Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Horror!

Oh my, have you seen the Google homepage today? Here is what they are leading off with...

The birthday of Caesar Chavez?

You mean to tell me that people who probably don't believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ are not dutifully celebrating Easter today?!

I for one am shocked, nay I am both shocked and outraged! What is this country coming to when unbelievers don't feel compelled to pretend to be believers with an empty gesture?!

I blame Obama.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Making Progress

A few weeks ago I posted that we had added a new floor in our barn and sort of had the outline of the stalls. This is what it looked like....

Well after a substantial amount of money in lumber and various nuts, bolts and washers and with a great deal of help from an Amish friend we put together the first three stalls today. What a difference!

Once we got going they came together pretty quickly and we are pretty pleased. We already moved our stallion into one pen (you can sort of see him above) and while he was a little jumpy at first he has settled in. The plan is to build one more in this area of the barn and then a couple more in the other half for smaller horses and/or our cow.

I spent most of the day outside doing this assisted by my oldest son which made for some nice father-son time and gave us something we can point to having accomplished together. All in all a pretty good day although I am pretty sure I am going to be in a great deal of pain in the morning!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

It must be almost spring!

The weather may not be cooperating but the we got to see the first progeny last night from our Percheron stallion Joe, a baby mare born to one of our Amish friend's Standardbred mare.

We should be getting a run of babies here soon when our sheep start to lamb and we also ordered a bunch of meat birds that are actually real chickens instead of those grotesque Cornish x Rock hybrids that explode into critters that are so heavy they can barely walk. The Red Rangers are slower growing and designed to thrive on foraging so we will probably butcher most of the males we get at around 10 weeks and keep a dozen or so of the females and a couple of roosters so we can get eggs to incubate and hatch. I would love by the end of this year to have bought my last "store bought" chicken and eat nothing but chicken we raise ourselves, adding chicken meat to the list of milk, butter and eggs that we raise ourselves.

Other projects include breeding our dairy cow back to a Jersey so we can get a calf and keep her milk production going and finishing up the horse stalls. In the next few weeks we will breed our older Morgan mare the same Percheron stallion that fathered the foal above to get a foal next year in late March.

In flora news, we are looking at replacing some of the grass in our pasture with native grasses that will thrive in our heavy clay, flood prone pasture. I would also like to get some heritage fruit plants, blueberries/raspberries/strawberries etc. I don't really want a commercial hybrid even if it meant getting more fruit.

Now, if it will just warm up a little bit....

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Remain Calm!

For a lot of Christians this week is designated "Holy Week", the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. I have little interest in liturgical calendars and deeming one week "Holy" as opposed to others, Jesus will still be risen the third week in July so that makes it as holy as this week but many Christians appreciate the rhythms of a religious calender and the world also is especially focused on "Easter". This is a big event in the liturgical calender for much of the Christian world.

So what is much of the church obsessed about this week? The teachings of Jesus? The Last Supper (a Supper, i.e. a meal, not a cracker and thimble of grape juice I might add)? His night in Gethsemane? His suffering before and on the cross? His resurrection on that glorious morning?


A lot of the church is obsessed over nine men and women wearing silly black robes who are likely to decide that somehow the United States Constitution contains a "right" for homosexuals to "marry", just as a similar group discovered a "right" to murder a child in the womb. The outrage! The horror! Marriage itself is on trial!

Well no, not really.

A few years ago I would have been in sackcloth and ashes over this but not now. Not because I think that homosexual "marriage" is more legitimate but rather because I have come to the conclusion that the church has lost our ability to speak with much authority on this issue because we have entered into an unholy union with Caesar on the issue of marriage (and many other issues). In return for acting as an agent of the state in providing marriage services the church enjoys preferential tax treatment and the marriages we solemnize also enjoy legal and financial benefits. Little wonder that we find ourselves in this pickle. We have ignored 2 Corinthians 6:14 and jumped in the sack with Caesar only to get all outraged when the ungodly secular government seems poised to recognize ungodly unions as being on par with "traditional marriage". What did we expect?

One of the most important lesson missed by Christians is that the church has no business being yoked to the state because at the most fundamental level the state is ungodly. Not necessarily anti-God but certain operating independently of God. Even the Reformers were all too willing to use the power of the state, especially the sword, when it was convenient. In spite all of the talk of religious liberty and freedom, America has long been a nation that has had an unhealthy and unnatural partnership between the church and Caesar and after centuries of enjoying favorable treatment by the state we suddenly find at breakneck speed that the state has always been ungodly and is mostly interested in keeping the people in line and perpetuating itself, just like any institution. Like a jilted lover we are left bewildered wondering where Caesar has gone.

The state doesn't get to decide when life begins or what constitutes a marriage or how to practice faith or which wars are "just" or how the church should carry out our mandate to aid the poor. Christians on the left, right and everywhere in-between need to stop looking to Washington, D.C. for the answers. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of "traditional marriage", marriage will not have been "saved". If the Supreme Court decides once again to create a right where none exists and mandate recognition of homosexual unions, marriage will not be "destroyed".

Biblical marriage is defined by God as a witness to the world and a refuge and support for His people. Nine men and women in silly black robes don't get to define it one way or the other. In some ways it might be a wake up call for the church, maybe when we see Caesar blessing homosexual unions we will be compelled to stop acting as Caesar's agent. That would be a positive for the church in many ways. I doubt that will happen, there are too many "ministries" with a loud voice and a lot of money that will use this to raise funds and perpetuate themselves but a fella can have hope anyway.

We should stop obsessing over this. If the state prevents a couple of guys from "marrying" one another it won't make those men more holy. If the state gives them the official Caesar stamp of approval to start a wedding registry at Bed, Bath and Beyond in all 50 states it doesn't impact my marriage in the least. We have done a pretty poor job of portraying marriage as a witness to the world so maybe we should worry more about that than what Caesar is up to.

Enjoy "Holy Week". Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Serve your neighbor, love your family, praise your Lord. Let Caesar do what Caesar does and never let him dictate who we are.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Where did these notions come from?

Many people study Scripture as it speaks of the church and come to the conclusion that there is an enormous disconnect, not simply based on changes in culture and technology but fundamental differences between the church in Scripture and the traditions of man that seem to have replaced the simple teaching of Scripture. The question many of us ask has to do with the genesis of these traditions. Where do they come from and why do they have such a hold on the church?

Guy Muse gives us a glimpse at one of these traditions in his post today How traditions often trump Jesus' teachings. Virtually every religious group has traditions and in those religious groups that are at least nominally Christian this is true. Some may wonder why we care, aren't religious traditions harmless? By and large I would say no, mainly because most of these traditions in some way impede the functioning of the Body of Christ. I liked Guy's post today and what it teaches us about the formation of the hierarchical church model that has dominated western religious culture for more than 1000 years.

Some think we shouldn't rock the boat, that we should just accept the traditions the church has built up over the centuries. I don't think that is an option. The church as Jesus founded it and as the apostles led it in the earliest days is recorded in Scripture for a reason and it is always valuable to look to the written revelation of God when it comes to the Bride of His Son. Check out Guy's post and leave a comment!

Multiplying Instead Of Poaching

As my wife and I have been working through questions about the church, it has been painfully obvious for some time that the traditional church is not where we want to be. It isn’t like we haven’t tried but again and again we run into barriers. You can’t teach if you aren’t a “member”. You can’t join in our ritualized Lord’s Supper if you aren’t a “member”. You don’t hold to all of the same set of secondary doctrines that we do so you and you are new so you end up feeling like an outsider for years. So starting up a house church seems like the obvious step for us. We believe in the basic tenets of simplicity, community and fellowship, participatory gatherings, etc. To date we still haven't because it just seems overwhelming and we aren't sure where to start. I was encouraged by something I read this morning that touches on that very topic.

Felicity Dale is a pretty well known name among the simple church crowd so as you might expect she gets a lot of questions from people looking for house churches because they can't find what they are looking for. In a guest post at Alan’s blog today she writes about her response to these questions and it might not be what you think. Here is a taste of her typical response:

“There are various tools that might help you discover a simple/organic church in your area, (I usually point them to the “find a church” feature on but I’d like you to pray about a different approach. You’ve been a believer for a number of years. Why don’t you start something? Work with those who don’t yet know the Lord or the unchurched—it’s much easier. We’d love to help you.”

That sounds great but it is kind of scary. It is so much easier, at least in theory, to just form a simple/house/organic church from existing Christians, refugees from traditional churches. I believe this is due to our understanding of “church planting” being derived from traditional church planting methods which seem to mostly involved finding a likely spot, setting up shop and then filling your pews with Christians from other local churches. I don’t think that church planting should operate in this way. We should be planting new gatherings because of growth, not because of disgruntlement and dissatisfaction. I have seen more than once what happens when a church is formed by those who are primarily driven by dissatisfaction and it isn't what I am looking for.

On the other hand, the church needs each other to encourage and edify one another and to occasionally exhort or even rebuke each other. I think there are potential problems with being all disciple making without being built up at the same time. I certainly need to mature, a lot, in my walk and my witness but I can’t just hide behind that forever. So I know we as a couple and a family need the support of other mature believers as well as to reach the unchurched and the lost so some combination of the two is probably the right balance.

We certainly have plenty of people around us that either don’t know the Lord or are generally unchurched. My wife has had the opportunity to witness to a couple of Amish women, one from a family that sounds like they are definitely having some real issues with their religious upbringing with the Ordnung that they are required to follow. There are quite a few former Amish in our area who have come to Christ but they are also viewed with suspicion by current Amish in the same way that former mormons are shunned and avoided by current mormons, so I think we have an opportunity to effectively witness to them in ways that fomer Amish don't. It is an exciting mission field!

So we still muddle along in our walk with Christ among His people. I like what Felicity has to say in her guest post. My friend Kevin who lives in the area does the same thing in making disciples and planting house churches from the new believers. We certainly as a family need the support of other Christians but we also need to get out from the church culture, no matter what style, to be more active in making disciples. Multiplying is quite different from shuffling the same Christians around and that is where our efforts need to be. It is times like this that I am glad that God is sovereign over everything, including and especially the salvation of lost sinners and the sanctification of mediocre Christians like me!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Industrialization In Farming and The Church

I have been thinking a lot about food and agriculture lately and of course if you have done any reading here at all you know that I think a lot about the church and how we relate in community with one another, both in the gatherings of the church and informally outside of the intentional gathering. As I  have been thinking about this I was struck by the way that the changes to the church and changes in farming have run in parallel directions that lead to situation we find ourselves in today.

As we look back to the period of time we would call the ancient world and especially the Biblical era covering the New Testament we see a society and culture that is highly agrarian. This is reflected in the New Testament as well as the Old. The Bible is chock full of agricultural stories and farming is a common metaphor for relationships in the church. One need look no further than Jesus Himself who is the Good Shepherd and likewise we are described as as His sheep and His flock. He is not The Good Factory Owner and we are His units of production or The Good Attorney and we are His paralegals! He is also the true Vine and the memorial meal celebrating His atoning sacrifice is represented by the most basic elements of the ancient harvest: bread and wine. The more you read of the New Testament, especially the Gospels and the teaching of Christ, the more you see how agriculture is an irreplaceable living out of Biblical principles. There is a very particular pattern of planting, tending and harvesting that dominated the culture of the world for most of human history and those patterns and seasons were instituted by God, something that ties His people to His creation.

My how things have changed from the days when Jesus described Himself as the Good Shepherd to an audience that would have understood that idea. In ancient times farmers and shepherds were intimately connected to their animals and the seasons. They cared for their animals and the entire system was part of an interconnected whole. Granted it was a very hard and decidedly unglamorous life. but everyone probably knew or at least knew of a shepherd and much of the population was deeply engaged in the production of food.

Today? Animals in agricultural systems are mostly units of production. Roll them in, confine them, keep them alive and cram as much weight on them as possible via drugs and unnatural diets. We have neighbors who raise hogs on contract and another that raises dairy steers on contract. They truck them in, feed them up and ship them out, all completely removed from the birth, life and death cycle of farming. The unnatural rates of growth and uniformity are completely contrary to nature and yet they are not only accepted but demanded by consumers. People like to buy a package of homogenous chicken breasts that are completely indistinguishable from one another no matter how unnatural that obviously is. "Farmers" on large scale operations believe themselves forced to conform to the prevailing wisdom: more genetic manipulation, more chemicals, more antibiotics, more confinement, more conformity. Farming has turned into manufacturing with meat and grain as the output.

Even grain farming has lost much of the connection with the land. Certainly the seasons are still crucial but so much artificial engineering goes into it that the normal patterns are lost. Because the land is unnaturally drained of nutrients and those nutrients are not replaced, chemical fertilizers are sprayed over the land to sustain the unnatural yields and patterns of monoculture crop farming. Even stranger, most of what is raised via farming today is inedible. We are raising historically unthinkable amounts of "food" that you can't eat! When you start to look at the true cost of food production, from government subsidies to dead soldiers defending our source of "cheap" petroleum, you realize that this "cheap food" costs us a lot more than what we see on the price tag. I have been reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivores Dilemma and if you can overlook his devotion to the religion of evolution it is quite an eye opener, a good follow-up to Joel Salatin's Folks, This Ain't Normal. Where we are, food wise, is a completely unnatural, artificial and I believe unhealthy system where we are eating stuff that sort of looks and smells like food but is nothing like what God intended.

To make matters worse, there are lots of forces arrayed to keep people from asking questions. Land grant universities reliant on donors for funding are the intellectual drivers of much of our food production and are by and large completely on board with industrial agriculture. Federal agencies that enforce laws at the end of a gun that rarely make sense, laws influenced by lobbyists from the huge ag and food companies that make it hard to get outside of the system. International food conglomerates have a myriad of ways to market their wares to families that are already run ragged by our never ending treadmill chasing "success", so busy parents become natural consumers of industrialized food. Since no one is encouraged to think about where their food comes from, no one does because we are distracted with a million other things.

In much the same way that farming and food has become almost an afterthought in our culture, so has the church within the church. Instead of ingesting mounds of empty food calories packaged to be as convenient as possible we consume empty religious calories. Sure there are some worthwhile parts of industrialized religion but the empty religious calories that come with it are definitely unhealthy. When we compare the life of the church in the New Testament, we see community, we see family. The church was marked by lives lived together, by sharing materially and financially, laboring together and loving one another even in the midst of persecution that few of us can imagine. Today? By and large Christianity is marked by power struggles, territorial ism and competition, greed and hypocrisy and heaping helpings of religion and tradition.

Nowhere is this more true than in the "worship service", the sugary religious equivalent of a super sized Big Gulp of Coke. It is syrupy sweet to be sure and gives you a bit of a rush but pretty soon you need to empty your bladder. It does very little to nourish or strengthen you, it just gives you the feeling that you are full.

What we are left with looks like "church" just as a Chicken McNugget looks like "food" even though it has three dozen ingredients and only one of them is chicken. We think it looks like "church" to us because we don't know what church is supposed to look like and we think that Chicken McNuggets are food because we have had the food raising process removed from our daily lives. No one kills and cleans a chicken, they buy homogenous boneless, skinless chicken breasts without a thought that chickens naturally have skin and bones. Little wonder that our zeal for evangelism, concern for the poor and theological foundations are a pudgy and weak as the average American who survives on a diet of processed foods.

Like the food industry, the religion industry has many entrenched interests that strive mightily to shush critics, to squash questions and keep people shoeing up in their religious veal pens known as pews, putting money in the plate and smiles plastered on their faces until they get back in their cars after an hour.

I don't blame vocational "ministers" for the way things have devolved just as I don't blame the average large scale industrial farmer. I don't know any industrial farmers twirling their mustache while evilly cackling and coming up with new ways to make unhealthy food. Nor do I (personally) know any vocational clergy who are trying to do the wrong thing. They are just stuck in the system and seeing outside of industrialization in farming and ministry is pretty difficult.

Industrialization has made food and religion cheap, convenient and easy. We once thought this was a sign of progress. Today I am not so sure. Raising food, making meals from actual food, etc. is time consuming but many people nostalgically look back to meals from scratch because they are simply better. Being part of the family of God more than just the times listed in your bulletin, being a participant, not waiting for the "experts" to handle everything is certainly messy and scary and difficult but it also is better. It is always more satisfying to make a meal at home than to get a bag of burgers and fries from a window and it is still always a richer experience when you get outside of the traditions of man.

When it comes to food and the church, two of the great gifts of God, industrialization can never replace home cooking!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpectedly Mediocre Movie

Let me state upfront that I read The Hobbit as well as Lord of the Rings (LOTR) when I was young and multiple times after my initial reading. I also just reread The Hobbit a few months ago while waiting for the DVD to come out. I own the extended versions of all three LOTR movies, saw all three movies in the theater (more than once on Fellowship of the Ring) and watch the DVDs fairly regularly. As a fantasy/sci-fi dork with children who love the same genre I should have been the perfect consumer of The Hobbit. I was leery about the movie based on the reviews and the lead up to the film so I actually decided to wait until the DVD came out. It came out yesterday (quite quickly I thought from a release date in mid-December) and our copy came from Amazon on the release date so after dinner we sat down as a family to watch.

Very disappointed. Like couldn’t wait for it to get over disappointed.

I found The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey movie to be almost 3 hours of frustration. My kids mostly seemed to find it boring. Maybe I shouldn’t have reread the book last month because the movie was only loosely based on it and every time the movie went astray it distracted me. I guess the comparisons were inevitable but they are valid and comparing the two trilogies is like comparing a high school play with a Broadway production.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a bold, risky production that was shot all at once before anyone knew if they would have commercial success and the result was one of the best adaptations of a beloved book that you will ever find. I left the theater after The Fellowship of the Ring bummed that I had to wait a year for The Two Towers. I couldn't wait for the movies to come out each December and bought the DVD sets as soon as I could. I can say that I have not only watched the movies over and over, I have also watched most if not all of the hours of special features.

The Hobbit has the feel of cheap exploitation; hey we made a ton of money on the LOTR movies so let’s see if we can do the same thing with The Hobbit. I was quite concerned this would be the case after all the pre-production squabbling and then when it was announced that one book, The Hobbit, would be divided up into three movies while the much larger and more detailed LOTR trilogy was also done in three movies, I was definitely not excited. In many ways The Hobbit was just like so many other attempts to make a cheap buck by exploiting a beloved book. I enjoy the old cartoon version of The Hobbit more than what I watched last night.

There are so many places where the scenes just dragged on and either were clumsy attempts at linking the Hobbit to LOTR or ridiculous action sequences to spice up events from the book:

The backstory of the fall of the Lonely Mountain. The interminably long intro with Elijah Wood as Frodo. Every single scene involving Radagast was horrible, Radagast being turned into a failed attempt at comedy relief. The inexplicable gathering with Saruman and Galadriel in Rivendell. The random “pale orc” that was supposed to be Azog the Defiler was some of the worst CGI I have seen in a long time. The Great Goblin who looked like something from a kids cartoon rather than a fearsome beast. The escape scene from the clutches of the goblins that went on about ten times longer than necessary and included some just silly, over the top action scenes that were mediocre rehashes of the escape from Moria in the Fellowship of the Ring. The treeing of the dwarves by the goblins that devolved into a cheesy showdown between Thorin and the pale orc. Etc. Etc.

The whole thing was almost palpably painful. The few redeeming parts, like the riddle contest between Bilbo and Gollum, we not nearly enough to make up for the clumsy, drawn out, “cheap thrill” nature of the rest of the movie. The dwarves looked ridiculous, the wargs were a downgrade from LOTR. On and on. I would prefer they start all over with a new film and cast new actors (other than Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Martin Freeman as Bilbo who was decent), better to wait five years for a decent film than to roll out parts 2 and 3 from a movie that was already too long in the first installment.

The next two films are still pending. I am hoping that the production team can fix whatever fiasco happened with the first movie. Perhaps Smaug will be impressive enough to make up for the interminably long first movie. Maybe the final battle will be more than CGI silliness. We will see. I know this for certain, unless the reviews are over the top positive for The Hobbit, Part Deux, we will again wait for the DVD and this time we will rent it from Redbox rather than buying it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ten Years Later

Today marks an important date in American history as we remember the start of the liberation/invasion of Iraq. I vividly recall ten years ago the building up to the invasion of Iraq and I likewise remember how enthusiastic I was. Saddam Hussein was clearly a bad guy. We were about a year and a half removed from 9/11/2011 and our national blood lust was still running high. As a fairly young Christian deeply entrenched in American conservative evangelicalism I saw nothing inherently contradictory in supporting a war of aggression against a sovereign nation. After all everyone knew that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Everyone knew that Iraq was supporting terrorists. President Bush was "our guy", an unapologetic evangelical Christian Commander-in-Chief. What possible reason would a red-blooded American Christian have for not supporting the overthrow of a dictator, installing democracy and preventing the bad guys from getting WMDs? I was all set to join the military after 9/11 and would have gladly left my family behind and marched off to war to set straight the enemies of America and smite the ungodly Muslim terrorists.

Ten years later I have a much different perspective. I still think that Hussein had MWDs in limited numbers at some point that were moved or hidden. There was a pretty lengthy lead up to the war giving him plenty of time to move them and he clearly possessed them at some point because he used them on his own people. As the snarky saying goes we know Hussein possessed WMDs because we still had some of the receipts. Regardless, by the time we got there they were gone and our justification for the invasion was looking pretty shaky. Was his regime an imminent or even realistic threat to the U.S.? I kind of doubt it. Was the U.S. justified in invading Iraq igniting a conflict that lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths, mostly civilian? Today I would say absolutely not. Our Constitutional mandate to wage war is very specific and invading another sovereign nation without a declaration of war and under false pretenses doesn't qualify. Is America "safer" today? I don't see how. Sure we fought over there instead of hypothetically over here but the tens of thousands of Iraqi dead don't bring me much satisfaction. I am no longer willing to trade dead Iraqi civilians to perhaps avoid dead American civilians.

As a Christian I am even more troubled by my past support for an unjustified war of aggression and the general enthusiaism for this war among my brethren. The Iraqi people and Muslims around the world are a huge mission field and they, quite rightly, see Christianity as an American religion that is at war, literally, with their religion and their culture. Jesus said we are to love our enemies but we have often seen our enemies as synonymous with America's enemies and rather than love them our motto has been "get them before they get us". So questions of who was right and who was wrong, whether a war was justified or carried out ethically, etc. are of far less importance to me than my non-negotiable obligation to love my enemies even as Christ in loving His enemies redeemed me and took upon Himself the penalty for my sins. By and large American evangelical Christians did very little to love as Christ loved in the days and months leading up to and following the invasion of Iraq.

I look back today with sadness. Far from "Mission Accomplished" I see a mission field poisoned against the disciples of Christ seeking to take His message of enemy love to a people who are in desperate need of His redeeming blood. I see us as a people who have lost sight of our primary calling, draping the flag over the cross and reading the Scriptures with red, white and blue lenses. I personally repent of my lust for blood in those days and I call upon my brethren to do the same. This is not an anniversary to celebrate, it is a sober and painful lesson to learn and never forget.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Opening A Major Can Of Worms

What a weird expression, has anyone ever actually seen a can full of worms?


Dan Edelen takes a look at a recent article that is getting a lot of chatter on the web. The article comes from Christianity Today and is titled Here Come The Radicals. Dan responds with a thought provoking post Radicalism and Reality (A Response to “Here Come the Radicals!”) . The article he cites (as have many others but that I just read this morning) is at times insightful. For example (speaking of The Church At Brook Hills where David Platt pastors)

The Church at Brook Hills's slum stage reflects the tensions of the radical movement. The movement is marked by the sincerity of young, energetic pastors and writers eager to make a difference for the poor. Yet the message constantly fights with the medium. It occurs in massive church buildings in middle-class surroundings, spoken to people who shop at the Gap, on platforms called stages rather than pulpits. In order to inject the message with more power and meaning, we revert to the language and symbols of the theater—one of our culture's favorite pastimes.

Which is to say, the problem with the call to radical Christianity is that it may not be radical enough. It's clear that middle- and upper-class Christians are looking for a deeper, more profound experience of faith. Yet it's unclear whether we can invigorate faith without revisiting our worship and community practices, asking whether they are forming disciples at subterranean levels.

Indeed. Talking about poverty is somewhat jarring in the midst of middle class affluence. Then there was this:

What's more, the radical message comes packaged in the Christian-conference-publishing-celebrity-industrial-complex. While Platt warded off critics early on by donating his profits to relief and missions work, the popularity of his call for radical living requires the existence of a lucrative publishing culture that, by its nature, has to think and act with profits in mind. The really radical path for a megachurch pastor these days would be to refuse to publish, to take a smaller church, to not podcast sermons, and to embrace a more monastic witness. The irony is that if they tried, we'd probably turn them into larger celebrities and laud their humility. The desert fathers had a similar problem. But if the message is going to critique the American dream for the people in the pews, then we may need pastors willing to show us the path of downward mobility with their lives.

I am sure that is a problem for Platt and others. The more popular you become, the harder it can be to live as you teach and when you do, like Francis Chan, you get beat up by watch-bloggers who think that leaving a cushy pulpit "ministry" and going out to minister among the poor is somehow being unfaithful. In his post Dan is thinking through the problem with these calls for radicalism given some of our economic realities.

This is the reality for which radicalism offers no solutions.

Because there are no solutions within our present system. Too much of that system demands a certain adherence to the system or else. Yes, some people can flaunt that, but not everyone. If every Christian did the radical thing, then there would be no Christian doctors, lawyers, engineers, or any other professional in a career that demands much of its bearer in both time and money.

And after all, who is it who pays the support of those radicals who abandon the traditional lifestyle to work in an orphanage in Africa or save street kids in inner city America from a short, brutal life?

Talk of being radical is pretty easy. Maybe a lock in for youth groups where they fast for a day, or a special collection for the poor or perhaps even volunteering at a food pantry or homeless shelter. That kind of stuff allows us to go on living as we are while being filled with a sense of "doing something". I am not mocking those sorts of activities, after all it is above and beyond what most of us have been taught in the church where "give to your local church first and if you have anything left over..." is the constant refrain and awfully convenient since most of the money we give to our local church goes toward making our own religious experience more convenient and comfortable. Giving to your local church to pay the mortgage, staff salaries and audio-visual upgrades is about as radical as bundling your cell phone, internet and cable TV. So I am not mocking it but it is setting the bar pretty low.

What puzzles me and perhaps shouldn't is the question of why these "radical" messages resonate with people and leads to best selling books but no appreciable change in our religious culture. I guess people like to feel like we care without actually doing much about it. I put myself at the top of that list for certain. Even though we are pretty frugal we are also still pretty frivolous and don't think about the poor around us nearly as much as we should.

Of course the other danger is also omnipresent. There are plenty of people who peddle a "social justice without the atonement, feeding the poor without making disciples, leftist political dogma dressed up in religious language" message. If you can talk about Jesus caring for the poor without talking about the reality of sin and the coming judgment, you are only seeing half of the story (and I would suggest not the really important half).

That is kind of a round about way to get to my real point. What got me thinking was something slightly different from the generic radical message.What it got me thinking about (again) was the question of income inequality within the church.

I am not talking just about orphanages in Haiti or Ethiopia, important as that is. What about the very real income inequality in the church in the same area code? This topic is a tough one because talk of income inequality smacks of leftist political ideology and most of the evangelical wing of the church is solidly in the "what's mine is mine so hands off!" economic camp. It is a testimony to the extent of the influence of politics and political entanglement in the church that we shy away from topics like this because we cannot divorce Scriptural teaching from our political dialogue. In spite of our political hang-ups you just can't get away from stuff like:

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. (Acts 2:44-45)

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. (Acts 4:32)

You can try to explain that away as a particular practice in that time and place but then many of those people don't apply other passages with the same "time and place" argument.

So what obligation, not suggestion, do we have towards those in need within the family of God? I am not sure how we can read the New Testament and descriptions of the church as the family of God and stay silent in the light of the reality that some Christians have far more than they could ever need and so many others not even having enough to make it month to month. As I have said, it is hard to carve out a distinction between political philosophy and practical living within the church. I can look at our economic policies as a nation and believe, as I do, that policies that encourage growth and individual responsibility that maximizes liberty is the best system while also recognizing that my economic fortune cannot be hoarded for my own pleasure while my brothers and sisters go without.What is right for America is not necessarily what is right for the family of God.

I don't know the answers but I do know this. Any talk of "radical" discipleship needs to start within the church. Writing books about being radical to sell to people who have 10, 20 or 100 times as much as their brothers and sisters in the same area code might make people feel warm and fuzzy but it is fake radicalism that would either make our first centuries ancestors laugh or cry.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Da pope ain't my papa

I have been out of town on business and kind of out of the loop but the world is abuzz with the election of a new "pope". I am sure that Mr. Bergoglio is a nice guy and sounds like a refreshing change from more recent "popes" but I won't be calling him "Pope Francis" just as I made a point of not calling Joseph Ratzinger "Pope Benedict".

As I understand it, the title "Pope" is a different way of saying "papa" or "father". As I already have a man who is my earthly father, i.e. my dad, and a Holy Father who is one of the members of the Trinity and who is enthroned in Heaven, not in Rome, I choose to not use the honorific of "pope" when speaking of Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Now this may seem petty. After all it is just a title, right? Where is the harm in calling him "The Pope"? It is just the polite and proper thing to do. I don't mind referring to my family phsician as "Dr. Waters" so why not "Pope Francis"? For me there is a crucial distinction here. The title Mr. Bergoglio has assumed along with the new name he chose for himself has a very important and distinct theological meaning. Words have meaning. In claiming the title of "Father" or "Holy Father" or "Vicar of Christ", Mr. Bergoglio has staked out a claim of authority over the church that is reinforced every time we affirm his claim by using his title even if that is not our intent.

I hope this is not coming across as "anti-Catholic" although I am sure it will cause some people to be irate and others to fling that charge out. It is a common response, one that I get all the time from mormon apologists. It is an cheap debate tactic but often an effective one but it is not one that I let dissuade me. If we have gotten to the point that we cannot even ask the hard questions because we are terrified of losing our influence in the world, we ought to just close up shop.

In addition to my rejection of Mr. Bergoglio's frankly arrogant claim to the title "Holy Father", which seems disconnected from the constant refrain of how humble a man he is, I am quite concerned that so many Christians are, if not wholeheartedly embracing Mr. Bergoglio, at least tacitly recognizing him and his claims as "pope". Many see his elevation as a positive thing for "the church" even those who disagree with him on the occasional issue. This is puzzling but not surprising, what is somewhat surprising is the extent to which evangelicals/Protestants/what have you are embracing the new "pope".

David French, self-described "Reformed Protestant" writes at National Review (emphasis mine):

I may be a Reformed Protestant, but I still care a great deal about the new pope. He is, after all, only the world’s most prominent advocate for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and Christians everywhere should be grateful that the new pope is by all credible accounts a humble, devout man with a heart for the “least of these.”

When someone can call themselves "Reformed" and describe the "pope" as "only the world’s most prominent advocate for the Gospel of Jesus Christ", something has gone horribly astray. Mr. French, as a Presbyterian who speaks of being "reformed", might want to look at what that word means. He uses the word reformed but I do not think he knows what it means. Like many Christians he seems to confuse conservative political social policy with the Gospel. Someone can be opposed to abortion and gay marriage and yet also be opposed to the Gospel. Back in the day, people who were "reformed" described the "pope" as something other than "only the world’s most prominent advocate for the Gospel of Jesus Christ". In fact the Westminster Confession, something that should be known to anyone who claims to be "reformed", says of the papacy:

VI. There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God.

While I might not go quite that far, this much needs to be made clear: there is nothing Christian about the office and claims of the papacy. If anything it is the very antithesis of everything we know of leadership in the church from Scripture. In his opening speech as pontiff Mr. Bergoglio closed with his desire to go and pray to Mary...

Tomorrow I wish to go and pray to Our Lady, that she may watch over all of Rome.

Praying to Mary might not be anti-Christian but it certainly is not Christian.

So what is this all about? Why are so many evangelical Christians of all stripes seemingly smitten with the new "pope"? I attribute it to a lack of clarity about what the mission of the church is and how our priorities are ordered. On the religious right we have culture warriors who are more concerned with the "pressing issues of the day" than they are about theological issues. Exhibit A is Gary Bauer, who is pretty much a non-factor anymore speaking broadly but still speaks for the religious right in America. Mr. Bauer wrote an article for USA Today titled Why evangelicals should care about the new pope in which he wrote:

One e-mailer responded in a way that I think exemplifies the view of too many evangelicals. He advised me not to "minimize" the doctrinal differences between Catholics and evangelicals. And he accused me of "blurring" the lines between evangelicals and Catholics and of advocating for a "one-world religion."

Thankfully, most evangelicals wouldn't be that uncharitable toward our Catholic brothers and sisters. But, sadly, a minority would endorse that characterization. They need to realize that they, too, have a stake in who is elected pope, because without a strong pope, evangelicals will lose their best allies in the most important cultural and political battles of our age. 

Catholics and evangelicals (and to a lesser extent orthodox Jews and Mormons) have formed a formidable partnership in recent decades against the threats of secularism, relativism and Islamism.

Doctrinal differences remain, of course, but the Catholic-evangelical alliance has reshaped American politics. In many cases, Catholics have provided the intellectual framework and vocabulary to discuss Christianity's vital role in our democracy, while Protestants have contributed fervor and youth.

We do not agree on every issue. But on the essential ones -- those both faiths consider "non-negotiables" -- Catholics and evangelicals are allied. 

We both champion the idea -- the truth -- that there are reliable standards of right and wrong to which all institutions, including government, must adhere. We stand together in proclaiming that all human life has equal dignity and worth. And we stand together in defending the traditional and time-honored conception of marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

In other words, better to have a powerful ally to combat moral relativism, combat abortion and oppose "gay marriage" than to quibble about the issues that Christians have been persecuted, tortured and murdered over for centuries. The issues of the Reformation, Magisterial and Radical, are so 16th century, we have bigger fish to fry today. I found it interesting to note that Gary mentioned mormons as similar allies to Rome. I wonder just how heretical you have to be to no longer be welcome on "our team"? 

On the religious left we have similar sentiments, largely because Mr. Bergoglio is a Jesuit and is big into aiding the poor and social justice. For example:
I would cautiously agree but I would also ask, what makes Skye say that Mr. Bergoglio is "Spirit filled"? I agree that caring for the poor and are non-negotiable but they don't trump the other truths of the Gospel. It is not an "either-or", either you care about poor and downtrodden or you care about theology, either is fine. It is a "both-and", we must be passionate about the foundational truths of the Gospel like justification and making disciples of all nations and as a result we must also be passionate about our responsibility to the poor and the orphan and the widow. I am not interested in false unity based on being social do-gooders that look the other way at heresy and I am likewise not interested in a coldly academic "orthodoxy" that sees buying more books on proper theology as more important that feeding an orphans.

Again, it behooves me to differentiate between individual Christians who are associated with Rome and with Rome as a religious institution. I know some very fine Christians who would call themselves Catholic, friends and co-laborers alike. While I would love to see them come out of Rome, that is not my primary calling or concern. It is Rome and those who lead her, more so as you get near the top, that I am concerned with rather than individuals who go by the name "Catholic".

I think John Piper made an interesting statement in this regard in a provocatively titled post Clarifying My Words About Roman Catholic "Heresy" as it applies individual Roman Catholics versus Rome as an institution...

The reason for saying, “when consistently worked out,” is because I think it is possible to inconsistently deny the truth of imputation while embracing other aspects of the gospel (blood bought forgiveness, and propitiation, for example), through which God mercifully saves.

I think what John is saying is that you can inconsistently get some things wrong, as we all do, even on some very important issues. On the other hand, Rome as an organization and religious institution consistenly teaches errors that undermine the Gospel and that is not something to be
 trifled with or glossed over, no matter how noble we see our motivations. Those that teach are held to the higher standard.

So I am afraid that I can't join with so many of my brothers and sisters in celebrating Mr. Bergoglio being named the new "pope". He seems like a nice guy. He might be a Christian. He is many things but he is not my papa.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Write Like Paul Wrote!

You cannot overemphasize the importance of Paul for the New Covenant church. A central figure in the book of Acts and the human author of so many of the New Testament books, Paul uniquely takes the lessons from the Gospels, especially the cross and the resurrection, and puts them into both theological and practical applications for us. Without Romans, Galatians and Ephesians our understanding of soteriology would be incomplete. Without 1 and 2 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus our understanding of the church would be sorely lacking (in fact it still is in spite of having his letters!)

I think we tend to think of Paul as this towering intellectual, an academic, the ultimate "pastor-theologian", especially in some of the more academic minded  traditions in the church like the Reformed camp. The idea of the "pastor-theologian", the pastor as scholar notion, has a strong pull in much of the church where pastors are expected to emulate Paul and his academic offspring in men like Calvin, Luther, Jonathan Edwards and others. I often had in mind the image of Paul as he appears in this painting, poring over books and scrolls, wrestling with the text and in turn being an endless fountain of deep theological teaching. Surely men who want to emulate Paul, a noble aspiration, would need to devote themselves to studying and thinking and writing! Right? Maybe not. Check this out from Dave Black yesterday...

As a general rule, Paul's epistles were written when he was actively engaged in missionary work, moving from place to place in the midst of intense preaching and teaching. I wonder: Would he have written better -- or written more -- had he been, like many a New Testament scholar today, sedentary? Would he indeed have written anything at all had he not been, at heart, a missionary for Jesus? Would we have the great Love Chapter had he not missionized the Corinthians? Would we have the marvelous Pastoral Epistles had he not planted churches in Ephesus and Crete? Here's what I'm saying: For Paul, as for Jesus (Matt. 9:35-38), Christianity was a way of life, not merely a way of thinking or cogitating in the abstract. The experience of actually serving Christ was central in Paul's ministry and writing. 

 So I ask: Can one be a true student of the apostle Paul and not be a missionary?

Interesting question. Paul wrote his letters under great duress at times, certainly not on a paid scholarly sabbatical. He didn't spend his day in his study, he was out preaching, working with his own two hands. He was often in danger from the enemies of the Gospel, beaten and imprisoned. He worked with his own hands to earn a living and was often on the move as the maps of his missionary journeys in the back of your Bible will attest. He was far from sedentary but we expect the great minds of our time to be just that, academics locked away in their study or attending conferences with other academics. I wonder what writing in the church would look like if the people who did most of the writing were also the most engaged in mission? I doubt the books would be quite as thick or  heady but I think the writing would be more useful to the church rather than just something interesting to chat about in academic circles.

I am all for study and pondering and debating over theology but I fear that too many of our greatest minds are mostly engaged in discussions among themselves, discussions that are inaccessible and incomprehensible to the rest of the church. I would love to see more of the great minds setting aside their offices stuffed with books, ditching their suit and tie and getting out in the mission field where the Gospel is lived out.I find myself more interested today in the simple writings of men and women on mission than on the highbrow academic works. There are lots of very persuasive, eloquent writers who write absolute nonsense but do so convincingly. I am less interested in how well someone writes than I am with how well someone lives.

If you want to emulate Paul, live like Paul. Get a job. Get out in the field. Live among the church. That is how Paul did it and he is the greatest theologian the church has ever produced. Paul's writings were formed by his missionary experience and zeal, his thoughts were forged in the fires of persecution and hardship. We need to hear more from those who live like Paul because they have so much to teach the rest of us who will never be asked to present a paper at a theology conference.

Why Keep Things Hidden?

One of the most familiar passages in the New Testament is the "light of the world" teaching by Christ in Matthew 5. Anyone who has been a Christian or even a church attender for any length of time will instantly recognize it:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

We who are followers of Christ, disciples of the Lamb that was slain, are the light of the world. We are to be a beacon of the hope of the resurrection and the new life that awaits believers. Even in our suffering we are an example of a different way. Our very lives are to be a public witness of Christ who dwells in us and has transformed us. As Christ taught we cannot do that is secret or behind closed doors.

For example, when the church convened what is known as the Jerusalem Council, they apparently didn't meet behind closed doors to consider this very important question. We see in Acts 15 that they gathered together to deliberate the question of circumcision for Gentile converts in . The debate was conducted by the apostles and the elders but when consensus was achieved the church selected men to send out with the word to the rest of the church.

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, (Acts 15:22 )

So the whole church approved of the men being sent with this very important message. They didn't pick men in secret or conduct their business out the sight from prying eyes. Certainly the church would listen especially and heed the voices of the elders and the apostles but they likewise would have observed what was going on. It is far easier to trust a process that is transparent, one you can see, than one conducted in secrecy with a promise of "trust us".

This was on my mind as the conclave convenes to select a new pope with the cardinals being sworn to secrecy and the whole place being swept for bugs so no one can listen in. What is being discussed behind a veil of secrecy that the church these men allegedly lead cannot hear? These men, so called "princes of the church" selecting a man who presumes to call himself the successor of Peter, the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, are having conversations that must be kept hidden from the very people who will adore and follow the next pope? What might be said? Something about the cover up of pedophile "priests"? We already know about that and the Roman Catholic Church if anything should be more open about it, not less. Conversations that imply pragmatic or political motivations for who is selected? We know that too. For a group that has been rightly raked over the coals for a culture of secrecy it would seem to me that deliberations over the next pope should be open and available to all. Let the people who must affirm the next pope in an exalted role see the selection process.

Of course there are plenty of examples of meetings being held behind closed doors in Protestant and evangelical groups as well. I am not talking about issues of sinful conduct being discussed in confidence, I am talking about general functions of the church. Closed door meetings, secret votes, vague budgets. Thing done in secrecy, done in the dark so to speak.

Leaders in the church are not part of a religious board of directors who meet in conference rooms to decide the fate of the church. Deliberations should be held in the open. Let those who would lead do so in the light of day, especially when trust has been broken so many times in the past. A system of secrecy and leaks and speculation should give way to one of openness and transparency. Let the people see what goes on behind closed doors and then see how that changes the decision making process.

Friday, March 08, 2013

This little piggie went to.....the freezer

Back in August we brought home five cute little piggies!

Four little boy pigs and one little lady pig (Barb E. Que as we call her). For the next seven months we raised them, fed and watered them, housed them. They drank our extra raw milk that we didn't use in time. They ate our left over food, and believe me they will eat anything including freezer burned whole chickens that thawed and went bad. Other than a short time when they were little and needed shelter they have been outside breathing fresh air and enjoying the sunshine their entire life, right up until they went to visit the butcher shop.

As this process works and has for all of human existence since the domestication of animals in the very beginning of humanity the time has come for the hogs to take the one way trip to the butcher. We took the two larger hogs in last week and picked up the results today and it is quite a lot of meat! The total hanging weight of the two hogs was a little over 300 lbs and our haul (see picture to the right) included over 100 lbs of sausage and quite a lot of loins and roasts. The picture doesn't even include the bacon (20 lbs) and the hams (24 lbs.) as those are being smoked and aren't ready yet. Needless to say I am excited to get the bacon!

Bag o' pork lard
We are figuring that all in we have around $2 per pound for fresh, home raised pork when you consider the initial cost, the feed and the cost of processing. That seems like a pretty good return on our investment if you ask me and you can't put a price on the satisfaction of eating meat you raised yourself with your kids.

This has been a pretty enlightening experience for us. Now we get to find out what cuts we like, what we should get more of in the future or less of. I am hoping to get a meat grinder and natural casings so we can make our own kielbasa.

I might show these pics to the remaining pigs as a warning to keep them in line...

Next Step

As I mentioned we put a new flooring in our barn so we could set stalls up and we started working on getting them in place...

Interesting story behind the stalls we are building. They are super heavy duty hot dipped galvinized and we got them from my father in law. He has had them stored up, never used, since my wife and I were first married before we even had kids. We went to a sale in Indiana not really planning on buying anything and he ended up buying a huge number of pieces like this to make stalls. We had driven a pickup truck to the sale which was completely inadequate to carry everything back so we ran home after the sale to Ohio, grabbed his big dump truck, drove all the way back to get loaded up and then went back to Ohio in the middle of the night. He used some of the frames to make stalls but most of them have been sitting in the trailer of a semi for the better part of two decades. Now that we finally have a place and horses to use them and since he is not really physically able to do much with horses any longer we have been bringing them back to our place.

The plan is to set up a third stall next to the two that are already up. Obviously these will not keep horses in as they are, in the open areas we need to put lumber and bolt it in place to complete the frames. Luckily we are bartering with an Amish friend to help us as that is going to be labor intensive, so he will help us assemble ours in return for some additional pieces to make stalls at his place for his horses. Once they are up we will be able to keep our stallion and our brood mare contained, the stallion doesn't play well with others so he has always been a problem to deal with. With these stalls we can keep him contained and then if we want to we can put the other horses in stalls and let him run around. So pretty exciting stuff for us!

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Guilty On All Five Counts

Guy Muse has a post this morning that lists out 5 common excuses/myths that keep people from making disciples: The M Blog: 5 Common Great Commission Myths. It is a good list and I am afraid I am guilty of each of these five on a regular basis. Check it out and ask yourself if you have bought into any of these myths!

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Fun With Flooring

Our horse barn is pretty warm and cozy but the floor has always been a problem. It is just dirt and it is very soft and tends to hold water so it is often pretty wet and sloppy. It seems like the slope of the ground has always meant that a "stream" of water ran cross-wise across the barn floor from the northwest corner down to the southeast corner. Anyway we hated how wet it was and it kept us from being able to put up box stalls, plus it was hard to walk around in there after a rain.

We happen to live near several steel mills and we found out that they give away slag for free, you just have to pay to haul it. A number of our friends and neighbors use it for driveways, flooring for animals, etc. so we have been tossing the idea around. As luck would have it, we have a friend who has dump trucks and does hauling and our Amish neighbor has a Bobcat with a bucket that can spread the slag out (we barter his help with stuff like that in return for driving his wife around). The cool thing about the slag , besides being free, is that as it compacts and gets wet it hardens up so the horses walking on it tamps it down and makes a nice, hard floor for us. For a couple hundred bucks in hauling costs we got what would have been a very expensive floor if we had used regular concrete or even stone not only delivered but spread out. We even had enough left over to fill in some low spots outside of the barn. As cheap as that slag is I can see us getting even more and extending the barn concrete pad out into their paddock. Anyway, here are some random pictures for your viewing pleasure!

The original pile of slag, pre-snow!

The horses on the new flooring

Our mule Lola coming to see what I am doing, she is a camera hog! It is really hard
to take pictures when she is in your face wherever you go.

The Erosion Of Liberty Marches On Even In A "Red State" Like Indiana

I read the local news this morning to check out the aftermath of our minor snow storm last night and saw this news headline: DeKalb woman accused of unlicensed midwifery. I pretty much knew right away who that was and sure enough when I read the story it was confirmed.

DeKalb County prosecutors have accused a 55-year-old St. Joe woman of helping deliver babies without a midwife’s license.

Barbara S. Parker told an investigator that she assisted in 48 deliveries in 2012 and that she has averaged 60 to 70 deliveries a year over the past five years, according to court papers.

Parker faces three felony counts of practicing midwifery without a license. The charges stem from three deliveries she performed in early August. 

We know the Parkers quite well. In fact I stopped over at their house on Friday to see about renting their boar to breed our lady pig but no one was home. Turns out the reason no one was home was that Barb had been arrested. As sometimes happens there are difficult deliveries and in two especially difficult cases last year babies died in childbirth. Of course that is not unique or even particularly more common with home births. The U.S. has a less than stellar rate of infant mortality, ranking 34th in the world between Lithuania and Belarus and well below Cuba, with an infant mortality rate of 6.81 out of every 1000 live births. Something on the order of 99% of those births happen in hospitals oddly enough. The Amish in our area use midwives for their normal births and speak highly of Barb. Childbirth is about as natural as breathing, eating and sleeping but it does and always has carried risks. What is different in this case is that when a professional with the blessing of the state attends a birth where a child dies, it is just a statistic. When a non-professional without the blessing of the state attends a birth and a child dies it is time for the state to spring to action!

We have had all eight of our children in hospitals with the last two births attended by a midwife. If we were having more children we would probably still choose to go to a hospital to deliver so I obviously think that if someone wants to go to a hospital that is certainly fine. It is also fine if a mother and father choose to have their child at home after making an informed decision. Many home birth advocates take the accurate position that delivering a baby is a natural event, not a disease. I liked this quote from the NY Times article linked below:

"Midwifery is an autonomous profession," Ms. Ayres said. "It's an art and a science that predates the medical model of care. Midwifery sees birth as normal and basically safe.

"It's made safer by reliance on the woman's power," she continued. "The medical model assumes the woman is passive and her body needs to be acted upon. Every birth is presented as a potential disaster from which every woman needs to be protected and potentially rescued."

Our culture treats pregnancy as a medical condition and classify maternity leave as disability. The idea of a woman of all people doing anything more than staying in a hospital bed, pumped full drugs and waiting to be told to push is preposterous! It reminded me of a Monty Python skit about the delivery room...

Woman in Labor: What do I do?

Doctor: Yes?

Woman in Labor: What do I do?

Doctor: Nothing dear, you're not qualified!

It is funny but not. Of all the people in the delivery room, only the father and the baby have less input than the mother who is delivering. Don't get me wrong, most labor & delivery nurses are great but they operate in a pretty controlled system that is governed by hospital policy, insurance companies and lawyers. Like so many other parts of our lives we have subcontracted our most basic functions to professionals.

Midwives in our area deliver a lot of Amish babies at home. The Amish will deliver at home whether they have permission or not and whether they have a competent midwife or not. Barb's arrest is not unique. Just a quick google search yields the names Jennifer Louisa Williams, Irena Keeslar and Mary Helen Ayres. with stories like:

Prosecution of Midwife Casts Light on Home Births

Arrested Midwife Says She Won’t Deliver Babies in Indiana Anymore

Bloomington midwife arrested for practicing without a license

That is just in Indiana and just a quick search. I am not sure if Indiana is unique in this crusade against "unlicensed midwifery" but certainly there are those who seem bent on stamping out this dangerous criminal element in our midst (from the above story Arrested Midwife says...)

Mike Rinebold, director of government relations for the Indiana State Medical Association, is hoping that will change. 

“We are thankful there is a prosecutor in LaGrange County who is willing to enforce the laws,” Rinebold said.

For the uninitiated, "director of government relations" is a fancy title for what we commonly call "lobbyist". When you start to take back autonomy over things that the government and industry groups have decided you can't be trusted with, you better watch out! According to Mary Ann Griffin of the Indiana Midwives Association, midwives have drawn the ire of the Indiana medical lobby who are blocking a law pending for 17 years to legalize certified professional midwives (same story):

“We are being stopped by the Indiana State Medical Association, which has a powerful lobby. I’ve met with them many times. They have told us that we have been their number one priority. This little tiny group of midwives. There are about only about 15 CPMs in Indiana. It’s a tiny group. We serve 1,000 families a year who want to have a homebirth.”

Glad to see the lobbyists at the Indiana State Medical Association are on the job keeping Amish women safe from midwives!

This is all part of a disturbing pattern and it is all related. Drinking unadulterated milk from a cow. Eating food that hasn't been approved by our government (the same government that says Twinkies are safe). Giving birth to a child outside of a hospital. Teaching your children yourself in your home rather than shipping them off to an institutional school. These are all basic liberties that are under constant assault by overzealous regulators egged on by the lobbyists for international food conglomerates. The general attitude is that people are too dumb to be left to their own devices. Like so many actions by big institutions it has an unintended (or perhaps intended) consequence. The more the state and its enablers coddle the population, the less independent and capable we become. Oddly enough when you don't expect anything from people, you don't get anything from them. Women can't deliver outside of a hospital, how will they know what to do! Moms aren't qualified to raise and educate their own children, mothers need to get jobs in a cubicle shuffling papers while the professionals in daycare and public schools raise their children. People can't make choices in what to eat even if they want to without facing the ire of the militarized food police. Even in the church we don't trust people so we encourage the Body of Christ to "invite people to church" so they can be ministered to by professionals and send money to missions organizations where the professionals can reach the lost.

As long as people are cowed and imprisoned by the state for carrying out the most basic functions in life, our cherished slogan "Land of the Free and Home of the Brave" will continue to be at best an empty saying and at worst an outright lie.