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Civil Conniption

My husband worked a great deal of overtime in the past two weeks.  We, rightfully I think, expected a big paycheck today.  But it was considerably smaller than we had expected:  over $500 had been taken out in taxes.

No, I’m not kidding.  My husband is not a businessman making money in the millions.  He’s a police officer–public servants don’t get paid much.  Five hundred dollars is a lot of grocery money, folks!  If I didn’t value my tea so much, I would have run down to the river and tossed it in.  That would have been a silly thing to do, anyway.  The fellows involved in the Boston Tea Tantrum didn’t dump their OWN tea in the harbor.  They dumped the king’s tea.  Hmm.  Does the President drink tea, I wonder?  Perhaps the Potomac needs a bit of flavoring?

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July–the annual celebration of our independence from Great Britain.  What did the British do that literally had us up in arms all those years ago?  Were we protesting slavery?  Mysterious disappearances?  Wrongful imprisonments?  Mass slaughter by the government?  No, we were protesting taxes.

It’s my understanding that governments need money to fund all the stuff they do for us.  King George III said the same thing–the taxes levied against the colonists were paying for the French and Indian War, which had been fought (by the British) to secure our lands from the encroaching French.  Sounds like a good use of our money, actually.  (Yes, yes, I know King George was a nutter.  But it would make more sense to me to rebel against the king because he was insane than because of the tax issue.)

No, protesting taxes is a useless proposition.  There’s nothing sure in this life but death and you-know-what.  It was not really a compelling reason for starting a civil war.  And it really seemed to have started us off on the wrong foot.  Because we have become a nation of whiners and protesters, throwing conniptions at the drop of a hat.  Any perceived encroachment on our rights is apparently worth ripping into everyone in general on all possible forums.  It’s depressing.

I’m not talking about any particular group or political party or cause.  As a Tory, I don’t really have a political party, and I weigh each issue through the lens of reason rather than internet memes or party lines.  Some issues really do warrant concern and deliberation.  I act on my convictions quietly by contacting the proper authorities and by voting my conscience. But most issues are as trivial as taxation.  Before I wade into any argument concerning social or political issues, I ask myself, “Is this really worth starting a war over?  Is it worth the angst, the vitriol, the possible estrangement of others?”  Most of the time, it just isn’t.

It’s become the American way to expect to get everything we want and to get it now–and if we don’t get it, we have the right to thrown a temper tantrum over it.  And if anyone calls us on our attitude of entitlement, we accuse them of being intolerant, or ignorant, or even uncaring.  It all grieves me.

What would America be like today if we had started a war over a noble and selfless cause?  What if it were slavery, for example, that we were protesting?  Would we be a kinder, more loving people?  I wonder.

By the way–before you burn me in effigy, please have a gander at my first controversial Fourth of July entry entitled “An American Tory.”

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Declaration of Interdependence

Yes, dear readers, it is time for my annual, controversial Fourth of July blog entry.  As usual, please keep in mind that I love my country and am glad I was born in a nation in which I am free to express myself without fear of retaliation from the government (although retaliation from my readers at times resembles a free-for-all. . . .)

It’s been too easy for Americans to forget, or ignore, the fact that the War for Independence was not fought to secure individual rights and freedoms but national sovereignty.  All English citizens already had the rights and freedoms we hold dear in America. That was why the colonists were literally up in arms about the abuse by the government they were receiving–as Englishmen, they expected the rights guaranteed to them by the Magna Carta to be honored and upheld. (“Know that we, at the prompting of God and for the health of our soul and the souls of our ancestors and successors, for the glory of holy Church and the improvement of our realm, freely and out of our good will have given and granted to . . . all of our realm these liberties written below to hold in our realm of England in perpetuity. . . .”–preamble to Magna Carta, 1215 a.d.) If the colonists had been patient and persevered, their rights would have certainly been restored without having to fight a war (see Canada).  As it is, they severed ties with the government that was meant to defend their rights and was not doing so.  The Declaration of Independence was a document proclaiming the independence of a nation, a group of people, from another nation; not a carte blanc proclaiming the independence of every individual from every other individual on earth.

We were created equal, yes, and endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.  But we were never created to be independent.  God never meant for us to live as islands in seas of opposing humanities.  We were meant to live in harmony and interdependence, working together towards common good.  I believe—I hope– our founding fathers understood this, and that their commitment to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” was not at all about petty, personal liberties but about the people of America as a whole. Because when each person in a group conducts himself independently, thinking only of his own fulfillment and happiness without a thought of what is best for all involved, the result is . . . . America as we see it today.  Chaotic, ignorant, dangerous, frightening.

What’s even more frightening is that the American church has bought into this idea of “rugged individualism” as well.  I am not saying that God does not love us and deal with us as individuals, because I know that is not the case.  God loves each of us as His creation, individually.  But He did not create us to be independent of one another.  He created us in groups from the beginning: “It is not good for the man to be alone.”  He placed us in families; in communities; in people-groups; in nations.  He did this deliberately, because that is how He meant for us to function–together.

Sometimes God does chose special individuals to work His will, but it is never to the benefit of the chosen person.  God chose Abraham, not to be a great man, but to father a great nation. He chose Joseph, not to bless Joseph, but to save His people.  He chose Moses, not to bless Moses (Moses did not want this blessing, bless his heart), but again, to save His people.  God honors and blesses those He chooses, but He does not choose them for their own good, but for the good of the people.

Is there any one person whom we honor as an  individual who did not do whatever he did to deserve honor for the benefit of many?   We admire our founding fathers for what they did for America–for US–not for what they gained for themselves.  What did they gain for themselves?  Heartache.  Trouble.  Contention.  Loss of personal freedom.  Yes, I said it.  They gave themselves to the cause of political freedom to the detriment of their own, personal freedom.  Washington wanted nothing more than to retire to his plantation and be a farmer, living quietly for the rest of this life.  He was coerced into becoming the first president, instead.  He was a good president–and he really didn’t enjoy it.

And how about our church founding fathers?  When one thinks of the early church, I’m sure the name of Paul springs immediately to mind.  He was probably the most successful missionary ever in church history.  Everything he did, was for the church body.  What he received in return was imprisonment, sorrow, death.

I’ve been learning a lot of late about how self-centered the American church (a part of American culture) has become.  It’s disheartening, to say the least, especially since it’s become such an integral part of our thinking that few seem to be aware that we our thinking is so faulty.  “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” is a common tool for convincing people of their need for God.  This is a true saying; please don’t think I don’t believe this.  But Americans take this differently than they should.  They take this to mean that God has a plan to make each person’s individual life a rousing success, filled with personal happiness and fulfillment.  I’m sorry, but you have only to look around you at the real lives of real Christians to know that this is not the case.  I’m not saying that God does not have our best interests at heart–He certainly does.  But His best interests are so much bigger, so much more all-encompassing than we can ever imagine.  He sees the bigger picture–the picture that includes every other person alive on the planet at this time and every person coming after us; each individual life fits into the picture to make it complete.  Americans like to see each person as an individual picture unto himself.  That is a grave departure from reality, and does so much damage to society as a whole, and to the church most of all.

Here’s an example of the Scriptures twisted by American thinking into something it was never intended to be: Romans 8:28.  “For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.”  American Christians want this to mean that everything that happens to each individual will work to that individual’s advantage–eventually.  So, if this promise is true, every person’s life will, eventually, work out to that individual’s happiness and fulfillment.  And that’s why Paul lived a long and ultimately happy life, retiring to a comfortable home with cable TV and a lovely pension plan.  That’s why George Washington was able to fulfill his life-long dream of settling down on his farm and raising his family in peace.  That’s why Martin Luther King died an elderly, satisfied man, having seen his dream accomplished in his own lifetime.  Oh, but wait!  That’s not what happened, is it?  These men accomplished much, yes.  They did great things and lived great lives–for the benefit of the people they were raised up by God to serve.  Look at that verse from Romans again.  Look at the pronouns in it.  Those are PLURAL pronouns.  Plural, not singular.  We are not meant to live our lives in individual solitude.  We are meant to live our lives for the benefit of all.

We may not all be intended for huge tasks like those accomplished by Moses or Joseph or Paul.  But we are each a part of the whole, and we each have our place in the picture.  We can wail about not being personally happy or fulfilled.  Or we can rejoice in the differences we can make in the lives of others. We can be selfishly focused on our own individual comforts and desires; or we can feel the honor God does us in including us in His greater plan that expands over all time and space and impacts every other human being that ever existed, even if only in a modest way.  We are not alone in the universe, and we must never live our lives as if we were.  What we do influences so many other lives, for good or for evil, because we are a part of the whole.  This is true whether speaking of a nation or of the church body.  And this is a good thing.

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An American Tory

I wore my London T-shirt on Independence Day because I am a Tory.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not a Tory because I am an Anglophile, although I am an Anglophile.  I am not a Tory because I hate America.  I am grateful for my country and am as patriotic as anyone.  I am fully aware of how lucky I am to live in this country.  But if I am honest with myself, I have to admit that, if I had lived in the late 1700’s, I would not have been able to support the revolution.  I believe that political and social change is best effected by working within the system by peaceable means, not by violence and rebellion against government authority.  It may take a lot longer to effect change within the established system of government, but it can and it does work.  I also can’t justify violent revolution with the Scriptures.  It just won’t jive with the verses that command us to live at peace with our neighbor (Romans12;18), to honor the king and obey all secular government officials (I Peter 2:13-17), to “render unto Caesar” (This verse is found in three of the four Gospels.  Repeating something three times, to a Jew, is tantamount to highlighting it, underlining it, and putting several exclamation points after it.)

I am not a pacifist, by any means.  I believe we have the right to defend ourselves against an enemy who attacks and tries to take us over by force.  I even believe we have the responsibility to wade into the fray in defending our neighbors against unlawful attack.  I would have been right there in World War II, fighting against Hitler any way I could.  But to attack my own government and countrymen–I just don’t think I could in all good conscience.

Jesus never advocated revolution against the Romans, even though it was a tyrannical and oppressive regime.  He made a point of being non-political by taking as His disciples both Matthew, a minor official of the Roman Government, and Simon the Zealot, a member of a political party that used terrorist tactics and guerrilla warfare in their struggle against the Roman oppressors.  There is no record of Jesus admonishing or correcting either of these two men, or addressing politics with them in any form.  But Matthew left his post as a Roman tax collector, and Simon never went back to his Zealotry.  They had more important things to do.

I have been thinking a lot about what would have happened if our forefathers had been more patient and had waited out King George.  Yes, he was a tyrannical madman.  Yes, something needed to be done about him.  But it needed to be done by  lawful means.  The rule of law was long established in England, land of the great Magna Carta.  And the king would not live forever.  I’m not saying that living with the insulting taxes and laws levied against the colonies would have been easy.  But perhaps it would have been preferable, and not just to avoid the bloodshed of war.  If we had remained colonies of England, slavery in this land would have ended when it was abolished by British Parliament, half a century earlier than we managed to do it on our own.  It would have ended peacefully, without a drop of bloodshed.  It would have ended without rancor or bitterness on the part of either side.  There would have been no need for a Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s, because integration would have occurred as naturally and easily as it was in England.  For that matter, our great statesmen and political thinkers might have helped England along in their extrication from their other far-flung colonies by more peaceable means.  Who can say how different the world might be today if our forefathers had all been Tories?

But be that as it may, this world is not our home.  We are citizens of a better place, and we should act in accordance with the Laws of that glorious land!  Ephesians 3:20!


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