Whether you seek it consciously or not, truth will seize only a few at a time.
That’s pretty much the meaning of the twin parables of the Found Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13:44-46). The other point is that you typically have to shed a lot of dead weight in favor of embracing the truth. The most valuable truths often demand a radical departure from the past.
It’s not a question here of which truth, but something you simply cannot escape. The Army guard who converts to Islam after seeing how the Gitmo inmates cling to their Islamic faith has discovered a great treasure. So far as I know, Holdbrooks the only one talking about it out of all the guards who’ve worked at Gitmo. The point is too many people never think about it in the first place.
Lesser truths are still worthy of pursuit if only because they could help move you in the right direction. Then again, it may lead to some of the most frivolous stuff. So long as it’s offered as fluff — plenty of my blog posts are just that — that’s fine. Such is the conversation of humans who don’t feel threatened by anything significant. Trying to make it sound important, and getting others to take the discussion seriously, is a little disturbing. The bikini-or-not question made a big splash on my FB page through linkage with a friend. None of those discussing it are likely amenable to my input, since I have embraced one of those shockingly different treasuries of truth.
Wanna stop men staring out you, babes? Don’t go swimming in public places. A slinky one-piece is still exposing way too much if you are shapely, and way too much in another way if you aren’t. Ripping away Western social assumptions offers a totally different response, because it’s a totally different morality. And virtually no Western Christian realizes that the morality of Jesus is at least superficially much closer to that of Islam than anything they might imagine. That’s because when it comes to the broader question of human sexuality, Islam shares a broad common assumption with Ancient Hebrew beliefs — and with reality itself, if you ask me. I won’t miss Western Civ when it finally passes away.
My whole life long, I’ve been torn between searching and bumbling. Sometimes I stumbled along, poking at the earth for things I never understood. At other times I had a burning desire for things I hadn’t seen. The truth for me, the understanding that offered peace and sanity in a crazy warring world, was some of both. It didn’t arrive all at once.
Either way, if there were any real truth in Western Civilization, there would be precious few people looking for pearls or capable of recognizing treasure when they dig it up.
By lunch time the spectators began showing up.
That is, lots of cameramen scattering across the city looking for advantageous locations, lots of people in expensive suits despite the late summer heat and a few extra policemen in groups talking and pointing. Angie and Preston agreed they would now miss having their bikes. Up to this moment, things had been fine, but with so few crossing bridges and the long stretches between landmarks, the bikes could be really useful. On the other hand, this was setting up to be an even more crowded place than even the worst of normal tourist traffic.
So the next morning they put on their business casual attire and left early so they could take their time. The regular bus schedule was disrupted and they decided to simply walk back into town while it was still relatively cool. The hillside with a good view Preston had found was occupied by a cluster of photographers already setting things up and competing for the best spot. Preston pretended to do a slow panorama but only recorded while aimed at the cameramen and their activity.
At the bottom of the hill on the traffic circle stood, of all things, a shawarma cart. Angie and Preston agreed it was the perfect quick breakfast, and they weren’t alone. The river was extra busy with small motor boats all over the place. A few had cameras mounted on poles or small towers. Meanwhile, a flat bed truck was dropping temporary traffic control equipment to groups of workers and the occasional policeman. Preston and Angie decided to hide in the throng already gathering on and around the bridge.
They had plenty to do working to spot and shoot various people too well dressed for ordinary work or tourism. From time to time they would trade the cameras back and forth for one purpose or another. As the buzz of police motorcycles and patrol cars increased upriver near the gauntlet running into the Hall of Justice, they watched closely to see mostly local officials and opulent cars, but no limos. Preston and Angie worked their way slowly toward the east end of the bridge.
It was two hours before the first limo came. In the lead were the motor officers forcing serious impediments off the N95, followed by the actual motorcycle escort just in front of the oversize car, zipping along and up to the entrance of the gauntlet. Barriers were moved to allow smooth passing, and then quickly put back in place. This got the crowd’s attention and bodies everywhere surged a bit in renewed activity, yet strangely having no real effect on the actual crowding itself. Preston and Angie positioned themselves to watch the departure, which they expected to run back out heading north along the one-way street pattern because of the movable barricades on the plaza. The N95 was split: Southbound was along the water’s edge, while northbound was a block inland. The open plaza at the west end of the bridge afforded a good view from a wide range of locations. They stood against the northern bridge railing, where the southbound half of the highway ran under the bridge and along the quay on the eastern bank of the Meuse.
The first limo delayed longer than they expected at the Hall of Justice, making them wonder if their guessing was all wrong. Eventually it was led slowly past on the northbound lane as police struggled to clear the pedestrians. Preston and Angie crossed the open area to watch where the limo went. A ways down it turned right, at what should have been the long climbing N936. They decided to start moving in that direction. It was a long interval before the next limo whizzed by, so they had already begun the long climb that they had come down just two days ago. Before they managed to get as far as the small trail they had taken down from the citadel, another pair of limos passed together. Preston noted, “I have a hunch they’re parking somewhere near the citadel.” So when they came to the path climbing up through the woods, it seemed a natural choice.
They stopped where the path turned to give them a clear view across the open field, leaving them still rather obscured in the woods. A couple of batches of hikers passed, one group in each direction. The limos came into view just seconds later, heading down the drive to the citadel parking area. Preston backed up a bit and found a track running through the woods, keeping them in the treeline while winding around to the backside of the parking lot. They eventually got where they could see that the police had cordoned off the section of the gravel parking area just along the trees. The limos were being lined up rather like a funeral cortege. They decided to continue watching from the woods for awhile, recording video of the activity around the big cars.
“It’s Gordy!” Preston exclaimed in a loud whisper.
“Who is Gordy?”
They both kept their eyes and cameras trained on the activity. “Gordon J. Bishop. Back when I was in the military, we had a cluster of serious college basketball fans in my unit. There was one player the mentioned who had enough size and strength, and pretty athletic, too, but he never seemed to find his niche. For a few games he was a busy guard, the next a hatchet man…” Angie could see a dark-skinned man considerably taller than the others people milling around the limos. “Among the players, he was only average height, still pretty tall, though. He was drafted kind of low, didn’t adjust well to the pros, and finally ended up playing on some team here in Belgium.”
One of the odd things to Americans visiting Belgium was the Wallonian obsession with basketball. Every tiny village had at least one basketball goal mounted somewhere in an open area. There was as much basketball as there was soccer. Somewhere out around Spa in the Ardennes, Preston once stumbled on a tiny hilltop village where the central open plaza was one big circle. Around the whole perimeter were at least a dozen basketball goals, and some of them seemed busy almost any time of the year. At some point, the Belgian professional ball clubs began drafting pro players from the US who couldn’t make the cut back home. For awhile it was so common that the English-speaking international schools in Belgium always had a few kids whose dads were professional basketball players from America.
Preston explained, “Apparently he never really got comfortable playing here, either. He dropped off the radar. He always was a thug; he’d make the perfect fixer.”
“What’s a fixer? Not a repairman of any kind, I assume. Is he a bodyguard?” Angie asked.
“No, more like chief thug. It’s not so much doing physical violence as threatening it, along with other ugly consequences. They take a high paycheck for the high probability of being arrested on a regular basis, keeping their boss out of trouble. It keeps the lawyers busy, too, but remains an essential part of dirty business.”
They held their location in the trees until sometime after two dozen limos had pulled into two lines and things slowed down a bit. Angie was looking through the back of the small camera at the activity off to the right, near the gate leading into the citadel, when Preston said, “Uh-oh.”
She lowered the camera and turned to see someone walking straight toward their position. At about the same time, there was some noise off to their left from the direction they came. They quickly stuffed their cameras into their fanny packs and started looking for a way of escape. It was pretty thick underbrush to the right and behind, but they began pushing that way. The bluff wasn’t quite so terribly steep here and Preston whispered something about avoiding any ledges. Part of the rock formation formed a wall that forced them down-slope. Somehow, they ended up facing a fence about three meters above the street, but somewhat close to the roof of a building. It was ancient stonework, and Preston guessed it was one of the shrines, squeezed between a business and the sheer stone bluff.
The noise in the brush above them continued, though no pursuit was yet visible. “We’re out of options, Babe.” Preston climbed the chain-link fence and lowered himself down to the clay tiled roof. Angie came right behind him. They clambered down the slope and Preston took advantage of the wire mesh tightly clinging to the rock face, designed to prevent loose rocks from falling. He engaged in a little impromptu assisted rock climbing to get down. Angie was a good bit better at it. While a few onlookers in the open square there expressed a little surprise, no one seemed too excited. That is, except for the sound of cursing voices above and still out of sight.
Still, the adventure had roughed up their hands, and Preston began digging for their little first aid kit as they walked quickly away across the busy square and past the Sicilian cafe they had enjoyed just the other day. Next to it was a narrow cut between the buildings, which led them back down to the busy quayside. They were daubing antiseptic on their cuts as they walked.
“That’s enough adventure for one day. Let’s go back to our dark lair, Babe,” Preston suggested as if bored. Once across the bridge, they stopped just long enough to grab some carryout from a friture and hurried up the hill, across the tracks, followed by a sharp right up the hill toward the boarding school. The long hike back was uneventful.
“We need to remember to carry gloves,” Angie said looking at her hands. Preston’s were worse because the same amount of skin bore a heavier load on his hands.
Nothing is more comical than someone singing the praises of Western Civilization, when they evaluate it wholly from within Western values.
Who would be surprised that Western Civilization is good at giving us what Western Civilization wants in the first place? The critical error here is having so thoroughly internalized Western values as to be utterly incapable of recognizing any other value system at all. Brothers and Sisters, the Bible does not promote Western values. Westerners who read the Bible typically get just about everything in the Bible wrong. Jesus saves their souls and takes them to Heaven despite their lifelong battle to avoid obeying the Spirit.
More spiritual is not the same as more cerebral. Failure to grasp the difference is the very nature of the Fall. At the same time, spiritual need not be anti-cerebral, nor mysterious and impractical.
The Fall did not change the nature of mankind. It did not darken the intellect; it placed the intellect in charge where it was never competent in the first place. Adam and Eve before the Fall suffered the same physical appetites and emotions, and had the same grade of intellect everyone has today. But they had living spirits.
Eden was not and is not somewhere on this plane of existence, either. Scripture offers parabolic language when description is not possible. Above this realm are multiple layers of higher existence. They are all on the other side of the boundary of time and space, but the difference is impossible to describe. The Fall drove us out of whatever place Adam and Eve occupied into a far lower place, because they were not fit to live where they had been. Eden as a private garden is parable, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real; it just can’t be explained in human terms. God could not allow humanity to occupy that higher realm if they were going to forsake the necessary submission to His Spirit rule.
The Fall was disconnecting from the Spirit Realm, and killing the human spirit. It created a barrier between our minds and God. To choose logic as your rule, your executive function, is to shut out the Spirit-spirit communion for which we were designed. God never intended for us to make those life and death decisions without His direct leading input. He created us to be ruled by the Spirit-spirit communion. The intellect was granted as the practical means of implementing the executive decisions in spirit. It was never designed to rule.
This altered situation called for a merciful means to re-enter Heaven on any of the various levels there. Children are unable to choose placing their logic on the throne of the soul because their logic is not fully developed until somewhere around age eight or nine. Such children who die end up on some level of Heaven for something only God understands, but rather like a return to Eden, the place of innocence and innocents. So much is deduction because Scripture never says directly what’s going on with that. Those who do reach the capability for logic invariably place it upon the throne, however much the logic may be muddled with appetite.
Paul warns in Romans 5 the issue is not a formal declaration of Law Covenants. He notes people suffered from sin between Adam and Moses without the Law of Moses. That’s because while human failures are defined by transgression against revealed moral law, the problem is death was welcomed regardless of Adam’s and Eve’s failure to comprehend the consequences of their choice. The Law does define sin, but that wasn’t the purpose of the Law. God gave the Law to define the recovery process, to explain how one could begin receiving the Flaming Sword at the gate of Eden, to kill the sinful flesh and get it off the throne.
God giving His Laws was mercy. Later in that same Roman letter, Paul bluntly says the flesh, which includes the intellect, is incapable of obeying the Laws. The mind is utterly convinced it can handle the job, but even if you teach the mind all it can possibly know about God’s moral Law, even by making the mind adopt the Hebrew intellectual outlook and mysticism, it still lacks the power to act on what it knows. That’s because, in clinical terms, the human will is actually stronger than the intellect. The human will was meant to tie itself directly in faith to the spirit alive with God’s Spirit. Because it is by default dead, the will is unable to act in the soul’s best interest. It has no real power, because the intellect is not enough.
You cannot make the flesh obey the mind. A precious few exceptional individuals may somehow overpower the flesh in some ways, but the vast majority of humanity is simply unable to come even close. It’s not a failure of logic or self-control; self-control does not exist. It’s a myth. We use it as a figure of speech for something we wish we had, but in terms of clinical reality, there is no self-control without the power of the Spirit.
We are fallen. God revealed how to deal with this, and His revelation provides a broad safety net for all of humanity. If you have monumental self-control, good for you. If your spirit is alive and you use His power, great! Stop trying to run your life and simply obey by His power. But for the mass of humanity, all the blessings in this world God could possibly offer, including the necessity of repentance, are tied up in the Laws He designed for the bulk of humanity. One of the blessings He offered to His people, those who are now Spirit-born, is the faint hope of a decent life here while we await His hand taking us home. It is not available within Western Civilization because it requires a lifestyle of supporting each other in very close proximity as an extended family household. We don’t pretend to stand alone.
Our Western culture holds forth this grand vision of logic-based self-control. It’s a lie. All the knowledge and intellect in the world won’t do a damned bit of good if you don’t have power from somewhere. For most people, their entire range of self-control is a mere construct of the culture in which they live. They think they have self-control when it’s nothing more than conformance to environmental pressures. They see a profit and loss proposition and buy into it.
And it’s not according to God’s Word.
So in the end, we have precious few with any significant level of self-control and a whole host of folks with lesser amounts, tapering off toward the bottom with those who profess none. While our culture proclaims the greatness of self-control, it promotes in the very same instant all the wallowing weaknesses of the flesh.
I’m going to pick on the bugbear so popular in our world today: child sexual molestation. It’s built into our culture. Our fear of death and idolizing of youth mixed with “get it while you can” creates a tinderbox of sexual desire for children. It’s not abnormal in our Western society. It’s the paradox that the one thing parents fear most is the one thing that fear is most likely to produce. The more frantic your fear, the more likely it is to happen. It’s simply not openly admitted that we promote it. Ever notice how we sexualize our little girls with flirty clothing and cosmetics? What we consider today “cute” and minimal is shockingly risque compared to just a few years ago. So the child molester is simply being honest and giving in to what the whole world tells him he wants.
And do you imagine the primary consumers of child sexual abuse are not those in the very centers of political power? The only people who get put in jail are those who haven’t been given permission to do the molesting our national leaders get away with. Every “criminal vice” is just the same.
The means to prevention is not crazier laws and heavier penalties that will never be applied to the biggest criminals who commit these awful acts. The means to protecting your little girl from seduction and rape is to create a society consistent with God’s Laws. Our current open democratic social structure is not in accordance with our human potential. It is based on a mythology of self-control that does not exist, cannot exist and never will (among other flaws). The single most effective means of leveraging restraint is not to be found anywhere in Western Civilization, which has proven itself implacably hostile to God’s revelation. The only means for leveraging appropriate restraint, the only hope we have of keeping the wolf from our door on vice, is the rather closed tribal society of the Ancient Near East.
The church was meant to rekindle and recreate that very social structure as much as possible. It won’t matter much what your grand logic says are inherent weaknesses in that ancient system. What you have today is significantly worse and cannot possibly ever work.
Western Civilization cannot last much longer, not because it hasn’t been tried, but because it never could have worked in the first place.
Mysticism comes naturally for me.
It was no great struggle to adopt the idea that material wealth isn’t that important; most of my life was in poverty. It’s not sour grapes, just a different experience. When you spend so much of your time doing without, you realize what most people consider essential to life, isn’t essential. From there, it’s just a short hop to realizing life itself isn’t that essential. Thus, I say that in Scripture, life or death is just a circumstance.
You’ll notice it hardly affected my education. As with all humans, I have gaps because it’s a simple matter of exposure. At the critical time when I needed it, the school I attended taught phonics. At the critical time I could have learned it, I didn’t get very far with parts of speech. I learned grammar by feel, largely through reading so very many books up through middle adulthood. Somewhere around age 7 I discovered the power of reading as the means to exploring my world. What got me through the rest of my education wasn’t such marvelously precise grammar but a native language talent for which I cannot take credit.
Most of the lower classes understand far better than their superiors would allow. The educated poor are simply incomprehensible to the middlings. What we understand is that we can choose to be whatever comes in the package with middle class status, or remain in poverty and do what we like. Perhaps through exceptional artistry we can bulldoze through the middle class society because we have something they simply must have but cannot produce. It doesn’t happen often. But what shocks most people is the depth to which that different experience can change your perception of things.
Hostility is not at all necessary. Particularly when your poverty and education lead you to mysticism. I’m not hostile to the middle class, though I can regale you for hours with tales of their hostility to me and my kind. I won’t. The point is not what I’ve suffered, but what they suffer. A solid historical study of the rise of the middle class from the ashes of feudalism in Europe is so very informative. The middlings are the ones who burned it down. You discover the hideous materialism of Puritan religion, and how it is directly linked to the Pharisaism Jesus faced. And it’s no mystery where Charismatic name-it-and-claim-it religion comes from. The very assumption of the middle class lifestyle is the utter necessity and primacy of worldly possessions. Mammon is the god of the middle class, inescapably. All their self-professed virtues are deeply stained by it.
The endless pretense of being upper class in wealth without the social and cultural refinements is a huge blind spot. The original burgers at the end of the Middle Ages were desperate for the respect given nobility, and pretense is so very fundamental to their existence. This is easily the single greatest break between myself and the sizable collection of libertarians among the politically active middle class. They consider me a brother in arms so long as I don’t promote freedoms beyond the barricades of their narrow brand of American middle class liberties.
There is nothing sacred about dressing just so and behaving according to their social dictates. Nor is it particularly noble, but you can’t get that past their internal censorship. They see a threat in so very many things the lower classes really do like. The biggest stumbling block is contentious issue of “saving for a rainy day.” In the lower classes, rain or sunshine are mere circumstance, as with death and taxes. It’s simply part of what we face, and getting wet means nothing more than a few extra minutes here and there accommodating what it does to us. Nor is it merely the vagaries of weather, but the broader symbolism that goes with the popular phrase. We aren’t that interested in tomorrow because today wasn’t so wonderful, at least where it concerns material possessions. We are wise enough to recognize tomorrow is ruled by people who won’t let us enjoy life. It takes all we have to make it today, so saving for tomorrow is utterly meaningless.
Instead, if we can’t consume it ourselves — and we’ll try — we give it away to someone else like us who didn’t get their share. We fully expect to work until we die, and die working or begging. Begging is harder work than you imagine, wading through the stiff current of social resistance. Some of us would rather starve. Indeed, we’d rather starve than live in the world of the middle class. There is a lot of work we could do, but won’t because it’s just morally wrong. We see where the whole thing leads to a hideous, empty life of chasing things we don’t miss. Especially when the boss demands we think and say what he believes, in violent assault on our freedom of conscience. Your brand of help is a slavery too degrading to accept.
The American middle class and their virtues are no more representative of Jesus Christ than would be whales in the ocean or birds in the sky. Changing the particular mixture of minor points of virtue doesn’t change the underlying falsehood of things. You don’t like sagging pants and tattoos? Don’t look at us. Turn away; we’ll deal with that. You want to know why the suburban white kids are adopting prison gang habits? Because your social structure has made it impossible for their creativity to rise in any other way. You mean you didn’t realize you were putting such a very high portion of the lower classes in prison for no real harm, such that you have scooped up the whole of our random sprinkling of geniuses, too? Never mind your tastes compared to that of others; the suburbanites ape the prisoners because the prisoners have created a vivid alternative society, and you have forced them to be hostile to yours. That faux prison gang lifestyle is now the future, because you refused to capture the geniuses of tomorrow.
Do you think we look longingly at your fancy cars and houses? Some do, no doubt, but by no means all of us. That we don’t own a suit and tie is not an abomination to God. The only leverage you have for enforcing your dress code is not letting us work for you at your oh-so-important job. Whoop-de-doo. Meanwhile, if we can find a way to get what we really have to have by exercising our free market talents that you don’t understand, we’ll do that.
Sometime back around the middle of the previous century, a businessman with a good heart built a mattress factory in the area where the Ponca Indians lived in Oklahoma. It was the real deal, and he expected to bring prosperity and good paying jobs to them. Lord knows, they needed it. So he hired just about any Ponca who came to work. They worked until the first pay day, then disappeared for awhile. Yes, sometimes they got drunk, but that was merely a symptom of something much more important. The natives weren’t acquisitive. That is a heresy for the middle class. The men did really good quality work and turned out some really fine mattresses at lower wages than most white men would tolerate, but when they had enough for their basic needs of life, they had better things to do. It’s not a failure of work ethic; they did other work that paid little or nothing, but was the work they normally did. It was failure of greed.
You’d be surprised how much Indian blood there is among the poor whites of Oklahoma, including yours truly. Not just shared DNA, but their culture is a pure and easily identified version of what all the lower classes tend to share. We are the superstitious barbarians who find it easier to follow Jesus because we recognize things in His teachings to which you are utterly and adamantly opposed. Yes, there are plenty of predators among, same as with you. Ours share more with the middle class than the rest of us do. They want middle class stuff, but on their own terms. Instead of picking up on what the middle class say they do, the predators copy what the middle class did to them. The willingness to buy influence in politics is a classic symptom of the middle class; it’s how they got their original political leverage against the nobility of the Middle Ages.
Class envy and resentment didn’t originate with us. We learned it from you.
It’s hard to explain, but at the expense of oversimplifying it goes like this: The nobility once had access to wealth as a privilege of their position. They kept the rules and the means to enforce those rules. In the broader sense, the rules included a high degree of intellectual refinement, if unevenly applied. It was wrong for nobles to assume only noble blood could be intelligent, so this blind spot left them open to a subtle attack. They assumed no peasant was smart enough to pull any tricks, but a few ambitious and intelligent peasants took unholy umbrage at the system and vengefully attacked it. Instead of direct force of arms, they conquered the existing ruling class by other means. Still, the fundamental driving force was pure greed, not something easily found among the nobility. The latter weren’t greedy because they already had all the power and wealth, but they were arrogant. The middle class resentment of privilege and wealth, as is so very fundamental to the Puritan doctrine, made noble wealth an insult to God in their minds. Those nasty nobles didn’t “work” for their wealth, so it wasn’t possible for God to want them wealthy. It was some vast conspiracy of the Devil, and the burghers used good old Gramscian economic guerrilla warfare to take it all away. Communism is just as materialist as it’s primary ideological enemy.
The fundamental assumptions of the Enlightenment only half caught on with the burghers. They were somewhat educated, but could not tolerate the freedom of the lower classes. They didn’t depart from the nobles in their arrogance about lesser folk. Virtually the entire gamut of “quality of life” legislation, and almost the entire range of police activity today, is a direct reflection of the middle class spitefulness against other folks. Having worked in law enforcement, I can assure you the vast bulk of “crime fighting” has nothing to do with fighting genuine harm. The entire profession of civil policeman is a creation of the middle class. They enforce laws only the middle class care about. It was the middle class who realized the ability to dominate voting, so they demanded popular vote as the means to ruling society, with certain disenfranchisements, of course. Any other means to organizing government is anathema. Democratic government is holy, and only a child of Satan could wish any other form of government. Lip service to the rights of the minority didn’t last long in history, as we all know.
Aside from the rare reminders such as this one I write this morning, it’s not worth the trouble to explain our alternative viewpoint to the professional libertarians or other branches of middle class political philosophy. It’s all the same to those of us on the bottom, because it’s just an excuse to stomp on us for daring to think differently about every day life. I’m not in love with poverty any more than I care much about prosperity. It’s just a tool for things far more important than fleshly comfort or even this whole existence in the first place. There is no particular virtue in raising the common welfare through material progress. I know; shocking to say it, but there more important things. I won’t name names, but some really big shots have praised some of my other articles on this blog, but they’ll never read this one. If they do, they’ll be blind to how completely it applies to them.
Keep your freakin’ suit and tie and your material prosperity; you simply do not understand.
They didn’t yet know where the breaking house was, and finding it wouldn’t be simple.
Asking questions would likely cause the mission to abort and utterly fail to identify the carriers. They needed to catch the traffic bringing the kids into the area. Some part of them wasn’t too eager to know right away. It would have been too painful to think about what was going on inside and too tempting to act rashly and to no good purpose. First, they needed to survey the situation in terms of traffic flow.
They had already seen the main highway running east of there across Germany all the way to Düsseldorf. It would have been less than hour’s drive in light traffic. This highway ran along the north side of the old RAF Bruggen, now Javelin Barracks, where the old Dutch guard had told Preston was some portion of the MPs and civilian administrators that had been at Schinnen. From dim memories, Preston recalled there were small NATO installations all over that part of Germany, over a dozen within a short distance either side of that corridor.
Military traffic must be still exceedingly common in that area. He would be surprised if a significant portion of the personnel at Javelin didn’t live right here on this side of the border.
They got their gear set up and made themselves comfortable. The initial ride out from Heerlen was only about thirty kilometers on rather flat terrain, though with a significant load. Preston always carried the lion’s share, but Angie insisted on doing her part. Once the bikes were unloaded, they removed all but the main rear racks. They would need to go shopping at a minimum, and put light saddle bags on each bike. It was time to get a first feel for this ancient city.
But the ancient city had seen a lot of new construction. Preston noticed the standard online mapping services weren’t always up to date. As they headed west from the manor, they discovered the new north-south highway had cut off several ancient paths running east and west. They agreed this was different from what they had seen in most of Europe, where new construction accommodated existing routes, even old walking and hiking paths. Here, they were simply cut in two.
On the other hand, once they went around north to a major route that did cross the new highway, they found a brand new and very large shopping center. Even with the longer routing, this was much closer than running all the way into the ancient city center where the other stores were.
Still, they had wanted to do a bit of investigative sightseeing, especially some of the barge havens. They started on the northern edge of what they took to be Roermond’s sphere of influence, taking pictures rather frequently.
Some of the havens were clearly industrial and they found a few places where houseboats moored. Yet it seemed the majority were crowded with private pleasure boats; easily half were various kinds of sailing craft. After taking the highway partway across the Maas simply to see it all from elevated position, they turned and headed back down into the old part of city just south of there. Along a very old canal, they stopped for lunch at one of the sidewalk cafes.
The pedestrian traffic was quite heavy, plus dozens of bicycles, a great many parked alongside buildings. Almost all of the bikes were the standard commuter models; their mountain bikes stood out. They decided to chain them to a heavy steel barrier protecting one of the few trees that stood in one of the rare parking areas, taking a small table nearby.
After finishing their meals, they decided to vacate their table for some other customers and picked their way across the busy street to the railing along the old canal. Seeing a stairway leading down close to the water, they descended to the ancient stone dock seldom used these days. At the bottom of the steps they passed a man sitting on the last step, smoking a pipe. Were it not for the fine aromatic smell, they might not have paid him any attention. He was very dark-skinned with Asian features; Preston guessed he was Sri Lanken.
They stepped away to the middle of the dock and were chatting about what they could see. It was readily apparent there wouldn’t have been too many options for moving a bunch of kids through any of the normal havens and they wondered how it would been done. They began lining up camera angles.
This was the time of year one might overhear any number of different languages spoken among tourists on the streets. Apparently the pipe-smoker overheard their conversation and understood it. He approached, and Preston noticed the pipe aroma barely hid a strong body odor. This was not uncommon in Europe in the first place, and frankly more so among those from Asian countries. Preston thought the man might actually be living on the streets, because he wore more clothing than even most Asians might for a northern climate, since it was nearly the heat of summer. So while a part of him dreaded the possibility of enduring panhandling, the man addressed their conversation itself.
“You know, up the Roer from the Maas are several places where a skiff could easily be pulled up to a paved boat ramp, right next to major streets. If the freight can be moved easily enough, it would be nothing to smuggle just about anything into these parts, especially under the cover of darkness.” His accent was surprisingly faint, but carried a hint of the Central Asian sound Preston expected.
Angie was too surprised to speak, simply pulling her red locks away from her face where the wind had blown them. Preston decided to humor the man. “You make it sound like you’ve seen it done a few times,” he suggested with a grin.
“Done it,” the man said proudly. “But not recently, and I never trafficked in humans. The damned Euro ruined the smuggling business for me.”
Preston countered, “I’m a little surprised you would be so open about it.”
The man grinned. “Police here don’t use American informants, especially real professional photographers like yourselves. You might be private investigators or reporters, but not police.” It was obvious the man was quite observant and had seen a lot.
Preston decided to play along. “Okay, so we were curious about reports of human trafficking in the area. Want to say anything about it?”
“They ain’t coming off the river these days. Business has been pretty slow these days because Nijmegen has been pretty busy checking everything, not just for children. When cops start looking for something, they’ll be glad to arrest you for just about anything else they can find on general principle of not coming away empty-handed.” The old man’s pipe burned out and he began cleaning it with some small tool he took from a pocket. “That’s about the last of good cheap tobacco I was getting.”
Preston had seen the prices of the highly taxed tobacco in the Netherlands. Most of it was better quality than Americans usually got, but it wasn’t subsidized like coffee. Dutch coffee was the best in the world, and had always been less expensive than the American stuff. Starbucks offered expensive mud compared to what Preston had sampled here in almost every ordinary cafe or snack bar.
Preston had a sudden idea. “In your experience, what would be the best way to transport something so the police would ignore it?”
“Get some other cops to move it for you. They don’t mess with each other.” The old man grinned, then turned slowly and walked away.
They packed that evening and left before dawn the next morning.
Their hosts at the orchard insisted on Preston and Angie take the camping equipment with them. They spoke unconvincingly of letting them return the gear later. Preston had already found a mountain bike for Angie to match the one he picked up in Margraten. Then he had the mountain bikes fitted with quick-release racks for carrying the baggage. It made them ride differently, but where they were headed it would not be an issue.
Leaving the old city center, they rode across the tracks and wound northward to catch the main route directly into Brunssum. There, it was just a short zigzag to catch the N274 past Schinveld and over the Selfkant. While there had been a good bit of traffic in the morning rush hour, the Selfkant was nearly deserted. The bike path was wide enough for them to ride abreast.
In the quiet, Preston said, “Your childhood sorrows are a very expensive but useful asset for me in all this. How much of your experience do you suppose overlaps what these kids are going through?”
Angie reached over and gently grabbed Preston’s handlebars, slowing them both down. Preston applied the brakes, sensing something very important here. They stopped on the path, still straddling the loaded bikes.
“Preston, there is something you don’t seem to understand. You still have a very strong emotional reaction to this which is distinctly American. Despite what is published, the Dutch as a whole do not consider child-adult sex a really big deal. Right now, a person above 16 can do anything they like, even make pornography. Between 12 and 16, they can give consent to sex with anybody, and only a parent could possibly complain. Most parents do not. Some of this changed after I became adult, but this is how we do things here.”
She looked into his eyes to see his reaction, which amounted to a single raised eyebrow. “You know kids in your country do things the same way, but there is only a social pretense that it is wrong and laws very unevenly applied. Here, the pretense is much thinner, and thinning more, thanks to stuff like the Martijn Party. But I did not consent to the sex I had as a child. Had the bishop been a loving man, it would have been rather different, but he was cold to us. I seriously doubt our boss and his associates are concerned with molestation itself, but with the use of force. It’s like kidnapping and slavery. We have very powerful laws about consent, but the sex itself is another issue entirely.”
Angie thought for a moment. “I believe the social welfare system in Eastern European countries is quite different than here. It never occurred to us orphan girls to actually run away and stay gone. Even without the sexual abuse, the nuns might be rough with us at times, but the situation as a whole saw very few children fighting the system or running away. These children we are investigating are kidnapped, threatened by people with guns and beaten, maybe starved and even drugged. Whatever spirit of resistance they have dies rather quickly, and the longer the control lasts, it dies more completely. I know from relief work they often decide they belong to this life in just a few weeks. With drugs, it’s just a few days.”
Preston breathed deeply. “Yeah, the whole concept of teenager seems to have been invented in America. I have to wonder what kind of market there is for child prostitutes who are drugged. Genuine pedophiles fantasize about a semi-adult relationship, a child being childish except about this one thing. They believe they can fall in love, and maybe they do. The Dutroux Affair was more like simple prostitution, with torture and snuff films being rather a grotesque extremity. But even then, it would require the kids spend at least part of their days in more or less normal circumstances, maybe leading a double life for the ones not snuffed. I read the testimony of the most vocal victim. For her, sex had to be a game even though she didn’t like being forced to play. It’s a more voluntary game for adults. Yes, Europeans are more frank and open about sex than Americans, who are socially schizophrenic. I think I get that. But these trafficked kids are all in on this; there’s no playing for them. So I rather doubt they are being used in the same market. It would almost require a psychopathic personality to use these kids.”
Angie nodded. “Perhaps you can ask our boss sometime during this assignment. The study we read said nothing about who the customers are.”
They resumed their journey. Once they left the Brunssum area, there were virtually no changes in elevation. Most of the interior Netherlands were flat. Except where a field had been cultivated for a long time, the soil was mostly sand. This was the primary reason for choosing mountain bikes on this trip. There were frequent patches of trees, almost invariably along roads and even minor paths. A significant amount of the forestation was pine, so the sandy soil was packed with needles. The Selfkant felt like a very wide, slight hump in the terrain. Once across it, the ground remained almost entirely flat. The bike paths and field lanes used for bicycles were everywhere, in all directions.
For a time, the highway ran right along the border through villages like Konigsbosch and Echterbosch. Then they entered a tract of forest. Preston decided to cut across country on some of those lanes straight north to Saint Odelienberg. Aside from a friture hardly open that early, they didn’t see a single cafe or restaurant, so they stopped a short while on the north side of town and ate some of their packed food.
When they mounted up to ride on, they caught the N293 and promptly crossed the Roer River. It was more of a wide creek, navigable only with small boats. A short time later they passed some industrial properties and ran along the eastern edge of Melick. Where the highway bent around to the northeast, Preston began watching for an exit to the left. This was a new highway which took several hard turns around established suburbs on the southern edge of Roermond. Preston said he wanted to avoid riding the extra distance, then mentioned he wanted to see the single route into the woods they were allowed to use for the old firing range. He found the new highway had closed off their old route and stood looking across the terrain
On an impulse, he pulled out the fancy cellphone and looked at it. He had yet to try the mapping application. To his surprise, there was a text message from Gary waiting for him. It was the word “camping” followed by GPS coordinates. Preston had been planning to try several camps listed for the area, so he clicked on the coordinates in the message. The map opened and showed an address not listed in the camping guide. Instead, the map showed a very old rural manor with a moat half way around it.
He had learned not to question Gary’s messages. Cryptic, obscure and often entirely too terse, they were never wrong. Using the map displayed, he plotted a route to the place. He decided to follow a series of lanes and brick paths provided parallel to the ring road on the eastern side of the city, the A73. Where this highway began turning back west, Preston stopped to double check the maps. They were approaching the new N280 which had been built up above the surrounding terrain and could not be crossed casually. The sides were rough and fenced, with guardrails most of the way. Eventually he decided to continue a ways north to find one of the few underpasses.
This was followed by a fairly long run back down the other side of that highway. Eventually it turned left and struck out across the countryside, leaving the highway behind. About a half kilometer on, the lane ran under the cover of some trees, the promptly came to a T-crossing. Turning left, they were suddenly in front of the ancient manor. Preston double-checked the coordinates and they were right on top of them. The entrance was another hundred meters down the road, but they got a full view of some very well preserved property. On the right were four mail boxes, so they knew it was more than one single household.
By sheer luck they happened on a woman walking their direction from what looked like a barn in the background. As they moved closer to her, the trees parted enough for them to see another farm house with at least two different entrances.
Angie approached the woman and asked in Dutch if she knew anything about an arrangement for camping on the property. She asked their names. Upon mention of Forttensie, she smiled and explained how to head toward the back of the enclosure through a covered passage between two buildings. Pointing with her hands, Preston understood she referred to a place behind a tractor barn on the backside of the building on their left.
Once she was sure Angie understood, she smiled, turned and greeted Preston as “Meneer Forttensie” and walked into the largest house on their left across the small moat. They mounted their bikes and rode slowly through the stone archway where the woman indicated. To their left behind the last structure was a nice mowed grassy spot. There was a small door set in the build standing open. Preston spotted a primitive toilet inside. He stopped and took a peek in the shadowy room — a toilet and large sink typically used for washing clothes. This was better than some of the accommodations they’d seen elsewhere. Best of all, it was very private and well within riding distance of the entire city.
With lots of bike paths and other recreational features, they would be hard to pick out in a crowd.
It ain’t happening.
I keep hoping people will understand when I attack Aristotelian epistemology and European tribal mythology. I keep hoping they’ll recognize all those unconscious assumptions about life, the universe and everything. I pray that they learn the very different approach necessary to understand the Bible. More than that, it is the necessary intellectual approach to understand life, the universe and everything as God revealed it.
Apparently there are educated people out there who read my efforts and it just doesn’t happen. Somewhere between my keyboard and their brain is a short circuit. I confess it could well be I lack the writing talent, but I’m not sure what I can do about it. There are plenty of folks for whom the whole thing is simply over their heads. Scary to me is how many there are. As someone who once worked in public education, I understand all too well why there are so many like that. Public education in America is designed to make them that way. I keep praying God does something to give folks a chance to break out the intellectual bondage so they can serve Him as full participants, as shepherds instead of sheep.
It’s good we have people who recognize that the Bible is not a science book. It’s good we have a smaller number who realize the Bible is not a history book, either. Big as it is, the Bible is actually pretty minimal. It’s just barely enough for a human to begin training their intellect to obey the Spirit of God.
So if you read the Law of Moses, you understand from the narrative that it can’t possibly cover every detail of life a human is likely to encounter just in the context in which is the Law is revealed. There were lots of questions because real world situations don’t always fit the rather simple declarations of God’s Laws. The Law included provisions for selecting wiser heads and prophets to help clarify things. Moses was taught by his father-in-law not to assume he was the only one who could understand the Law. Moses and his readers were supposed to wait on God to raise up folks who could read the text and see between the lines what it was God was trying to convey, a truth about life on this fallen plane of existence.
The Hebrew mind, if it worked well at all, assumed truth was impossible to reduce to mere words. Truth was the Person of God Almighty, and our best hope was something in a written narrative could give us a clue. There is no matrix of truth the mind can plumb with logic; there is only the Person of the Living God. The mind is supposed to extrapolate based on underlying moral truths too difficult for words. Try as I might to contrast this with the Aristotelian expectation of defining an objective body of truth, I still run into people who read my stuff and demand I adhere to Aristotelian forms of expression.
There are people out there who will read this very blog post and still do that.
The Hebrew Scriptures do not address every question likely to occur in our minds. It didn’t address every question likely to occur to Ancient Hebrew minds, much less our Post-modern Western minds. A critical element is in the question: Why state the obvious? If everyone is expected to believe a certain fundamental truth, why need we mention it? So very much of Hebrew Scripture was a reaction to falsehood, not an organized attempt to catalog a full discussion of reality. For us, there are huge gaps in the Bible narrative. The purpose of putting the Old Covenant into a written form was not so you could analyze and know, but so you could obey.
It’s no different in the New Testament. There are lots of things Jesus never addressed in the Gospel narrative. Maybe He did address some of those questions in real life, but we have no record of it. Instead, we have a record of things He said and did in reaction to the concerns of the day and time of those men who wrote those narratives. Our job as scholars is to reconstruct the context of the narrative as much as we can, but surely the rest is simply resting in the Holy Spirit.
We take it as an article of faith that God would not leave us high and dry on essentials, and that the Bible must be enough. Whatever it is we really need must be there, somewhere. And it is, but if we approach with the wrong frame of mind, we are sure to get the wrong answers, because we’ll ask the wrong questions. Aristotelian minds want information for analysis, something they can harness under their human logic. Such minds presume to own the data as masters of understanding, rather than be owned by it. The Hebrew Bible calls that demand “fallen nature.” That is, the very assumption truth can be held in human intelligence is the very nature of what happened with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden eating the Forbidden Fruit — it was the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. That word “knowledge” implies one who makes executive decisions as if he were the designer. We want to see the plans for the universe on our level. God said, “Nope. That’s above your existential level.”
The Bible teaches almost nothing about the knowledge of being, and very little about doing, because it is all about morality. It teaches moral understanding.
We look back upon the record and we see a small handful of amazing people who worked from even less of that written record than we have, yet they had the most amazing depth of insight. And then they were commissioned to either write or edit the writing of more of that narrative. They weren’t necessarily brilliant linguists; some couldn’t even read or write. They were morally brilliant. Jesus was morally precocious. Such was the single distinguishing human character trait He carried — maximum human moral genius. If there is one thing on which we ought to focus our searching, it’s not rules and principles, but moral apprehension. Not formulating moral principles, but learning the moral fabric woven into Creation already as a living thing. Moral truth is a reflection of the character of God, insofar as He requires us to know Him.
A Hebrew writer would never write it like that, because writing it that way comes from a question that would not occur to him. Only by careful hindsight do we recognize that most of what Jesus said in His disputes with the Pharisees was over this very problem, in that the Pharisees were too Aristotelian. They had made a god of their logical system for understanding Moses, and it was not the logic of Moses by any means. The Pharisees insisted Moses was propositional truth (without using those words), and this was a clear departure from how the Hebrew intellect approached things up to the time when Hellenism was sold to them around 300 BC.
The Bible was intended for reading with the power of the Holy Spirit, not with the power of mere human logic. It was not intended to produce uniformity of thought and action, but unity of commitment to Jesus Christ. Don’t confuse them. The unifying power of the Spirit cannot be expressed in terms humans can understand, much less control. If you try to squeeze from Scripture a theology and practice by which you command others to obey as if unto God, you are not bringing glory to the name of Jesus Christ; you are still just another Pharisee.
So I’m obviously not a Fundamentalist at all, and not really an evangelical, though my choice of words sometimes sounds like them. And I am certainly not any kind of liberal by common definitions. I’m a Christian Mystic, an ultimate primitivist. I don’t do propositional teaching. I’ve offered here adequate explanation why not, but I’ll be glad to elucidate further, if you want it. Just ask.
Somewhere out there, someone’s going to read this and it will cross his mind to demand I answer all his questions with propositional statements. It ain’t happening.
Modern Western society suffers from a myth regarding individual liberty.
In one of my earliest papers on Hebrew thought, I noted “everyone serves someone.” It was not simply a spiritual statement but a moral principle. That is, in God’s Laws, every human is subject to some human authority on this earth. Most governing authorities are awful, but Christ expects us to be tolerant. Roman civil government was no calk-walk for Christians, but resistance as commonly understood was downright immoral. It still is. The command remains for us to do what’s right even when government is wrong. Perhaps an attempt to flee false justice is okay, but outright violent resistance is forbidden in most cases. I noted long ago you could justify violent resistance to the likes of Child Protective Services, but it might be very bad strategy.
I’ve also warned repeatedly that context is everything, and trying to apply a few choice words as if they were absolutes in all cases is downright evil. I spent a lot of time working in military justice, and it is an abomination to God. That’s because semantic parsing of precise wording in regulations is the law, and the judicial process was mostly a matter of whose parsing is more correct. Of all our allies in this world, the US is regarded as the most egregiously stupid about the precise wording of military regulations, even if it meant mandating things clearly wrong on every level of human understanding. The God of the Bible does not operate that way, and virtually nothing in the Hebrew culture came even close to that hidebound approach so utterly fundamental to military justice.
Part of the reason the military has nit-picking regulations about such silly things as how you will lace your boots is because of the underlying truculence of soldiers determined to fight everything at every opportunity. That truculence arises from the mythology of the free man crashing against an execrable insistence on a molecular level of uniformity.
Western culture is schizophrenic. Virtually the whole thing is composed of mutually antagonistic thrusts. One thing which is both deeply sacred and at the same time so routinely violated is the concept of individual liberty. It’s not a problem with “liberty” as a word, but the underlying pool of meaning. That meaning is a flagrant violation of God’s revelation. One of the three primary temptations in the Garden was the lust to be one’s own god. “Dammit; don’t tell me what to do!” On the one hand, we make a god of absolute liberty, which is a thin mask of damnable lack of accountability and responsibility. Then we pretend we can apply “sensible” limitations based on such things as Zero Aggression or various forms of social accountability. Nice theory, but it is utterly contrary to what God says about human nature.
Western man continues rejecting God’s revelation on the matter because he demands God supply detailed, precisely worded regulations. God says the very demand itself is evil. He says it in the veiled and nuanced way He says almost everything. He demands we submit to His broader personal will before we are permitted to digest the particulars. In other words, He is God, not we. Our natural Western truculence is complete failure before we start. The God who created the Hebrew intellectual culture as the channel for His revelation isn’t going to mold Himself to intellectual demands from another culture. If your approach is particularist and nit-picking, you can do anything you want, but don’t expect God to participate.
Yes, that leaves us all dangling in Fuzzy Logic Land where each of us can come up with a different idea, sometimes even conflicting interpretations, and God still works with us. The measure of holiness is not precision in application or clarity of logic, but ultimate surrender to His personal desires, even if they seem capricious and make no sense at all. The burden is on us to work it out, and the burden includes a grand layer of uncertainty. Deal with it, Creature.
The pool of reflexes we associate with liberty in Western society are mostly wrong. God says we start from the assumption of cooperating until we find, not a justification, but a necessity we do otherwise. Our Western mythology starts from the wrong basis. Everyone submits to someone — that’s a basic truth. The question is not whether but whom. When it comes to the ultimate authority to decide what is in a child’s best interest, would you prefer a secular state claiming a level of control and ownership that makes you a slave? Or would you prefer the mother, with all her flaws, have that ultimate authority? The latter envisions a society where the family household is the center of power over virtually all human activity. The former rips virtually everything from the family’s hands. Hint: The former is an abomination in God’s eyes.
A Hebrew soldier in ancient times would not look for any excuse to lace his boots in defiance of convention. His commanders would not give a rat’s patootie either way, so long as he showed up and did his duty. His commanders would not demand a high-degree of detailed control because they would find the whole thing impossible to lead into battle if they couldn’t rely on a basic level of moral accountability, a sense of duty carried by the individual soldier. And while American military literature does have lots of nice words to say about mature soldiers with a good attitude, the entire system militates against it. From a biblical perspective, an American troop is one of the lowest kinds of slave. He is not a proud warrior but a machine to be driven heedless of any possible interest in his welfare, despite words to the contrary. His “welfare” is measured in terms of monetary investment and maintenance, with a well established expiration and replacement policy.
Let me offer a single item to suggest which system is more noble: Hebrew combat leaders marched into battle at the head of their formations and were the first to strike the enemy. Modern American combat leaders are the last to get involved directly. Hebrew officers earned rank and respect by surviving in battle and doing the most damage to the enemy. I can assure you that modern battle tactics are not a valid excuse for changing the underlying moral imperatives.
Most questions and controversies of our day are answered from this frame of reference.
- Abortion: Would you rather the mother be free to choose or some government bureaucrat who hates God?
- Gay Marriage: Would you rather such questions be settled in a strong family social structure or by some civil government that hates the mere suggestion of such coherence, but prefers you all be isolated and prostrate before bureaucratic dictat?
- Private Weapons: Would you prefer a regime that basically considers all armed persons as competent assets against disorder, or an absolutist state that treats everyone as slaves?
- Pornography: Would you prefer a social structure that protects the vulnerable and only a few rare flakes with full freedom to pursue their limited access to perversion, or the tyranny of someone snooping in your underwear to make sure you don’t show anything to anyone who isn’t duly authorized for state purposes?
You either implement what God had in mind or you surrender to an oppressive system designed by Satan. There are no other options.
Those who find the current regime easy to manipulate in favor of their personal benefit are not good people. That is, the only people happy with what we have today in America are folks who spit in God’s eye. God will not sponsor the sort of craven sheeple who go along to get along and prefer to leverage their feeble morality through the secular state. Those sheeple will not comprehend what is happening to them because they are utterly blind to the moral fabric of the universe. They will sing their happy hymns and dream of a society God will never allow. If you feel a compulsion to activism, at least choose accurately to agitate for what God has said is necessary for improving life on this planet, this fallen plane.
Liberty is always within the context of reality.
The Spirit of the Lord has moved on me and I must now deliver.
I have wrangled over this with friends for a few days, making sure I had considered it from different angles. Perhaps you could consider that as the oral and written arguments before the court. That is, because I claim God has called me as prophet and elder, it is my duty to eventually render a judicial declaration. The limits to my authority (“this court”) is your conscience. If the Lord does not move you to hear my words, then those words are meaningless. If you and I do not share together the awareness of a covenant, I am just some random guy with some loud opinions. This is a critical point, an essential and unavoidable prerequisite for what follows.
Basic legal context: The Covenant of Noah is binding on all humanity, to include all human governments. All human activity is judged under that Law. The primary record of that Law in Genesis 8 & 9 leaves us with very few particulars. Rather, in typical Hebrew literary fashion, a brief statement represents a much larger common understanding. Much is presumed of the reader’s knowledge. We get some of the particulars in places like Acts 15. The Talmud presents what it calls the Seven Noachide Laws; we take that with a grain of salt because the Talmud is wholly suspect. For now, I find the list in the Talmud mostly plausible. See this study for details.
The Law of Moses comes to us as a particular implementation of Noah with several extra elements not at all applicable to the rest of humanity. What remains is the burden of reading Moses to gain some insight into how Noah works. Moses is not binding on anyone who doesn’t embrace it specifically, and the Cross made it in essence wholly voluntary. In Christ, it serves as a guide and we are all supposed to study it and abstract our own best understanding of how it applies. This is the meaning behind the passage about “rightly dividing the Word” — that passage applied specifically to the Old Testament as “the Word” of Scripture extant at the time. While you might want to confer with people who have studied it in depth, as I have, you are under no obligation to take their word for it. It is presumed you would study it in light of Jesus’ teaching along with the Apostles. The New Testament clarifies and corrects Moses. Still, you are obliged to read it all for yourself and pray for the Spirit’s enlightenment.
In that sense, hear now the Word of the Lord from this prophet and elder.
The current debate over abortion, particularly in America, is a false dichotomy. It is two lies pitted against each other. That there is some mixture of truth on both sides simply means we have to expend more verbiage explaining the truth.
Biblical Law says this: From the moment of coitus and conception, until the moment of weaning — typically marked by a ritual celebration somewhere around ages 3 to 5 — until that moment, the life of the child is entirely under the authority of the mother. She holds the principle authority from God for prospering or ending that life. In God’s Word, she is accountable first and foremost to God and His revealed Laws. Ending that child’s life must meet the justice requirements of Noah. That doesn’t give her much wiggle room, so we rightly expect killing that child is pretty hard to justify before God.
On this earth, the Bible says her accountability is first to the father of that child. Daddy also has authority to kill that baby, but he might have to fight the mama. She can resist as much as she is able. In God’s justice, daddy could theoretically execute mama for killing his baby. Normally he would take this matter before the one and only court with that authority to decide: the family elder(s). Yes, this whole thing assumes she is living under a covenant family household. Depending on how things are structured in her society, the matter of the baby’s murder can be appealed up to something akin to tribal-national level. But “national” has a meaning in the Bible not accepted by most modern people. A proper example would be taking the matter before the King of Israel as the final earthly court of appeal. I note that would have been wholly unlikely because the matter usually stops with the clan elder. That’s because the clan elder has the authority to execute the woman for murdering her baby, and King would hardly get involved. He would almost surely refuse to take case.
Where does that leave us now? The modern secular state has virtually zero authority under Noah. No, it’s not that simple, but I need to start shaking us loose from the abomination of modern political activism. Christians are playing a very dangerous game trying to use any modern civil government as leverage for much of anything. The New Testament pointedly directs Christians to settle everything they can in their own covenant courts among the church elders. (Pastors are not in on this; it’s a matter for governing elders.) Granted, civil governments tend to stick their noses in where they are not wanted, but we are supposed to avoid encouraging that imposition. The point should be made again: You cannot understand God’s justice outside the proper social structure, and the attendant governing structure, of a tribal society. Now, in Christ, the business of using blood kinship as the basis for your tribal society is unlikely, but ideal. Instead, the entire thing rests on the covenant tribe of kinship in His blood. That is, the local church body. And that local church body is entirely invalid unless it’s fundamental structure is not pretty much the tribal structure of the ancient Hebrew people. Modern corporate structures are invalid — period. Your church is your “clan.” You follow tribal customs on authority and so forth.
In a certain sense, no one has any business poking into your daily affairs unless they are related by blood or covenant. Under Noah, and by implication this applies to all Christians, no secular authority has any business poking their nose into a woman’s abortion. For the most part, she is answerable on this earth only to her family, which includes the daddy and his family, since there is the presumption she has joined his family by marriage covenant.
Christian, your yelling and screaming, trying to make your secular government outlaw abortion is itself an abomination to God. Your yelling and screaming trying to make the mother feel guilty for what an awful thing she did to that poor little baby is missing the point. If your sign says, “Your abortion kills me, too” then you are on the right track. Unfortunately, our cultural context will almost guarantee she’ll miss the point. That’s because Western secular government claims ownership of all human life, and that is simply evil. The basis for your claim against her crime is not some imaginary civil rights of the child (purely Western mythology) or some insult to the secular society at large. Your only claim against her is that baby’s murder punches a hole in your moral covering as someone who lives in geographical proximity. Otherwise, the Bible says it’s none of your business, because the Bible says she owns that child completely until weaning. She is virtually unanswerable to you; she owes you no explanation. If you have a complaint, you would take it to her clan elder. God forbids you harassing her except in the carefully structured setting of a shared covenant to which she has already agreed. If you are her friend, then use that leverage. Accosting her on the street is not simply rude; it’s immoral before God. Without that covenant link, it’s none of your business as a matter of human interaction.
Granted, our US Constitution is some horrific perversion of a covenant in a certain sense. Yes, God holds us accountable to it on a certain level. That is almost entirely outside the context for this discussion.
The way God says you should stop abortion is to dramatically change your society, to demand people live under the Covenant of Noah and grab back from civil government some 99% of its current enforcement authority. Stopping abortion means radically changing how it is people meet and have sex by instituting social controls that make it pretty hard. Better yet, you should seek God’s face and pray this government be destroyed, because we all know it will not surrender under any circumstances. That’s because the people running it are almost entirely — virtually every single individual — psychopaths already eternally damned from before the foundation of the earth.
This post is a response to some very good questions to my previous Righteous Activism.
I may misunderstand the question, but let me answer what I believe is the question and we can work from there. God as my witness, I wish it could be shorter, but I’m not smart enough to be more terse and condensed. It’s the function of pastors and elders to do whatever is possible to help people get what they need to serve the Lord.
Our brother Michael offers standard Western reasoning; he is in much good company. I couldn’t answer at all had I not spent so many years of my life wandering in the puzzling world of Western Post-Enlightenment theology. If we step outside the confining limits of that tradition, we stand in a better place to recognize the larger collection of intellectual traditions. While it’s easy to recognize a broad common stream of thinking within the whole of Western Civilization, we find a great many Westerners are encouraged to take Western thinking entirely too seriously, to so deeply identify with it as to take it personally, to be unconsciously offended when something contradicts it. I’m not saying Michael is an idiot, but his objections are very common among those who haven’t become acquainted with the differences between Western Christian traditions and something much older.
I’ve often warned that Western reasoning is built on a rejection of revelation. Christianity and faith are actually quite ill-fitting in Western traditions. Because it’s a bad fit, we end up with a host of problems manifested in the disputes and bloodshed which soaks Church History. We sense that messy history does not reflect what the Apostles gave us, but we are crippled by a lack of documentation. There are some few letters and treatises of those who directly followed the Apostles, but we sense there is some selective record-keeping at work here. Yes, I allege someone in the past destroyed some of that documentation with malicious intent, but I can’t chase that rabbit right now. But, if we take seriously the study of intellectual differences between the Hebrew people and what we have some few centuries later, we see a very huge gap, a really substantial move. I’ve tried to offer at times my best estimate of how that shift came about, and avoid reading back into it my own prejudices. I suggest most of Western Christian scholarship you’ll encounter today has not tried hard enough. That is, a great deal of Western Christian tradition still buys into the false world view, the fundamental assumptions about reality, that are not at all consistent with those who wrote the Bible. I even wrote a book trying to point out how Jesus was a Hebrew man with a viewpoint totally at variance with most of the modern Western church.
So a great deal of Western reasoning is not wrong as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. If you stay within those boundaries, revelation will never make sense. To some degree, it’s not supposed to make sense, but I believe we can come closer by moving from our Western rational tradition back to the ancient Hebrew intellectual roots. As it is, I often warn the truth of God cannot really find a home in our human understanding. It requires a separate, higher faculty in the Spirit, something which does not dwell in the conscious intellect. Our problem is the barrier between the spirit and mind, and our knee-jerk reflex to keep the mind in the driver’s seat. The mind is not competent, and where the spirit has been brought to life by God, we dare not rely on it for anything more than merely organizing our response to things mandated from the Spirit in our spirits. There must ever be a thousand unanswered questions. That was the overall meaning behind the symbol of sheol. We cannot know what’s beyond this life. Much of what I have encountered in my years of study in theology and philosophy assumes too much, trying too hard to make faith cerebral. The Hebrew intellectual traditions are truly different from that. Sometimes I still struggle with it.
The justice/injustice standard is based on obeying God’s revelation. Justice is what God says it is; it reflects His divine character. God built the Hebrew intellectual culture by His own hand as the one context fit for revelation. We are forced to assume that legacy is as close as human minds can get to His truth on this earth. By contrast to the Hebrew concept, if efficiency was part of the standard, then it’s best to die and not be here in the first place. I don’t pretend to know when God deems a child accountable in the course of human development. The Hebrew culture never nails it down beyond a nebulous comment in passing about knowing to do right from wrong. It assumes there is such a point without trying to calculate. They wouldn’t pretend to speak for God on something like that because He didn’t say, but they did notice when things got dicey dealing with a particular child. We don’t know the absolute truth of such things; all we know is what we can read in God’s revelation about what we should do about it.
Take a look at how David handled the death of his first son by Bathsheba. His sorrow was for himself and he said so, not for the child. “He cannot come to me; I must go to him.” The Hebrew understanding of reality is darker than ours. There is an overwhelming sense that this life makes no sense, nor can it. There is really nothing to accomplish — “All is vanity of vanities.” You really don’t want to be here, but God is the one who decides when it’s over. Until then, you have little choice but to obey or suffer the consequences. Even in the matter of consequences, much of it is incomprehensible. God dumps His wrath on sin and the guidelines for avoiding His wrath are ill-defined by human standards. It’s not supposed to be easy. And even if we do stand before Him relatively clean-handed by His Laws, we still have to wade through the common sorrows of all the rest of humanity. In other words, it’s very tempting to try to come up with a matrix of reasoning that ignores God’s infuriatingly fuzzy revelation and just work it all out on the human level.
So yes: Who wouldn’t choose death as soon as they could? Except, it’s not ours to choose. We are obliged to stay here and endure the sorrow until God is pleased to let us go. Could you take your own life? Sure. Suicide is not horrifying in Scripture; there are times it is the only thing left to do when a man has gone too far in miscalculating the vagaries of this life. He realizes his mistake too late to undo the damage. If your mission here is destroyed, it’s possible for you to realize it’s time to go. But there again, Hebrew culture assumes it becomes obvious that you are simply carrying out your own just death sentence, not simply because you are sad. Your pain is not reason enough; it has to be calculated with dispassion whether you sense God has said you have failed your mission. It’s all about mission and calling, not your happiness. Still, the whole question remains vague and so it must be, but I assure you our modern Western horror about suicide is not at all from Scripture. The mainstream Western Christian reaction on that question is actually from pagan European backgrounds. We have this reflex of reading our cultural assumptions and feelings back into the Hebrew people, and it’s wrong.
As Michael noted, the Hebrew Scriptures don’t present a very good view of the afterlife. Now, we do have a pretty good pile of Jewish traditions regarding what was taught but not recorded in Scripture. Unfortunately, it’s not uniformly trustworthy. Jesus rejected most of it with just a few words about “traditions of men.” But then His disciples did dredge up oral traditions from the Hebrew culture and put them in Scripture, so we have no simple standard, no good solid feel for how to handle the apparent difference between what is obvious from Hebrew Scripture and what it seems the New Testament does to clarify. We know in theory they were guided by the Holy Spirit, but we find ourselves with a sense we can’t be quite so sure from where we stand now. If we read through the Jewish traditions, we would probably seize on the wrong thing.
So I read back into Hebrew culture what Jesus said about these things, simply because He was the final revelation of what was not so clear as before. It is Jesus who says so much more about the afterlife, but we know He says it based on Hebrew assumptions. If it seems He adopts imagery from, say the Persians, and maybe a few other cultural backgrounds, it is not because He is a syncretist, but because He found a handy image people would understand. Everyone wants to ignore how the Hebrews readily borrowed from other cultures if it was a good way of expressing something far beyond words and images in the first place.
This is the biggest stumbling block of all: Hebrew language is not descriptive, but indicative. Hebrew intellectual efforts are not aimed at resolving human questions, but at providing some bit of traction for obedience. It’s impossible to overstate what a radical difference that makes when you start trying to think about things. It was always assumed you cannot understand with your mind. Jesus said parables were necessary for His teaching because the truth cannot be told, only indicated by imagery and symbols. The writer of Hebrews rather bluntly states the real world is at best only a shadowy copy of ultimate truth, in describing how Moses commanded the design of the Tabernacle as a shadowy representation of God’s throne room in Heaven. He then talks about how faith is a form of perception which fills in the blanks for the intellect: It is the substance of things we wish we could understand, but those things are rooted in another realm.
So while the Hebrew Scriptures make passing references to sheol and how death is more like sleep, it’s totally consistent to read back into it things Jesus taught. It is not consistent to read back into it anything else from any other human source. Jesus is the one who said dying in righteousness brings us into Paradise, whatever it was He meant by that word. This counters somewhat the Hebrew image of death as a place of sleep, of knowing nothing (we could burn up a lot of time chasing the inherent meaning of “knowing” in that context). And I fully agree the idea of dying and going into the torments of Hell is missing in the Hebrew Scripture. Again, Jesus brought up the idea of Hell as one of the two alternatives, the other at one point described as the Bosom of Abraham. He reveals what was incomplete in ancient Hebrew understanding. Maybe it was there but never explained, or maybe it was simply missing altogether, but Jesus completes the picture.
A major point of confusion is the Hebrew assumption of Two Realms, an understanding utterly missing from Western Civilization. We have words for it, but the matrix of understanding is missing. We end up with “eternity” meaning “time without limit” whereas the Hebrew conception is totally outside the time-space continuum. Even if I can get those words into a nice Sunday School lesson in your average mainstream evangelical church, the intellectual background is missing. There is almost no place to hang such a thought, and people unconsciously dismiss it. So it tends to come off as mythical and not real. Just listen to how people talk about eternal things and you’ll see a serious tangled mess in which the Two Realms are confused. The Law Covenants together reflect a moral regime which carries us through this fallen existence. It manifests deeper truths about things in the Spirit Realm, but by no means answers all the questions. Rather, the Laws put us on track to discover as much as any human mind can grasp about eternity.
God does not explain why He chooses some for citizenship in His Eternal Kingdom and not others. He never explains the basis for how He decides to give some spiritual life and others remain spiritually dead. He does say some part of the process is our witness, but He pointedly warns us no part of the eternal change is in any human hands at any point. We participate in revealing or manifesting His decision from before Creation — that’s how it’s presented to us. Even then, I can’t be certain I’m saying it right. Yet Paul warns nothing in humanity is capable of even wanting eternal life, but that our nature is implacably hostile to it. Whatever it is God does, it counts as a miracle totally from His initiative. There is sufficient space in Heaven for every soul born on earth since the beginning and until the end. It’s where we belong, but we won’t all get there. Scripture hints at the notion the majority will not, yet it asserts rather clearly it’s possible in some sense all could theoretically make the grade. There is no effort at all to explain why.
There is a lot of talk about the Law Covenants and how they make life better here below. We are left to recognize how that picture symbolizes something of the inexplicable spiritual reality somewhere beyond the shadowy mess we have here. All we can pin down is this: If there is anything we can do about gaining eternal citizenship, it begins with repenting under the Laws of God. The connection is not defined, merely asserted. We do understand it somewhat from the other side of things, in that we know those who come into spiritual life and the attendant awareness it grants will find the Laws winsome and irresistible, though not always fitting every occasion. The Laws taste a bit like our spiritual inheritance. The problem is our human mind getting in the way. If your spirit is dead, you don’t have much else to work with except your mind. But if the spirit is alive and aware, then it takes over and mind serves instead of ruling. That is by far the most difficult transition to make, and most of the Western church never even tries, because they are so deeply pickled in Western assumptions that there can be nothing above the intellect. Western Civilization disembowels faith before you ever get there.
In the Realm of the Spirit, a child born on this fallen plane has their citizenship in eternity. It’s our birthright under Creation. But at some point, the poison of the Fall takes hold. I don’t have the words to explain it, but the penalty of the Fall is not applied until sometime after birth and well before adulthood. There is a period of moral innocence recognized in the Law Covenants, but not explained. Killing an unborn baby sends that baby to Heaven. That reflects God’s justice. Killing them after that indefinable point risks sending them to Hell. God says that’s justice, too. It’s offensive to our Western notions, but that’s because we are pickled in the lies of Satan — AKA, Western Civilization. Can’t get your head around that? I’m not sure what I can do to help, but I’m trying. If we could choose to die in innocence, we would. But by the time we know enough to make the choice, we cannot. Why it is the innocence dies in so many people and never comes back to life in spiritual birth, I cannot say. The Bible makes no attempt to explain it, only asserts just enough for us to get a few pointers.
We aren’t allowed in on the divine counsels of such matters. We are permitted to realize our own spiritual birth, but even that is really tough. We need a lot of help from others to explain what to make of that in itself, never mind all the other particulars. What I can say is the logic of doing right to win Heaven is false logic. It results in “works righteousness” and a wealth of error and sin. The most dangerous people in the world are those logically certain of their righteousness while spiritually dead (or at least ignoring the Spirit). We see that exemplified in the Jewish persecution of the New Testament.
Confusing things considerably is how the Jews themselves had corrupted their understanding and left behind their Hebrew intellectual heritage. Scripture doesn’t document it. Oddly, the Talmudic records do document that intellectual shift, but try to justify it. The point is, that shift from Hebrew Mysticism to Western Rationalism was morally fatal, and deeply confused what little understanding of spiritual matters was possible. I know the Bible teaches us that this life is supposed to be miserable. By His mercies, we can work towards a certain measure of mitigation by observing the Law Covenants as whole. We can even abstract the underlying logic, but that underlying logic is not at all amenable to Western minds. We are not subject to something so neat and clean as a body of objective truth within our theoretical reach. We are subject to a living Person. If I could point to one heresy most seriously threatening to obeying Jesus Christ, it is the assumption God cannot defy logic, when “logic” is cast in Aristotelian terms. Aristotle went to Hell, folks. He refused to accept the message of the Old Testament and refused to repent of his sins. We know he encountered that message, yet his work reflects a clear departure from it. You cannot learn God’s ways from someone like Aristotle, nor can we pretend to somehow recast God’s revelation in Aristotle’s frame of reference. That frame of reference is behind the “traditions of men” Jesus warned about when He disputed with the Hellenized Jewish scholars of His day.
When God says something is just by His standard, it’s our job to reach for as much understanding as possible about that. Most important is not that we somehow figure it out in its essence, but only so much as need to formulate our obedience. The injustice of abortion is rejecting God’s moral standards regarding conception of life, and refusing to accept the burden of responsibility for raising that child — refusing to adhere to God’s moral standards in the first place. Sending that unborn child to Heaven is not the problem, but virtually no one involved views it that way. They dehumanize the child by making it a mass of tissue. This is pretty much the same thing as Cain killing Abel — it’s murder. It’s taking life for any reason short of God’s justice. The problem with most anti-abortion activism is focusing on the loss of the child, as if it’s somehow unjust to the child. That’s wrong. It’s a sin against themselves by refusing to take the path God prescribed, and a sin against God for rejecting His ways.
It’s not about the child, who suffers no loss. Allowing the child to live is a virtual guarantee it will end up in Hell as a sinner later in life. The question is not justice for the child. Was not Abel taken into Heaven? Didn’t Cain do him a favor? Cain sinned against the moral fabric of universe. I can’t explain why God insists we all pass through this horrible existence and then for most of us (apparently) to end up in Hell. But that’s what He has ordered, and we are damned if we argue with His plans. The sin of abortion is arguing with God.