Prairie View

Monday, January 18, 2021

Overcoming Paralysis

Evidence of late appears to suggest that Hiromi and I have spawned some snarky offspring.   Snark is not my writing style (I probably list far to the overly-earnest side), and I sometimes struggle to decipher what I read from other writers, even from my own sons.  When I do understand though, I admire the razor-sharp insights that satire and analogies can offer, and I'm glad that Facebook offers a forum for such gems.  


On Wednesday of last week (edit:  January 6) I was watching the counting of the electoral votes in the Senate on the New York Times livestream when the sound died and the screen went blank.  This happened during the speeches after an objection had been raised to accepting Arizona's electoral votes for Biden.  Very soon, little blurbs in the accompanying chat column began to reveal the shocking details of what was transpiring at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.  Several video clips posted to the chat conveyed a sense of barely-controlled panic and reigning chaos.  Many details emerged over time, but I woke up on Thursday to learn that the counting of the electoral votes had resulted in the election of Biden and Harris, just as we had been told was the case in early November--more than 60 failed court challenges notwithstanding since then.

Over the following hours and days, familiar feelings settled deeper into my consciousness--feelings that something momentous had just occurred. I also felt this way more than 19 years ago on September 11, 2001 when terrorists weaponized four passenger airplanes and destroyed lives, property, and American landmark structures. I remember thinking then that this "day will live in infamy" just like the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  That's what brought World War II into every corner of America.  

I feel the same way about January 6, 2021.  Internal conflicts in this country have erupted in violence, with repercussions that will seep into every corner of America.  In 2001, I became aware of how much people outside the U.S. hated this country.  Last week I understood how much some U. S. citizens prioritize their own rights and comfort over the welfare of their fellow-citizens.  Hate almost fits for how fellow citizens are regarded by such people.  The latest incident highlights many other uncomfortable truths--not the least of which includes the fact that truth itself has been ignored in favor of conspiracy theories, false prophecies, power grabs, partisanship, and a personality cult.  January 6, 2021 too is a "day that will live in infamy."

That members of Congress were taken to safety only a minute or two before the mob entered the congressional chambers is horrifying--with law enforcement members completely unable to repel the throng, some of them severely injured while attempting to do so.  That a gallows had been erected outside and that invaders were armed and looking for Vice President Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, while speaking of killing them, is hard to wrap one's mind around.  That the mob had been invited by the president and that he had urged violence is unthinkable.  God's power was not diminished by any of these events, but anyone who trusted the power of the United States government has surely had that confidence shaken.


I wrote the first part of this about a week ago.  Since then, the House has voted to impeach President Trump.  I'm not sure whether this will produce good results, but I am in favor of shining a bright light on the unconscionable behavior of the current president and many who enable him.  I said something similar during the earlier impeachment proceedings.  My sense is that if all who knew the truth then--and were responsible to act on it--had done so, we would have been spared the recent debacle, along with many lamentable actions in the interim.


In the aftermath of what happened on January 6, people who have hitched their wagon to the Trump star and to the idea that the kingdom of God is built through political means should have responded with contrition, repentance, apology, and a changed life.  I saw a bit of that, but very, very little.  Instead, I often saw further forays into delusional and self-justifying territory.  I heard lots of "whataboutism," deflection, promotion of lies (or their milder version:  elevating minor elements to major status, thus obscuring overwhelming realities), and failure to acknowledge plain truth.   

If we had no social training, common sense or pangs of conscience, those of us who saw things like this coming a long time ago would be crowing from the barn peak I TOLD YOU SO!  I'm not hearing that either--which probably should tell us that these prescient people actually are well-socialized and have , common sense and an active conscience.  Not to mention, many of them also believe the first and second commandment: love God and love your neighbor. 


I share the experience of one of my Facebook friends who wrote this morning that she has seen a great deal that she did not want to see.  I believe she was referring to the realization that many people whose good heart she trusted were revealed instead to not have a good heart at all, or at least not in the sense of being committed to the way of Christ.  Although we allow for imperfections, this is profoundly disturbing.  We want to believe the best about people, to empathize, to understand the hurts that have contributed to their making bad choices or settling on misguided ideas.  At the end of the day, to realize that the problem is actually SIN is heartbreaking.  To see it in people whose words sound good and whose outward demeanor is agreeable is devastating.  

I can't tell you though how moving it has been for me to personally see humble public confession of sin in a church leader who saw the error of his ways.  There was no one over him applying pressure to admit wrong.  To my eyes, his errors seemed minor compared to what I have observed elsewhere.  That the impact of sincere and humble confession is "major" in my experience gives testimony to the fact that suffering love as Jesus exemplified it is potent--far more so than is claiming of rights or maneuvering for political advantage.  


"Annie" once told me that she found it impossible to look into "Meridith's" eyes--until after Meredith reached out and cooperated with significant intervention for her problems.  That's exactly how I feel when I encounter strident alt-right rhetoric or even when I hear related content from someone who I know to espouse these soundly discredited ideas.  I have to look away.  I'll spare you the images and sounds of what happens when no one can see or hear me and exposure is unavoidable.   

If it appears on the screen during something that I don't want to click away from (as it did during the January 6 senate proceedings when Cruz and Hawley and others spoke--including one of the senators from Kansas), I mute the sound till after the person stops talking.  If it appears in an article and I can tell this from the headline, I don't click on it.  If it's on a friend's FB post, I sometimes force myself to read it or listen to it--just in case some profitable communication might still be possible.  I can. not. take in this stuff without cost to my spirit, soul, and body.  

I've learned to recognize media sources that predictably follow this line of thinking, and I basically read nothing from those sources, although I used to do so in the interest of being well-informed.  I do read news from some conservative sources (The Dispatch is a favorite and Wall Street Journal is sometimes worthwhile), but I steer clear of the following:  Fox News, Daily Wire, The Blaze, Washington Times, Newsmax, Epoch Times, Breitbart, The New American, and OAN Network.  I would add Infowars to the list, except that I fortunately almost never encounter this one.  It's the most extreme of all, probably the one that makes some people think Fox News is beginning to look downright mainstream--to the point that some who once took it as gospel now have no use for it.

I do admire scholars, journalists, and honest and curious friends who have the fortitude to see these things and engage the issues and the personalities involved.  On rare occasions I have been among them.  It happens only when I feel empowered and compelled by a fire within that I take to be holy fire.  It never happens on the spur of the moment.


In church yesterday during a time of participatory prayer and praise, Harry S. thanked the Lord for the good things that happened during the past four years, and the good things that will happen in the next four years--because we know that God is sovereign, and that good can come out of any situation.  He also prayed for peace on inauguration day (Wednesday, January 20), thus including an item that had been mentioned in the announcements as a prayer point.

I actually find it really difficult to list good things that the president accomplished.  It's all I can do to make it through other people's lists of such things.  Revulsion is my involuntary response.  I see so little righteous motivation and so much self-serving in "everything" he's done that it takes backing out a loooong way to see any of it in a positive light.  Nevertheless I agree that a sovereign God can bring good from it, so on that basis I can give thanks for the good that has been accomplished during the past four years, much of which is probably not yet visible.  

I don't see that any defense of a narcissistic approach to governance serves God's sovereign purposes, and for now I refuse to pretend that it is otherwise.  I trust that my readers will understand that the defense of narcissistic behavior is particularly problematic.  I don't know exactly how to divide narcissism into "mental illness" and "sin" compartments, but I believe it's a toxic mix, and backing far away from identifying with it seems prudent all around.


The unburdening that I've engaged in in this post has been cathartic.  Maybe now I can go on to tasks that have been on hold while I was in a semi-paralyzed state.


Monday, November 30, 2020

Who I Thought We Were

The “We” in the title refers primarily to the people I go to church with.  In the spirit of the season, I am choosing here to omit some of the negative things I believe are true also.  If I ever compile a negative list, I'm positive that it will be much shorter than this one is. While the list is being compiled during the pandemic, I believe who we have become culturally and spiritually happened over a period of many decades, and even centuries.  My forebears have lived in Kansas since 1883.  Much of what is listed here could also have been said of them, I believe.  

I can imagine that a few people who are also part of our church might say after reading this list I don’t think this is who we are anymore.  They might be right.  Admittedly, some of the thoughts that eventually spilled onto the screen were prompted by consternation and even disbelief at what I've observed recently.  Formulating this list is partly an effort to identify what is right about who we are or were in order to make necessary corrections in places where we have strayed from what is "right."

I wrote by far the biggest portion of this list in one sitting, and added a few items in two more time slots before Thanksgiving.  Only a few were added more recently.  I’m just as surprised as you are at the size of the list.  The items are written in the order I thought of them.  Coming out of an ADD brain, this order looks pretty random, because it is.

I’d love to hear your reactions in the comments–either about a specific item or a general comment or a comment on this congregation-specific list or your own situation.


1. People who believe in the power of suffering love to bring about significant and lasting change in the world–as modeled by Jesus.

2.  People who understand that political power is fundamentally at odds with the power of suffering love.

3.  People who stand firm on the basics of Christian faith while extending grace to all.

4.  People who respect our authorities.

5.  People who promote the “common good.”

6.  People who share generously with the needy.

7.  People who alleviate the suffering of others.

8.  People who believe that our witness is important.  

9.  People who believe that surrender to God and the church is important.

10.  People who regard our citizenship in the Kingdom of God as our primary identity.

11.  People who identify as pilgrims and strangers on the earth.

12.  People who want to be identified as being separated unto God.

13.  People who are willing to be identified as members of a specific Christian brotherhood.  

14.  People who welcome anyone from anywhere into our church services. 

15.  People who extend special favor to the weak.

16.  People who adjust as needed in times of adversity, rather than rage against the adversity.

17.  People who recognize sin and evil and want no part in it.

18.  People who treasure the “right of appeal” but hold other rights loosely. 

19.  People who are sympathetic to others who suffer–because we remember the suffering of our spiritual ancestors.

20.  People who love corporate worship.

21.  People who love discussing Scripture together.

22.  People who love to share ordinary life with others in the church.  

23.  People who honor each other in the brotherhood.  

24.  People who understand the importance of repentance, confession, and restoration when wrongdoing occurs.

25.  People who seek forbearance when they become aware of unintentional mistakes.

26.  People who are ready to do the right thing even if no authority has provided a directive for it.  

27.  People who accept the Word of God, the life of Jesus, and the witness of the Holy Spirit as the primary guides for life.

28. People who also accept the factually-based and faith-tradition-informed counsel of the brotherhood as trusted guides for life.

29.  People who trust each other on the basis of a shared commitment to being in fact who we claim to be in name.

30.   People who are not greedy, and who do not seek their own profit at others’ unfair expense. 

31.  People who see obedience to authority as evidence of respect.

32.  People who live in a patriarchal society, with the elements of provision, protection, and guidance being in evidence on the part of men. 

33.  People who act intentionally and deliberately–not hastily or thoughtlessly.

34.  People who interact kindly with others–in word and deed.

35.  People who know that being a Christian always involves “persecution” of some kind (offenses will come), for which God extends grace.

36.  People who know that deserved punishment is not persecution.

37.  People who pray for others.

38.  People who cultivate a private spiritual life through regular Bible reading and prayer.

39.  People who prefer to settle conflicts in the brotherhood internally rather than through outside intervention.

40.  People who recognize that we are a blessed people.

41.  People who respect others who have more knowledge than we have.

42.  People who welcome enlightenment through learning.

43.  People who respect tradition.

44.  People who value forthrightness.

45.  People who value all human life.

46.  People who value strong family ties.

47.  People who value resourcefulness.

48.  People who see the value both of bearing one’s own burdens, and bearing the burdens of others.

49.  People who value contentment more than having all our wants supplied in order to maintain appearances.

50.  People who value moderation in all things that are neutral in themselves.

51.  People who extend forgiveness for wrongs done against us.

52.  People who strive to live transparent, consistent lives.

53.  People who invite inspection of their own lives.

54.  People who admonish each other.

55. People who are frugal in their purchasing habits and careful to avoid waste.

56. People who are uncomfortable with ostentation.

57. People who value self-sufficiency. 

58.  People who affirm both the importance of personal responsibility and group harmony. 

59.  People who avoid confrontation whenever possible.

60.  People who see self-control as a virtue.  

61.  People who frown on self-promotion.

62.  People who are happiest when they are able to move about in public without attracting undue attention.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Covid and a Straight Line to God

One of the confounding things about being under multiple authorities is that sometimes these authorities do not agree.  What is a person to do when this happens?  COVID-19 has provided many opportunities for pondering this dilemma.  As of the past several weeks, changes both in local infection levels (significant increase), and in what we're hearing from our county and church leaders has "raised the temperature"* on this issue.

I realized several days ago that, without putting it into words, I had settled into an approach that at the moment seems to be serving me well.  Clarity began to be restored when I acknowledged that God is the ultimate authority.  Ideally of course, every other authority lines up neatly under God's authority, and there is then no question about the message being delivered through one's authorities.  All that is left to people like me is to decide whether to obey** or not.   

I imagine the process of receiving guidance from my authorities being something like seeing God bathed in light at the top of a mountain while I am surrounded by darkness in a valley below. The whole mountainside lies in shadow.  Many figures, each one a lesser authority than God, stand between the valley and the mountain top.  They each hold a light.  My goal is to get to the top of the mountain where God is. How I wish that all those lights appeared in a straight line between me and God.  I wish also that the circle of light around each figure would be big enough to extend to the edge of the circles around neighboring figures.  That would spare me from floundering in the dark along the way.    

What I have seen recently as it applies to navigating the hazardous terrain of COVID-19 is that God offers me a light that ensures that I can get to him, even if the circles of light on the mountainside are too small and the dark places are too large.  That light is the guidance of the Holy Spirit within.  In mundane terms, I will know how to act individually in dealing with Covid in specific situations, because God's spirit will show me.  

Whether the problem we encounter is unwise actions by authorities or unwise responses to those authorities, our first and last priority is to stay connected to God. In him we "live and move and have our being."  This is our safe place.  


*A term from Leadership Reno County classes.  It is a strategy that can be useful in moving toward  change when it is needed.  In general, the idea is similar to exerting pressure. I see prayer, witness, and appeal as legitimate person-to-person ways of raising the temperature.

**Other words could be used here in relation to authority:  support, agree with,  affirm, comply with, etc.

Note:  I've have had many problems with this post.  The original version (which is now lost due to technical problems) had a reference to something Covid-related that I learned from E. W., my cousin, when we visited during our Sunday afternoon walk.  Additional information later showed me that I needed to re-examine some of the conclusions I had drawn from that original information, so I removed the post, in order to rewrite it.  Then I added material along a different vein, which is now also lost.  All that to say that what I copied below from Facebook now seems disconnected from the other content, but it didn't start out that way.  I decided to post it anyway, for your interest and for my record.

This cousin just received a visa in preparation for moving overseas for five years.  The language learning is happening in preparation for being able to communicate after he and his wife arrive in their destination country.  I have learned that being a bit vague about details in cases like E. W.'s is sometimes necessary because of sensitive conditions or a fragile welcome in a destination country.  I don't know enough to know whether such caution is warranted in this case, but I'm choosing to err on that side, just in case.  

Yesterday on our walk along the nearly deserted straight, flat, paved road by our house, my cousin came along on his bike. He was getting in some exercise (and some language learning via electronics) on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. We talked all the way home, properly distanced, with his biking on one side of the road and our walking on the other side.
Among the interesting things I learned is that an oil-rich country in the Middle East is investing heavily in solar energy. My cousin knows this because his son lives there and works in that industry. Do you think maybe they know something in the Middle East that America should also be acknowledging?
The son speaks both Arabic and French because of having spent part of his childhood in countries or schools where those languages were spoken, but uses far more English in the course of his work than the other languages. English is the undisputed world trade language, and knowledge of it is very common in almost every country's expat communities.
Another interesting thing I learned is that Portuguese is the language of at least one African country.
I learned too that a private program exists in the US where teachers are placed in public schools, even though they may not have acquired an education degree. It's a two-year program, and they get a crash course in teaching before they begin. They're paid for their work. The cousin's daughter teaches in Seattle.
One final thing I learned is that the cousin's brother, who has lived and taught for years in a university in the country that was the US nemesis in the Cold War was recently granted a permanent visa to that country. This is an enormous favor to a foreigner, and reveals a great deal of confidence in him. Did I mention that he knows now that he has been the target of previous investigations by the government of the country in which he works and resides during the school year?
We traveled a long way safely in that short walk home. A gift for sure in the fraught and frightening current environment.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Thoughts on Election Day 2020

I have primarily one certainty about this day:  the election will be uppermost in my thoughts and prayers.  Our church is open today for all who wish to go there to pray.  I plan to do so.  I am not praying that any specific candidate will  be elected.  Nor will I vote for any of them (unless you don't know me, you aren't familiar with Amish-Mennonite traditions, or you're a new reader of this blog, you'll understand why).  I'll share further here what concerns will be reflected in my prayers.

1.  That Christians will mindfully divest themselves of partisanship (loyalties based on political parties).

2.  That Christians will agree with God about righteousness and evil, regardless of where it is found.

3.  That Christian leaders will be bold in declaring the transcendence of God's Kingdom over all earthly kingdoms.

4.  That all Christians will adopt a humble stance toward those in authority, with obedience to laws being an underlying expression of this.

5.  That love for one's neighbors will be real and in evidence.  

6.  That those who are vulnerable will be protected and provided for, particularly during this pandemic.

7.  That ignorance, cruelty, and militancy will never be glorified among or defended by Christians.

8.  That Christians will be bold  in speaking Truth (in the prophetic tradition) and humble in bearing witness (observing carefully and reporting accurately).  

9.  That the right to appeal to authorities, and the obligation to obey and pray for them take precedence over seeking personal advantage or ease.  

10.  That Christians will see the contradictions between commitments to nationalism or American exceptionalism and commitment to the Kingdom of Christ.  

11.  That the misplaced loyalties of professing Christians will be exposed and destroyed. 

12.  That no intimidation, dishonesty, or violence will occur in connection with the election. 

13.  That images appropriate for the situation come to the fore for Christians seeking direction in living a life of faith.  I'm remembering especially the images of Christians being salt and light and pilgrims and strangers.*


*Other Scriptural images of what Christians are to be are valid also:  runner, soldier, fighter, citizen, burden bearer, shepherd, child/newborn baby, healer, peacemaker, ambassador, steward, traveler, exile, pilgrim, stranger, fisherman, builder, messenger, fellow-heir,  servant, new creation, part of a body/building/family/peculiar people/chosen generation/royal priesthood/holy nation, a rock, a vessel, sheep/lamb, chick, refined gold, bearer of good fruit, precious seed, having a sound mind/being sober/being vigilant/free of offensive acts.  Maybe someday I'll find time to explore these ideas further or add to the list, rather than simply sorting through my memory to find the words and designations that  appear here.  Each image reveals truths that expand and deepen our understanding of what a Christian is or should be.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Sunday Wrap Up--November 1, 2020

This morning, two days before the 2020 presidential election, I read Luke 1.  In the words of Gabriel and Mary I found assurance for this conflictive time.  

For some reason, I find confident predictions of who will win the presidency extremely bothersome, especially when offered by Joe Blow without convincing or even supporting evidence.  I'm thinking "you've got to be kidding.  I'm supposed to believe you, just because you have the audacity to claim certainty about this."  

Maybe my husband's preferences are rubbing off on me.  He hates to guess or estimate or conjecture or prognosticate.  I think it's because he has an engineer's brain, where exact data is critical. Also, I suppose the English-as-a-second-language thing figures in.  He really doesn't "get" rhetorical questions, and often offers a quick "I don't know" rather than to extend the rumination  by offering further input.  He's definitely not guessing the outcome of the election, and neither am I.  


" . . . no word from God shall ever fail,"  Gabriel told Mary.  She answered by saying, I am the Lord's servant.  May your word to me be fulfilled."*  This short passage is a reminder that God keeps his promises.  In light of that, whole-hearted submission to and trust in God makes sense.  

I had never before thought of the Magnificat in the context of a tumultuous time such as the present, so I was surprised with how well Mary's words offered the assurance I craved.  I probably should not have been surprised, now that I remember how shocking was the reality that Mary had to adjust to. In shock value, no possible election outcome holds a candle to this.  

Mary's song doesn't supply me with the name of a potential winner in the upcoming election, but it reassures me that remembering who God is and what he has done is the right thing to do.  I especially like how Mary knows with certainty that God lifts up the humble, fills the hungry, brings down the proud, and sends away the rich, empty.  It describes an evening of the score that I long for today.  Mary knew, and I know that this comes about through a Savior, not a political figure. 

Here are excerpts of what Mary said:

"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant . . . the Mighty One has done great things for me--holy is his name.  His mercy extends to those who fear him . . . He has performed mighty deeds . . . he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts, He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.  He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.  He has helped his servant . . . remembering to be merciful . . . just as he promised . . . "


Something astonishing happened near the end of our church service this morning when a stranger got up to speak during the time when audience members were invited to do so.  He didn't tell us his name, and I don't know if anyone there knew it, although I'm sure that those who talked to him afterward know more now than I do.  In short, he told us he was there because his wife wanted him to come.  He did so in an effort to save his marriage.  He is apparently in his eighties.  His wife has had some good interactions with people from "Center Amish Church," and she promised that she would put on her "covering and her long clothes" again and come with him if he found this church for them to worship with (today, however, she was at a family event and couldn't come).  He attended "old Yoder Mennonite" when he was a child, and was converted there at the age of 10 or 11.  Since 1957 he has worked as a pastor in many different places, during which time he sometimes attended a "Beachy" church.  His wife at some point apparently had practices similar to ours.  So much mystery and too many credible details to dismiss it all as confused ramblings!


Jana, the church member who has worked as a doctor in a clinic in El Salvador for most of her professional life, faces a lot of uncertainty about her future, and the future of the clinic in El Salvador.    She is reaching retirement age, and so far, no one has been found to replace her.  She left her work abruptly earlier this year when the country went into lockdown, with plans at that time to return and reopen the clinic till it could be turned over to someone else.  Now that prospect is in limbo.  A clinic advisory board will meet this week to try to find a path forward.  


Several times recently I have heard criticism of our ministers, by members--specific to general, and mild to severe.  I'm still trying to process this.   My first inclination is to counter the criticism.  I don't share in feeling general dissatisfaction with what I hear in sermons or observe in character or leadership style.  The ministers are good people, doing their best.  I especially appreciate how they've led out during the pandemic, and wish there were more united support for their leadership. 

I do want to listen respectfully to what others are feeling.  Doing that while maintaining my own integrity is what I desire.  


Here's a short Facebook post I shared this afternoon:

Shared with Public
Prayer offered today in church for Donald Trump and for Joe Biden: "Help him to see you, and to see himself in light of who you are."
I loved it. It's an appropriate petition for us to pray for each other and for ourselves as well.


*New International Version

Monday, October 19, 2020

I Have Decided to Boycott

Would you believe me if I told you that if Jesus lived in Reno County in South Central Kansas in October 2020, he would wear a mask in public?  You probably shouldn't, at least without giving it serious thought.  First of all, none of us knows with absolute certainty what an omnipotent, all-knowing God who has taken on flesh would do in our circumstances. Then too, none of us can see our own biases and misconceptions with absolute clarity--a shame, since this affects our ability to think logically and "Christianly." While both of these factors conspire against our ability to make truthful statements about what Jesus would do, we can learn from his example.  We can also ask for wisdom from God.  Scripture tells us that we will never be scolded for doing this, and that wisdom is doled out in abundant measure to those who ask for it.

Two days ago, while reading the portion for the day in Matthew, I came across a four-verse record* of an incident in which Jesus explained to Peter that he was going to do something for the sake of not offending others, even though  what was being asked (by the tax collectors, in this case) constituted government overreach. Jesus had already confirmed with Peter that the tax was not warranted, so there could be no mistaking that Jesus was mindful of the circumstances and was acting deliberately in this incident. 

The issue at hand was the payment of a temple tax.  Under the Old Testament law, each adult Jewish male paid an annual tax to maintain the temple building and to provide for those who served there.  According to Inter-Varsity Press commentary,  this tax was still being exacted of the Jews in Jesus' time. 

Jesus and Peter, however, had already been marked as threats to the Jewish religion because they followed a new way that Jesus had ushered in.  The Jews no longer wished to claim them as one of their own--except when it came time to collect taxes, of course. 

Furthermore, Jesus himself had directly challenged the Jews on various fronts prior to this, so it could have been argued also that Jesus had placed himself at odds with the Jews. Priests and rabbis were exempted from paying the tax, so if Jesus had merely avoided the confrontations of his early ministry and claimed his rightful identity as a Jewish rabbi (teacher), he could have avoided paying the tax. 

Paying the temple tax provided a perfect opportunity for Jesus to demonstrate a foundational principle of the Kingdom of Heaven:  those who prioritize the values of this kingdom willingly give up personal rights when doing so helps to further the Kingdom of Heaven. By paying the temple tax, Jesus--at his own expense--was identifying with and honoring the oppressors from among his own people, probably because he wanted no unnecessary barriers to hinder the Jews from becoming part of Jesus' Kingdom. It was an act of humility and generosity. With this act, he was not back-pedaling on the rightful rebukes he had already spoken.  He was, instead, drawing both the rebukes and the extended grace together under the "Principles of the Kingdom of God" umbrella. 


A separate thread of shared understanding between Jesus and Peter involved the tax collecting custom of the time.  Conquered peoples paid taxes--not resident citizens of the homeland. Before Jesus paid the tax, he had affirmed with Peter that this was the action required of an outsider, the duty of a subjugated person.  In this action also he revealed a truth about diverse identities and responsibilities. A rightful Jew, who also was the King of a Heavenly kingdom, willingly took on the burden of subjugation to earthly civil authorities.  In the case of the temple tax, religious obligation and civil responsibility had become hopelessly entangled, so in Jesus' taking on this obligation, he was setting an example for how to act when one has responsibilities in both secular and religious realms.  


"I have decided to boycott" was repeated often in our household while I was growing up.  It was uttered by some of my siblings in response to a variety of provocations, most of them of insufficient importance to prompt such a disdainful response. It moved into our vocabulary around 1965 after Cesar Chavez organized the workers in the vineyards of California to demand better wages and working conditions. He called on citizens to boycott the grape growing industry by refusing to buy grapes. I don't remember that the boycott affected my parents' grocery shopping habits (we were probably too poor to be able to afford even cheap grapes), but the "boycott" idea came through loud and clear to the children (ages 14 and younger)--where they proceeded to appropriate it for their own purposes.  

Big sister: "Please hang up your coat."

Younger brother:  "I have decided to boycott."

Older brother:  "I need your help with the chores."

Younger brother:  "I have decided to boycott."

"I have decided to boycott" became little more than a sanctimonious way of saying I refuse to cooperate with you. It took a little longer than simply saying "No," in response to a request, but it sounded so much better that the extra time was worth it. 

Jesus did not decide "to boycott" when he was asked to pay the temple tax.  Instead, for the sake of avoiding offense, he paid it without a fuss, right after Peter retrieved the needed coin from the mouth of a fish.  

It's hard for me to imagine Peter retrieving a mask from the mouth of a fish, but it's not a bit hard for me to imagine that if wearing a mask had been the requirement of the day from secular and religious authorities, Jesus would have found a way to cooperate--since no harm would likely come from it and good was a potential result .  For the sake of avoiding offense, it would have been worth it.  For the sake of extending the Kingdom of God it would have been worth it. The same is true for the sake of contributing to the good of the community.  

I can't imagine "I have decided to boycott" coming from the mouth of Jesus any more than I can imagine him refusing to cooperate with a mask-wearing request coming from religious or secular authorities during a pandemic .  No harm is likely to come from it and good is a potential result. 

Isn't it fun though to imagine what miracles Jesus might wish to orchestrate to provide instantaneous provision for all mask wearers?  I hope I get to witness some of them.   


*Scripture Passage and Inter-Varsity Press Commentary Notes:  

Matthew 17:24-27 (New International Version)

The Temple Tax

24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

25 “Yes, he does,” he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”

26 “From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Follow up to Mask Bashing Post

Here's the second post in the same thread as the previous one.  I believe the content is self-explanatory.  I will add here that a nice private-message conversation followed, in which the writer of the later-removed comment explained that he did so because he didn't want to stir up further controversy.  He also expressed more of how he sees things, and I responded with a bit of elaboration that went beyond what is written here.  It was a good exchange, with him commenting that he's been given some new things to think about.

On a recent post of mine, someone commented and then removed the comment before my response posted. I will preserve the anonymity of the person who commented and the details of the comment, but will say that the comment inquired about my thinking on a COVID-19 vaccine. The comment was not rude or unwelcome. In fact, my response gave me an opportunity to address something that I would have addressed in my OP if I had been able to think of a way to do it concisely. I am indebted to the person who made the comment. Thank you.
Here's my reply to the comment: I find it easier to say what I hope to do rather than what I think other Christians should do.
I will not be standing in line for a COViD-19 vaccine any time soon--perhaps never. The push for getting a vaccine out quickly is so blatantly a political move and so obviously counter to taking proper precautions that I would be very wary of getting vaccinated in the near future on that account alone. Beyond that, however, I think a far better approach for "neutering" the virus--rather than a vaccine--is to learn lifestyle and diet measures that make it possible for our God-given immune systems to counter the virus before serious illness occurs.
I'm hopeful that some already-available, relatively inexpensive drugs can be helpful in treatment. There's already evidence for this (this is not a reference to the controversial malaria drug).
Re: the chip or a vaccine mandate? I'm taking a wait-and-see stance. I'm not sure that fears of these things are well-founded. If they come to pass and I must make a decision, I'm trusting the Lord to show me at that time what I should do.

  • Thanks always for your well thought out response 
    Miriam Iwashige
    . It is good to ponder these issues and not rush to "tweet" shall I say...
    Having taught the micro-biology unit twice during sub- teaching assignments I believe it is prudent to not rush the development of vaccines, especially during this political climate. It does continue to sadden me that the general public cannot find in themselves a sense of obligation to their fellow man and therefore self-discipline to curb personal conduct so as to mitigate the spread of this virus.
    Though I just received my annual flu vaccine (@clinic drive-thru!), I will not be in line for a Covid vaccine in the near future.
    As a final thought, my dear Aunt worked at CDC for 34 years...I have great respect for that institution and its scientists. I am putting my faith in them to continue to do their civil service job well to keep the public informed and safe! May God keep watch over us all...

    • ______ thanks for adding value to this OP by your comment. I have no personal connection with anyone at CDC, but during the current administration, I have gained a deeper respect for the civil servants who serve the public in non-partisan roles. Thank you to your aunt for her service.

    • Miriam Iwashige
       she had quite a career-34 years! A research biologist with mosquitos! Also Tzee flies (sp?). Worked on legionnaire disease, and was there when research was begun on HIV-before AIDS was called AIDS, quite fascinating work!

  • Thank you for this. There's so much we can do better in giving our bodies the opportunity to fight without drugs or vaccines. We should be learning and educating others wherever we can.

    • One of my struggles thru the covid-19 opinions has been when people declare we should be mask free, refuse vaccines and let our immune systems do their job, but the declarations are sometimes made by those who lead very unhealthy lives. 💔💔💔

    • _________ and who have limited sympathy for those whose health is already tenuous? This combination sounds disastrous, not only for those who "declare," but for those around them.