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Burning my ship

I am about to publish a water shed blog.  I submit it to you – asking that you read the portion of the chapter from a book, Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins, a serious work, academic, but within reach of common readers, on being a disciple of the Christ in a world and church that has lost it’s compass.  I submit this printing of that portion to you, and invite you to them read my confessio after it.  I fore warn you, it will hopefully challenge you in a micro way that I have been challenged over ten years and hence live differently and yet have so far to go.  It will cost me economic supporters.  I don’t want that, but I know that, and prayed that I would be released from His lead to write this and publish it.  Few will read it, but I know those in my world will have a fair chance of reading it – and some will stew and hate me for it.  I hope not, but expect it.  I don’t want to, but I do want to publish this.  The cost is high, and so I submit it ONLY because He has led me to and directed me to share a bit of my journey.  It is NOT a political posting – but a spiritual one.  I do not and cannot Biblically support a theology that is individual and not collective, societal.  I am NOT advocating for a Christian government, but for a church prophetic to our society and government, calling us to act in accordance with His values – beyond the social hot buttons of today.
I have oft heard the quote that the poor teach us more than we teach them.  I have come to find this true.  For they reflect a mirrored image back to me of my true soul state and call me forth to be, act, think, feel and respond more like Christ.  They are part of my transformation, sanctification.

Please read and digest well – chew 28 times before each swallow….

The cultural influence of the Greek Empire, the imperial might of the Roman Empire, the religious supremacy of the Holy Roman Empire [or Islam’s forced conversion empire – my comment] and the global reach of the British Empire all pale in comparison with the cultural dominance, the military might, the capitalist zeal, and the global influence of the US empire.  The term “empire” can no longer be narrowly defined as the physical possession of foreign lands that must pay tribute [or be profitable – my comment].  Empire is understood today as a globalized economy that provides economic benefits to multinational corporations whose influences are secured through the military might of one superpower.

Indeed the sun never sets today o the dominating influence of the United States.  At n other time in human history has one nation enjoyed such supremacy of power.  While empires of old relied on brute force, the US empire relies mainly on economic terms of trade with other nations, guaranteeing that benefits flow to the United States and the elite countries that agree to the trade agreements.  Take corn, for example, a staple of life in many parts of the world.

While Mexican farmers cultivate corn the way they have for centuries by using plows pulled by burros on small plots of land and relying on rain for irrigation, their US counterparts operate heavily mechanized mega-farms [plantations in age old terminology – my note] that rely upon satellite images to meter-out water and fertilizer.  Because corn grown in the US is heavily subsidized [my emphasis:  $20B/year goes from the federal government to farmers of five crops, largest being corn.  It also, by the way subsidizes the most profitable industry on the planet with record profits – oil!], it is cheaper for Mexicans to buy what is exported form the US than their home-grown crops.  According to the US Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, US corn sells for 25% less than what local Mexican growers earn, meaning that those growers lose money with every acre they plant.  Today, subsidized US corn accounts for almost half of the world’s stock [my emphasis], setting a world price so low that it eliminates all indigenous competition.  It effectively robs three-quarters of the world’s poor who live in rural areas (the poor are mostly farmers) and depend upon exporting their crops for their livelihood.

Originally, the NAFTA agreement set a fifteen-year period for gradually raising the amount of US corn that could enter Mexico without tariffs; however, Mexico willingly lifted the quotas in fewer than three years to assist its chicken and pork industries.  According to Mexican NAFTA negotiators, the suspension of quotas directly benefitted fellow negotiator Eduardo Bours, whose family owns Mexico’s largest chicken producer.  Although the lifting of quotas rewarded his family business, Mexico lost some $2 billion in tariffs while half a million corn farmers abandoned their lands and moved to the cities in hope of finding a new livelihood.  And the flow of cheaper US corn did not translate into cheaper food prices for Mexicans.  Quite the contrary, Price controls were lifted on tortillas and tortilla flour, causing their prices to triple.  Not surprisingly, while the World Bank continues to sing the praises of NAFTA, a study conducted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has concluded that a decade of NAFTA has failed to generate substantial job growth in Mexico and has brought hardship to thousands of subsistence farmers.   Real wages are lower in 2004 [when this was written] (adjusted for inflation) that they were when NAFTA was adopted in 1994.  Additional income inequity is greater and immigration to the United States continues to soar.

In the early part of 2002, the United States Congress passed a bill signed by President George W Bush authorizing $100 billion in farm subsidies over an eight-year period.  By 2003, the world’s wealthiest nations were giving their farmers more than $300 billion in subsidies.  These subsidies privilege industrial-size farms that produce more acres of crops than are needed for domestic consumption and sell the surplus overseas at prices lower than indigenous farmers require.  Even James D Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, accuses wealthy nations of “squandering” $1 billion a day on farm subsidies that have devastating effects on impoverished countries.  Ian Goldin, the World Bank’s vice-president stated it clearly:  “Reducing these subsidies and removing agricultural trade barriers is one of the most important things rich countries can do for millions of people to escape poverty all over the world.”  Every rural peasant forced to leave the land means another producer who is forced to migrate the city, becoming, along with a family, one more consumer.  The migration greatly contributes to the perpetual need for future food aid (George: 1987:8).

Miquel A. de la Torre [Phd, Revrand and doctor at Denver Seminary (evangelical institution).  Author of several books, articles, etc.], Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins, sixth printing 2011, Orbis Books, New York, p.75-77.  *All references and quotes sited in book

Before I dare to post this, there are people who know me who will a) de-friend me, b) slur, attack and demean me, c) never consider what I am saying, and d) never consider this work by Dr. de la Torre.

It will demonstrate how so many in the US church benefit from empire, power, privilege and therefore, embrace Babylon, justifying it, mediating its sins, ignoring its sins, embracing its benefits which they benefit from at the cost of others  (me included!), and meld the politics of the day of power, meld the social mores all with the Biblical ethos, mandate, and DNA…  until Jesus wears a suit and polo, lives in the burbs and has a character that would side with Wall Street, approve of wealth and indulgence and empire that goes to war (tail wagging the dog) on behalf of economic blossom – not survival, domination and cheaper Wall Mart prices.

Why am I, a critic of society, politics, the church, my own host culture, my own pedigree and privilege, write about this and post it on a blog that is about following the Christ, and  so often, as in other blogs, attack my own government and its social institutions?  Simple – it is ideology from hell and will face judgment.  God is calling His church back – to repent – to become prophetic in society – to stop the Babylonian drunk state that has seduced the church to it’s aid, and is used by society for its end.  We, His people, must repent and change – real change, not go economy class when we travel, but return to a sacrificial all encompassing discipleship that costs everything.  

What am I saying?  You see, I come form privilege and was a blind devotee to empire (as a soldier and citizen), blindly endorsed a center-right politic and dismissed my conscience with platitudes that while I enjoyed 1st world life, and comfortably, even in ministry, by being a faithful above 10% tither (US average saint gives 1.5% to charities of all types), writing a mercy check on the latest CNN news disaster and need.  I would even say an occasional prayer.  

What happened to me?  I was a devotee to the American church – thought honestly, like so many, that we could slick our message, our method, and get people to rethink, even be transformed through doing it well.  I’m not attacking any church or movement or even the pastors – I was one, and for what I knew/we knew/we know – we were doing our best.  BUT then I began to encounter Scripture and gave voice to some elements of the church that didn’t drink the cool-aid.  Friends, members of InnerCHANGE, of which Communitas is a part today, greatly and softly modeled a different life that indicted mine.  I ignored it for years and then it grabbed me and the Holy Spirit, the hound of heaven, would not let me go.  Also, some monks in several orders lived lives out before me, witnessed to me through history and discipled me in a life, an ethic, that truly  imitated Christ and I was convicted…  Brothers in the Benedictine, Franciscan, Dominican and Jesuit orders lived powerful Christlike lives and it was intoxicating when I found my own faith and theological understanding shallow compared to theirs.

I began to wrestle passages of Scripture, which I list here in a far from exhaustive list…
Isaiah 58 – real worship & authentic followers of God is about how we treat those less fortunate.
Isaiah 61 – Christ read this when He went public ….this is His mantra, what He’s here for… & what we should emulate
Matthew 25.31ff – sheeps and goats separated and how He will do this…note its not for having every jot and tiddle of theological tertiaries, but behavior… ever note that 95+% of what Jesus addresses isn’t the information amassing or lack thereof, but the faith lived out in every day life?
Matthew 6.25ff
Matthew 10.38-39
Revelation 3.14ff
Romans 12.1ff
2 Cor 8.1-15
Luke 16
Luke 12.13ff
Mark 12.41
Mark 12.28
Luke 19.11-28 + 1-10 (Zaacheus)
Jonah – God’s character for the lost, for those who definitely don’t even deserve it is clear here.  as it is with many of the parables of those who didn’t “deserve” it:  woman in adultery, prodigal, sinners, robbers, Mary Magdelan, etc, and people like Matthew, John Mark, Philemon, etc.

I was simply too tied, inhibited, dependent upon, found my worth in my wor$h, in my station.  Even when I did “simple” I could and was always going back, or at least able to “go back”.  If I stopped being a missionary, I could/would be able to re-enter the successful world I left.

What I am not saying:  I am not calling all to become poor.  The poor don’t want to be poor.  BUT God is calling me – and calling all saints, to abandon empire – Rome, London or New York and Los Angeles…  He is calling us to sell all, giving graciously and sacrificially, using the resources he gave us to steward for the kingdom – not ourselves.  He has given us a ton more on wealth abuse than sexual immorality.  Yet, we justify it, do some “sin management” and ignore the social sins we are contributing to, guilty of, and we ignore and are ignorant to the poverty of our souls.  I am calling all saints – most that I know – to live a lot simpler, may feel poor – than we do.

Think of this quote from Dr de la Torre:
– in my fairly wide international exposure, living and working overseas for decades, I find Americans very politically ignorant, more concerned about their latest pop music, newest technological toy, current sports or celebrity issue, than real issues.  Contrary, overseas, I find people far more acutely attuned to global realities – I believe because it so affects them so directly.  There is a saying, “when America sneezes, the world catches a cold”.  The point being, we sneeze and they experience it at much greater impact than we do – we don’t know how much we impact the world with our actions.

– This quote alone helps explain why so many internationally hold us in contempt.  We blindly only see the real good we do contribute, but ignore the damange we also do – ignorant of ourselves like a lumbering giant in a crystal boutique.

– It helps explain why illegals from Latin America come here – hope in despair; despair we contribute to!

– Helps us see why drug trade becomes reasonable – starving does that.  It’s hard to hate with a full belly, on the contrary.

– Did Jesus really call us to lavish 1st world existence or to steward wealth to establish outposts of the Kingdom… no I don’t mean mega-churches, but people who make true difference.

This is threatening an many will attack, dismiss over this call, attack me, and never stop and ask if God is challenging and saying something to them – to you, right now.  Imagine – what if we focused the wealth and success we enjoy on the Kingdom – healing hurt, healing real poverty and made a real difference in lives of the poor, needy, etc?  What if we actually got to know the poor – they weren’t any longer “those people” but Mary, Delores, Phil, Mark?  What if we abandoned life in the secure xenophobic homogenous “safe” suburbs and moved to live where the less resourced lived?  What if we spent our time helping the under resourced rather than going on yet another vacation taking amazing photos?  What if instead of buying larger houses with ever more space, we got housing for a little old lady we knew… BUT you have to know them and make it personal.  Remember Jesus – the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”?  This is also translated, “God became one of us and moved into our neighborhood!

We cannot – let me say that again, WE CANNOT love the Lord our God with ALL of our HEART, ALL of our MIND, ALL of our BODY and NOT LOVE our neighbors as we love ourselves!  Impossible.  We cannot follow Christ privately, personally, as our individual conscience declares and ignore the social injustice we participate in.  

If this spiritual move of my own soul over the past 10 years makes me one of “those words” thrown so viciously in our society today (liberal, socialist, wacko), then so be it.  This life is a blip, eternity forever.  I’ll make the better investment, store my treasure, as meek as it is, in heaven where rust and moth does not destroy.  I’ll genuinely try to love (better and better) the underprivileged, the scorned, the damned, the rebel…  because that’s what Jesus did (prodigal, woman in adultery, Matthew, Rich Young Ruler, friend of sinners, lover of the lost, hound of heaven.

I will live by the mandate as a monk in the order of Communitas and InnerCHANGE:  To love mercy, walk humbly and love my God, as weak as I am in doing this.

Friends – our globalized society, dictated by global power is wicked and even when it doesn’t try to squash – it does.  Even when good men and women try, it is impersonal and hurts others.  It inherently grows, expands becomes ever more wealthy, disparaging creates every widening gaps between the very wealthy elite and the middle class, much less the poor, and the global poor.

I will lose supporters for this blog.  I know this.  I accept it.  I stand by my convictions as I’ve prayed over this for months and my blogs reflect an ever growing conviction, repentance and convulsion at what we, the church, have become.  I am chief among sinners and do not indict anyone without acknowledging I am one of those sinners and I want to live differently.  I want to gracefully love the successful and the broken.  Yet, I know making this stand will cost me – I accept that and embrace what ever He has for me.

Paul tell us we must work out our salvation every day.  May we strive to truly and honestly pursue being like Christ more and more and may the last hidden treasure of our souls be converted – our purse.

Peace and grace, with eyes steeled with conviction, yet down turned in humble submission.


2 responses

  1. Jace

    Mike, much of what you wrote here is right on the mark, straight from the Word of God. Thanks for boldly sharing. Yes, we must live what we believe, no matter what the consequences. Although God asked us to give from the heart, He didn’t necessarily want all of us to take a “vow of poverty.” He needs people in (almost) all walks of life, including those involving substantial wealth. The question is, how do we use what God has given us? Are we using it for the eternal or for the temporal? Are we carrying out the commands of Christ in all we do, or are we picking and choosing what we choose to believe?

    Although God has not put upon my heart to live in the poverty-stricken areas of town, He has impressed upon me that I need to continually examine everything I do and consider how it impacts His kingdom.

    In the fight,


    20 July 2012 at 13:42

  2. Thanks, Jace. Appreciated…

    20 July 2012 at 16:37

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