We operate in a context of human laws that are founded on flouting God’s Law.
The Law Covenants reflect the nature of Creation itself. They reveal the moral character of the Creator, and we should hardly be surprised that His Creation is designed to operate consistently with His character. There is really no practical way to separate between a distinct “act of God” versus something entirely natural in that sense. Nature itself is an act of God. We can discuss it academically, but there is no real basis for trying to draw distinctions. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Where we do make an obvious distinction is between the common assumptions of our world about what is “natural” versus what God says is natural. Here at the Kiln of the Soul parish, we make much of the vast gulf between the culture of our Western world and that of folks in the Bible. Our culture includes a presumptive arrogance that it’s own morals are God’s, and He damned sure better stick with the program. But it’s seldom a conscious decision in any way; the whole thing is almost entirely a priori. Anything from a different cultural background is, by definition, barbaric and primitive. That’s what we inherited from the Anglo Saxons and their gloomy, depressing and grouchy approach to morality. And it takes only a few active brain cells to grasp how utterly different it is from the way folks in Jesus’ world looked at things.
So we should hardly be surprised to discover that our Western society is under God’s wrath. The Bible shows us that God takes His patient time responding to the vast pile of offenses. Part of that is His sense of justice, making sure there is no excuse for ignoring His revelation. He made sure that accurate knowledge of the cultural context of revelation was available. It may take a little time to absorb the learning, but the academic material is widely available for free on the Internet. And even with the broad variety of presentations, things are still consistent enough for a sincere mind to make sense of it.
But let’s see if we can boil down some of the most obvious and flagrant violations of God’s moral code.
1. Idolatry of heathen deities — The first and most fundamental principle of Western thought is that this universe is all there is. It is a flat out denial of eternity as a separate realm of existence. Most Westerners argue with this, but when you examine all their assumptions, you find it lies behind everything. This was something that arises from Aristotle’s long considerations, a conscious choice. In his teachings, if there are any demons, angelic beings or deities, they must of necessity exist in this universe regardless whether they are visible. When you examine the whole range of Western traditional mythology about the afterlife, it is always somewhere inside this universe, somewhere accessible from here without necessarily having to die to visit the dead. Furthermore, precious little keeps them from coming back to bother us. This relentless focus on the material realm is behind Jesus’ warnings about worshiping Mammon.
But this was entirely acceptable to the Anglo Saxons and their Germanic mythology as reflected in Beowulf. As Western Civilization is broadly nothing more than Anglo Saxon mythology (as a part of the broader Germanic culture) and Greco-Roman intellectual traditions stirred into a single pot, everything Western is inherently materialistic. When you become aware of it, you see it in the full range of Western Christianity, as well. Mainstream churches come far closer in moral thinking to Beowulf than to the Hebrew Jesus. Jehovah has been re-imaged as Odin, and Satan is portrayed as Loki. And instead of feminine nature being an integral part of culture, it becomes an entirely separate realm under the cult of Oester, which is the actual primordial source of virtually everything in Germanic mythology. So on top of Mammon, most of Western culture reveres Oester. That this is largely unwitting makes it all the more insidious.
2. We are way past due for a jubilee — Study the Old Testament concept of jubilee — the primary text is Leviticus 25. Yes, it’s a very complicated study because, as is often noted here, the legalistic wrangling of Judaism obscures the ancient Hebrew mysticism inherent in the Covenant of Moses. We need not wade through all the nitpicking details of that legalism. The whole thing rests on the moral limits of human acquisitiveness. The desire for stuff is not inherently evil, but it has safe boundaries. Jubilee is an extension of the idea behind the Sabbath Rest and sabbatical years; jubilee is a seven-fold sabbatical. The idea is to disentangle from the current established practices and take time to reconsider whether your path is consistent with your calling. Human behavior drifts quickly past the safe boundaries without this periodic reset; it’s built into our human nature.
A critical element in that time of reconsideration is letting stuff go. The idea is stop worrying about this life and all its necessities and reset our focus back to a fundamental trust in God as Provider. On the Sabbath, you stop doing work that distracts, so that includes shutting down human commerce. You plan ahead and take care of the minimum requirements to stay alive before the Sabbath comes. In a sabbatical year you don’t plow and plant crops, and you end any contracts or bonds that oblige people to other people. In a jubilee you restore alienated real estate (means of production) to the original owners or next of kin — of course, that sits in a tribal social setting and feudal government, but it’s not hard to grasp the moral element in our day. The idea was to prevent any one tribe, clan or family gaining excessive wealth and power through material means. If God wants you in charge, you have to get there on the basis of moral purity and moral influence, not under some threat against people’s livelihood.
And if this big reset of the system reduces the aggregate wealth, so be it. The moral value trumps all material values. If you don’t see how America has wallowed ever deeper into the sewer pit of materialism, then you cannot see anything that matters. Everything our government does raises material property to the godhead. America worships Mammon and that’s what prevents a proper jubilee of debt release that should come at least once in the lifespan of average folks.
3. Covetousness — Have we forgotten that nations can covet? The problem is not wanting stuff, nor even someone else’s stuff. The problem is wanting for yourself something God gave them instead of gratefully rejoicing in what He gave you. America in particular seems to believe that she alone knows the best way to develop and use the resources of every other country. Inevitably that means America getting the lion’s share of whatever production takes place.
Never mind what the policy statements say; this is why we have the likes of the CIA stirring up revolts in any county that won’t serve our comfort. It doesn’t matter what you imagine is our government and how much we allow greedy corporations to drive our policies; it’s all our government by default. God didn’t give our nation the vast oil reserves of the Middle East, so we have no business making any effort to control the extraction and marketing of that oil. And all the wars that we have provoked using espionage under the thinnest of pretexts about imaginary democracy are equivalent to the most desecrating murder of everyone who dies in those wars. The whole earth cries out with the blood of those America has slaughtered, whether directly or through proxies.
So now we sit here and the warmongers are now calling for more blood, seeking to provoke open warfare with Russia, starting with the battlefield in Syria. God hasn’t revealed much about how that might turn out, but He has surely told us all that there is simply no excuse for it. My heart is full of dread about this prospect. Not in the human fear that we might get our arrogant national butt handed to us, but that it’s just more blood crying from the ground, condemning America all the more.
Nothing about the activist impulse fits in here, either. If you live here in the US, you’ll have to obey your own calling and conscience, but don’t ever presume to know what’s the right moral action for everyone serving the Lord. We don’t confine our moral considerations to this material level, operating under mere human reason. What I’m calling for is a time of prayer during this period before any such battle is joined. Mostly you should pray to know your calling and duty in light of the changing context. I don’t condemn those in uniform already committed to fighting such a dirty war, nor those who might feel led to desert that uniform. Those issues are always in the hands of those who face God with their own convictions. Pray that you know your mission from God.
That remains always the very foundation of heart-led faith. Know your mission and your mission field; be there and do it. Nothing else we teach here can help you without that foundation.