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A Libertarian Looks at President Obama’s Same-Sex Marriage Proclamation
Our president’s views on marriage have “evolved” and now he has come out in favor of “same-sex marriage” (hereafter named “ME” for “marriage equality” in this essay).
This comes on the heels of a crushing defeat to ME advocates at the hands of the citizens of North Carolina who voted 61% to 39%, the previous day, in favor of a state constitutional amendment defining only “traditional marriage” (hereafter named “TM” in this essay) as legal.
The two Billys (Clinton and Graham) weighed in with full-page ads in North Carolina newspapers advocating ME and TM, respectively.
America is not of one mind on this issue.
I am writing this in an airport, about to fly to Mammoth Lakes, California, to perform a marriage. Fitting that I write this now.
Let me lay my cards on the table. Please don’t jump to conclusions based on this short list. My conclusions from this essay are going to surprise you:
- I am a strong advocate for TM (traditional marriage).
- I am also a strong advocate for a free society, where coercion is only used to stop aggression.
- I operate from the assumption that our government’s natural tendency is a “benevolent drift toward a total state.” Our government and leaders generally mean well and end up growing the government and its control over our lives in order to help us. Of course, I believe this generally does more harm than good.
So. On to the discussion…
I am amazed that the advocates for TM and ME are operating under an unhelpful assumption: That the government (federal or state) has the power to license adult relationships.
Marriage licenses are a relatively new thing. For most of our history marriages have been a contract (formal or informal) between individuals and/or families. A religious sanction has been seen as helpful and/or optional in most societies. A “priest” or someone of similar social standing often (but not always) presides.
For much of American history, because we are such an under-populated nation (the topic of another essay), men and women have simply found one another and moved in. They would start referring to each other as husband and wife. Priests/clergy were scarce (perhaps an occasional circuit rider) and the magistrate may well have been the equivalent buggy distance away and expense (in today’s travel time and real cost) of flying to India.
This was also true in Bible times. “He took her as his wife” is a common phrase. The main “social marking” event was a feast/reception and no mention is made of a “judge” or a “priest” showing up. Most Bible people more or less followed the pattern of Adam and Eve and just started the marriage up at their own discretion.
Marriage licenses, unfortunately, came into widespread use after the Civil War, in an effort by racists to control or end “mixed marriages” with newly freed slaves (which in fact had been happening constantly throughout our entire history going back to Jamestown).
When people perceive a “problem,” government is always all too ready to dash in and help “fix” things, and they typically end up with more control over our lives in the end. Just think of the TSA if you want an example.
Thus the widespread custom of marriage licenses was born.
Fast forward to 2012. The culture wars have latched on to the TM vs. ME battle, reinforcing Caesar’s (my favorite term for government power) hold on the role of “decider.”
Both sides, in feverishly trying to get their view adopted by 100% of the public, are playing a gigantic chess game of “Mother May I” with plebiscites and court cases.
Truth is, the opponents are taking their partisan case to a “casino” where the house (government) always wins.
It’s as if two kids get into a playground argument and, unable to settle their dispute, take it up with the school principal. After generations of this appealing to authority, the principal eventually would control all playground activity at the smallest level of detail.
Free and unsupervised playgrounds (think basketball on the public park courts of the South Side of Chicago or sandlot baseball in the Dominican Republic) always produce better performers than over-managed and over-parented suburban youth sports (think Little League dad syndrome). Liberty works.
So back to the TM/ME debate. As a strong supporter of TM (I think of it as the Creator’s “plan A.”), you may be surprised with what I am going to say.
In short, get rid of marriage licenses. Altogether. While you’re at it, get rid of equivalent licenses for barbers, real estate agents and the like. Even business licenses. I pay $100+ a year to the City of Huntington Beach for my little private S-Corporation license and $800 annually to the State of California so they can keep me on some “register.” I get nothing of value in return for either payment. Yet no one questions the right of the government to demand/coerce such money from us. We obediently write our checks.
So, what business does the government have in registering and charging for voluntary adult relationships? What’s next, a friendship tax?
The whole TM/ME argument is base on a false premise; that the “school principal” is the decider. Both sides seek exclusive permission to define marriage aligned to their opinion and then impose that opinion on the other side, with Caesar’s blessing.
Let me suggest a better way.
In a truly free, non-coercive society, people can do as they please as long as they are not aggressing against others or their property. In a state of liberty, all would be free from physical, social, legal, economic, and intellectual aggression.
Picture a society where adult citizens could live with whomever they wanted and enter, freely, into any covenants they choose with others, on whatever terms they should select.
Any attempt to hinder free people from doing so is a restriction of their liberty.
It is also, and this is often left out, a restriction of intellectual liberty to impose a viewpoint on others. Unfortunately, “liberals” often don’t see their shortcomings in this area. In pushing for marriage equality (ME), they see themselves as the defenders of liberty and forget that they are aggressively redefining marriage and hoping to force this new definition on those who hold to TM (traditional marriage) views. It is not enough, for liberals, to have ME become the law of the land, they fully intend for TM supporters to embrace it, or label them as bigots.
In a free society, we would not be free to foist our definition of marriage on those who choose to think otherwise. This goes both ways.
In other words, requiring someone who strongly supports TM to call same-sex marriage a “marriage” is a form of intellectual aggression and has no place among free people. People have a right to their own viewpoints, definitions, and opinions.
Conversely, TM supporters like me have no right to tell ME folks that they cannot consider same-sex marriage a marriage. The truth is, they already do consider it same sex “marriage” a marriage. And I don’t get to vote on what other people think. And ME supporters don’t get to vote on what I think.
Appealing to Caesar is inappropriate among free people who disagree. We need to work it out on the playground for ourselves. No one has to play jump rope. No one has to hang on the monkey bars. No one has to play tetherball.
Respect for the freedom of another person does not require validating his or her opinion, just his or her right to have that opinion, and agreeing not to aggress against it.
Let’s make this more personal. I am a staunch supporter of TM. However, I realize that there are tens of millions of people who have their minds made up that ME is the way to go. If they want to call same-sex marriage a marriage, that is up to them. I, however, do not have to consider it a marriage or call it one. I can find polite ways to avoid that word (marriage) when discussing the issue. Much as atheists in a free society do not have to believe in God, name him, or pray to him, but they are obligated to let others do so.
First of all, however, we have to get the government out of marriage. Adults would be free to enter into any contract with each other. A new private business would spring up: relational contracts. There could be standard and custom-made contracts. It would be similar to the wills and trusts business so common today—no judge or priest is needed to make it so. These contracts could be cheaper than current marriage licenses, and much more customized to suit the needs of the contract parties. It could be notarized, and you could even get a little card for your wallet designating next of kin if you are found (God forbid) in an accident.
This contract can be updated or cancelled at any time. It’s not like our current way of doing things (with a huge divorce rate) is working all that well….
Next of kin can be designated by anyone. Caesar has no right to decide who your next of kin is. Can be a blood relative, can be a spouse, can be a best friend. Sexual intimacy (or lack thereof) should play no role.
All this being said, one’s Facebook status (single, married, in a relationship, it’s complicated, etc) carries more weight these days than paper from the court house.
These adult, free-will covenants could be celebrated by a reception, a party, a religious ceremony, or whatever they like. They would be free to call it whatever they like. A marriage. A partnership. And those of us “looking in” would also be free to call it whatever we like.
Faith communities would be free to craft their own values on the marriage issue. Some would practice only TM. Some would be open to ME. The congregations or denominations could decide for themselves. Coercion would be absent.
My own Lutheran tradition, with its “two kingdoms” has already paved the way for a dual-voluntary system when it comes to marriage. A tolerant public sphere and a voluntary church sphere. We also teach that marriage is not a sacrament (as opposed to Roman Catholic teaching), and does not need clergy present to make it “real.”
The truth is, I insist on being free to hold exclusively to the TM view, and have the right to congregate with others who agree. We have the right, as a congregation, to live accordingly, just as Orthodox Jews are free to restrict themselves to a kosher diet and set their own voluntary community standards.
A same-sex couple would have every right to call their relationship a marriage. But they would not have the right to force others to call it a marriage. They would be free to try to convince and persuade others, but not to coerce them. That would violate the free thought of others.
Free societies are not “winner takes all” societies. They are truly tolerant and non-aggressive, at every level. Valuing liberty does not mean we have to like what others or doing or to approve of any opinions or behaviors.
What about taxes?
Our tax code would have to be changed to “filing individually” and “filing as a legal collective.” Much as the tax code is free of religious labeling, it would have to be neutral on this issue too, so as not to side with a partisan group. And the truth is, coercive income taxes have no place in a free society anyways. But that’s another story.
Caesar has become such a huge part of our lives that we have forgotten the ground rules of liberty.
Let me be clear. I am not advocating ME. I am advocating for my right to hold to TM within a (much) freer society which is neutral on the subject.
Let’s move toward living freely. And thinking freely.
Adam and Eve were given the Garden of Eden. Their job was to manage it and mind the boundaries.
Israel was given the Promised land, VERY conditionally. If they remained faithful to the plan, they could keep it. If not, they would lose it.
In essence, both parties were homesteaders.
The basic rule is:
1) Get land/property for free.
2) Prove it up.
3) Protect it.
4) Keep it.
Mess it up, and you lose it.
The art of life, basically speaking, is continuous homesteading, in the broadest sense of the term.
We start with little things. Take care of these fish. Take care of this pet. Take care of your toys and your room. Jesus says that if we are faithful in little things, we will be given bigger responsibilities.
Jesus also, in his parables, talks about doubling the value of what was given us (the Parable of the Talents).
In essence, we are all gardeners.
So how is your garden growing?
Is your life a garden or a junkyard?
I talked with a doctor yesterday, interviewing him for our radio show. Dr. David Steenblock may well win a Nobel Prize someday. He talked about the bodies he treats being junkyards or gardens. It’s almost impossible to plant seeds (i.e. “do medicine”) in a junkyard body.
“Garden” bodies take daily care. Are you working on your flexibility, muscle strength, bodyfat percentage, respiratory capacity, and energy level? The more you work on these things, the more your body produces stem cells, which lead to fresh tissue repair, which works against aging.
I turned 50 recently and started doing lots of strenuous Pilates work with a trainer. First time I almost cried like a little girl. After a few months, I am doing things I never thought possible and my core strength is surpassing that which I had playing football in college.
Am also working on my breathing. Most Americans get lazy with breathing and their respiratory system atrophies. Being overweight multiplies this and many of us don’t get nearly enough oxygen.
Another expert here in California, Dr. Tony Ganem (fatburning247.com) has taught me that:
1) Eating between meals
2) Sweet and diet sodas
3) Drinking liquid during meals
can add bodyfat. Look up his work to find the reasons for this…
Is your living space de-cluttered, clean, and balanced? Is disrepair piling up? Do doors squeak and are knobs coming loose?
We were given our homes with the “homesteading” mentality. Leave things better than you found them and you get to upgrade.
My theme for my home is “nothing missing, nothing broken.”
You may need help with this, and it may cost money. But it’s worth it. Too much time is spent in front of screens while we should be “proving up” our homestead.
Is your desk clear? Is your home organized? Are your windows and carpets cleaned on a regular basis? Are your media and books in order and accessible?
Are you getting rid of the “stuff” you don’t really need? Reduce, reuse, recycle!
How does your lawn, garden, plants look? Remember. You are a gardner by birthright.
Do you have clear vocational objectives? Is your workplace cleaned up? Is your place of work “upgrading” because you are on the team?
Are you working against “wear and tear” in the workspace?
The easiest way to promotion is to exceed expectations at your current “status” and have an impeccable workspace. Chip in to buy new carpet at the office. Offer to paint and decorate.
How are you cultivating your soul and spirit? Are you scheduling time for serious, intentional prayer and meditation?
Are you attending your church or spiritual community regularly? Forming community around your highest values and the “better angels of your nature?”
Is entertainment the core of your spiritual life? If so, a yellow warning light should be blinking.
What is your spiritual growing edge?
1) Cultivating an experiential and personal relationship with the Creator?
2) Letting go of material anxiety?
3) Learning not to hold bitterness toward others?
4) Working on getting rid of the “dark sectors” on your spiritual hard-drive?
THE PHILOSOPHY OF HOMESTEADING
All property ownership started with homesteading. Long ago, someone found an unused piece of land or a valuable object.
You, according to Natural Law, are entitled to “own” it as long as you care for it and “prove it up” on an ongoing basis. Let it unravel or rot, and you lose it.
If you claim too much land or property to handle, others around you will hold you accountable.
It’s like at the 4th of July parade in Huntington Beach, which goes right by our house.
Days ahead, people start to stake out, with chalk, their “spot” from which to watch the parade. If they take more space than they need, those around them “veto” it. If they choose someone’s front yard (a place someone else has been “proving up” all year), then that also will be pushed back.
We do the same deciding where to put our towels on the beach. Or where to put the BBQ outside the stadium during the tailgate party.
First come, first served, and you only get as much space as you can “prove up.”
We don’t need police or deeds to enforce this. It’s in our human social instinct.
In fact, the right to defend one’s self and property against aggression is the number one human right according to natural law.
THE GOVERNMENT AND THE BANKING SYSTEM
Right now, all of our property is tied up in government registered deeds and mortgages.
But the Federal Reserve/Property Taxation/Mortgage Banking system is breaking down. The cronyism in this “junta” is set up to put pressure on those who are rightfully homesteading. If you don’t pay your property tax, guess what happens to your property? Property tax is an affront on Natural Law and its corollary, homesteading.
And the banks are currently just an arm of the Federal Reserve, whereby bank profits are kept by execs and shareholders, but losses are “socialized” by government bailouts.
As that whole system collapses, be ready for a return to homesteading.
There’s plenty of land for everyone. Most of America is empty.
You start with less valuable land. Prove it up, and trade up.
Property “owners” in the rust belt who have let their buildings decay, are no longer rightful owners of that property. Anyone should be able to move in, make a claim, improve the property, and get to stay there.
Anyone should be able to occupy an abandoned building for free, as long as they prove it up.
Let a building crumble, and you lose it. Simple as that.
It’s a whole new world coming. We’re seeing thru the “stacked cards” of the current “ownership” society where the banks and the government really own all we have.
Are you ready to homestead?
It’s what we were all made to do.
Visit Robinwood Church on Sundays at 9:30am in Southern California
Worldwide Podcast of the Sermons on iTunes
Listen to my radio show, THE BOTTOM LINE, Monday-Friday 3-5pm Pacific. am740 KBRT.
THE BOTTOM LINE is available live worldwide at http://kbrt740.com 11pm/2300 UTC/GMT.
This picture was just to get your attention. I assume it worked…
Let’s see if we can have a civil discussion on this.
I have strong opinions on abortion, and not, perhaps, for the reasons you think.
For me, it’s a natalism and justice issue, not a conservative or liberal issue.
Truth is, the word abortion is not directly mentioned in the Bible. Even the concept is not there. So arguing on biblical grounds is possible, but challenging. You have to build implicit (not explicit) biblical arguments.
Being against abortion, as I am, is also counter-intuitive for me. As a Libertarian, I don’t like government interference in anything.
But Libertarianism can only exist given the total security of each person. Only when we decide not to bully or kill one another can a Libertarian society emerge. There needs to be a bedrock sense of civility and respect for it to work. In my mind, this must include the unborn.
Some random thoughts:
1) No one, in a free society, should be coerced into paying for something deeply against his or her conscience and morals. My tax money pays for abortions. This is not OK with me. It’s like forcing abolitionists to pay for slave shackles…
2) Insurance plans also pay for abortions–virtually all of them, because of the medical coding system which protects a woman’s privacy. Oversimplistically put, a miscarriage is coded the same as an abortion. Most all Americans, thus, fund abortions. That’s a problem.
3) I truly am striving to understand the pro-choice position. I would invite you pro-choicers to do the same with our views. Seriously. We are working with a woman who is seven months pregnant right now. She will give birth to a third child from a third “father.” He is a felon and intends to hurt her when he gets out this fall. No wonder she wants an abortion. She is a second generation welfare mom, with no stable families that I can find anywhere in her extended clan. I’m not excusing her thoughts; just trying to explain them. Many women seeking abortions see no way out, and their circumstances are hard for us in Middle America to understand.
4) The justice issue. We are to protect those who have no voice. That must include the unborn babies. Someone has to speak for them.
5) Finding families to adopt babies is not a problem. I and every pastor I know has a list of hundreds of couples starving to adopt a child. Most of them make six figures and are solid as the day is long.
6) Abortion is profitable. Profit skews the ethics of those providing abortions. Everyone they convince to abort adds to their profit. If I told you some things I know about these profits, you wouldn’t believe me.
Not just profitable. Predatory. Wanna find an abortion clinic? Go to the same poor neighborhoods that get targeted for lottery tickets and 40-oz malt liquors.
The once-vibrant African-American community here in L.A. is disappearing. At one time they even elected a black mayor, Tom Bradley. Now they are sidelined, swallowed up in a sea of Anglos, Asians, and Latinos. Remember, Planned Parenthood was started by a eugenics fan who doubted the viability of “inferior races.” Disgusting…
7) “What about rape?” is a copout. Does that automatically make it the baby’s fault? Instant death penalty? One of our worship leaders at Robinwood Church was conceived in rape. I cannot imagine a world without her. Using an extreme (but very real) example to push for abortion on demand in all cases is not helpful.
8. Late term abortions are repulsive. No matter how you look at it. And yet they are legal. How does this happen in a democracy where an overwhelming majority of Americans find late term abortions an outrage?
9) I go to the Long Beach abortion clinic and stand on the sidewalk. Totally legal. Not protesting. Not hindering. I ask women approaching the building “If we gave you another option, would you take it?” About 1/3 say yes, immediately. We take care of them at http://hisnestingplace.org for months on end.
10) Are human beings an asset or a liability? If they are an asset, we need to keep them. If they are a liability….
11) I’m not a full-blown natalist, but I have some natalist tendencies. I believe in big families. I don’t believe in over-population. I fly all over America. Trust me, most of it is totally empty.
12) I don’t like the phrase “You can’t legislate morality.” Our entire legal system is legislated morality. Don’t kill. Don’t steal. Etc. etc.
13) I don’t like the idea that we can’t use our faith in political arguments. Tell that to Martin Luther King. Tell that to those who ran the Underground Railroad. Tell that to the committed Christians who fought for the right for women to be able to vote. Tell that to our strident borderline-scary faith-filled women (and a few men) who founded our hospitals and universities (usually in a black and white picture, standing in mud with a shovel, next to the pictures of today’s board members in hospital hallways).
14) Feminism shows us some truth in this issue. It’s the woman who often suffers most from an unwanted pregnancy. Pro-lifers would do better to try to understand this and not just de-value this argument in favor of the baby. “You should have known better” is not a real helpful thing to say to a scared, pregnant woman.
15) Think how much a baby develops in his or her first year of life. The 9 months of pregnancy show even much more dramatic, miraculous development. Is it just me, or does stopping that seem deeply wrong at some level?
That should get us going.
Keep it civil, or I WILL delete you.
Let’s strive to understand each other.
I want to end abortion. Others disagree.
What do you think?
Perfect for relaxed Summer reading or for a group study in the Fall…..
I just crafted another 90-second movie trailer on iMovie. This particular movie version targets South Asia and the Middle East (but the book is for everyone). Have a look:
The novel, The Blackberry Bush, is ideal for small groups, classes (high school, college, and adult), and book clubs, because it has a built in study-guide in the back. Please consider ordering a stack for your next study.
How to get the book:
- Order it on AMAZON
- Get it on KINDLE (in less than a minute)
- Download it to your NOOK
- Buy it in person at BARNES & NOBLE stores (extra copies at Edina, MN, and West Des Moines, IA stores)
- Worldwide free shipping at BOOK DEPOSITORY.
- Available on the shelves at WALMART (if it’s sold out, ask for a manager!)
- For those of you in Minnesota, pick up a copy at HOSANNA! church in Lakeville.
- For those of you in Kensington (London), pick up a copy at HTB.
- For those of you in Muswell Hill (London), pick up a copy at ST JAMES CHURCH.
- Coming soon to C.U.M. bookstores in South Africa
- Coming soon to Koorong in Australia
Here I stand, bare feet on ancient stone. Looking down at the water…
How did I get here?
It’s 3am in Tsfat, Israel. Dark outside. Full moon over the 4,000 year-old graveyard behind me…
I was on the way home to California from a business trip in London.
As if by an unseen hand, I was led out of my well-worn hotel room and down the switchbacks to this holiest of places in this holiest of cities. Yitzak Luria‘s Mikveh.
I feel like Indiana Jones, except there is no khaki or wide-brimmed hat…I am as naked as the day I was born, no barrier, coram Deo. Even my watch and wedding ring have been taken off.
Just me. Just God. Just now.
My name, David, which never made much sense to me, seems oddly right for, perhaps, the first time ever. I have cultivated nicknames all my life. I think of the double delta of David’s monogram…
I think back over the last 48 hours here in Galilee.
Invited into the back rooms of synagogues…
Rabbis pointing through the texts of “secret books” in Hebrew and asking questions….
- How did you learn Hebrew?
- Your name is David, are you sure you aren’t Jewish? You look Russian…
- Where do you sense the presence of God here in Tsfat? Where is that feeling the strongest?
- What are you doing here?
I did not choose to stand here. I’m not even sure what a mikveh is…I was led here…
I need answers to three questions. Just two days ago, I wrote those questions on a tiny slip of paper, rolled it up, and placed it in the Western Wall of the temple mount in Jerusalem at sunrise. My forehead against the cool ancient stone, my palms up high, time collapsed…the better part of an hour evaporated like the morning fog…
It is dark outside. Not even the roosters have begun to crow…
I slide into the biting cold of the fresh spring water, holding the pole and stepping down the ancient steps. I breathe deeply and submerge….
The world disappears.
I pull my knees up against my chest, going fetal in this womb-tomb.
An avid surfer, I am used to being underwater and I gently roll backwards….
A glow emanates from nowhere and everywhere. I open my eyes underwater to confirm the experience and the light vanishes…
I come up for air twice and submerge again. The glow returns, and I feel enveloped in the Khesed-love of the Creator. Answers come to me faster than I can receive them.
I generate a will to receive.
Something shifts around me. The third time under turns into a dream. I feel as if I am breathing underwater. The glow gets warm.
All of my theological legalisms about baptism vanish and dissolve into an ocean of God’s presence.
As I climb out and dry off, my soul comes to total rest. I will walk for hours until the hilltop town awakens. Like an old snakeskin, I have shed something. A new season is starting…
Where is your “mikveh” where you take off everything in the presence of God?
When’s the last time you were there….?
The final copies of my first novel just arrived!
Have a look at the 90-second intro-to-the-novel video movie:
Please pass it on to others, thanks!
The book comes with a built-in study guide for groups, book clubs, and classes.
- purchase information (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, etc)
- reviews (via Powell’s in Portland)
- study guide
- more videos
The Christian Gospel is the most powerful “meme” ever crafted on this planet.
1/3 of the terrestrial population claims it plays a central role in personal life.
In its most reductionistic form, it takes on a phrase like “Jesus died for our sins.”
Of course, unpacking that phrase theologically could take a lifetime of work.
The problem is, it becomes a language game which can be accepted or rejected without any actual spiritual experience. Isn’t it possible that a person could say yes to it without any real “saving” happening at any meaningful level in his or her life?
Language games don’t need a real God any more than Monopoly boards need a real Atlantic City. They work because they keep their own rules.
This “disconnect” effect becomes even more pronounced with usage; even those who accept the Gospel can face serious diminishing personal returns and even boredom when a reductionistic form of the Gospel is repeated over and over for decades.
For this reason, I wrote the June 2011 Summerside Press novel The Blackberry Bush.
I wanted to explore biblically-responsible atonement models in a medium (fiction) that would allow great freedom of expression.
You see, getting saved or not had to be “real” and believable for Kati and Josh, the protagonists. Just having someone approach them on the beach (props to Mr. Luptak for the image) and presenting them with a reductionistic Gospel would not have been believable to the readers.
And I wanted their “salvation wrestling” to work for two kinds of people:
1) Those who don’t identify with the Christian salvation ‘meme.’
2) Those who have heard it for so long that it no longer really matters to them in real life.
How would you describe salvation without getting reductionistic?
For those of you who don’t know, I have deep Lutheran roots. We are a funny lot.
Some of you have no idea what a Lutheran is.
Have a look at this very short VIDEO BY THE “BANGLES” and you’ll know everything you need to know :-).
Some Lutheran FAQ’s:
- Are Lutherans liturgical? Most are. Many are not.
- Do Lutherans agree on theology? Except for “Sola Fide” (Faith Alone), nope. And we argue about what that means.
- Are Lutherans like Catholics except in “black and white?” Often. Sleepy version of the mass without cool candles, statues and magic stuff.
- Who are the great Lutheran preachers? Next question!
- Do Lutherans have a sense of humor? Rarely, but it can happen.
- Are Lutherans liberals? Some are virtually Marxists. Most of them hang out in seminaries or become bishops.
- Are Lutherans conservatives? The black-shirt conservatives could scare all the peeps on Fox News. They don’t think you’re really saved, by the way. They KNOW I’m not :-).
- Where do they tend to live? Scandihoovia and parts of Germany. Pennsylvania. Upper Midwest USA. Wherever there is bad weather. But the cool ones live in Ethiopia. They do fire baptisms and stuff.
- Why do we see less and less of them? They reproduce like Panda bears and would rather die than share their faith.
- Who are some famous, high-profile, deeply committed Lutherans we would all know? ROTFL
You are reading this in the English language; the emerging real-world Esperanto at the center of global communication.
But, chances are, only a small minority of you have a majority of English blood running through your veins. I probably have a little—my paternal line weaves back in time through Kentucky, up the Ohio River and into Pennsylvania. Hard to avoid folks with English background in those environs in those days…
You can gauge the relative strength and influence of languages by the number of Wikipedia articles in each. Dutch is surprisingly high. Portuguese is ascending (Brazil and Co.). Japanese is too complicated to write (three alphabets and 2,000 Chinese characters). Russian, one of the great idea-storing literary languages in human history (Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Lenin, etc), is dropping in influence with its dismal demographics.
There is no one Chinese language. China is more like Europe than like any one country. Same with India.
So this is remarkable. How did this little river town called London trick the world into speaking its language?
I just spent the week in Kensington, a posh, huge neighborhood in West London. This was the heart of Victorian England. For those of you who are not history nuts, that’s the 3-4 generations leading up to the disaster that was World War I, the first shots of which were fired in 1914. We’ve had a worldwide hangover ever since.
Without World War I, we would have had, perhaps, no Great Depression. Hitler would have been a moderately happy postcard salesman, unscarred by trench warfare PTSD. No holocaust. Which would have meant no Ha-Tikvah and only a tiny Jewish minority in Palestine. Thus no constant Middle East turmoil. Probably no space program (launched with WW 2 savoir-faire, a la Von Braun GmbH). The airliner I’m riding in (also a product of WW2 know-how) would not be nearly this advanced. America and Russia would have stayed at home. Thus no Vietnam. Lenin would not have ridden the train into disintegrating mid WWI Russia to take control. The current Tsar would be, in 2011, a bit like the Queen of England. We’d be watching the royal Russian weddings on TV.
But back to pre-WWI England. The Victorians controlled planet Earth for the handful of generations preceding. And the Victorians who were in control lived in Kensington. Their actual homes are still there, very much built to last, now going for bazillions of pounds, just for an apartment (a “flat”).
So why the Victorians, and not the others?
- The Americans stayed home because they had a huge frontier to settle.
- Ditto for the Russians.
- The Germans were almost, compared to the coastline-rich Brits, landlocked, and they only became a unified nation called “Germany” in 1871. The Victorians already had a huge head-start.
- The French (And I have a quart or two of Quebecois blood, so I tend to root for them…) lacked the spiritual backbone to get the job done. They weren’t sure what they believed. They were either old school Catholics (On your bucket list: read the plaques on the Sacre Coeur Church portals in Paris at sunrise—I make this pilgrimage every time I’m there) or atheists reliving the revolution and hoping to turn Notre Dame church back into the Temple of Reason (which they succeeded in doing for a season).
The Victorians won the race for global domination; and survived the two world wars, coming out, barely, on the winning side. The result: Almost anywhere in the world today you can use English to get by. This, along with the quirky survival of the tiny Jewish ethnicity for millennia, is one of the two great quirks of history.
How did all this come to be?
I was sitting in the balcony at Holy Trinity Brompton, a neighborhood Church of England congregation in Kensington, yesterday, looking straight down over the railing at the stage. It was packed to the rafters. You had to look around the Victorian concrete columns to see what was happening on the stage. Blazing rock music with smoke and lasers. Euphoric worshipers (most of whom much better educated and richer than I am) with both hands in the air shouting Jesus Christ, you are Saviour of all…over and over. Note: All of the photos on this essays are live HTB worship shots.
I looked up and around at the interior of the smallish church. Not much acreage on the floor. About four stories high, counting the vaulted neo-Gothic ceiling. Memorial plaques all over the walls, dating from the early 1800’s… One to “a very good postman indeed.”
I pictured the building full of Victorian Christians in the late 1800’s, at the height of Britannia’s power. Because it is in the past, we think of the people as old, but, on average, they were younger than we are. Were they filled with the same sense of euphoria and destiny?
I looked to the left at the stone pulpit. Its canopy read: Establish Thou the work of our hands.
There’s a lot of content to that little sound-bite.
A young French couple was to the left of me in the church balcony. The petite, stylish woman was literally leaping up and down while singing.
The 20-something young man on my right was from Holland. Friesland. Singing. In English.
West London is coming alive spiritually. I spent a good deal of time with the Bishop of Kensington yesterday afternoon, Paul Williams. He is in his very young 40’s and exudes warmth and energy. He had story after story of Anglican parishes growing and thriving. Christmas attendance was up 20% this year from a year before in London.
I have a feeling that this stirring is nothing new. It is a re-vival of a deep core spirituality that was there when the Victorians set out to civilize the world and teach everyone their language.
It is what separated them from the French. It is why the French failed.
The Victorians had spiritual backbone.
Pragmatic. Positive. Destiny-filled. God-fearing.
We have seen that Muslims with spiritual backbone can cause the much richer, much better armed world to hold its breath at a moment’s notice. Spiritual backbone is really important. A total secularization of our society would turn us into collective boneless chicken.
I reached out and leaned on the Victorian concrete pillar, as the music elevated the worshipers to a whole ‘nother place, and pondered about where this century will be going. This church, HTB, may not be the largest church in the English-speaking world. But it may be, through its vibe and its Alpha Course, one of the most influential. For my money, and I get around, it is #1 in this regard.
HTB is one of the spiritual artesian springs of Planet Earth.
Not sure what will happen in the decades to come.
But don’t count out the young, vitalized, Christians from Kensington.
They will be in the mix as the world gets shaped and re-shaped.
They fully intend to remake society.
They’ve been there before…
I’m going to plant a flag on this issue.
Please hear me, I respect the opposing view. I just don’t share it.
The truth is, God gave the whole earth to the human race and told us to go forth, be fruitful, and multiply.
Even when he gave Israel to the children of Jacob, he warned them to treat the foreigners nicely; that they would be evaluated, as a nation, by their hospitality toward them. All through the Old Testament stories, there are prominent foreigners sharing the lives of Israelites (e.g. Uriah the Hittite) at a high level.
I have Scandinavian heritage, and you have the right, in my ancestral homeland (the Swedes call it “Allemansrätten”), to wander across anyone’s property, as long as you respect their privacy and leave everything the way you found it. And you can camp for free on anyone’s land, as long as you don’t disturb anyone or make noise, for up to two nights.
I believe in the right of every peaceful man or woman on Earth to be able, unhindered, to:
- Travel anywhere on planet Earth he or she can afford to visit. As long as you pay your way and are not a burden.
- Seek and take gainful and respectful employment anywhere it is legitimately offered.
I don’t believe in gated communities.
I don’t believe in national fences that keep people in (Berlin Wall) or keep people out (Mexican border at Tijuana).
All God’s people have access to all God’s world.
People of Western/Northern European ancestry have no greater right to staying in my California county than people of Latino ancestry.
And I believe that a mobile population is good for the economy. Anytime free labor can find its way to free capital, there is prosperity for all. That’s the free-market libertarian in me, talking.
Mobility is a basic human right.
The big question is: Do you see people as an asset or a liabilty?
Sure there are people who are one or the other. But on balance, how do you see the human race?
America was founded on the idea that people are, on the whole (and with some exceptions), an asset. Look at the Statue of Liberty. We saw the “huddled masses” of peasant Europe as an amazing asset. They built the farms that now feed us. Their blood now runs through our veins…
Overpopulation is a total myth. Europe and Russia are starting to decline in population. Most of America is empty (every spend much time looking down out of the window seat?). Our rural areas are depopulating. Detroit has thousands of acres of emptiness and some of it is returning to native forest. Sure there are areas of overcrowding, but Anglo North America could easily handle two billion people. (Currently 350 million). Our biggest challengers in this new century will be China and India, because they are blessed to have more people. More workers. More ideas.
We have to re-think transportation and energy–but that’s been done before and we can do it again.
People are not bad for the earth. People are beautiful and creative. We are the crown of creation. Made in the image of God.
I live in California. We are so blessed to have hard-working Latino and Asian immigrants in our midst. They have, together with us, built this state. I have driven all over our great state for the past ten years, and most of it is….empty. There is room for all–especially those willing to work.
You can’t have free markets (and I’m a free market guy) without freely mobile labor. We can’t put a fence around America.
My wealthiest California friends say “Unless we let inexpensive labor connect with our abundant domestic capital, we may as well ship all of our manufacturing to China.” Sobering.
Fences just accumulate and build up tensions, artificially. It’s where weapons tend to congregate. The barbed wire fence across Korea is a source of great tension right now.
Truth is, fences don’t work anyway. The Great Wall of China was a colossal failure. And the “Iron” Curtain rusted in one generation. Walls will always be breached, just like in medieval warfare. Eventually, European towns just quit building them because they were ineffective.
We have to learn to live together. It won’t be easy. There will be huge challenges.
We may have to get rid of the welfare state altogether to make for a workable world.
But building more fences is not the answer.
They won’t last.
They won’t work.