, voting against abortion. this rings hollow when at the same time they are voting against healthcare dollars for the unborn and for pregnant women. (White evangelicals also had concerns about judges nominated for the Supreme Court, religious liberty, and gay rights.)

White evangelicalism is a whited sepulcher. Pretty on the outside, full of rot on the inside.

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The Horror of the Good Looking Family

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Evangelicals are Afraid of Change

Frankie-FitzGeraldbyFrancesFDennyfor-webFrances Fitzgerald was interviewed on the PBS recently because she recently published a comprehensive history of the Evangelical movement. Starting with the revivals of the late 1700s, evangelicalism became a distinctly American movement, one which set the tone for American society.

Frances Fitzgerald mentioned in her interview that one of the motivators of evangelicals is their abhorrence of change. They see the world descending into chaos.

This reminded me of when I was studying authoritarianism in evangelical churches. Two of the key components of authoritarianism is the fear of society going to hell in a hand basket, and fear of sexual decay in society. [Authoritarian is considered bad and is connected to the anti-Semitism of the Nazi party in the 1930s and 40s. Authoritative is considered good. Authoritive is not a word except in some nonstandard English families.] Authoritarianism is still connected to racist attitudes, anger at poor people, and a suspicion of the government. Authoritarian racism is evident in some of the presidents elected by evangelicals. Nixon started the war on drugs, zeroing in on the drugs that blacks and hispanics used, but not focusing on the drugs whites used.  Thirteen per cent of black men are not eligible to vote in elections because of having been felons. Many states ban felons from voting.

The point is that a whole group of people can be whipped into a frenzy by just telling them that a specific issue of change in society is a symptom of the fact that our society is descending into chaos. I remember in the 1980s Dr Dobson would name a particular issue: secular humanism, abortion, the gay agenda, tax and spend politics, the National Education Association’s opposition to homeschooling, the banning of Christian influence in public schools. Dr Dobson could get a million listeners to phone or write to their representatives in congress because he said that this was the chaos they feared the most. Some of the representatives used to complain that Dr Dobson had misunderstood what a particular legislation, but they had to vote it down just because they had received so much popular opposition to it.

Many evangelicals have become severely disillusioned with the Republican presidents they voted for. Evangelicals wanted gay rights stopped and abortions ended. But most Republican presidents just gave lip service to the evangelicals. The presidential candidates said they had faith and prayed, but they did not limit the march forward of abortion rights and gay rights. Some political pundits believe that Republicans in the past have used the 25% of the population that identify as evangelicals to get elected, but never actually subscribed to their key issues.

In the 1960s  and 1970s it was women’s liberation, the birth control pill, bikinis and mini skirts, sex education, rock and roll, long hair for men and the threat of people living together before they were married. In the 1980s it was AIDS, secular humanism, gay rights and abortion. In the 2000s it was the Moslem terrorism threat, gay marriage and transgender rights.

Young evangelicals today are amazed that these issues could have been such a big deal. They have grown up with these issues, so they don’t consider them symptoms of society falling apart, they consider them normal parts of their childhood.

 

 

 

 

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Women were the first Evangelists

Joy of Magdalene nat-cathedral-mosaic

Rowan and Irene LeCompte, Mary Magdalene in the garden with Jesus

 

The word Evangelist is a Greek word meaning bearer of good news. Who were the first bearers of the good news of the resurrection? Women!

In fact the gospels are specifically written to turn the power structures of the time on their heads:

  • Jesus is born to a virgin teenage woman.
  • Jesus is born into a blue collar family, Joseph is a carpenter, not royalty.
  • The angels announce the birth to the lowest rung of society: shepherds. Shepherds were not allowed to give testimony in court because everyone knew they lied. But God chooses these liars to be the first ones to witness the birth of the Messiah.
  • Jesus chooses twelve disciples, three of whom are lowly fishermen (Peter, James and John). Matthew is a tax-gatherer for the oppressor government. One (Simon the Zealot) belongs to the political party that assassinates members of the oppressor government.
  • Jesus treats women as equals: Women gave money to his cause. He sat and talked to women as equals. Jesus emphasized that women were not objects to be lusted after, or discarded by their husbands.
  • Most of the apostles seemed to have run away when Jesus was crucified, but the women stayed near the cross. The women came to wash and prepare the body for burial and they are the first chosen by God to witness the empty tomb, Mary the first witness to his resurrected body.

The gospel of Jesus turns the hierarchy of his day on its ear.

What does that say to us today? What power structures should be turning on their ears? What people at the bottom of the social ladder should we be elevating?

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Why do Fundamentalist Families resemble Alcoholic Families?

I remember inviting a family from church over to our house for Sunday lunch several years ago. They had many children. They had recently left a Pentecostal Church to join the church we were attending because the Pentecostal Church had had a wild revival that involved too much chaos at the church services. They objected to the suggestion of the pastor that God was “frolicking” with his children during the chaotic worship services.

churchpeopleSome of this family’s children were the same ages as my own. As their children grew up some of them became drug addicted, some serving time in prison for drug dealing. Why? They had grown up in a teetotalling family that attended Bible believing church twice a week. Their parents stayed together. The family ate meals together, prayed before their meals, honored God and home schooled, strictly limiting TV, video games and movies. What happened?

Nothing extraordinary, that’s about normal for fundamentalist and evangelical families. Almost all of the boys in the youth group at our evangelical church were struggling, several were regular marijuana users, one was occasionally suicidal, several boys got arrested once or twice, one boy used kiddie porn, almost all of the boys used regular porn. Several used alcohol regularly. Most of them were having sex whenever they could. That’s what evangelical teens look like in most churches. Those who have had teens understand this and are not surprised, those who have children under 13 years old do not understand this, and are committed to making sure their young teens go to youth group every week so they won’t act like that.

One of the reasons that fundamentalist teens (and to a lesser degree, evangelical teens) have such a struggle in the teen years is that they have not had a foundation for making decisions in their lives. Developmentally, God turns a switch on in teens’ brains that says: “Start practicing making your own decisions before you have to move out of the house and fall flat on your face.” So the teens make their own decisions, often with disastrous results. Teens know intuitively that at age 18 or 19 they are moving out, and will be making most of their own decisions, especially decisions about how to conduct their day to day lives. They know they have to start practicing making their own decisions.

Non-fundamentalist families that are preparing their children for decision making start very young. “What do you want to eat today? Eggs or oatmeal?”

“Would you like to wear this shirt or that shirt?”

“What story do you want me to read to you?”

For more important decisions:

“Do you want to wear your coat or carry your coat?”

“Do you want to do your homework now or in half an hour?”

“Do you want to clean your room with me in the room or by yourself?”

As children get older they have more latitude:

“You can skip baseball practice if you want to, but I’m worried you won’t get to play first base. Have you thought about that? What will happen if you skip practice?”

Rudeness:

“If you are rude to me then I don’t want to take you to your friend’s house this afternoon. If you want me to have energy to do you favors, then you have to be nice to me.”

School:

“You can decide not to do your homework, but I’m worried that you are limiting your career choices. What do you think you would like to do for a job when you get older?”

Health:

“You can decide to smoke cigarettes, but not in this house. You already know what I think of cigarettes and tobacco companies. What do you think of cigarettes?”

Sex:

“You can watch the videos and movies you decide to, but you know what I think about things that will drag you down, or movies that degrade people. What do you think of the last movie you saw?”

“I feel very uncomfortable with you using porn or watching those music videos, but it’s your decision. What do you think of porn?”

“You know what we believe about sex, but the final decision is up to you. What are you going to do, and are you prepared for the consequences? If you disagree with me, we could make an appointment for you at the doctor for birth control.”

Parties:

“You can decide to smoke marijuana, but I just want to know that you have thought through all the consequences. What are the pros and cons of smoking marijuana?”

“It is your decision to go to the party. It’s up to you. Do you want to talk about it? Do you have any concerns?”

Work:

“You can decide to skip work today if you want, but I’m worried about the consequences. Are you okay with the consequences of skipping work today?”

The Law:

“You’re paying for your own car insurance so you can decide to disobey the traffic laws, it’s up to you. Have you thought through the consequences? I don’t like getting tickets, so I try to stay within the law. I hate getting stopped by the police.”

Some people advise saying something a little different:

“We have high expectations of you. We expect you to obey the laws when driving. But of course we’re not there, so it is ultimately up to you.”

I am not saying pre-teens should be making all their own decisions about TV, the internet, smoking cigarettes, and drinking alcohol. What I am saying is that decision-making should be a regular part of a child’s life. And if the parent is open to helping the child sort through their own emotions and thinking, without being too judgmental and pushy, then the child learns gradually to have confidence in their own good judgment. “I can see you made an adult decision about your bicycle. You decided to save up and buy the one you want.”

These are conversations that one can have with a teen one has raised to make their own decisions, but these discussions are not available to fundamentalist parents, or any rigid or authoritarian parent. Discussions that involve disagreeing with one’s parents are not possible in these rigid homes. The parents tend to fall apart when their teens disagree with them or disobey them. Fundamentalist, rigid and authoritarian parents are fragile, easily breakable, and fall apart when their hierarchical system doesn’t work. They rage or cry or threaten or abandon, anything except having a real honest discussion with their teen. In this way they resemble alcoholic homes–homes in which alcohol helps the fragile parent limp along.

The consequence is that the teen has to make all of these decisions by herself, in secret, while lying to her parents, without a calm parent who has confidence in her. One teen in a strict family ran away from home twice. The first time the family thought he had been kidnapped, but his friends said he had two lives: one in front of his parents, and the other in front of his friends. He didn’t like having a split dishonest life, so he ran away to be the whole teen who was making his own decisions. The second time he ran away he joined a gang of wandering teens for a year–just so he could do normal teen development and learn how to make his own decisions. Teens use their friends as a stepping stone away from their parents. It is scary to begin making one’s own life decisions, so they follow their friends. The stricter their parents were at home, the stricter they follow their friends, simply because the stricter their parents were, the less  confidence they have in their own ability to make decisions.

How do I know all this? I was a strict home schooling parent. My daughter used to have friends over for sleepovers. Years later she told us she would take the VW Rabbit out for a spin after we were asleep. Her friends would pile into the Rabbit, push it out into the street, and drive downtown to the main shopping district, all without a driver’s license. It’s impossible to follow your teen around all day at school, or stay up all night and make sure your teen doesn’t climb out the window and visit his friends. The truth is that all of the above decisions are already the teen’s regardless of what kind of home he is growing up in. They are making their own decisions in fundamentalist homes as well as in homes that encourage the teen to make their own decisions. But which home is preparing and encouraging the teen to be self-controlled, and mature?

Friends of mine, also conservative and strict Christians, raised teens who stuck to the rules, never coming home drunk, never trying marijuana, getting excellent grades in school, achieving a bachelor’s degree with honors at a conservative Christian college. At 30 years old his overweight son was still living at home, without a girlfriend, working at a big box store for low wages, unable to make his own decisions.

Family Roles

The Main Addict in the fundamentalist family is the parent who is the most religious, the most rigid, the most dysfunctional. Fundamentalist teens develop caricatures to help them cope: One teen becomes the Family Hero: getting amazing grades, helping take care of the younger children and working a full time job while still in high school. A second child becomes a raging punk Scapegoat, ready to punch the world in the face. A third becomes a sickly Enabler, covering up for, and defending, the main Addict, always buying a new supplement and monitoring blood pressure, temperature, tongue color, snot and poop to make sure they have not been poisoned by the multitude of the toxins they are vulnerable to. A fourth becomes a Lost Child, always absent when there is conflict; watching TV or playing video games, cuddling the cat and reading. A fifth becomes the Clown: cute, adorable, funny, always ready to fall off their chair when tensions are on the upswing. A sixth child becomes a Pastor in a Bible believing church, secretly watching porn each night. Each caricature is a cardboard thin role that the child puts on as an actor to help her or him cope. There isn’t a whole person living inside, just a scared kid. The role is needed as armor against relationships that require emotional maturity. [Most of these roles come from literature about alcoholic families.]

Alcoholic Family

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Why Evangelicals Don’t Help the Poor

Reasons Evangelicals give for not helping the poor:

1. Poor people are lazy

The apostle Paul said, “If they won’t work, neither let them eat.”

However, there aren’t enough jobs in the United States for all the workers. The unemployment rates are much higher than the published rates, some rates estimate that our unemployment rate is as high as 17%. The published rates are just the recently unemployed who have registered with the Department of Labor for unemployment benefits. After a year of not finding work, that unemployed worker is no longer counted among the unemployment statistics.

I’ve been unemployed before, after I quit preaching. Because I resigned from a job considered self-employment by the IRS (minister of a congregation) I was not able to receive any unemployment benefits, nor was I counted as unemployed. At the time I was unemployed in the southern suburbs of Detroit, there was 17% unemployment during a brutal recession in the 1980s. I couldn’t find a gas station job, a fast food job, a grocery store job, nothing. I found a temp job for a month, just enough to lift our wages high enough to make us ineligible for food stamps. The elder of the new church I attended wanted me to apply for a factory job spray painting. When I told him that I am allergic to petro-chemical fumes he decided I was lazy and not worthy of help from the congregation.

I sank into a deep depression, filled with anxiety. I had a 6 month old baby and a 2 year old son. I tried to finish the old house we had bought and were renovating. We put it up for sale.

Even in good economic times the ideal unemployment rate for businesses is 4%. That way businesses only have to employ the best 96%, and the bottom 4% sit at home. It also keeps the 96% from demanding too much money. One percent are homeless. 4.8% of house mortgages are in default. The fear keeps people working hard at jobs they don’t enjoy, for lower wages, and paying their mortgages. Workers near the bottom of the economic ladder put up with illegal pressure from their bosses because they don’t want to be unemployed. They apply for other jobs, but stay in their old ones until they can find something better. This is how a “healthy economy” operates.

u6-unemployment-rate-2017-04-02-macrotrendsOur education system is based on competition. Those at the bottom of the competition are subtly and not so subtly told that they will not make it in our economy. They learn early on that they are not wanted by our society, and become discouraged, prime candidates for all of the pitfalls evangelicals use to not support the poor.

Poor people are disproportionately made up of non-whites. Bigoted people, who don’t want to admit to themselves they are bigoted, can say: “Poor people are lazy,” and express all their bigotry, with the cover of a Bible verse to protect them. 

2. Poor people are addicts

The best research indicates that 100% of addicts have had severe trauma in early childhood. Evangelicals don’t like to help people with early childhood trauma, because it takes years of support and counseling. People with early childhood trauma have trust issues, tend to bring out the worst in those trying to work with them, and don’t recover quickly. These people challenge our faith in the redemption power of Christianity. We would rather these resource intensive people stopped coming to our church, and we only had to see people who are successfully recovering in our church, so we can feel good.

In India there is a theory that you choose your parents based on your past life or your need to learn lessons in life. This is the basis of the caste system. The Brahmins are at the top. They are not permitted to marry anyone from a lower caste. At the bottom of the caste system are the Untouchables and the Unseeables.

These people are horribly mistreated, and it is justified by the fact that they were born into their caste, they chose their caste themselves before birth. Therefore I can be as mean as I want to them, and not help them, because they are learning the lessons they need to learn, that they chose to learn. My religion justifies my bigotry.

It is an evil concept.

3. Healthcare is not a constitutional right

This was drilled into our heads from WW2 on: The communists are evil! The communists are atheists. The communists provide free housing, education and healthcare. Everybody is assigned a job. You have no freedom, all services are hopelessly inefficient, and everyone is dirt poor. Socialism is just communism in disguise.

Europe, Australia and Canada went another direction: mild socialism mixed with capitalism. In fact England, the powerhouse of the world economy, has socialized medicine. As does Hong Kong, and every major nation in the world, except the United States. Cuba’s lifespan is longer than that of the United States.

The richest people in the USA now live 15 years longer than the poorest people. 

Nothing can stand in the way of big pharmaceutical companies and big hospitals in the United States. Yes, the United States generates most of the advancements in medicine, but only the rich can afford to take advantage of these advancements. About one third of people in the United States have employers who supply medical insurance.

Someone called the police on my son when he was 15 years old because he was acting strangely after a concert. The police called an ambulance. We didn’t have medical insurance, so it cost us $1200, without our permission. Today it would be closer to $3,000 for an ambulance ride and 4 hours in the Emergency Room. We earned too much to qualify for Medicaid, and not enough to pay for our own health insurance. Medical insurance now costs $1040 per month for a family of 4 in the New England states, for 72% coverage. That cost is equal to $6.15 per hour for one full time worker.

4. Helping the poor should be done individually

Churches love to help one family, then brag about it endlessly., then ignore all the other poor people.

An unemployed relative in a congregation during the last recession was told to get a pizza delivery job, or a gas station job. He applied for those jobs and was told in a roundabout way that he was too old, and maybe too overweight. He lost his house and his retirement savings. He will never believe the church again. Nothing they say is real to him. Normally employed people who go through losing their house generally drop out of church after not receiving much help. So evangelicals can go to church with a clear conscience: nobody at church is in need. (Just like in the previous generation, anyone who went through a divorce, dropped out of church, and everyone could say, “Nobody at my church is divorced!”)

Man Looking At Job AdsMost unemployed people can stay positive for about 6 weeks. After that they give up. Giving up takes several forms, all of which become excuses the evangelical church uses to not help them.

Yes, helping the poor is frustrating. That is why most of the world has delegated this responsibility to the government, however inefficient the government is.

Evangelicals go every Sunday to church and hear how Christians are not to be selfish, then go home and vote as selfishly as they possibly can vote: no help for the poor, no help for the sick. Politics is all about one’s faith, or lack thereof.

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Scriptures Jesus Did Not Quote From

Jesus, as a Messiah for the Jews of Judea and Galilee, followed in the footsteps of several Messiahs. Some extremely brave leaders are recorded in the Apocrypha (the books of the Catholic Bible that were written during the 400 years between Malachi and Matthew). Jesus could have followed in their footsteps and led armed rebellions.

The Roman Empire had conquered Jerusalem 60 years before Christ was born. Because the Jews had such a strong cohesive identity, they were less cooperative with the Roman occupation, so the Roman Empire became increasingly harsh, until the Jews seethed under the Roman oppression.

There were several responses to the Roman occupation:

calling-of-matthew-by-hendrik-terbrugghen

The Calling of Matthew the Tax Collector by Hendrik Terbrugghen

1. Cooperate with the Romans. The Roman governor deposed the high priest and appointed their own choice of high priest. Most of the wealthy Jews cooperated with Rome. Matthew is an example of someone who obtained a job as a tax collector, collecting taxes for Rome.

 

2. Rebel against the occupation. Judas was called the Zealot, because he belonged to a political group that believed in guerrilla warfare and assassinations to throw off the Roman yoke.

3. Toleration. Most Jews hated the Romans, but cooperated because they had little choice, and did not want to stick their necks out and suffer a cruel death. Rome’s favorite method of punishment was crucifixion, of which about 3,000 had been performed in Judea on the Jews.

4. Messiahs kept popping up. Most of them raising guerrilla armies. These movements were quickly quashed by killing the leader. 30 years after Jesus died the first major war against the Romans erupted, resulting in the utter destruction of the temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

What is interesting is that Jesus appears in the middle of these Messiahs, yet he has a decidedly different approach to rebellion against Rome. (See Walter Wink‘s writings, and Reza Aslan)

Jesus preached paying taxes to Rome, and even over-cooperating with foot soldiers who compelled a traveler to carry his 70 lb backpack a mile (when by law soldiers were only allowed to compel half a mile from a passerby).

However, Jesus did not preach about throwing off the yoke, vanquishing one’s enemy, nor did he try to raise an army or advocate assassinations.

Why not? Jesus had plenty of scriptures to go to that would have justified him in raising an army, and appealing to Yahweh to win over their oppressors. Gideon comes to mind, who was commanded by God to send the frightened soldiers home, and then to take only the ones who lapped the water in readiness for war. Finally with only 300 soldiers he conquers the Midianites in the dark of night with torches and trumpets, the Midianites slaughtering themselves in their confusion.

No, Jesus did not appeal to Gideon, nor to King David’s victories, or even to Joshua conquering the land of Canaan. No, Jesus went so far as to discourage his disciples from picking up weapons to throw off the Roman oppression. “If you live by the sword, you shall die by the sword.” Which in today’s language could be translated: “If you live by the bomb, you shall die by the bomb.”

Walter Wink

Walter Wink

Jesus has a very different message. Walter Wink says He ignores Rome. They are not important to him at all. He hardly mentions them at all.

Instead Jesus talks about a kingdom that reigns in the hearts of human beings, a kingdom built on loving one’s enemies.

My point is that if you asked Jesus if the entire [Old Testament] scriptures were inspired by God, each and every word equally accurate and valuable, Jesus would have said, No. We can see this in the verses and stories he chose to refer to, and especially in the stories he chose not to use in his lessons. Jesus had a different message from the [Old Testament] scriptures, and he chose very carefully which pieces to glean from the Scriptures, and which pieces to leave behind.

We should follow Jesus’ example and do the same today. We should take the core values that Jesus taught us, and leave behind the passages of the Old and New Testaments that seem to reinforce cultural harshness and inequality. We need to move forward as Jesus did, bravely teaching a new kingdom.

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