Saturday, November 27, 2010

state your control

There is concept, loosely defined, that is prevalent among emergents and their ideological kin--empire. Not necessarily in the Star Wars sense; indeed, I think they would consider the government in place before Palpatine declares a "Galactic Empire" to be as much an 'empire' in their sense, and I've no doubt that they would think much the same of the various incarnations of it that come about in the post-RotJ books.

Over against it, they set up their ideas of the Kingdom of God. One can see a bit of that in this theOoze article.

In some countries, the Christian faith is under the control of the State. These governments control the spread and expression of Christianity by regulating churches, and keeping pastors on the payroll. Those Christians who dare to speak out against Government policy or who criticize military operations or otherwise go against the grain are threatened with seizure of property or loss of certain rights.

Not to make a big deal about it, but it would have helped if the writer had maybe pointed a specific country or two where such a thing happens. Now, I've heard of some such goings-on with the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church, and maybe other parts of it could be like China and it's Three-Selfs churches (though how 'christian' those are is up for debate). That statement of theOoze writer may be perfectly true, but it suffers from vagueness

Many of you know exactly what I'm talking about because you live in America. Here, the Government requires that all Christian churches register with the State. These State Churches must have a 501(C)3 to operate legally. Without one they cannot open a bank account, claim tax exempt status on their property, or for donations received, or for pastoral salaries.

Oh, so, well, somehow the churches in the US are like those described in the first paragraph? Well, let's see...

I don't see how one can claim that the US Government "control(s) the spread and expression of Christianity" in much of any way, given the many churches and the many varieties of churches in this country that are either Christian or claim it, even when their beliefs are the exact opposite of other churches who also call themselves Christian. And while there are many instances, such as the banning of public prayers in schools, that can be considered sorts of restrictions, by and large those are more annoyances than the kinds of restrictions one would find in, say, almost all Middle Eastern countries, or China.

I can't think of many pastors in the US about who it could be said that they are on the government's payroll. Perhap military chaplains, or other forms of government chaplains, but outside of that, it seems a rather iffy statement on this writer's part.

Now, there could be some point to his last contention in that paragraph. I know that it is a rather recurrent argument, especially when election times come along (this article was written back in March of this year), about how politics comes into the pulpit and there is the occasions threat about a church losing its tax exempt status because of things the pastor says. Not much has come of it, so far as I know, but I do acknowledge that the threat is there.

Ok, so, does the fact that a church has to register with the state make it a State Church, like this Oozey writer claims? I frankly find the claim amusing. I suppose the fact that I have driver's license makes me a State driver? Or the fact that businesses need various registrations and licenses and permits and such makes them State businesses? I, as a 'State drive', can only drive where the government explicitly says I can?

No, I sense a scare tactic on this writer's part--saying churches are State Churches is him saying that churches are only supporting the Government. A rather lame argument, given how varied the politics in the US are and how varied the churches are.

Several times in American History the Government has threatened to revoke the tax exempt status of several of these registered State Churches whenever they speak out in ways that are not approved of. For example, on issues of abortion, or civil rights, or other political issues.

This is not to suggest that the Government is in favor of Politics without Religion, or Religion without Politics. On the contrary, the Government in America is very much in favor of how the State Church supports military efforts abroad. To that end, the Church has been one of the most vocally supportive segments of American Society when it comes to war overseas, the torture of enemy soldiers, and the loss of human life (other than American lives).

In recent years, the State Church in America has also been largely instrumental in helping to elect her Presidents and push political agendas for both the Left and the Right.

I hope it is understandable that I see this person's politics creeping in in these paragraphs.

The church has been supportive of overseas wars? Well, perhaps. Why is that wrong? Would it have been better to have allowed, say, Nazi Germany to possibly take over all Europe and Russia? Surely he's not saying we should not have gotten involved then? If anything, I suppose I would say that we should have gotten involved before we did, though I'll give the benefit of the doubt to those who had to make the decisions at that time.

Now, concerning the torture of enemy soldiers. I suppose some things must be questioned here. If, for example, he is writing about those who were sent to Guantanamo Bay, then I would question how they could be called 'soldiers'. Were they a part of a formal national army? Were they in uniform? Most, if not all, were simply terrorists, or accused terrorists. They may have been a part of an organization, but not an army, and one could call them 'soldiers' in only the loosest of senses.

Next, there is the question of what acts are considered torture. Is something like sleep deprivation the same as having fingers broken? Even if we should say that some of the things that happened at Abu Ghraib crossed the line, would that be enough to condemn other ways of trying to gain information?

It's a little interesting that a television program, 24, may have given us a glimpse of how such things may be. If, like Jack Bauer in that show, we needed to get information from a prisoner in order to stop a certain event that would like kill many people, what would we do in order to make that prisoner talk? And one simply cannot dismiss 24 as merely a TV show, especially as Pomo's like Rollins and Taylor make so much of movies and music and even other TV shows. To put it simply, 24 raised many interesting questions about this issue, and many people seem to have come to the conclusion that it's not a simple issue.

Or, if one watches the movie Taken, and sees the father hurting his daughter's kidnapper in order to learn what has happened to her, then we may come to the conclusion that the father was acting in a way that is understandable and even honorable, the well-being of the daughter being more important than the well-being of the man who kidnapped her. It's an arguable point, I admit, but one that I think as some merit.

So, has the church been supportive of "the torture of enemy soldiers"? Speaking as a religious and political conservative, I can't recall hearing of anyone who favors or supports the torture of anyone. They may get angry when, for example, news comes of US soldiers being kidnapped and later their bodies found, or reporters are beheaded on camera, or when soldiers and civilians are hurt or killed by IEDs or car bombs or suicide bombers, or when hearing tales of women being brutalized and murdered when they don't toe the strictest of Muslim laws that oppress them. Such anger is understandable and even justified, I think.

There is much to be wary of in that anger, I will admit. And a reasoned discussion could be had on what is good or not for us to do, what measured we should take to gain information that could maybe save people's lives. But the need for examination is not only on the right, but also on the left, among those who equate even spanking a child who behaves badly with child abuse. Such over-the-top rhetoric is not very helpful.

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