13 February 2012

A Strange Encounter Part 8

Innocent Motives and Unintended Consequences.

For the Church this tendency toward willful blindness in the name of Patriotism is most dangerous of all. While I argue it isn't good for the nation and its citizens, ultimately the nation doesn't matter much does it? They come and go. None are good, not really. And certainly none are Holy...things that are holy will survive the Eschaton because they belong to the Kingdom of God. There's no nation on earth that can make that claim.

I've written pretty extensively about the Babel Impulse and the danger of bringing the Church into the power game. Tying in theological concepts regarding the Kingdom with culture and power is an attempt to sanctify the Beast, to sanctify the tower of Babel.

Man is trying to make a name for himself, he's trying to build a transcendent Kingdom that has a Divine Mandate, is holy or 'Exceptional'...one ruled by Sons of the Gods so to speak. This is as old as the fall. This is Lamech declaring he's better than everyone else, he is superior and the justice he demands is based on his superiority. God's threat of retribution and curse isn't good enough for him. He's better than that, better than the other men and nations around him. This is the pride of the devil, the pride exhibited in the typological-symbolic language of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. The king of Babylon and of Tyre also represented this type of impulse. It wasn't unique to the kings of antiquity, it's the story of history and very much with us today.

Early on the Church fell into this trap. In the early 4th century she believed she had won a great victory. True the persecutions ceased but the victory would result in a defeat worse than any a Roman sword or coliseum could ever inflict. If you can't kill your enemy outright, infect them with a disease, a virus, and watch your enemy kill himself. The Church wanted to become the Roman Empire or at least to join with it. Within a short time she ceased to be the Holy Bride and instead became a filthy Whore. That’s a theological label for the covenant community given over to idolatry and apostasy. She lost her identity and traded a Holy Kingdom for a Bestial one.

Thankfully for both the world around it and the persecuted Remnant who refused to go along, the Beast and Whore often fight each other, they are often competitors. Everyone's trying to climb to the top and they keep cutting each other's throats. It's a shame this is done in the name of Christ, but this 'distraction' allows the real Church to quietly work and survive.

This is the impulse that led the Bishops of Rome to grasp for more power and create a Papal Empire. This led the Holy Roman Emperors to oppose them and struggle for power. This guided the Emperors of Constantinople, and sadly all too often it guided the Reformers and the Magistrates which backed them. Later this impulse drove not only the Conquistador but the British and French as they created worldwide empires. It also guided the young American nation which broke from one empire to form its own. Ideas and verbiage changed, but it was all window dressing for the same old impulse.

America is historically ironic just as 'Christian' Rome was. People freed themselves from tyranny and empire but within a generation forgot all the lessons and went about creating a new form of the same creature which previously persecuted them. The difference? The Christians in Rome 'won' by suffering and then lost to the Babel Impulse. The 'Christians' in America took up arms, won through violence, and never looked back.

Personally I've got a wide array of ancestors. Some members of my family were German Reformed who came in the early 1700's to escape the wars of Louis XIV. Some were Anabaptists who showed up around the same time. They had settled the devastated Rhineland after the Thirty Years War looking for a place to live unmolested.

Others were Ulster-Scots who settled along the frontier from Pennsylvania to Georgia. These families moved west, intermarried and mingled in places like Southern Illinois, Arkansas, and Ohio.

My great-great-great-great-great grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War with all of his brothers. His father a veteran of the French and Indian War died during the Revolution. Like many others, they started in the old cradle of Virginia and slowly migrated south through the Carolinas. My ggggg-grandfather left Georgia around 1810 and moved into Arkansas, which had just been purchased from France a few years before, and the family buried themselves in the Ozarks for more than century. The 1860's brought my ggg-grandfather out as he rode in the Confederate Cavalry. The Great Depression led them to abandon that part of the country and head for California where they settled in the Central Valley.

Other ancestors of mine fled America after the Revolution and went to Canada, only to reappear in Illinois in the 1850's. They married into a line of New England Puritans who previously had lived in the West Indies and run a sugar plantation. Though his ancestors had grown rich on slave labour, my ggg grandfather (on that side) was part of the Union army. The heat caused him to fall out during the siege of Vicksburg. His descendants also went west.

Another branch of my family abandoned Germany in the 1760's...the wars of Frederick and others had worn them out. Lured by promises of peaceful living and good farmland, they left Germany and settled on the Asiatic side of the Volga, near today's modern Kazakh border, just south of Saratov. There they dealt with Kirghiz and Cossacks and after being forced to fight in the Russo-Turkish war for the Tsar in the 1870's, they left and came to America, settling south of Fresno California. This is the one branch of my family almost entirely exempt from the American story. Truly they cannot be charged with being part of an imperial impulse. They just wanted to be left alone, but trouble always pursued them.

All of these people were just plain folks, trying to get by, trying to make a living and provide for their families. But at the same time, they were part of a growing Empire. As they settled the newly bought territories of the Louisiana Purchase it never occurred to them those lands had belonged to others, had been stolen and conquered. The Ulster-Scots or Scots-Irish (as they're called in America) often settled the frontiers and were notorious for getting into tangles with the native populations. Every agreement made with the Indians ended up being broken as the whites insisted on continual expansion and pushing into the territories which they had just promised to stay out of.

During the Civil War, many in the South decried what they viewed as the aggressive imperialism of the North, though many of the same military leaders had just a few years before marched American armies through Mexico...having no problem with subjugating that nation and gobbling up the lands that would later comprise the American southwest.

My ancestors that settled the Tidewater in the 1600's held massive armies of slaves. Their descendants that settled the Ozarks were much poorer but I have copies of several of their wills and inevitably there was a slave or two being passed on to the descendants.

My Puritan ancestors who came to Massachusetts from the Indies ran sugar plantations and one of my gggg(I can't remember how many greats off the top of my head) was reputed to be a sea captain. Well it doesn't take a whole lot of speculation to figure out that a sea captain with family ties in the Indies and Massachusetts was probably part of the infamous Triangle Trade of sugar, rum, and slaves.

The family married into another Massachusetts family that had fought in the Pequot War. In fact I'm a descendant of Samuel Stone the minister who served as a ‘chaplain’ in the war and is considered one of the founders of Hartford Connecticut.

All of these people were good old plain folk, just pioneering Christian people...but they were also part of the Protestant Sacral vision. I'm sure many of them never thought in those terms. They wouldn't have to. It was the default. White Christians were superior. The New World belonged to them. They had a right to those lands. In many cases the settlers had not 'taken' the lands...they were just settling ‘vacated’ lands. Lies or not, that was the narrative, and people believed it.

We use similar arguments today. We personally aren't enslaving peoples in other countries. When we buy the goods produced in countries that live under the shadow of the American sword, goods sometimes produced by what must be honestly called slave labour, we don't feel responsible. We personally didn't create the situations. Those in government, in power did these things. We're just trying to live our lives right? I guarantee you that the average American soldier stationed overseas never even considers why they're there. They never even question the fact that we have a right to be there. They never even entertain the thought that the people who live there might resent our presence and the manipulations which placed us there.

On the other hand there are a whole lot of innocent people that unwittingly are part of a large and often quite evil machine. They only see their tiny part, they can only see one small facet on a jewel which contains thousands of surfaces and angles. And for many of them their ignorance alleviates them of any guilt or responsibility.

Were my ancestors bloodthirsty imperialists trying to conquer the world? No...and yes. Maybe they hadn't thought of it in those terms but there were people behind them and above them that were...and willing or no they were part of what was happening.

Today we're taught that previous generations had a more Biblical Worldview. It's simply not true. Everyone was a ‘Christian’ but very few were really thinking about things in terms of what the Bible said. Everyone pretty much went along with the cultural norms. The same is largely true today.

Interestingly with my own family, it's the Volgadeutsche, the Volga Germans who lived in Russia for several generations that seemed to have the best perspective. Granted they all came here and became good patriotic Americans. It was my great-grandparents who came over in the late 1800's, and their American born son fought for the Americans in World War II. I've read a good deal about the Volga Germans and their own history largely kept them from allying themselves too strongly with any group or movement. All the German exile groups of the Auswanderung (the exodus after the Thirty Years War) and the Ostsiedlung (Eastern Settlement going back to the Middle Ages) all seem to have had this identity. It's quite interesting. They lived as exiles in various lands outside of the German lands. German communities were spread all over Central and Eastern Europe, my own ancestors I mentioned above being on the far eastern fringe, almost outside of Europe. Others had surnames originating in Bohemia but ended up in the Rhineland by the late 1600’s…probably refugees from the Thirty Years War.

They weren't perfect but I always find their kind of pilgrim identity to be intriguing. The Volga Germans were rounded up by Stalin during the German invasion...he feared they would collaborate with the Nazis and he shipped them to Central Asia and Siberia where they still live today. I would have many cousins among those people but of course my immediate ancestors had already been in California for a generation.

Sadly so many of the German exiles, the colonists of Eastern Europe, were all too happy to look to the Nazis as empowering liberators. Long content to live in their enclaves, when the opportunity to grasp power came to them, they reached for it. Allying with the Third Reich they could now enslave and dominate their Slavic neighbours and they largely went along with it.

They paid a terrible price in the end. Beginning in 1944, millions of these Germans were forcibly removed from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and other lands. Perhaps a million or more died but after what the Nazis had done very few cared or even bothered to report it. It's one of the great unreported genocides of history, the Germans outside of Germany after World War II. They bore the wrath of the Nazi victims and the accounts make for unpleasant reading. I’m afraid once again it was a case of empowered victims treating others to the horrors they had suffered.

These Germans were not the ones who had put Hitler into power but sadly when Hitler came to them, they largely signed on. Just like the Jews, though not free of guilt, their communities were destroyed and another part of the wondrous mosaic of Central and Eastern Europe was removed as the post-War establishment created for the first time ethnically homogeneous nation states. So much was lost from 1914-1945...it's not just the dead...a whole and very rich part of European cultural history was wiped out.

Pardon the German detour, but what I'm trying to say is that normal people without realizing it can fall into traps. Because they equate cultural norms as being compatible with religious ethics they never question the status quo. They're not trying to be wicked and to harm others but their actions have consequences. The Ulster-Scot frontiersman felt this acutely as he fired warning shots at Indian scouts trying to keep them away from his 'settlement'.

Reading history one is left with the impression…there is none good, no not one.

I am suggesting when we are renewed in our minds, when we are Born Again, our way of thinking about the world should be different. We will still live in one or another Babylon, but we of all people shouldn’t get caught up in Babylon’s wars and programmes. If we do…we’re also guilty…and we must suffer the consequence. We can learn from it, but more often than not, man finds a way to justify his actions and paint himself as the one in the right, the good…and the other side as evil.

There’s a lot of evil in the world, but I don’t find many who can claim to be pure and good.  

more to come....


Jim C. said...

Hey Proto,

Based on what I've read on this website I get the feeling you're some kind of incognito university professor who loves to teach but hates office politics.

Anyway, I'm curious...I'm sure by now at least one of your critics has resorted to saying, "well, if you hate your country so much why don't you leave it? Would you rather live in ((insert name of non-white third-world country here))? You wouldn't? Didn't think so. So shut your mouth and show your respect for those fighting for your freedom to complain."

These are usually the same people who say things like "if money isn't important to you then send it my way."

After that they usually sign off with their name, rank and serial number and what unit they are/were in.

How have you responded to this?

Anonymous said...

Wow, Proto. It's just so wonderful you can know your ancestry like this if only for the reason that you can use that knowledge to make these points.

Remember when I was sort of freaking out about my role in this empire? The face of the war for me became those 2 little Libyan girls suffering from horrible injuries as a result of our "humanitarian aid". Otherwise known as bombing Libya back to the stone age.
My heart was so broken over not only them but millions like them that we had "aided". The Lord helped me see that my personal sins are covered by His blood, yes, but also the sins I'm guilty of by association.

However - there is always the question we should, as Christians, be asking ourselves. We are told to live in the world but not be OF it. We are told to not love this world. So the question must be - what does that look like, exactly?
How, then, should we live?

Don't you think those questions are vital in a Christian's life? What if we're not even considering those questions? I wonder if a lot of us don't ask the questions because we're afraid of the answers! And for some - it never occurs to ask the questions because...they're just blind. When you're brought up with a certain mindset - there is only a certain way our eyes will go - only a certain set of glasses we wear, I guess.

What gets me is that some of these people not only occasionally read their Bibles...they study and know them well. And yet, apparently, not well enough. Perhaps not with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps they've been taught a certain interpretation that allows one Christian to read a verse and understand it correctly and another to read it and the meaning is completely scewed. (Sorry I don't know how to spell that but it's the word I really want there.)
scued. squewed. whatever.

Maybe it's just the wheat and the tares. The various kinds of ground that the seed falls on...

Anyway - bless you for another wonderful post.

Cal said...


It's funny how the bloods mix together, especially in America. I'm at least 1/8 Irish and have 1/16 or 1/32 Cherokee and yet I'm also 1/16 English and a quarter Austrian. Both the rulers of Empires and those crushed beneath them. Family histories are fascinating!


It comes down to understanding the Scriptures point to Messiah Jesus. If you're looking at it as a moral guidebook, a manual on 'how to get saved', an oracle of the future for the USA or blue prints for life, its going to produce some strange phenomenon. Only in Christ can the totality of it be understood. It's not so baffling as it was for me when I first came around to following Him. I use to be one of those 'christians' who never knew what the Sermon on the Mount said, what the cross or the resurrection meant. All I knew that Jesus was divine/god (how/why is unknown) and He brings salvation (an equally unknown term).

Protoprotestant said...

No I'm not a professor. That would be nice, but I'm far lower on the totem pole.

I get those 'love it or leave it' kind of quips all the time.

Sometimes they're not even worth answering. Other times I'll point out that I don't have to leave. My family has been here since the beginning and I'll usually point out to them that they have a pretty limited understanding of American history if they think their viewpoint is the only valid position that Americans historically have held to.

Or I might point out there are many very patriotic (far more than I) that view the present state of things as a gross deviation from what America once stood for.

Pick your point of deviation...1918, 1945, 1991, 2003....each point (and there easily could be more) denote a shift in America attitude and policy. Each stage has taken us further down the militaristic and imperialistic road.

A lot of these folks consider Obama treasonous but can't see that the same argument or an even stronger one can be made for Bush.

If they're Christians...well, that adds a whole new category. At that point it's far more than a sociological or historical debate...at that point they're claiming to follow Scripture and supposedly they're integrating the Bible with their understanding of the world. Usually a gentle (or not so gentle) rebuke is in order.

As far as the money angle...we should all do what we can. Though statements like that would show they've thought precious little about it all...which the powers that be certainly appreciate.

I guess if they're sincere I would try to encourage them to think about their lives, what is of value to them, and try to get them to see what a racket our system is and that our lifestyles actually lead to the harm of others. None of us can fix every last thing or avoid every product...there'd be nothing to buy or eat anymore....

Again, if the person was a Christian, in some ways that's easier to counter. If they're not, then they've really got bigger problems and I wouldn't expect them to grasp the whole materialist-money bit. Although it's interesting how many unbelievers seem to see a bit more than many who profess Christ.

Protoprotestant said...

Thanks Lisa.

Living in this world but not being of it...I'm afraid to many that simply means holding Conservative/Republican values.

Or sadly in so many Churches that means some kind of legalistic extra-Biblical tradition-based checklist.

We're supposed to have renewed minds and we're to be a people laying up our treasures in heaven.
We're supposed to be salt and light but also not entangling ourselves in the affairs of this world or this life.

Realistically you or I aren't going to get America to stop bombing other countries...or other countries engaging in their wicked deeds. We have to understand God is in control of all these things.

What I think we're supposed to do is be Christians where we are placed. The people we interact and the lives we lead will make a difference, sometimes more than we know. If all of us are doing that, then things will happen.

I remember Falwell saying that the whole idea that we go out and make disciples, preach the gospel..that this will change society. He said it just didn't work, so he turned to political activism.

God's ways weren't good enough or quick enough for him. He had made an idol of his country and when forced to choose between the two he chose the idol.

Yeah, I do know quite a lot about my family. I hope it didn't come across as being somehow proud or something. I'm not proud or ashamed...it's just the story. They're people, not villains, though they are sometimes...not heroes, though perhaps in terms of the Kingdom of God...some of them were.

But I do think about where they were at the world they lived in...what it looks like from our perspective looking back and how today will look for someone looking back a century from now.

Knowing your family story makes some of the history a little more interesting and knowing the history makes your family story quite exciting. Can't always know the details but sometimes you can get a sense of what was happening and why.

In a way I'm glad I don't have some kind of heroic past or ties with important people. I think that can be bad...romanticized pride or a feeling that you have to be loyal to this or that cause or ethnic group, leading you to ignore things or gloss them over.

I think most family histories if they're really known are kind of ugly. Mine is no exception.

Protoprotestant said...

Cal, yes I've often chuckled that many of my ancestors would have been enemies...but then a generation or two later their descendants are getting married.

And then there's the untold stories. My wife has a one branch that's very WASPy...New England Puritan tradition and fairly well to do. One of the sons her g-grandfather married an Irish Roman Catholic. They weren't well off and the WASPy branch was never talked about and contact was lost. We've never known for sure but we have a feeling there was some mightly bad blood about their son taking up with a Papist and an Irish one no less!

I think a lot of us have some Indian, in my case my Ozark branch also has some...and it's believed to be Cherokee. My one daughter gets kind of upset over the Trail of Tears and Andrew Jackson is no hero in our home. The Indians were treated so terribly really up until the last generation or so. It's still kind of a hot-issue around here. The nearby Seneca lands were drowned underneath a reservoir in the 1960's. They're all up in New York now and they're often doing battle with the NY state government over taxes, casinos and other stuff.

Anonymous said...

proto said;

"What I think we're supposed to do is be Christians where we are placed. The people we interact and the lives we lead will make a difference, sometimes more than we know. If all of us are doing that, then things will happen"

I seem to come back to this phrase alot, something like: If Christians would go about their work, and live their lives where they are called, and be salt and light, and show a difference in how they live, our world would be largely different, and churches would realize the error in burning resources for vacation bible school, fall festivals and the like.

I found life to be like this somewhat growing up, although it was will worship and false piety, even those around us showed a different level of respect and humanity than these days.

Your neighbors should know what each of us is all about, without much thumping of our Bibles, although the application of some scripture is necessary. God IS sovereign, he does not need our help, but he needs us to do as we are told, if that makes sense....

Anonymous said...

That makes all sorts of sense JaSSBG.
I believe it, too.
We are to be salt and light.
The other day a man I know from town told me that I should be a minister.
I told him, no, I could never be that. The Lord gave me a husband and a daughter. If I devoted myself to ministering - to doing the Lord's work...well, I have to say I'm already doing it by being a godly wife and mother! If I did "The Lord's work" by a public, professional ministry - then I'd be failing in what He gave me to do in the first place - and how great that failing!
A lot of the time what He's given us to do isn't glamorous. It isn't noticed by anyone. Mary spent many, many years making bread, wiping noses and washing little butts. But it was what she was given to do and it was useful work for Him.
I think we're most useful to Him when we're doing what He has given us to do and let Him decide what to make of it.
So often people get in God's way by thinking they're doing His work when they are actually in rebellion to Him.

Cal said...

Hey folks,

I was going to email this just to Proto but all of the commenters ought to see this.

Behold, the Pinnacle of Patriolatry:


Protoprotestant said...

Wow, that is really....special?

I wish I could get a bunch at a discount rate. We went fishing recently and I need to wrap the fish in paper so they can be put in the freezer. I think a few copies of this would do just the trick!

Amber said...

Hi Proto,

I appreciated this blog. Much more
compassionate that the one where
you said the "stranger" man's son deserved to die. Should military men invading another country really deserve to die or just go home. That really disturbed me. If the Chinese set up headquarters in our towns and patrolled us, I would just want them to go home, not kill them.

Protoprotestant said...

Oh please don't think I would rejoice in the guy's death. It's not like that.

I'm afraid they take a cold hard line when it comes to their deeds...doing what has to be done, things like that they would say.

I simply wish to flip such arguments on their head. The burglar gets gunned down by the homeowner. It's sad. It's tragic. I have no desire to do it...but no one says the burglar was done wrong.

In the case of the soldiers, they live by the sword and so they die by it...it doesn't make them heroes.

If the Chinese invaded, a lot of Americans would be shooting at them with their hunting rifles and when they died they'd say...those Chinese deserved it.

For me...though I don't desire to live under a conqueror or the police state growing up around us. But I'm not going to kill for it. Not even Chinese someone would say? You're content to have your children speak Mandarin?

Yes I am. Keeping the English tongue is not worth killing a Chinese invader...nor sending my sons to invade someone else.

I agree with you. I would just want them to go home as I'm sure many people all around the world feel the same way about the American soldiers occupying their land.

I hope I'm conveying some of the mixed feelings I have toward this man on the bench in the shopping mall. On the one hand, I feel profound pity and sorrow for him.

Because he's lost his son. And because he's taken in by all the lies.

On the other hand I'm deeply angry with him...a righteous anger I hope. Not only is his type of person really and truly not a friend to the nation...though I care little about that. He and those like him are actually quite dangerous and destructive when at work in the Church.

In that sense he's really...an enemy. He's sort of the embodiment of much of what I'm writing about here.

Though an enemy, and though he needs a solid rebuke...he also needs to know the Love of Christ. In some ways it's harder with some like him. A completely lost person often knows they're lost. A deceived 'christian' must first be convinced they've been deceived before they can face the truth. You have to get them 'unsaved' to get them saved so to speak. A much harder task.

Thank you for writing and for not abandoning my writings even though I seem to have offended you. I appreciate your sensitivity and I would ask and be most pleased if you would comment in future.


Protoprotestant said...

I typed the last comment last night when I was half asleep. I just wanted to make something clear. I hope I wasn't taken as being snooty or condescending. If so, I promise you that was not my intention in the least.

Amber said...

Thanks, that really helped clear it up in my head. My family and I have been having some very good discussions as a result of your blog, which, I believe, you mentioned is your intent.
There was an article in newsweek (I read online) recently that talked about the muslim persecution of Christians being on the rise. The comment section was interesting with several muslims, a Christian and an atheist going at it. The muslim indicated that the Christian population were being executed by proxy because of what "our christian nation" was doing to/has done to their nations. Interesting. The writer of the article thought our government should be stepping in to rescue the Christians. I think that would just make things much worse. I believe the true believers should be stepping in with much prayer and sending practical resources peaceably to support our fellow believers. Any thoughts?

Protoprotestant said...

Thanks again.

I just wanted to respond real quick because I'm headed out the door for work.

But I wrote a couple of pieces called Going Down to Egypt that deal with that topic. They're on the left side under theological posts.

I'll try to write more later. Gotta run.


Jim said...


I recognize that guy - his name is American jesus. He is the saviour of the christian right.

-Jim (fb)