Saturday, October 07, 2006

Reflections on My Last Post

These are the things I hate about blogs:

  • Writers who emote more than reason.
  • Writers who think they know more than most everyone else.
  • Arrogant writers who demand humility in everyone else.

These are the things I hate about my last piece:
  • See previous list.

I was going to edit my last piece, but I decided to leave it the way it is as a reminder to take breath after writing and before posting. My goal in writing is to think and write a little different than the crowd by presenting a reasonable alternative to the crowd. I’m not always contrarian, but I do have a tendency to consider zagging when everyone else is zigging.

Politics means different things to different people. Pastors have many reasons besides tax law to participate or not participate in the political process. Most Pastors probably just consider politics to be so divisive they would rather just avoid it all together.

I think freedom is essential to God’s plan for humanity. I am going to keep making the case for spreading freedom and participating in politics to promote and ensure freedom. However, I don’t want to leave the impression that I think I am smarter or that I understand Scripture better than those who disagree with me. I know my place. I’m just trying to use the brain God gave me and the circumstances I’ve experienced to understand God and Scripture and then write about what I believe.

7 comments:

Buz said...

David,

I think you stepped out. Sometimes when you do that, you get stepped on, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't step out. Peter stuck his foot in his mouth often, yet, he was the leader of the disciples because he had the courage to say things, even if it might leave the taste of leather in his mouth.

I don't disagree with spreading freedom. I am thankful for mine, and I wish every country had the same measure of freedom I do. I think it is a nobel goal. And, as long as you recognize that it is a political goal and treat it as such, I see no problems with it.

As Americans, we have not only the privilege to express our freedom but also the responsibility to defend it "from enemies foreign and domestic". As Americans, we may also be asked to liberate an oppressed peoples. If the govt. decides that is a necessary thing, and they are not violating God's law to do it, then we should participate. (If you feel it is against God's law, then it is your responsibility to resist and spend your time in jail ... that is also part of being an ambassador of Heaven.)

Sometimes spreading the Gospel and spreading political freedom do coincide, but even when they do, they are not the same thing.

I was listening to someone talking about their Jail ministry this past week. He was talking about a man in for life with no chance of parole. After he was put in prison, he came to Jesus. He now spends 20+ hours a day in an 8x8 room, and when he is allowed out, he is shackled hands and feet. Yet, inspite of this, he says that he is more free than he has ever been in his life. THAT is true freedom.

Buz

David M. Smith said...

Hi Buz,

I would prefer any bad situation with Christ over any good situation without HIM. Thankfully, there will never ever be another time in my life when I am without HIM.

The prison environment is more supporting evidence for the point I am making. Some prisoners can and do become believers in Christ. However, due to the oppressive nature of prison, the evidence for a living God is not apparent and therefore most prisoners never become believers. Of course in prison and among prisoners there are other factors including mental disorders, but the lack of freedom is still a factor. I would bet it is much more likely for an ex-prisoner to become a believer after leaving prison than for a prisoner to become a believer while in prison. If oppression turned unbelievers into believers, the prisons would produce more believers than the outside society and prisons would be full of believers. I have heard that Islam, the religion of oppression, is growing like weeds in prison nowadays.

I want to be very, very careful not to add to the Gospel. One of my gripes about Church sermons is all of the Pastors who can’t help but include their personal opinions in their Gospel presentation. However, I am certain that freedom is a component of the life God created and intends for everyone. I am also mostly certain the best environment for Christianity is an environment of free choice and private property rights. The early believers would not have been able to sell their possessions and help the poor if they didn’t have possessions to sell.

Therefore, I don’t consider freedom to be only a political issue. I believe it is also a spiritual issue. The world, including America, and including American Churches, is full of people who want to restrict freedom. I think we need to primarily tell people about the freedom they receive when they accept Christ, but secondarily we also need to promote freedom because the other spiritual side uses oppression to stop the Gospel from spreading. I will get to some of my ideas about promoting freedom in the world in some of my future posts.

Buz said...

I don't disagree with you that God ultimately gave us freedom (I think that was written into the preamble of the Constitution). But, at a human level, freedom is not something which can be given, it must be earned.

Yes, I know that it was given to US by our forefathers, but, in some ways that very fact makes my point. We are far too willing to squander a little here and a little there because we have no concept of the ultimate cost of freedom. And when it comes to you cheap, you don't hold it very dear.

I guarantee that those Iraquis who voted in that first election and knew that the price of a purple finger might be death, would not be so quick to give up their freedoms as even we are.

A man who wins a million dollars in the lotto is most likely to be worse off financially in one year than before he won. While a man who earns and saves a million dollars over 20 years will probably leave a lot of it to his children.

Actually, the folks in prison are more likely to turn to God than those who get out. When they are in prison, they have to take account of their lives. Those who are honest with themselves are more likely to admit that they have screwed up and need God's help. When they get out, they are often distracted by the world.

I guess that I don't disagree with your comments about Christianity and freedom going together, but you cannot "give" someone freedom just as you cannot "give" them salvation. It must be (1) their choice, and (2) something that they are willing to lay their own life down for, not something they think they are getting for free.

I guess I can't think of a country which has gotten its freedom for free, going back to the Hebrews leaving Egypt. With the possible exception of King Artaxerxes letting Nehemiah go back and rebuild the city. Even then, I am not sure that he let loose of the country, it may have been one of his territories.

And again, which ever you do, free them from without, or if they free themselves from within, it is still a political act, not a religious one. As much as we desire to say that this nation was founded by Christians on Christian principles, it was still a political act. They still put a man (or some men) in charge when all was said and done. We don't have a high priest who divines good and evil for us and tells us which enemies to obliterate and which to submit to forced labor.

Buz

David M. Smith said...

Hi Buz,

Here is how I would put it: We can’t give someone freedom by taking freedom from someone else, and we can’t force someone to be free who does not want to be free, but there are things American believers should be doing to help people who are being oppressed to become more free. I’ve been trying to get back to exporting (and importing) Red Christianity, but I needed to lay the groundwork first.

David M. Smith said...

“Actually, the folks in prison are more likely to turn to God than those who get out. When they are in prison, they have to take account of their lives. Those who are honest with themselves are more likely to admit that they have screwed up and need God's help. When they get out, they are often distracted by the world.”

Hi again Buz,

This statement of yours is the exact conventional wisdom I am challenging. For most of my life as a Christian I have also believed people choose to believe in Christ during times of trouble, but I don’t think it is supported by the facts. Prisoners are turning to Islam, not Christ. Throughout the oppressed world, people are not choosing Christ in very large numbers. However, in a free South Korea, people do choose Christ in large numbers just like in a free America. As America becomes less free and as the world becomes more oppressed, some people are turning away from Christ and most people are not even giving Christ a chance. I think the relationship between freedom and Christ is much more supported by the facts than a relationship between oppression and Christ.

Buz said...

David,

(1) That was not just conventional wisdom. I have worked in jail ministry.

(2) As far as people in free countries turning to Jesus in large numbers ... Mark 4:16-17 might be applicable here.

Buz

David M. Smith said...

Hi Buz,

Yes, prisons and countries with authoritarian governments are environments with a lot of rocky soil. I have no doubt God has blessed your Prison ministry to overcome bad soil. You have certainly blessed me with your comments here.

However, my point still stands unless it can be demonstrated that a prisoner is as likely as a non-prisoner to accept and live for Christ. I still believe free people in free environments are more likely to choose Christ and live for Christ than oppressed people in oppressed environments as demonstrated by the Citizens of South Korea as compared to the rest of Asia.

I will allow for the possibility that because America and South Korea are so free, Americans and South Koreans have not been tested in a way that will demonstrate true faith as opposed to Church attendance or cultural Christianity. Perhaps South Korea is the best example of my point. Europe is another example as the relative freedom and the number of professing Christians are both decreasing.