Assassination


In honor of Abraham Lincoln’s actual birthday, I’m reprising this article that is a lot about him, but also about authority and . . . (gulp) race.

Some years ago I read a biography by Eric Metaxas: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, martyr, prophet, spy. You may know that Bonhoeffer was one of the Germans involved in the unsuccessful plot to assassinate Hitler.

Everything I’d heard about Bonhoeffer was positive. Specifically people refer to his strong Christian beliefs. I have a copy of his book The Cost of Discipleship, though I’ve never read it. You see, I have this problem with plotting an assassination.

Granted, Hitler was an evil man, but so were the Roman Caesars under which the early church came into being. Yet Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said to be subject to rulers and Peter echoed the concept:

Submit yourselves to every human institution, whether to the king as the one in authority or to governors as sent by him . . . (1 Peter 2:13-14a)

So I’ve always had a problem thinking of Bonhoeffer as a hero of the Christian faith or even of the human race. Is it ever right to do wrong?

Our times are troubled, too. When the 2016 political conventions drew near, the news referred to the tightening of security and the barriers and the buffer zone those tasked with keeping the candidates safe had to erect. Of course they replayed footage of a crazed spectator at one of Donald Trump’s rallies jumping onto the stage, and another clip of the police leading away a man who said he came to shoot Mr. Trump.

Shortly thereafter assassinations of the five Dallas policemen (and the wounding of more officers and a few civilians) made the news.

I thought back to the assassination of President Kennedy (yes, I can remember it). He’d been elected by the slimmest of margins, but the whole nation mourned his death. I suspect if there were to be such a tragedy today involving our President or any of the candidates, we would not pull together. We might actually see a deepening of the bitterness and hatred that has been seething in our country.

All this brought to mind another assassination—perhaps the worst crime in America—that by John Wilkes Booth of President Abraham Lincoln. I say “the worst crime” because I believe, apart from slavery itself, the period after the Civil War is most responsible for the roots of racism and poverty and injustice we see in America today.

President Lincoln had a plan for reconstruction of the South. Had he continued to serve as President until the end of his term, I suspect there would not have been Carpetbaggers or Shanty Towns or Ku Klux Klans or Jim Crow laws or black voter disenfranchisement or segregation.

Change would not have been easy but there were already allies President Lincoln could have called on to implement his ideas for reconstruction—hundreds of white abolitionists who had taken up the call to eliminate slavery and an untold number of heroic white station masters and conductors in the Underground Railroad.

Before the war was over, President Lincoln had begun to put into place piece of a reconstruction plan that would address the new societal realities—Southern plantation owners without a work force, and often with homes and outbuildings burned to the ground; and freed slaves without jobs, uneducated, and homeless.

He established temporary military governorships that would administrate the Southern states. He established The Freedmen’s Bureau which helped

African Americans find family members from whom they had become separated during the war. It arranged to teach them to read and write, considered critical by the freedmen themselves as well as the government. Bureau agents also served as legal advocates for African Americans in both local and national courts, mostly in cases dealing with family issues. The Bureau encouraged former major planters to rebuild their plantations, urged freed Blacks to gain employment above all, kept an eye on contracts between the newly free labor and planters, and pushed both whites and blacks to work together as employers and employees rather than as masters and as slaves. (Wikipedia)

The Bill that set up the Freedmen’s Bureau expired in a year. Congress voted to extend it, but the new President, Andrew Johnson, vetoed it.

How might history have been changed if President Lincoln had lived! It’s impossible to know.

Considering the possibilities, though, I’m mindful of the influence of one life, one life on an entire nation.

How might the world be different if President Lincoln had lived? How might the world be different if Hitler had died?

Above all the machinations of leaders and rebels and assassins stands our sovereign God. No, He wasn’t pulling strings like a puppet master, but He superintends all that is His—which is everything. So the struggle in our society today isn’t off track any more than the struggle the first Christians endured at the hand of Caligula, Claudius, and Nero.

Humanly speaking we can look at causes and effects. We can play the “what if” game or the “if only” game. But God does more with less, and brings life out of ashes. He restores and redeems.

I wish He had seen fit to heal the racial divide in our country right out of the starting blocks, before the ink was dry on the surrender Robert E. Lee signed.

More so, I wish slavery had never become an American institution.

But I imagine many Germans wish Hitler had never happened, or that East Germany had never happened.

It’s the old story of evil and evil men seeming to flourish while the righteous helplessly cry out to God to be their refuge.

So I wonder. Does it take the progression of evil to make the righteous cry out to God? I don’t know. But I think we’re at the place where crying out to God to be our refuge makes perfect sense. In reality, no matter what our circumstances, crying out to God makes sense. But in times like these, we need an anchor.

Published in: on February 12, 2020 at 4:45 pm  Comments Off on Assassination  
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Assassination


cover_BonhoefferI started a new biography today: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, martyr, prophet, spy by Eric Metaxas. You may know that Bonhoeffer was one of the Germans who unsuccessfully plotted to assassinate Hitler.

Everything I’ve heard about Bonhoeffer has been positive. Specifically people refer to his strong Christian beliefs. I have a copy of his book The Cost of Discipleship, though I’ve never read it. You see, I have this problem with plotting an assassination.

Granted, Hitler was an evil man, but so were the Roman Caesars under which the early church came into being. Yet Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said to be subject to rulers and Peter echoed the concept:

Submit yourselves to every human institution, whether to the king as the one in authority or to governors as sent by him . . . (1 Peter 2:13-14a)

So I’ve always had a problem thinking of Bonhoeffer as a hero of the Christian faith or even of the human race. Is it ever right to do wrong?

Our times are troubled, so assassination hit the news too. As the political conventions draw near, the news referred to the tightening of security and the barriers and the buffer zone those tasked with keeping the candidates safe have had to erect. Of course they replayed footage of a crazed spectator at one of Donald Trump’s rallies jumping onto the stage, and another clip of the police leading away a man who said he came to shoot Mr. Trump.

In light of the recent assassinations of the five Dallas policemen (and the wounding of more officers and a few civilians) the safety concerns seem legitimate.

I thought back to the assassination of President Kennedy (yes, I can remember it). He’d been elected by the slimmest of margins, but the whole nation mourned his death. I suspect if there were to be such a tragedy today involving our President or either candidate, we would not pull together. We might actually see a deepening of the bitterness and hatred that has been seething in our country.

All this brought to mind another assassination—perhaps the worst crime in America—that by John Wilkes Booth of President Abraham Lincoln. I say “the worst crime” because I believe, apart from slavery itself, the period after the Civil War is most responsible for the roots of racism and poverty and injustice we see in America today.

President Lincoln had a plan for reconstruction of the South. Had he continued to serve as President until the end of his term, I suspect there would not have been Carpetbaggers or Shanty Towns or Ku Klux Klans or Jim Crow laws or black voter disenfranchisement or segregation.

Change would not have been easy but there were already allies President Lincoln could have called on to implement his ideas for reconstruction—hundreds of white abolitionists who had taken up the call to eliminate slavery and an untold number of heroic white station masters and conductors in the Underground Railroad.

Before the war was over, President Lincoln had begun to put into place piece of a reconstruction plan that would address the new societal realities—Southern plantation owners without a work force, and often with homes and outbuildings burned to the ground; and freed slaves without jobs, uneducated, and homeless.

He established temporary military governorships that would administrate the Southern states. He established The Freedmen’s Bureau which helped

African Americans find family members from whom they had become separated during the war. It arranged to teach them to read and write, considered critical by the freedmen themselves as well as the government. Bureau agents also served as legal advocates for African Americans in both local and national courts, mostly in cases dealing with family issues. The Bureau encouraged former major planters to rebuild their plantations, urged freed Blacks to gain employment above all, kept an eye on contracts between the newly free labor and planters, and pushed both whites and blacks to work together as employers and employees rather than as masters and as slaves. (Wikipedia)

The Bill that set up the Freedmen’s Bureau expired in a year. Congress voted to extend it, but the new President, Andrew Johnson, vetoed it.

How might history have been changed if President Lincoln had lived! It’s impossible to know.

Considering the possibilities, though, I’m mindful of the influence of one life, one life on an entire nation.

How might the world be different if President Lincoln had lived? How might the world be different if Hitler had died?

Above all the machinations of leaders and rebels and assassins stands our sovereign God. No, He wasn’t pulling strings like a puppet master, but He superintends all that is His—which is everything. So the struggle in our society today isn’t off track any more than the struggle the first Christians endured at the hand of Caligula, Claudius, and Nero.

Humanly speaking we can look at causes and effects. We can play the “what if” game or the “if only” game. But God does more with less, and brings life out of ashes. He restores and redeems.

I wish He had seen fit to heal the racial divide in our country right out of the starting blocks, before the ink was dry on the surrender Robert E. Lee signed.

More so, I wish slavery had never become an American institution.

But I imagine many Germans wish Hitler had never happened, or that East Germany had never happened.

It’s the old story of evil and evil men seeming to flourish while the righteous helplessly cry out to God to be their refuge.

So I wonder. Does it take the progression of evil to make the righteous cry out to God? I don’t know. But I think we’re at the place where crying out to God to be our refuge makes perfect sense. In reality, no matter what our circumstances, crying out to God makes sense. But in times like these, we need an anchor.

Compromise


Amish_at_the_beachIs compromise a virtue or a vice?

Once upon a time, here in the US, there was a statesman (not a politician), Henry Clay, known as the Great Compromiser. OK, he actually was a politician and even ran for the Presidency in 1824, then again in 1832 and 1844. His fame, such as it is, came, not from failed political campaigns, however, but for successful compromises. He was instrumental in formulating the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850, both tiptoeing around the issue of slavery.

Some might point to those compromises as means by which slavery was propped up for four more decades. Others might say they kept the union together until the North was strong enough to oppose a seceded South.

Others have been touted as statesmen for their ability to bring two opposing sides together. Neither ends up with everything they hoped for and both give in on things they stand against.

The way the US government was set up required compromise. Small states had equal voting power in the Senate, so large states couldn’t overlook their needs or ignore their voice. The President had to look to Congress to generate the legislation he wished to see enacted, requiring a fair amount of give and take on both their parts.

On the other hand, in the early history of the US, there wasn’t much compromise when it came to religious things. In part this intransigence explains the large number of Protestant denominations. When a group became convinced of the rightness of their theology, they weren’t about to hedge or make concessions with someone who saw things differently.

In this arena, too, people see the lack of compromise as both good and bad. It kept Christians opposed to one another, separated from each other, suspicious of others–pretty much the opposite of what Paul says in Colossians 3–“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another and forgiving each other whoever has a complaint against anyone” (3:12-13).

On the other hand, a lack of compromise works against false teaching and the kind of slide into sin we see in the nation of Israel throughout the Old Testament.

What strikes me in thinking about compromise and the general overview of it in the history of the US, is the fact that today we seem to be approaching compromise in exactly the opposite way it was used in the first half of the 1800s. Then politicians who compromised were statesmen and professing Christians who compromised were heretics. Today, politicians who compromise are sell-outs, and people of religion who compromise are tolerant.

So what’s your take on compromise? Are there things, similar to Israel’s neglect of the Sabbath or care for widows and orphans or involvement in idol worship, that the Church (not people who say they are Christians because they were born in the US or because they go to a Christmas church service or because their parents identified as Christians) is compromising on today, and should not?Traditional_Amish_buggy Are there things the Church is holding on to, similar to the Amish horse and buggy or 18th century dress, that ought to be compromised?

All In


What’s the difference between a football fan and a player, one of our pastors recently asked. Both want the team to win.

Fans might invest in some team gear, maybe paint their faces, make signs, buy tickets, give up a Saturday to go to the game, and cheer passionately.

Meanwhile, the player has his livelihood on the line. He conditions, studies, practices, and gives every ounce of physical and mental effort to succeed, week after week. His commitment isn’t a few dollars and a day or two here or there. He’s invested in the team’s success long before preseason rolls around. Essentially, he’s all in.

That’s precisely what Christ says the Christian should be. We’re to pick up our cross, even hate our family. In other words, be all in.

Jesus followed this admonition by making a couple comparisons. First, He asked, what builder starts work without being sure he has enough to complete the task? What king goes to battle without first assessing whether or not his army is strong enough for him to succeed? So too, God made the assessment that what He needs from His followers is total commitment. (See Luke 14:26-33).

None of this is new to those who have been Christians for any length of time. But I began to think about this commitment in comparison to the kind of “all in” requirement of human bondage.

Recently I read and reviewed Kay Marshall Strom’s book The Hope of Shridula. That next week, the first book in the Blessings of India series, The Faith of Ashish, was offered as a free Kindle e-book, and I snapped it up. Just last week I finished reading it.

The story is about slavery — not the kidnapping and selling of one human by another kind, but that which results from the exploitation of the needy.

It reminded me of the history I’d read about railroad towns in nineteenth century America which enslaved workers. The corporate employer created worker towns and charged inflated prices at the corporate stores, so that when it came time to pay a worker his wages, he often owed more for his rent and food than what he had earned.

This is the story played out in The Faith of Ashish and The Hope of Shridula, though the setting is India in the middle of the twentieth century. Different players, same exploitation.

In the case of the poor Indian family, they borrowed a small amount of money from a rich landlord to save their son who needed medical attention. The condition of the loan was that they move to the workers’ quarters and tend the landlord’s fields. But as time passed, their debt increased rather than dwindling because they were charged for their living quarters and food and for anything else the landlord wished to add to their account.

Essentially they became his slaves. They were unwillingly “all in.”

Their debt required it of them.

So here’s the comparison and the contrast I’m seeing. Each of us owes an insurmountable debt to God, one we cannot pay, but we are not His slaves. We are slaves to sin and guilt and the law, not to God.

However, Christ paid our debt, and asked us to go all in. Nothing else will do if He’s to write “paid” in His ledger beside our name. Essentially, he then transfers us from the dominion of darkness to Christ’s kingdom, and we then do become His slaves. We belong to our Master.

Oddly enough, we’re not all in as payment for what he gave us. He wipes our debt free of charge instead of coercing our servitude in return.

But we still belong to Him.

Yet, what a difference between the rich, greedy, exploitive landlord and our loving God. The former takes to benefit himself. God gives to us what we need. The landlord demeans and keeps his slaves in their place. God calls us friends, even His children. The landlord uses and mistreats his workers. God loves and cares for His bondslaves.

Here’s how Jesus described it in Matthew:

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matt 11:28-30)

A couple things seem clear to me. First, if we are all in for Jesus, we are free from the bondage of sin, but if we reject His payment for what we owe, we are, whether we realize it or not, ensnared — hook, line, and sinker — by sin.

Which brings up the second point — there is no part way in. There are no fans of Jesus, only followers. The people who are on the sidelines, though they might dress up and cheer, are not part of the team. To be a Christian means to be all in.

Slavery in the Twenty-first Century?


Two weeks ago, a missionary my church is supporting spoke briefly about her work with International Justice Mission. She spoke of a thirteen year old girl who had been kidnapped with the intention of using her as a sex slave. This girl’s story had a happy ending because the kidnappers were caught and the girls under their control rescued. The girl is now back with her family.

I’ve heard from more than one source that there are more slaves worldwide today than at the height of the African slave trading days. Here are the facts IJM states:

• According to the United Nations Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, an estimated 20 million people were held in bonded slavery as of 1999.
• In 2004 there are more slaves than were seized from Africa during four centuries of trans-Atlantic slave trade. (Kevin Bales, Disposable People)
• In 1850 a slave in the Southern United States cost the equivalent of $40,000 today. According to Free the Slaves, a slave today costs an average of $90.
• Approximately two-thirds of today’s slaves are in South Asia. Human Rights Watch estimates that in India alone there are as many as 15 million children in bonded slavery.

One person I heard speak on the subject became involved in the fight against contemporary slavery because of stories about the Underground Railroad during the pre-Civil War era. He said he believed he would have been involved in freeing slaves if he had lived in America then. But if that was true, then he should be involved in freeing slaves today.

Sometimes we need to put ourselves in a horrific scene and imagine what we would do in order to help us know what to do about the horrific of our day. Kay Marshall Strom‘s novel The Call of Zulina, the CFBA feature the last half of this week, is a story that allows the reader to think more deeply about slavery than most of us would choose to. And that’s a good thing.

Books should challenge and inform as well as entertain. This one does. Kay mentions on her Web site that writing the biography of John Newton changed her life. She gives a link to the World Changer Movement—a crusade that actually sprang out of the movie about William Wilberforce.

IJM also encourages people to take action. On their Web site there’s a tab called “Get Involved.” The great thing is, one of their choices listed on that menu is “Prayer Partner.”

Not all of us are called to mission involvement. Not all of us have resources that allow us to give to all the causes we learn about that are worthy. Not all of us have time to spend beyond our current responsibilities. But we are all able to pray. And what better use of intercession is there than to stand for the most needy, the hurting and helpless, and ask our merciful Father to intervene on their behalf.

The Call of Zulina may not change my life, but it’s helping to expand my prayer concerns.

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