Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Joys of Being a Victim

I watched a segment from the Rachel Maddow Show last night that really congealed some thoughts that have been floating around my head. Those thoughts are summarized as this, if you want to unite a group of people make them believe they are the victims of another group of people. Why? Because victimization unites a group of people against a supposed oppressor. As the Maddow clop shows, if you want to unite white people then make then afraid of black people. Make white people believe that THEY are the victim and that black people want to take something, or everything, from them. This strategy has come back into play, as it seems to do every election year, in recent months, especially after the election of a black President. If you want to unite the white vote make them afraid of the big, black President. If Obama gets angry then he is the stereotypical "angry black man." If Obama wants to pass Healthcare reform, then he wants to kill your grandma in a government run death panel. The specifics change, but the narrative remains the same. If you want to unite a group of people make them afraid of another group of people.

This is the same strategy used against gays and lesbians. We saw it in the Prop 8 vote in California. If you want to unite heterosexual people, especially Christians, make them believe they are the victims of homosexual people. Gays want the right to marry or at least be joined in civil unions? Well, that means that heterosexual marriage will be destroyed. People will started getting divorced. Oops, that already happens. Well, then married people will started having extra-martial affairs. Oops. Well, if we let gays and lesbians get married that means people will want to start marrying their cats, dogs, or farm animals. Because we all know that gay marriage is a gateway to bestiality. You want unite straight men then make them think that all gay men want is sex and if they cannot get it willingly, they will TAKE it by force. If you want to unite a group of people make them believe they are the victims of another group of people.

The same strategy is used in the immigration debate. If you want to unite Americans then make them believe they are the victims of undocumented immigrants. They want your jobs. They want your money. They want to destroy your family and your livelihood. They increase the crime rate. They lower property values. They cause dandruff. The list goes on and on.

The strategy is not limited to conservatives and their agenda. Those on the left continue to play the victim against those on the Right, although they have had a majority in House and Senate for 4 years. If you want to unite liberals, then make them believe that they are the victims of Fox News, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh. If you want to unite a group of people make them believe they are the victims of another group of people.

Victimization motivates people to go to the polls and vote. Victimization makes people open up their wallets and donate. Look at how much money the Prop 8 campaign brought in.

Even the Church, one the most powerful entities in human history, uses this same strategy. If you want to unite fundamentalist Christians, they make them believe they are the victims of liberal so-called Christians. Liberals want to take your KJV 1611 Bible. Liberals want to close your church. Liberals are infiltrating our Church. If you think some elements of evolution are valid then you might as well burn your Bible. The liberals have stolen our country away from us. They took prayer out of school. They took our 1 ton granite Ten Commandments statue. They want to destroy Christianity.
This is truly sad because there are real victims in the world. There are those without a voice. There are those who are oppressed. One half of the world's population lives on less than $2 a day and we complain if gas goes up a nickel a gallon.
If you want to unite a group of people make them believe they are the victims of another group of people. It works every time.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What is Biblical Justice?

The term "social justice" has come under heavy scrutiny over the last few months, especially from Glenn Beck and others on the Conservative political Right. Beck even went as far as to say
I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!
Some Christians simply dismiss Beck as a lunatic or shill for the Republican Party. But there are other well meaning Christians who hang on this man's every word like it was Gospel. I am writing to those Christians, not in anger or judgment or with an air of intellectual superiority, but honest and earnestly in love.

Beck and others, both on the Right and on the Left, define social justice, and I also think Biblical justice, as redistribution of wealth with a government as the means of that redistribution. I reject that definition outright. First, no Biblical sense of justice would use the United States government or ANY government as its sole means of action. Jesus rejected the idea of a worldly government doing the work of God. He told his disciples to give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. He also told Pontius Pilate that HIS Kingdom was NOT of this world. At no point do Jesus, Peter, Paul, or any apostles endorse a government doing the work of the Kingdom. The work of the Kingdom of God, part of which is working toward justice (Micah 6:8), is the exclusive responsibility of the followers of Jesus Christ, the Church.

Second, I do not believe that Biblical justice is about taking from the rich and giving to the poor. Jesus was not Robin Hood. Instead, I take my view of Biblical justice again from Micah 4:3-4
He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more;
but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid;
for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

The first difference is clear, the means of this justice is Almighty God. No government can do the work of the Almighty, it has tried and failed with terrible and violent results. Secondly, this view of justice is based on work, but it is not work in order to acquire wealth or property, but work in order to live with one other in peace. The weapons of war are turned into the tools of agriculture. The people are not reliant on a government, but on God alone. That is the only true way of justice. When we rely on human strength we get greed, corruption, and injustice. There is no government in the history of humanity, including the United States, that has not suffered these things. We cannot rely on government to provide justice. But when we rely upon God we get true and lasting peace and justice.

The Micah 6 idea of justice provides everyone gets an equal chance to do for themselves. Everyone has their own vines and their own fig trees to tend. But it is not about who has the biggest vines or the most fig trees, Biblical justice is always about full-inclusion. Biblical justice means no one gets left behind and no one falls through the cracks. Everyone gets enough, not too much and not too little, but enough. The idea of competition and hoarding, "I got mine and I don't care about yours" is not of God. Instead, Biblical justice means we share willingly and without pretense. When you start talking about how much should you tithe and give and whether the 10% is before or after taxes, you have miss the entire point. You do not have to give all your belongs to the poor to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but if you are a follower of Jesus Christ you would not really care either way. You would give everything you own because you know that it is not about how much you own, but about where your heart is.

What does this all mean for us in 2010? The good news is this, we will see this justice come into fullness and fruition one day. We have that promise. We will all sit on the banks of the River of Life and we will eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life and we will worship Almighty God forever. The bad news is that in this life we only catch glimpses of this justice. Those glimpse come in people like Mother Teresa who gave her life to helping those thrown away by Society. We see justice when a single mother gets help with day care and food while she works her way up or goes to school to make a better life. We see justice when a church helps unemployed people find work with a living wage. We see justice those who are differently-abled are integrated into Society not as objects of pity, but in full inclusion.

But now we find ourselves in a catch-22 because we cannot dissolve the very government that is so corrupt and filled with greed. The bad news is that in this life we have to work with the faulty, corrupt system. I feel that we need the government to make those glimpses of justice. The Church has delegated its responsibility to the government and now the government is the only entity equipped to help those who need it. There are too many people for the Church to help them all. But it does not mean that we stand idly by while corruption and greed, on BOTH sides of the aisle, reign freely. Greed and corruption are not limited to those in Congress, but also with all of us. There are those who abuse the system that is meant to help them. There are those who become unjustly reliant on the government for their complete existence. This is not justice, but an abuse of justice. So we must work as imperfect people with an imperfect system to try and help those who need it. This is the reality of our situation, but we continue to hope and pray for the day when "let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." (Amos 5:24)