Derek Johnson Muses

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Rebels and an Old Saint

Why do we have to be rebels? Can we not just be grateful for those in authority over us? The term rebel has an odd position in our culture: it is a thought rebel is a good thing. For some reason, we are not grateful when those in authority over provide us with peace, security, and provisions. They have to give us emotional affection as well.

Presently, I’m studying the book of Isaiah for a Bible study, and the word “rebel” comes up a lot, but not a positive context or even in a cool context. It is the term that God calls His disobedient children. It is a term for those who know the law that God has given them, but they still do evil anyway, considering the evil they do to be good.

I have odd experience with this. My father is the head of a mid-sized seed company. He has to make decisions that affect the well fare of his growers, his seed dealers, and his employees, myself included. If the margin between success and failure can be thin, and I know why he has trouble sleeping He’s worried about the livelihood of others.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Occupy Wall Street. Michael Moore spoke as if the poorer classes were entitled to jobs from wealth Americans. But does he realize the responsibility that wealthy people have to use their wealth responsibly? People who run companies have responsibilities that I can’t even fathom and don’t want.

But this is a problem that has religious roots as well. Given that the most important god in our culture is the personal one, our personal gods really have no greater authority than what our minds choose to give them.No wonder everyone in our culture wants to rebel; we consider ourselves to be the ultimate givers of authority.

But St. Anselm once said God is “that than which nothing greater can be conceived”. That is, He is essential beyond what we can make or ascribe him to be. The Psalms praise our Father in heaven, and my theology text book in college gave a long list of His attributes, but those things cannot contain God.

God is our authority whether we want Him to be or not; we should fear His judgment, rather than try and put him into a box. We should eagerly study his Word and the means by which He comes to us, for there He comes to us.

The Occupy Movement and the Doctrine of Vocation: Lord, Grant us Contentment

I didn’t follow Occupy Wall Street when it debut last fall (football season), although recently I used it to spoof the SEC’s domination of the Big 10. But recently , I have read up on the movement, and while I do agree with the assessment by the Occupiers, I don’t know if camping out in the financial districts of large cities is the right way to go. Colin Cowherd said on ESPN Radio, anyone of these people could invest themselves in being a good doctor or lawyer, they could end up earning what they demanded of others.

But I will acknowledge: people do have a right to be upset with the rich in this country. The financial crisis hurt a many people demolished their savings, and the rich were the ones who first made mortgages an investment commodity and sought to sell as many as they could, until they upset the system. Predatory lending was, and still is, a big problem. If the rich people aren’t willing to invest in getting more jobs into this country, people do have a right to be upset.

However, the answer to those problem isn’t to give people more money to the lower classes. Look at what happens to athletes who come from poor backgrounds get lots of money on pro football or basketball contracts: the majority are going broke, and these are people who at least pretended to be students on a college campus (another subject for another blog post). Just giving more money to people isn’t a solution.

And, while a lot of the occupiers want to blame the rich, why don’t the blame the lawmakers who passed no-fault divorce laws? As former Yale professor Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse noted in an Issues, Etc. interview, when divorce hits a low class home, there goes any saving they may have, and from there, a mother with two children can easily end up in straights. Forty years since the first set of such laws, and marriage has virtually disappeared from the lowest class in America, whose out of wedlock birth rate is seventy percent. Meanwhile, everyone who can afford to get divorced act as if happiness is the only social function for marriage. There’s a real reason to have class warefare.

As a Christian person (and I’m surprised that I haven’t found much Christian or Lutheran commentary on the occupy movement), I am forced to turn to the doctrine of vocation-God gives us all a calling in life, and tells us to be content with that calling. I went to school with a lot of people who were going to be pastors and teachers, and all of them knew they were not going to be making a lot of money and graduating with a lot of private school debt. But it meant a lot to them, knowing that they had God’s gifts to serve his people, so they carried on.

When I hear Michael Moore is saying on a news program that rich people have all this money and they owe the poorer classes, I hear the entitlement to blue-collar jobs that sunk the rust belt (a native son of Michigan, indeed.), and I recognize the signs of coveting. Is it wrong to call on companies to invest in domestic jobs? No, but those jobs are provided to those who earn them, with the proper education. Mr. Moore himself has made many successful films; would he just hand over $20 to any schmoo to make a movie? No; what he should be saying to people, is “Get your education. Pursue your idea to the hilt. There’s always room who work hard and pursue their ideas. I’m proof of that.”

I know what people will say “Jesus said ‘You cannot serve God and money.’” (Luke 16:13). This is true, and it is likely that a lot of the people on Wall Street love money more than God, family, and many other things. But is the person who goes to Wall Street and says they deserve some of the one percent’s money coveting? When John the Baptists addresses the crowd in Luke 3, he doesn’t just tell the tax collectors and soldiers not to extort people. He also tells them to be content with what they have.

As Christian people, we have an obligation, to talk to our friends about the Occupy Movement. Yes, rich people may done many things wrong, but we must leave their judgment to God (Jude 9). Instead, we must remind our neighbors and ourselves of the explanation of the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, to all wicked men; but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to know it, and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.” Lord, teach us to receive our blessings from you with thanksgiving! Amen.

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