Monday, December 3, 2018

The Predicament of Being Male: The Serpent's Original Anger, the Curse, Cain and his Lineage: A Remarkable Observatoin in the Hebrew Text


In the biblical text, the ancient serpent first appears with an angry agenda against the woman, this anger transfers to the man, then to Cain and then to his lineage. The consequences are devastating, and for which we all need the Savior.

1] At the beginning of the second sentence of Genesis 3:1, every one of the 20+ English translations I have seen -- Jewish, Roman Catholic and Protestant -- says something like this: "He said to the woman ..." But in the Hebrew, there is one word which never gets translated right after this, ap (or aph), which is a noun from the verb anap (or anaph), "to be angry."

Hebrew has only 900 root words, and context is crucial in translation. In nine clauses in the Tanakh (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Joel 2:3; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3; Psalms 86:15; 103:8 and 145:8), we read in English translation that Yahweh is "slow to anger." The actual Hebrew is that Yahweh "has a long nose." The primary meaning of anap is "nose." The beards of ancient Hebrew men were thick, dark and high cheeked. When a Hebrew man becomes flush or hot with anger, it is not seen first on the cheeks, but on the nose. Thus, in the development of language, the word for "anger" in Hebrew becomes synonymous with "nose," again, as context indicates. In these nine clauses in the Tanakh, metaphor and idiom collide, namely, that Yahweh is so slow to anger, that it is like having a long nose where it takes much time for his anger to reach the tip and become evident. A "long nose" does not work as metaphor or idiom in modern English, for it can become confused with the story of Pinocchio as a liar; likewise with "nosey" as it refers to a gossiper; and a "long fuse" does not work in a pre-dynamite era. So "slow to anger" works well in terms of meaning, but not metaphor or idiom. It is two-dimensional not three-dimensional.

In Genesis 3:1, a proper translation would be, "And the serpent said to the woman (in) anger ..." Translating a noun in this syntax requires the (in), or some might translate it as an adverb, “angrily.” Grammar between different languages does not line up in many ways. Why then do translations ignore this word? I know of none that admit its presence. The answer lies in the identity of the serpent. Is it some undefined earthly creature, as in Jewish understanding? Or is it as John says in Revelation 12:9? The text refers to "... that ancient serpent, the one called the devil, or the Satan." For Jewish scholars, they see no linguistic link between the few references to ha'satan (the Satan, the slanderer) in the Tanakh, and ha'nahash (the serpent). And for Christians scholars, the arguments I have read for the serpent being Satan derive from New Testament sources, and not from within the original Hebrew text. I believe the apostle John, and the whole New Testament, understand all Messianic fulfillments to be rooted in an original understanding of the Hebrew Bible as given.

2] In either case, the presence of an angry serpent means there is an agenda, a history in place, one that occasions an angry approach. What is it? Genesis 1-2 starts off with a positive theology (God's nature) and a positive anthropology (human nature), but there is no formal demonology. The reason for this is that Satan's fallen ontology means there is nothing positive in him, and thus he is entirely negative -- the destroyer, slanderer, liar and murderer. So he cannot, by definition, be positively identified -- but only via his negative self-manifestations. And this proves true across the Bible as Satan works through political proxies in particular to seek to destroy the Messianic lineage, the Messiah, Jesus, and now, after the resurrection, to destroy the believers in the Messiah through whom the Holy Spirit works until King Jesus returns and crushes Satan once and for all. This is large theological territory beyond my purview here, and it is central to Christian interpretation across the millennia. But virtually through the prism of post-Genesis texts.

Genesis 1:1 and 2:1 are dynamically linked in a way that marks a theological whole in the work of creation. In 1:1, we read: "In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 2:1 marks the completion of Genesis 2:1: "And the heavens and the earth were finished in all their armies." Now, few translations say "armies." More common is "host" (an old word for armies or stars), or something silly like the NIV which says, "all their vast array." But in the Hebrew is it simply tz'baam, "armies" or, if you will, "agents of warfare" (from tz'aba for war). Whenever we see in the translation of the Hebrew Bible, as found so often, "the LORD of hosts," or "the LORD Almighty," the actual Hebrew says "Yahweh of armies." This traces back to Genesis 2:1. But if all is good in Genesis 1, what are "armies" doing there at its completion? What or whom is there to protect against or fight against? Of holy angels and fallen angels? Simply, the fall of Satan (always angry, whether implicitly or explicitly), with his demonic horde, as described later in both the Tanakh and New Testament, occurs after the creation begins but before its completion. This too, is large theological territory beyond our present scope, but needs mention to help us understand why the ancient serpent, Satan incarnate, is angry in Genesis 3:1.

In his anger -- with man and woman as one in marriage, with their joint authority over all creation, and to whom the holy angels are servants -- the devil only seeks to destroy their unity and trust in marriage, that through which civilization is to be built. He mocks their authority in masquerading as a serpent, and craftily channels his anger to get Hayyeh (rendered "Eve" in English translations) to act independently of Yahweh and Adam, and for Adam to act independently of Hayyeh and Yahweh. When Yahweh comes to judge, Adam blames Hayyeh and away we go ...

3] In Genesis 3, the serpent is cursed, with no exit, and a war is prophesied between the seed of the serpent (those whom he kidnaps, the anti-Messianic lineage) and the seed of the woman (the Messianic lineage), where in the end the Messiah triumphs. War is the ugliest manifestation of anger. The curse that the woman brings upon herself, and likewise for the man upon himself, both take their complementary strengths (thighs and uterus in childbirth, and biceps in plowing and moving boulders), and turn them into weaknesses. Man and woman are wired to honor the image of God, but now they are handicapped. Large territory. But for here, let's look at the first clause in Genesis 3:19, in the midst of the curse on the man. It is usually rendered something like: "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food." The actual Hebrew text is this: "By the sweat of your anger (from anap) you will eat your bread." For the translator not aware of the serpent's anger, and only assuming the curse to be physical in nature, not paying attention to the deeper spiritual realities, "the sweat of your nose" still makes no sense. It is not a runny nose at play, and the nearest physical possibility is the brow or forehead. It is a mismatch based on a faulty premise. There is no other use of anap in the Tanakh for "brow," and the word rendered as "brow" (qadqod) is twice a word meaning "head" or "crown of the head." There is no other proper word for "brow." Which is to say, it is anap used in Genesis 3:19 and not qadqod.

4] For me, the understanding of producing food, making provision for my family, by the "sweat of my anger," proves to be liberating. It is the frustrating reality in the pursuit of the good in a now broken world, and as catalyzed by Satan. All is spiritual warfare, and we ignore this to our peril. This is the curse upon the male in Genesis 3:19, but the anger is not initially a hostility against Yahweh, or against the well-being of others, as it is with the ancient serpent. But it is the "nose inside the camel's tent" (to borrow a latter metaphor with deliberate pun), as the goal of Satan is to turn frustration and sweat into such anger. We wear ourselves out in a sinful world, eventually returning to the dust. For me, a sanguine personality, the ever "tunnel-view optimist" (as my father put it) in a broken world, I know this reality to the very verge of death, finally in terms of a demonic attack in Oxford, March 20, 2018. See my July 15, 2018 blog here, or click here for the website article.

In this world, we see so much male chauvinism. It sexually reifies (to treat as disposable property) girls and women, it hinders the possibility of future healthy marriages, it drives the ethos of the abortion industry, it leads to much otherwise unchosen and de facto disembodied single lifestyles, and too, it serves the broken and ultimately unsatisfying refuges in lesbianism and male homosexuality. It presages Sodom and Gomorrah, where across the whole biblical witness, this is where sexual anarchy morphs into social anarchy and the trampling of the poor and needy.

So, in the face of this reality, how many men, in their frustration and anger in seeking to do the good by their wives and children, fall prey to serious misunderstandings? All by the design of the ancient serpent?

5) This leads us to Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. Both have the same parents, and both have the same "sweat of anger" to labor at in producing their food. Yet both have opposite ends -- one proves to join the anger of the ancient serpent, and one chooses to praise Yahweh with thankfulness. Both are whom they are given to be, yet both become whom they choose to become. In his offering, Cain gives an undesignated portion of his produce, almost in a sense of a grudging acknowledgement of Yahweh's Lordship and provision. But Abel gives from the "birthright" (literal Hebrew) of his produce, ergo, the best of his best, in an evident spirit of thanksgiving. There is also a pun at play. Cain holds the birthright as the first son, yet gives something secondary; Abel is a second son, yet gives the birthright. Giveness and giving back, with human freedom in place.

Yahweh "gazes" upon Abel and his gift, but not so with Cain. So Cain "burns greatly," and his face falls. "And Yahweh said to Cain, 'What burns so deeply in you? And what is it that your face fell? And whether you lift up the good, or if not the good, to the doorway, sin lies in wait and desires you, and you must rule it.' ” The term for "burning greatly" is a deeper and manifest term for an anger that "hotly contends" (harah). Cain still has the power to choose the good, even while sin "lies in wait" to devour him (the language refers to a leopard ready to pounce on its prey, and here we see intimations of Peter's language in 1:5:8 of the devil as a prowling lion). Cain must rule it or perish. But he fails in his freedom. His anger with Yahweh, seeded by the ancient serpent, turns into the murder of his younger brother. Indeed, it can be argued that any uncontrolled anger is first directed against God, in whose image we are made, and then it results in anger against our neighbor, made in God's image, and can result in murder. The rest of the Bible flows on these assumptions about anger, from Cain to Lemech on forward, and can be readily detailed in a larger review.

Thus, in Cain and Abel, we see the reality that the male "sweat of the anger" can lead in one of two directions -- acknowledged frustration that chooses to turn into gratefulness in spite of it, or a chosen uncontrolled anger rooted in the devil that leads to murder.

5] And this is the crucible upon which true manhood is forged. For those of us who are men, which road do we choose?


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

You Have the Power to Choose Life



[Brochure #1 for www.teamsofseven.org]


In the late 1980s, I was at Harvard Divinity School, earning a post-graduate Th.M. degree in Ethics and Public Policy. As a white heterosexual male, evangelical pro-life minister, married with three sons, and a daughter yet to arrive, I was virtually a minority of one.

And this is one reason why I was at Harvard to begin with – to be accountable to the most thoughtful and penetrating questions of those who disagreed with me. I found myself intersecting with the Women’s Studies Program, and where the assumption of legalized human abortion was firmly in place. My double thesis focused on the two leading feminist scholar critics of the Bible (Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and Phyllis Trible), and on human abortion and public policy.

In 1989, I organized a presence at New England’s largest abortion center, Preterm, in Brookline. We countenanced no accusatory language and no bloody pictures. As Jesus spoke of himself, he came not to condemn but to save. We worshiped, prayed, held signs, and engaged in conversation with anyone interested. In two years of Saturday mornings, we saw well over 200 women walk away from their abortion appointments of their own volition. As well, many others who merely saw the signs and our presence turned away. This was also at the height of “Operation Rescue,” a short-lived movement seeking to blockade abortion centers, and it led to some 100,000 arrests nationwide. I met with the founder, Randall Terry, on April 1, 1989, and asked some theological questions he could not, would not answer. Especially: How does vigilante action comport with the biblical order of creation in Genesis 1-2? And: How can you force someone to choose life?

Indeed, one popular pro-life sign has always been: “Choose Life.” But in front of an abortion center, where women are being forced into abortions by chauvinistic and irresponsible men, this language misses the mark since it is in the imperative tense. Elsewhere too. In the metaethics of language, this is easily perceived by such women as an “in your face” attempt to “force” them to “choose” not to have an abortion. Even as the intention is the opposite.

Thus, our slogan became: You Have the Power to Choose Life. This is gift language, it is empowering language, and it includes the life of the mother and unborn child equally. And unless the woman is empowered to choose life for her unborn child, it will not happen. As well, as the “pro-choice” feminist language is examined, “the power to choose” is supposedly central, but also, unidirectional – “the power to choose abortion …” But we redeemed the language of choice to serve human life, and the impact is always dramatic.

On June 3, 1989, when we began, the Boston Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) recruited college students to “counter-protest” us. We had some 200 volunteers turn out across the morning, and almost none of them had ever been an “activist” or done any public “protesting.” They trusted a biblical vision for “active ministry” – bringing the Good News to a place where people, especially women, were hurting deeply. Boston NOW had roughly equal numbers that day.

We started arriving at 7:00 a.m., and we sang and prayed aloud while holding our signs. The NOW recruits started yelling chants (e.g., “Anti-woman, anti-gay, born-again bigots, go away!”). But their lungs tired sooner than did ours, and by 9:30 there was a lull. It had also hit 90° Fahrenheit, and we were well equipped with cold water and cups, so we started passing the water around. Most NOW recruits accepted the water and the conversations began. Multiple dozens of bull sessions erupted.

While standing next to a reporter from the Boston Globe, one woman NOW recruit told me how she had the freedom to choose an abortion. So, I asked her if she had chosen to be born, or if she were only alive because of the choice of her parents. I concluded: “How can you, who are alive through no choice of your own, then use your choice to deny the life and future choices of the unborn?” She said, “Wow, I had never thought of it that way before,” and her whole demeanor changed.

After ninety minutes, I was standing a few feet away from the president of Boston NOW. She suddenly looked at what was happening, and said alarmingly, “We are not in control here! We must put a stop to this!” She thus ordered her lieutenants to break up the conversations. But perhaps three-quarters of their recruits said no, they enjoyed the conversations, and liked the Christian pro-life men and women there. The power of informed choice in service to human life, in action.

On our second Saturday, at the end of the morning, one of our volunteers was a few feet away from one recruit as she asked a question of an NOW leader: “How do we answer them when they say, ‘You have the power to choose life?’ ” The leader said: “Well, that is their language – we don’t use it anymore.” Those who define terms honestly will win hearts and minds. And across nine months, our volunteers had multiple hundreds, if not one or several thousand intelligent and gracious conversations with these recruits. Then, the leadership of Boston NOW gave the order for the recruits to stop coming down, for we “were persuading too many” of them.

This is at the core of biblical theology, where in the Garden of Eden, with Joshua in the Valley of Shechem, with Elijah in the face of the prophets of Ba’al on Mount Carmel, and with Jesus in the face of his enemies during Passover Week, a level playing field is provided for all – even the devil – to pose their toughest questions of God, leaders and one another. Truth and mercy always rise to the top. The power to choose life is the bequeathal of the Gospel.

We also had twelve signs asking questions, all aiming to empower the women to choose life. Now, as this effort is reconstituted in 2018 (Sacred Assemblies for the Unborn organized through Teams of Seven [.org]), the TEI has condensed these twelve questions into five. And they are suitable not only at abortion centers, but in any context where the politics of the issue are at the forefront (political rallies, university campuses etc.).

Question #1: Can You Imagine Jesus Performing an Abortion: Why Not?

I first expressed this question spontaneously in a 1985 college debate with a man representing the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights (RCAR) of Massachusetts, the Rev. Spencer Parsons. When I spoke these words, he stopped, and then tried to come up with language that would imagine Jesus in such a capacity. He was unable, and we had several good debates and conversations thereafter.

Once, in front of Preterm, as I was holding the sign, a young woman said I was imposing my religion on her. And I said, how so? Namely, she did not have to look at the sign, and it is part of my religious and political freedom of speech. She was welcome to her selfsame freedoms. Then I said, “If Jesus means something to you, this is an important question. If he means nothing to you, then it is of no concern.” And we had a great conversation thereafter: Who is Jesus?

Question #2: How Does Human Abortion Add to a Woman’s Dignity?

Every woman knows there is no dignity in having her body violated by an abortion, and the grief of later mourning for a lost child – whether consciously or subconsciously. The Latin term for abortion is ab + oriri, and it means “to cut off from rising.” It is reactive, not proactive; destructive not creative; and women do not plan ahead of time to get pregnant in order to have an abortion.

Question #3: How Many Men Push Their “Girlfriends” into “Choosing” Abortion?

When the research data of the Alan Guttmacher Institute of Planned Parenthood is examined, and the data of thousands of Pregnancy Resource Centers likewise, the reality is that male irresponsibility and chauvinism drives the abortion ethos. Men who get women pregnant and refuse responsibility. At Smith College in 1994, in a forum with the president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Patricia Ireland, I was asked a question from a woman student at the end on how I could “oppose a woman’s choice.” I had fifteen seconds to answer, and I said, “Just as much as abortion rips off women, it rips off the unborn and allows the male chauvinists to run free.” An audience of over 500, mostly in favor of legalized abortion, erupted in loud and sustained ovation. Reality has been defined.

Question #4: Are Planned Parenthood and the Abortion Industry Racist?

The founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was a eugenicist who praised Adolf Hitler in 1922. Today, about 38 percent of all abortions, in the United States, are performed on Black Americans who equal 12 or 13 percent of the population. The same racist ratio holds true for other minorities, and Planned Parenthood et al. heavily locate their abortion centers in poor neighborhoods. And they earn billions in blood money.

Question #5: Pro-Life Libertarian or Pro-Abortion Statist?

These are exact opposites. Pro-life libertarians want maximum religious, political and economic freedom for all people equally, from biological origins to natural death. People are free so long as they do not injure the lives, liberties and property of others. Pro-abortion statists support massive and enslaving top-down state intervention in people’s lives, especially against religious, political and economic freedom.

The Toughest Question: What About Rape and Incest?

This is not suitable for a public sign, since the hell of such evil and its pain cuts so deep. But it needs to be addressed. I have been asked this question many times across the years, and indeed, this is the title and content of Chapter One in my book, Changing the Language of the Abortion Debate (available at johnrankinbooks.com).

Whether at Denison University as a college student several months prior to the January 22, 1973 Roe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, when a fellow male student pressed me on it in a religion class; or at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), in answering the question of a woman student who had been conceived through the rape of her eleven year-old mother; or at Brown University in debating the former president of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island who had been excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church, in addressing the question posed by a woman student; or with a woman caller on WGAN Radio in Portland, Maine, who personally knew the hell of rape and abortion; or with a “pro-choice” physician and wife of an astrophysicist working on the Hadron Collider; or in a forum at Dartmouth College with the woman head of Republicans for Choice – they all responded well, and also with others in different instances. Only in a forum at Yale Law School, with the woman president of the national Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights (RCAR), did I not get any response – silence instead.

To sum up this territory, one question emerges: How does human abortion unrape the woman? She has been through hell, abortion only deepens the hell, and we who follow Jesus are here to serve her courageous power to choose life in the face of a hell that very few of us can imagine. Indeed, we are here to serve any woman who needs the courage and power to choose life for her and her unborn child, regardless of the situation.


Friday, September 21, 2018

Male Chauvinism, Human Abortion and Women's Pain at the Bushnell Theater


On Thursday night, September 20, I was asked to join a rally at the Bushnell Theater in Hartford, Connecticut, one that was organized to support Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The occasion was the Connecticut Forum, as they hosted a panel discussion on women's empowerment. The marquee speaker was Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Connecticut Forum always has a good turnout for its events in the 3700 seat auditorium.

So as thousands of people passed by, I had four of my pro-life signs in place. [Addendum: What I did not realize until I reviewed the pictures later, is how most of these people had already seen the sign I was holding. Their cars were backed up, inching past where I was standing, from the State Capitol to the parking lots beyond the Bushnell.] Whereas the purpose of the organizer (and the one taking the pictures) was political, my purpose in joining was primarily theological (for which he was also glad). We used signs like these at New England's largest abortion center (Preterm in Brookline, Massachusetts, adjacent to Boston) virtually every Saturday from June, 1989 to June, 1991. In that time, some 200-300 women walked away from their abortion appointments, and there were hundreds of activists with the Boston chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) to counter-protest us. After nine months, the leadership of Boston NOW told their recruited volunteers (mostly college students) to stop coming down to Preterm, because we "we were persuading too many of them." Click here. And click here. And also click here.

I held the sign: Can You Imagine Jesus Performing an Abortion? Why Not? Our slogan sign says: You Have the Power to Choose Life. Two other signs said: Why Does "Feminism" Abort Unborn Girls? and: Is the Abortion Industry Racist?

You can see the pictures here.

As you look at the first one, look at the young man and woman behind me, as they look at the sign. Notice the greatest difference in terms of posture, gaze and disinterest versus interest. The vast majority of abortions happen because the man who gets the woman pregnant refuses responsibility, indeed, often rooted in explicit male chauvinism. The man and woman had just stepped out of a chauffeured limousine.

[And, a day after this post, a new picture was sent to me, now the second one below. (Correction: I first thought it was a reflection of some other light, looked at the possibilities, but concluded there was no other source to cause reflection, and on a granite wall. So I came to believe it was the invisible realm of the heavens interfacing with the visible human world. I even visited the site again and saw no natural explanation. But days later, the chairman of the TEI Team of Advisors drove past, and noticed it was streetlight. The lamppost is to the left, against the lines of the building. But the arm is obscured by the bright light, and as I focused on the light, it seemed to stand alone without natural explanation. The folly of an incomplete review. Still a cool and surprising photo).]

[And later, I learned that this man and woman were part of a group of young persons recruited to be trained by Planned Parenthood, and that they were to meet with Cecile Richards at the event.]



Here are some observations:

1. The Connecticut Forum has many season subscribers, others come to various events to hear opposing ideas (as I have done across the years in various venues), and thus not all those attending were necessarily in favor of legalized abortion. But I believe most were.

2. As several thousand people walked past over a 45-minute period, within feet of these signs, many eyes avoided looking at them.

3. But many did look and pondered briefly or more engagingly.

4. Of the half dozen or dozen of negative reactions that occurred, they were mostly by women in deep pain. This was clear in their curses, body language and gestures. I interacted with some, and was able to say that my deepest concern is the male chauvinism that drives the abortion industry. I had some positive responses.

5. For several who cursed us, I said "God bless you" and they did not further curse. Jesus teaches us to bless those who curse us. To do so employs spiritual power to minister to their hurting souls, and it is their persons, as created in the image of God, that we bless, not their actions or curses.

6. One woman, standing behind me, said to some of her friends, "I wish I could take that sign, You Have the Power to Choose Life, and trample it on the ground." So I turned and said that I would never do that to any sign she might be holding in favor of abortion. But she responded, saying I was intolerant, and such a sign should be destroyed. I thought afterward, how much pain is in her person, so that she would destroy such a sign? Does she believe she does not have the power to choose life, whether for herself or the unborn? Indeed, this sign is the Gospel -- for only in Jesus do we have the good news and godly power to choose life for all people equally.

7. Some passersby quietly approached us and thanked us for being there.

8. I spoke with a young woman -- with her mother and grandmother with her -- for a good amount of time. She asked good questions, and responded well to many of my answers, as did her grandmother.

9. Toward the end, one women looked at my sign: Can You Imagine Jesus Performing an Abortion? Why Not? Then she called me a fascist. Does she also believe the same about Jesus since that was the sign I as holding? I did not assume this was necessary so. But ...

10. Then a young woman passed by, and almost tripped when she looked up at the sign, being caught off guard by it. She was wearing a bright yellow dress that distinguished her from everyone else, and was suggestive in it, along with her gait and attitude. She looked at me, said something disparaging about the mention of Jesus, and then said "Rapist." I was taken aback, but then said, "Are you calling Jesus a rapist?" And she said, "Yes!" There has to be very much pain in her soul to say such a thing, and we pray for her that God will indeed bless her, minister to her pain and draw her to faith in him as Savior.

11. [Added to the original post}: Toward the end, a man approached me from the Bushnell and offered me a ticket to attend the event. He said it would good if I listened to the other side. So I told him a little of my history, how for decades I have gone out of my way in listening to those who disagree with me, and for example, in my Mars Hill Forum series, where I have paid honoraria to such people as Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), at Smith College, to pose me her toughest questions before 550 people, 90 percent of whom were not on my side of the issues; and Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), whom I paid likewise at Georgetown University before some 300 people, and broadcast live on C-Span. His stereotype of me vanished. I said, yes, I would be pleased to accept the ticket, but first I had to put the signs away and attend to another detail, and thus, I might be up to ten minutes late for the event. He balked, and said he had to talk with someone about it, and would let me know. He did not return, and we had more fruitful encounters with the passersby and Bushnell staff. To what degree, I muse, was he simply trying to mute my witness as well? Several years ago, when we had these signs in front of the Planned Parenthood abortion center in the Bronx, they kept asking us how long we would be there. Women, in seeing the signs, were turning away from their abortion appointments.

teidonate.org


Sunday, September 2, 2018

Is Jeff Sessions in Control of the Department of Justice?


From my distant perch, I say yes. As Attorney General, he is serving constitutional law and the office of the President with equal integrity.

Why do I believe this? Due to the reality of the image of God given to us all. Here, the pursuit of trustworthiness, in self and others, overcomes so much evil.

If we look at the public language and actions of Jeff Sessions, this is at the very core of his identity. He is a man of his word, and he will not risk anything to sully that identity.

Sessions supported Donald Trump early in the campaign, because he saw in him – a very different person – a core identity to be a man of his word in public life. Trump made campaign promises he intended to keep, and this he has done. To be successful in business transactions, and to secure genuine reciprocity as a prerequisite to economic freedom, words must be kept. Trump learned this early and knows it well.

Thus, I take Sessions at his word – he recused himself in the “Russian collusion” matter out of a clear demarcation in his own understanding. He had actively supported the Trump campaign, and this “Russian” matter was putatively one concerning the campaign. Sessions wisely seeks to avoid any hint of impropriety, even at the cost of certain freedoms that might otherwise be justly claimed.

And I also take Sessions at his word when he says he has been in control of the Department of Justice (DOJ) from the outset of his tenure.

Given this integrity – free from political compromise in any direction – Attorney General Sessions is thus able to better serve the Constitution and President Trump. He is free from becoming a false lightning rod for the political opposition, and this allows him freedom to attend to matters that have real substance. He has 27 investigations underway into classified leaks within the DOJ, and who knows what else he is looking at. Draining the swamp and on forward.

President Donald Trump uses tweets, in part, to distract the top-down media with shiny objects. Then, at the same time, he successfully goes about his positive agenda that serves religious, political and economic liberty for all people equally under the rule of law. Attorney General Jeff Sessions allows the shiny object of the ephemeral debate over his recusal to free him for his substantial work.

Now, how deeply toxic, dangerous and occultic is the swamp at the DOJ? It may be so toxic, that the free-flowing liquid has long since been drained, and now it requires pickaxes and shovels, with gas-masks in place, to remove the hardened muck.

Thus, in the serendipity of Sessions’s recusal, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sets to work on a matter where Sessions knows there is no “there” there, and in time, this will be publicly known to all. Rod becomes the lightning rod. To be “wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove” (pace the language of Jesus), Sessions allows evil to gradually implode on itself, while himself not getting caught in the muck.

He knows a frontal assault against such an entrenchment would be folly. Instead, he shrewdly peels away one layer after another, keeping his friends close and his political enemies closer. As well, he is committed to strengthening the DOJ for its true purposes, and will not risk its injury while doing the necessary surgery. A true precipice that requires due patience and wisdom.

So, what of the dance between Trump and Sessions on the recusal? Trump gets publicly upset about it, but keeps Sessions in office, and does not (yet) release classified documents that could easily sink the Robert Mueller probe.

Could it be a mutually understood mime, providing the top-down media with yet another shiny object? Could the Art of the Deal be aiming at a chosen political timing for which the miming well serves? Regardless, Sessions would keep a clear demarcation in not even raising the matter with Trump. So that in the end, the Constitution, and the offices of both the Attorney General and the President, are not polluted.

Time will tell.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Bible and Politics 101: Question 3


Why is politics necessary?

Genesis 1:1 establishes the political domain of the heavens as belonging to (Yahweh) Elohim, and the earth is the given domain for human political stewardship.

Then in verse 2, the text reads: Now the earth was formless and void, and darkness was above the face of the abyss, and the Spirit of Elohim was above the face of the waters.

What is being presented is the eternal Creator speaking into existence a finite reality that had not theretofore existed. We cannot conceive of this in our limited capacities, but the language gives us the ability to grasp the greatness of the One who speaks our earth and human domain into being.

The language of the earth being "formless and void," is tohu w'bohu in the Hebrew. And "darkness" (hoshek) is above the face (panim, or in the presence of) of the abyss (t'hom). It describes the same reality. The abyss (abussos in the Greek New Testament) means "without boundary." In other words, good order is being made in the presence of disorder, and anything outside the presence of the Creator is by definition disordered. No boundaries, no light, no identity, no purpose, no existence.

In the face of such nonexistence, the Spirit (Hebrew ruach) hovers over "the waters" (mayim) that is, unorganized material with which to create -- the basic ingredient of life.

Thus, the political overview of Genesis 1:1 now begins to take form, and most simply, man and woman are to bring good order to the earth as given to us. As (Yahweh) Elohim is satisfied in ordering the creation and the earthly domain for us, we are to be satisfied in bringing good order to the earth as given, in building loving and creative human civilization.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Bible and Politics 101: Question 2


What are the three choices in human history for political order?

According to the late Jewish political theologian, Daniel J. Elezar, they are 1) hierarchy, 2) oligarchy and 3) covenant.

1. Hierarchy is the natural result of conquest in war. In antiquity, the hierarchical model is seen in Egypt. Here, the Pharaoh claims to be a son of the gods, and thus, he asserts authority over all Egyptians according to his singular will. It is the model of the top-down pyramid, and its economic survival depends on massive slavery.

2. Oligarchy, and its first cousin, plutocracy, arise organically out of communities where a given family or set of families gain control. In antiquity, ancient Greece is the model. It is a model from within, but near the top of the pyramid, and its economic survival also depends on massive slavery.

Ancient Rome is an admixture of the hierarchal and oligarchal models, and its economic survival also depends on massive slavery..

3. Covenant is a matter of divine revelation where Yahweh is King, and where there are checks and balances on human power. Authority is for the well-being of all people, and not the private domain of a self-aggrandizing elite. In antiquity, this is the nation of Israel, where the bottom of the pyramid is in control, and its economic model is based on freedom for all equally.

Only biblical literacy can serve human freedom.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Bible and Politics 101: Question 1


How central is politics to the Bible?

We can start by looking at the first verses in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

Genesis 1:1 reads: Bereshith bara elohim eth ha'shamayim w' eth ha'eretz: "In the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth."

All the way through the Hebrew Bible, this combination of "the heavens and the earth" percolates often. As Genesis 1-2 introduces this reality, the Creator is the One who governs the heavens (the invisible realms), and man and woman govern the earth (the visible domains) as his stewards.

Thus, healthy human politics can only be rooted in knowing the politics of the one true Creator.

Matthew 1:1 reads: Biblos geneseos Iesou Chistou huiou Dawid huiou Abraam: "The book of the generations of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham." The Son of David is the son of and heir to the founding king of Jerusalem.

This declaration about Jesus is thus a threat to Herod and Caesar, in their usurping human kingships. In the Lord's Prayer, which Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount, his actual words start this way: Pater hemon ho en tois ouranois: "Our Father, the One in the heavens" (Matthew 6:9).

This traces back to the declared political domain of the Creator in Genesis 1:1. And also, in the debate between Jesus and his enemies during Passover Week (Matthew 21-22), the whole argument centers on the question of who is the Son of David. This political battle leads to the cross, resurrection, ascension, the Second Coming, and how we as Christians are called live as salt and light in a corrupt world.