When Are You Going To Say, “Enough!”

The other day, I was watching a special about the fall of the Berlin Wall, wherein an East German escapee said that people who have only known freedom cannot imagine what it is like to live under an oppressive government. This is quite true. However, the opposite is often the case, as well: People who only known an oppressive government cannot imagine what it is like to live under freedom.

This is quite personal to me, as my two older children are still remaining in China after my wife and I left. While they were not born in China, in many ways China is all they really know, and so to them the daily outrages that occur in that country (sometimes before their very eyes) are normal. They struggle with life, just like people everywhere else, but in addition to this they must cope with the effects of living under an utterly lawless and corrupt system that is inherently abusive and oppressive, despite whatever minor “freedoms” they might enjoy, such as the ability to download Hollywood films illegally, the ability to dump garbage in the middle of a park, or the ability to doctor milk products with plastic powder in order to fool chemical tests into saying that the watered-down milk has more calcium (and therefore, milk) than it actually contains. What makes it worse is the chorus of self-hating Americans that constantly proclaim the lie that the US is just as bad, if not worse, than China.

No it isn’t.

Not yet, anyways.

Having never really lived anywhere else, my children are essentially inured to what is going on around them, it seems. They should be eager to flee the place as soon as opportunity allows, yet somehow they are content to stay, however bewildered they might be that life in such a dysfunctional system is so difficult.

And they are not alone. China is full of people who are seemingly content, but only because they have never known anything else, and because they have been conned into believing that countries which enjoy the fruits of freedom and righteousness offer no real alternative.

Is it really right to accept such a situation as the new normal? To define-down freedom so that all it really consists of is the ability to eat (but then only sometimes, and who knows if the food is really safe?). Is this really the way God wants us to live? Or, is it that God is trying to use the situation in order to force us to make changes in our lives or even, at times, our governments?

Yesterday, while I was mulling over this question, my mind was turned to Samson, of all people.

Before Samson was born, an angel appeared to his mother and foretold his birth, saying that Samson would “take the lead in delivering the Israelites from the hands of the Philistines” (Judges 13: 5). During that time, the Philistines ruled the land, and were oppressing the Israelites. Oddly, however, Samson seemed unconcerned with this oppression and the greater geopolitical implications of Philistine rule. Samson took the lead in delivering his people, not because he was concerned about anyone else besides himself or was even striving after freedom or righteousness. Rather, the whole thing started because he was interested in a Philistine girl. The story is long and involved. The key point, however, is that it was God who orchestrated events to get Samson stirred up: “His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel” (Judges 14: 4). God wanted a champion to deliver his people, but Samson was uninterested in being a champion, so God had to poke Samson with a stick in order to accomplish his goal.

There are many people who quote Scriptures about authority in justification of doing nothing and calmly accepting whatever crap-sandwich others have given them. To them, God’s use of Samson to help destroy the Philistines must be hard to explain. After all, it says in Romans 13: 1-7 that,

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.
Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

It must be noted here that Paul is writing in general about the idea of government and about obeying the law. He is not talking about individual rulers or governments. He is not saying, for example, that Obama (or whoever the current president of the US is), is God’s man of the hour and that we have a responsibility to kowtow to him and obey him in every respect. I know, however, this this is indeed what is taught by some people. However, Paul could not have been saying that, or else we would have the absurd situation of God ordaining Hitler, Stalin, and Mao to lead their countries, and instructing Christians to obey them in every respect, even if it meant blaspheming God or murdering children.

This cannot be true. I refuse to believe that God established Hitler as the ruler of Germany, and commanded Christians to obey Hitler in every respect. Hitler was a usurper who took over his country by use of illegal means, and who ruled over a lawless regime of terror. By definition, a lawless usurper cannot be an extension of God’s authority on earth, otherwise God himself would be a lawless usurper. (Yet, ironically, the Nazis themselves used Romans 13: 1-7 in an attempt to cow Christians into supporting their regime, and because many Christians were weak-minded and were not grounded in proper theology, they went along with the travesty of Hitler’s rule.)

Instead of saying that Hitler’s rule was established by God in the sense that he was an instrument of God’s righteousness, is it more likely that God allowed to Hitler to take power because he was wanting to provoke others to take a stand and become instruments of God’s righteousness, by destroying forever everything that Hitler represented?

The people of Germany had tolerated this flirtation with anti-Semitism, paganism, tyranny, blood lust, and military glory for long enough. It was time to put it to an end. However, because the people of Germany had become inured to this unrighteousness, the unrighteousness had to be allowed to flourish and run its course until someone, somewhere was willing to to take a stand and say, “Enough! By God, enough!”, and then do whatever it took to destroy it completely. The motivations of the men who fought Hitler may not have always been pure, and they may not have always been righteous, but God used them for his righteousness to destroy what was evil.

Those who know the Bible know that God had intended to destroy the Philistines because of their unrighteousness (which including sacrificing their own children in fire), and that was one reason he brought the children of Israel into the land. However, the children of Israel did not finish the job when they arrived, and in fact succumbed to some of the very same unrighteousness that the Philistines were involved in. This is why they ended up in slavery to the Philistines. God allowed them to be enslaved and oppressed so that they would eventually become tired of the situation and return to him, and so that he would finally find someone willing to say “Enough!”, and therefore destroy the evil in the land, even if that man had the wrong motives.

There is no set rule regarding the actions of every person in every place when it comes to the tyranny of evil. Some people are called to endure. Some people are called to flee. Some people are called to prison. Some people are called to prayer. And finally, though one hopes that it will never come to that, some people are called to fight. However, no one is called to submit to the tyranny of evil, and no one is called to be a slave of man. As it says in Galatians 5: 1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

If oppression and tyranny are from God, it is only because he is trying to poke us with a stick and get us out of our stupor, to get us to return to him, to return to righteousness, and then throw off the yoke of tyranny and destroy the evil behind it.

The real problem is, sometimes it takes an awful lot of hardship before people are willing to wake up and take a stand.

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I Offended You?

I Offended You

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Nation To Obama: “We Won”

In a meeting with congressional leaders in 2009, three days after his inauguration, Barack Obama famously told GOP leaders that he was not interested in their ideas or input, and that essentially they should sit down and shut up, because “I won.” He went on to explain that “elections have consequences.” While news reports at the time tried to sugar-coat Obama’s statement, it was clear that it left Republicans who heard the remark gobsmacked. After all, they had all just won elections themselves, otherwise they would not have been in Congress.

For nearly six years Obama has attempted to rule the land based upon this premise, and has by all measures failed miserably. This is not just by conservative standards. Liberals, of all people, should feel the most betrayed by this man because of his continual prevarications, his inaction on liberal issues such as Guantanamo Bay, domestic spying, the continual wars in the Middle East, and his manifest incompetence. The only accomplishment liberals can really point to is that Obama is the first black president, something they continually remind themselves and others, as though that somehow mitigates the disaster of his presidency.

The result of Obama’s misguided rule? A country painted red.

2014 election mapThe message to Barack Obama is clear: It is time for you to sit down and shut up. The American people have won.

After all, elections have consequences.

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Obama On Mothers Who Stay Home To Raise The Kids: “That’s Not A Choice We Want Americans To Make”

Barack Obama, speaking at an event in Rhode Island yesterday:

Looking at this in the best possible light, Obama wants more money for pre-school education, and thinks it is a travesty that some people (especially women) have to stay home to help raise the kids.

Let’s be clear from the outset that raising kids always entails a financial hardship. As we have five kids, we know this personally ourselves. And, if you have children someone has to take care of them. Children cannot take care of themselves. This means even greater financial hardship, as one parent will have to stay home, or the parents will have to opt for expensive childcare. However, despite what Obama appears to believe, raising children is a privilege, and not a burden. Oh, and pre-school can be great, by the way, if the child has good teachers.

However, since pre-school is supposed to be school–not daycare, not childcare, and not an all day function–it is not a solution to the problem that Obama raises. For a real pre-school, by the time the parent gets home from dropping the child off, it is nearly time to go and pick the child back up again. This does not leave enough time for someone to even have a part-time job, much less a full-time one. So, Obama is being dishonest here. Either he is using the “horror” of having to stay home and raise kids in an attempt to get money for an unrelated program, or when he says “pre-school”, he really means “daycare”, which is at best a babysitter and at worst a warehouse for infants.

His dishonesty here is typical of him, and we could spend hours studying all of the multifaceted dimensions of this particular bit of dissimulation. However, let us return to his main statement, as we have heard this kind of sentiment before in different contexts, and none of those contexts are good. He said, “That is not a choice we want Americans to make.” Yet, this is their choice. What business does the state have in taking this choice away from them?

One comparatively recent theory of western jurisprudence holds that children, all children, are wards of the state, and that the state grants parents the right to take care of children as agents of the state, but only because it is in the state’s interest to do so. Though this idea may seem strange to people, we have heard it expressed as the rule of the land both at university and at seminary, no less. This effectively means that in the eyes of the law, parents serve only as caretakers of the children, and they serve only as the state sees fit. Thus, the state can take the children away from their parents and assign them to other caretakers if it so pleases. And, in fact, this happens in family court in the US everyday. In family court, normally a child is taken away from his parents only if suitable cause can be established (that is, the child is endangered). However, the default legal theory behind the taking of the child is that the child does not belong to the parents to begin with: The child belongs to the state, and the state grants rights to the parents that the state can take away. (This same legal theory forms the basis of mandatory childhood education, and recent fights in some states to do away with homeschooling.)

This legal theory is a recent invention, being a product of early 2oth century progressivism. It is the same legal theory that guided the communists and the Nazis, as they sought to lay claim to the children of their nations and indoctrinate them for generations to come.1 Though Obama dresses up his argument by stressing that it is a benefit to the parents, the message he conveys is loud and clear: Your children belong to us, and we do not want to give you a choice on how to raise them.

(H/t Weekly Standard)

__________

1Ironically, Hitler wanted mothers to stay home and take care of the kids: He found other ways of boosting family income and indoctrinating the kids which had nothing to do with daycare subsidies.

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Photo of The Day: Boating Down the Hozu River

boating down the Hozu River

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Photo of the Day: Train Near Ogoto Onsen

train near Ogoto Onsen

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Life As A Bridal Minister

Since returning to Japan, I have been involved in many projects to earn a living for myself and my family, and as a seminary graduate I sometimes work part-time in Japan’s bridal industry.

The bridal industry in Japan has a bad reputation because most of the people getting Christian weddings are unbelievers, as are in fact some of the so-called ministers. Indeed, the largest provider of bridal ministers in Japan has lately been stipulating in its job ads that the only real requirements for a foreign bridal minister are to be able to read a prepared script in Japanese and to look good at the front of a chapel. No Bible training is necessary, and presumably they do not even care if the minister believes in God.

All of this has led many people (ministers included) to believe that the weddings are just a show, and are not taken seriously by anyone. However, while I do not necessarily feel all that comfortable doing these weddings because in many ways they are a show, and pageantry is always given a much higher priority than spirituality, it is truly striking to me how most of the couples treat the wedding ceremonies as very real, and consequently take them much more seriously than many of the ministers or staff members involved.

This can lead to some interesting experiences.

For example, the other day the groom was perfectly relaxed before the ceremony. However, as soon as the ceremony began, he suffered a nervous meltdown. His hands shook so badly that he could barely manage to slip the ring on his bride’s finger. As a part of the ring exchange, the script went like this:

Me: Kono yubiwa wa … (Groom repeats)
Me: watashi no ai no akashi desu. (Groom repeats)

The English translation is, “This ring … is a testimony of my love.” When we practiced this in the rehearsal, the groom had no problem at all. However, during the wedding, after I said, “Kono yubiwa wa …“, instead of repeating after me, the groom said in a very loud voice for all to hear, “watashi no ai no katachi desu!” The translation? “This ring … is the shape of my love!”

Prior to this, the bride was so full of emotion that she was almost about to cry. After this, it all went downhill, and if there were any tears at all, it was from laughing so hard. And the more everyone laughed, the more mistakes the poor groom made. He was very much relieved when the ordeal was finally over. Yet, the couple looked very happy and all appeared to be forgiven and forgotten by the time they left the wedding chapel to ring the wedding bell.

This was but a minor hiccup compared to what transpired a few days later at another wedding, when the bride fainted at the altar. Apparently, she was too nervous, too overstressed, too tired, and too hot wearing her elaborate wedding gown in the chapel. Fortunately, her father was sitting within a few steps of her, and he noticed that she was going down. Thinking quickly, he shoved a chair under her before she could hit the floor. Crouching nearby was the hotel staff member in charge of the wedding. I looked to her and asked quietly what I should do. She looked to the groom and the father, and they both motioned that we should continue as planned, so I soldiered on with the bride passed out in a chair in front of the altar, and the videographer catching everything on tape for posterity.

We came to the vows, and she was now somewhat conscious, but was still unable to hold up her head. Her father nudged her, and whispered “Hai! Chakaimasu!” (“Yes, I swear!”). She uttered a very feeble “Hai! Chikaimasu!” and we continued. Then came the ring exchange. The groom slipped her ring on, and then his own. The next part was trickier, as they were both supposed to sign their names to the wedding certificate. I brought the wedding certificate out and the groom signed it. Then I put it in front of the bride. “Sign it!” her father whispered. Somehow, without really having her eyes open, she managed to scrawl her name.

Next, came to pastoral prayer. I had the groom take her by the hand, and I prayed over them. I gave the longest prayer I could, praying in English that God would give her strength and that she would be able to complete the ceremony so that her wedding day would be a blessed and joyous occasion for her. I continued praying long after the harpist had finished the musical accompaniment.

I do not know if the prayer itself helped, or just if the length of the prayer gave her some much needed time to rest, but when I moved back behind the altar, she suddenly sprang to her feet and stood next to the groom. I made the wedding pronouncement as quickly as I could, and then reminded her in a whisper that there was one more hymn on the program before the exit, asking her if she really wanted it. She nodded her head “yes”, and so we started the hymn. The hymn was one of those that I have only ever heard at a Japanese wedding, and which very few people–even Christians–really know the words to, but she sang both verses without looking at the wedding program. Then, somehow, she was able to stumble out of the wedding chapel to the applause of the guests.

When I was on my way to the dressing room after the service, I saw her and the groom sitting alone in the hotel photography studio trying to catch their breaths. I went in and asked her how she felt, and she explained that she was feeling better by the moment, and that the wedding chapel had been too hot.

She was positively beaming with joy. I have never seen a happier bride.

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