Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Materialism is Self-Refuting

It occurs to me that materialism is self-refuting.

By "materialism" I mean the concept that everything that exists is made up just of matter and energy, or matter-energy if you prefer.

Materialism does not seem to be logically possible.


Because the very concept of materialism is non-material. You can touch material but you cannot touch materialism. You cannot measure the pressure of materialism against a gauge.

And it does not help one little bit to say that materialism is simply "a description of what is," because "a description of what is" is also a non-material concept.

Some may argue that you cannot have ideas without matter and energy.

Perhaps, but that answer concedes that materialism is false, because whether non-material ideas can exist without material is not the question. I cannot exist without air, but my need for air does not prove that I am air or that I do not exist.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Defense of Missionaries in Tahiti

I had the privilege recently to visit French Polynesia, and in preparation to go I read part of the book, Blue Latitudes, by Tony Horwitz, which spoke, in part, of the tragic early contact between Tahitians and the West.

Horwitz said Tahiti's population of 204,000 dwindled to 7,169 from western-introduced guns and diseases, including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). I certainly agree with him; almost 200,000 Tahitians dying was tragic.

But then a little later he complains that missionaries persuaded Polynesians to give up indescriminate sexual behavior.


Suppose, to pick a number, that just an eighth of those who died from problems introduced by westerners died from STDs. That means STDs killed about 25,000 Tahitians.

Now suppose the missionaries had somehow managed to arrive before the sailors and persuaded the people to limit their sexual encounters to marriage. That would have severely curtailed the spread of death. Many of those 25,000 would have lived.

Or, suppose the early sailors had all been a bunch of bluenosed Puritans of a type Horwitz apparently disapproves. Same result. More Polynesians would have lived.

So, Horwitz's thesis - hopefully just a result of not thinking - appears to be that 25,000 dead Tahitians is a small price to pay for preserving "free" sex.

There are things to criticize in the Christian community and in its missionary activities, but this isn't one of them. Those missionaries deserve applause, but what they get from Horowitz is jeers.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dom Museum in Wurzburg

Visited the Dom (Cathedral) Museum in Wurzburg, Germany, recently. It is a collection of modern Christian art with a sprinkling of old Christian art.

If a non-Christian was to walk through this collection he or she could be forgiven for coming away with the idea that Christianity is about death and death and death.

Not all the old art in the museum focuses on death, but the vast majority of the modern art does.

Well, I thought, that's okay because I'm sure that just around the corner is art about the joy of the resurrection since the resurrection follows Jesus' death. But no, just more death. And for variety, perhaps not wanting to overdo depictions of Jesus' death, there were pictures of other people's deaths as well.

No pictures of Jesus healing people, or of his teaching, or of other events of his life, or of his parables, or of his victory over death. There was (if I understood it correctly) a modern picture of the annunciation and a couple of the adoration of the magi (one in which each person had a shopping bag over his head), but mostly just death.

So, how is church attendance in Germany these days? Bursting at the seams, is it? No? Maybe institutions such as the Dom Museum presenting such a distorted and ugly view of Christianity is a contributing factor.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Thoughts on What the Bible Teaches About the Poor

A few thoughts from my study of physical (not spiritual) poverty in the Bible (here):

Who are the Poor?

Roughly I would say that a biblical definition of "the poor" would be those people without personal resources and without family or friends to help. I say this because, when speaking of the poor, the Bible so frequently refers to widows, orphans and aliens (or strangers or sojourners) as examples of the poor.

For example: Exodus 22:22, Leviticus 23:22, Deuteronomy 14:28-29, Deuteronomy 24:17, Deuteronomy 24:19-21, Deuteronomy 26:12, Deuteronomy 27:19, Ruth 1:5, 1 Kings 17:9-24, 2 Kings 4:1-7, Psalm 68:5, Psalm 94:6, Psalm 146:7,9, Proverbs 15:25, Isaiah 1:17, Isaiah 1:23, Isaiah 10:1-2, Jeremiah 5:28, Jeremiah 7:6-7, Jeremiah 22:3, Ezekiel 22:7, Ezekiel 22:29, Zechariah 7:10, Malachi 3:5, Matthew 23:14, Matthew 25:35-40, Matthew 25:41-46, Mark 12:41-44, Luke 4:25-26, Luke 20:47, Luke 21:2-4, Acts 6:1-3, 1 Timothy 5:3-5, 1 Timothy 5:9-10, 1 Timothy 5:11-14, 1 Timothy 5:8-16, James 1:27.

While it is true that there may be rich widows, orphans and aliens, the idea appears to be that we should have particular compassion upon those who, when they fall upon hard times, do not have family or friends to support them. The widow (especially in Biblical times) was without a husband to support her; the orphan was without parents to support him or her; and the alien is away from his or her town or culture, friends and family, who might otherwise be counted upon for support in time of trouble.

How Do People Become Poor?

Those who argue that people's poverty is simply because of "oppression" or "injustice" are partly right, as are those who say that poverty is the fault of poor people because of their laziness or bad decisions. The Bible says that either of these explanations may be right, but that there is another reason as well - circumstances, which involve no guilt on anybody's part. Examples are famine, widowhood or becoming an orphan. So ...

- Loss of a natural support system. I mentioned widows and orphans above. Those very labels suggest the cause of poverty. A woman (especially in biblical times) whose husband has died, or a child without parents, is very likely to be poor.

- Not working (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, 2 Thessalonians 3:12). And, more specifically: laziness (Proverbs 6:6-11, Proverbs 12:24, Proverbs 19:15, Proverbs 20:4, Proverbs 21:25-26, Proverbs 24:30-34), negligence and lack of discipline (Proverbs 10:3-5, Proverbs 13:18), chasing fantasies (Proverbs 12:11, Proverbs 28:19), being all talk (Proverbs 14:23), over-sleeping (Proverbs 20:13), heavy drinking, gluttony, drowsiness (Proverbs 23:21).

- Other causes. Foresaking God/sin (Deuteronomy 28:20-44, Proverbs 13:21, Proverbs 13:25, Isaiah 30:20, Jeremiah 8:10, Jeremiah 17:5), famine (Genesis 47:13-26, Nehemiah 5:1-13), taxes (Nehemiah 5:1-13), usury (Nehemiah 5:1-13), injustice (Proverbs 13:23, Micah 2:1-2, Micah 3:2-3), a curse (Genesis 27:39 - although it is a bit unclear to me whether this is the cause of poverty, or simply a prediction of poverty), refusing to accept advice (Proverbs 10:21).

Why Do People Stay Poor?

It appears people stay poor either because the causes for them becoming poor remain (loss of a support system, not working, etc.), or because once they become poor they are easy to bully and mistreat.

The Bible really comes down on mistreatment.

Don't oppress the poor. (Exodus 22:22, Leviticus 19:13, Proverbs 22:16, Proverbs 22:22-23, Ecclesiastes 4:1, Ecclesiastes 5:8, Jeremiah 7:6-7, Jeremiah 22:3, Ezekiel 18:7 & 16-17, Ezekiel 18:12, Ezekiel 22:7, Ezekiel 22:29, Amos 4:1, Amos 5:11-12, Amos 8:4, Zechariah 7:10, Malachi 3:5)

Do not: charge them interest (Leviticus 25:35-36, Nehemiah 5:1-13), shut your eyes to their need (Proverbs 28:27), pervert justice for the poor or deprive them of justice (Deuteronomy 24:17, Deuteronomy 27:19, Proverbs 13:23, Isaiah 10:1-2, Amos 5:11-12, Malachi 3:5), burden them with [high?] taxes (Nehemiah 5:1-13), murder them (Job 24:14, Jeremiah 2:34), mock them (Proverbs 17:5), rob them (Proverbs 22:22-23), be shocked if you see them oppressed by government officials (Ecclesiastes 5:8), ignore the widow's plea (Isaiah 1:23), plunder the poor and grind their faces (Isaiah 3:14-15), let them go hungry or thirsty (Isaiah 32:6), drive workers hard (Isaiah 58:3), hold neighbors in servitude (Jeremiah 34:15-17), deny them what you do not need (Ezekiel 34:18-21), charge them high rent (Amos 5:11-12), buy them (Amos 8:6), seize all a person's possessions (Micah 2:1-2, Micah 3:2-3), defraud the wage earner (Malachi 3:5).

Should Christians Help the Poor?


Help them with money and other assistance. 1 Kings 18:4, 2 Kings 4:38, Psalm 112:9, Proverbs 3:27-28, Proverbs 11:24-26, Proverbs 14:20-21, Proverbs 19:17, Proverbs 28:27, Isaiah 58:10, Matthew 19:21-22, Matthew 25:35-40, Mark 10:21-22, Luke 3:11, Luke 11:40-41, Luke 12:33-34, Luke 18:22-23, Luke 19:8, John 13:29, Acts 3:2-8, Acts 11:28-30, Acts 20:33-35, Romans 15:25-27, 2 Corinthians 8:13-14, 1 Timothy 5:8, 1 Timothy 5:9-10, 1 Timothy 5:8-16, 1 Timothy 6:17-18, Titus 3:14, Hebrews 13:16, 1 John 3:17, Psalm 72:4, Psalm 72:12-14.

Other help. By nightfall, return a poor man's cloak who leaves it as security for a loan (Exodus 22:26-27, Deuteronomy 24:10-15), pay a poor worker's wages daily (Leviticus 19:13, Deuteronomy 24:10-15), include the poor in your planning (Psalm 41:1, Galatians 2:10), be concerned about the rights of the poor (Proverbs 29:7, Jeremiah 22:16), Since God Himself accepts lesser-cost offerings from the poor (Leviticus 5:7,11 and Leviticus 27:8) maybe we should give them a bit of a price break, don't be too thorough in harvesting your fields, leave some for the poor (Leviticus 19:9, Leviticus 23:22, Deuteronomy 24:19-21), the tithe every third year is partly for the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29, Deuteronomy 26:12), the poor may sell themselves into temporary servitude (Genesis 47:13-26, Leviticus 25:39-43), a relative should buy back the land of a poor person (Leviticus 25:25), a poor Israelite sold into servitude to a foreigner has the right to be bought back by one of his brothers (Leviticus 25:47-54), all debts and servitude is ended at the Jubilee every seven years (Leviticus 25:25, Deuteronomy 15:1-18), kings should look out for the poor (Psalm 72:4, Psalm 72:12-14, Proverbs 31:8-9), King Lemuel says that alcohol is for the poor whose life is bitter and need to forget (Proverbs 31:6-7), visit and associate with the poor (Romans 12:16, James 1:27), forgive debts (Matthew 18:23-34).

Governmental Involvement

The Bible leaves a clear place for governmental involvement in helping the poor. The main way it can help is to give them fair treatment under the law. I believe the Bible talks so much about justice for the poor not because they deserve justice and the rich do not, but because the rich have the resources to make sure they have a good lawyer, and they have money to hire a burly bodyguard if they need one, while the poor do not, and thus the poor are more easily taken advantage of. King Lemuel (Proverbs 31:8-9) says kings, who are a government officials, should speak for those who can't and defend them, and the psalmist asks the king to vindicate the afflicted and save the children of the needy (Psalm 72:4) and for the king to have compassion on the poor and rescue them from oppression (Psalm 72:12-14). So clearly it is the government's duty to provide honest and fair judgements to the poor.

But is there a role for the government to provide, for example, direct physical assistance to the poor? Well, the Old Testament rules often combine governmental and religious law, and it is true that much of the Old Testament law has been superceeded, so there is room for debate, but it appears from Joseph's experience in Egypt (Genesis 47:13-26) that God did not object to Joseph saving the people from starvation by using government resources, although in that case he was not giving away government food, but selling it.

However, in Deuteronomy 14:28-29 and Deuteronomy 26:12, the law provided that every third year the tithe will go to support the priestly class, the Levites, but also to support the widow, orphan, and alien, which terms I believe - as indicated above - are used to indicate the poor.

So, if a tithe is a tenth of a person's income and this tithe occurs every third year, this was essentially a 3.33% tax per year to support the priests and the poor. This is an interesting concept because one of the concerns many people have with governmental assistance programs is that these programs so frequently grow to become unmanageable. But if governmental assistance to needy people was limited to a fixed percentage of the nation's income - as is the case with this example - this ceases to be a big problem. If income grows, the contribution grows; if income declines, the contribution declines. And, yes, if income declines the poor would be hurt most, though everybody else would also be hurt. So, I don't mean to suggest that this fixed-percentage approach is (or was) a panacea; if it was then there would have been no need in the Bible to also tell individuals - and later the Church - to help the poor.

Dignity of the Poor

One thing that struck me about giving assistance to the poor is the lengths the Bible goes to to preserve their dignity. For example, the Bible tells farmers not to be too efficient in harvesting their crops (Leviticus 19:9, Leviticus 23:22, Deuteronomy 24:19-21), but to leave a bit here and there and around the edges and corners for the poor to gather. What strikes me about this is that the poor needed to get up and get out into the field and harvest just like the farmer's field hands. Or take the example of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:9-16). Though poverty-stricken, Elijah asked her to do some work and make a sacrifice (use her flour to bake him a loaf of bread). She did and God responded by giving her plentiful flour and oil. Or, in 2 Kings 4:1-7, Elisha tells the poor widow to do some work, that is, to gather empty jars. She did that and God provided her with plenty of oil to sell and repay her debts. I certainly don't think that every act of kindness to the poor should only be in response to the poor doing something, but this formula appears frequently enough that I am inclined to think that an effort by the poor is generally an excellent idea. There is a dignity in labor.

Also, notice that when making a loan to a poor person who uses his cloak for security (Exodus 22:26-27, Deuteronomy 24:10-15), the Bible tells the lender to return the cloak by nightfall so the borrower can keep warm. That seems rather inefficient; why bother accepting the cloak as security if you're just going to hand it back in a few hours? Well, perhaps by accepting the cloak, the poor borrower is being given the dignity of being treated like the better-off borrower, except that the lender drops by near sundown and says, "Oh, hiya, Fred. Looks like it might get a little chilly tonight and I thought you might put this cloak to good use. Not doing me any good in my closet."

And finally, note how strongly James (James 2:2-6) insists on treating the poor who come to church the same as the wealthy. If you give the rich special treatment that you do not give to the poor, (vs,4) "have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?"

How the Church Can Help the Poor

The New Testament teaches that Christians, individually and as the Church, should be generous to the poor (Matthew 5:42, Matthew 18:23-34, Matthew 5:42, Matthew 15:5, Matthew 19:21-22, Matthew 25:35-40, Matthew 25:41-46, Mark 10:21-22, Luke 3:11, Luke 11:40-41, Luke 12:33-34, Luke 14:33, Luke 18:22-23, Luke 19:8, Acts 3:2-8, Acts 20:33-35, Romans 15:25-27, 2 Corinthians 8:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8:13-14, 1 Timothy 6:17-18, Titus 3:14, Hebrews 13:16, James 2:15-16, 1 John 3:17) and that they should do so without fanfare (Matthew 6:2-4), and that they should forgive their debts (Matthew 18:23-34).

Also, Christians should not intentionally become poor themselves, so as not to be a burden (Paul says if people refuse to work they shouldn't be fed. - 2 Thessalonians 3:12).

Paul urges that primarily assistance to the poor should be provided by relatives (1 Timothy 5:3-5, 1 Timothy 5:8, 1 Timothy 5:8-16) so that the church can provide assistance to those "widows who are widows indeed." It appears this widow-assistance program was poorly organized at first and the Greek widows were being overlooked (Acts 6:1-3), but was apparently straightened out when the church appointed a team to oversee the process. To be added to the list, widows apparently had to meet stringent qualifications (1 Timothy 5:9-10): They had to be at least 60 years old, have had one husband, a reputation for good works, brought up children, shown hospitality to strangers, washed the saints feet, assisted those in distress, and devoted themselves to good works.

I doubt this list exhausted the charity of the church, but I think these were the rules for a poor widow to be continually supported.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

References in the Bible to the Poor

I have in recent years been quite uncomfortable with discussions within the Christian community about poverty. The reason for this is that the discussion often seems to be so heavily weighted towards politics, and with just a patina of Christianity. I've seen this attitude from both the left and the right, and it is just not biblical.

It seems the way to determine what the Bible says about the poor and our responsibility toward them is to, well, read the Bible. So for quite a few months that's what I've been doing, reading from Genesis to Revelation and marking down every passage I believe is directly relevant to understanding poverty and what God wants us to do about it.

I hope to share some thoughts about this later, but right now, without commentary, the list, directly below, with my attempted summary of each passage. I am sure there are other passages that I have missed, and if you know of any, please let me know. But this is a starting point, and I hope that by putting these verses together so they are easy to study that it will give a broad view of what the Bible teaches about poverty and immunize people against those who pull out one or two selected verses from the Bible to try to prove their point.

Genesis 21:12-16 - Hagar is driven out and thereby made poor.
Genesis 27:39 - Isaac's curse of Essau to poverty.
Genesis 47:13-26 - During a famine the people of Egypt buy grain with money, then with their cattle, and then with their land and bodies. Joseph buys these poor people, gives them grain and requires that 20 percent of what they gain be paid to Pharoah.
Exodus 22:3 - Poor criminals can be sold into slavery.
Exodus 22:22 - Do not afflict a widow or orphan.
Exodus 22:25 - Do not charge interest to poor Israelites.
Exodus 22:26-27 - Return a cloak used by a poor neighbor as security for a loan before nightfall.
Exodus 23:3 - Do not be partial to the poor in a dispute.
Exodus 23:6 - Do not be partial against the poor in a dispute.
Leviticus 5:7,11 - Lesser-cost offerings for the poorer.
Leviticus 19:9 - Leave some of the harvest to be gleaned.
Leviticus 19:13 - Do not oppress the poor; pay a hired man daily.
Leviticus 19:15 - Show no partiality to the poor or the great.
Leviticus 23:22 - Leave the corners of fields unharvested for the poor and alien.
Leviticus 25:25 - A near relative should buy back land sold by a poor person, or (25:28), it will be returned on Jubilee.
Leviticus 25:35-36 - Help the poor; don't charge them interest.
Leviticus 25:39-43 - The poor can sell themselves to their debtors and the buyer must treat them as a hired person. They must be released at the Jubilee. (44-46 - A foreigner can be a slave for life.)
Leviticus 25:47-54 - Israelite poor has the right to be redeemed from a foreigner. He will be released on the Jubilee.
Leviticus 27:8? - If a person is too poor to pay a vow price, the priest will set the price.
Deuteronomy 14:28-29 - A tithe every third year is for food for the Levites, alien, widow and orphan.
Deuteronomy 15:1-18 - Every seven years there is a remission of debts.
Deuteronomy 24:10-15 - Don't keep the security for a poor man's loan (a cloak) overnight; pay the poor worker his wages before sunset daily.
Deuteronomy 24:17 - Do not pervert justice for the alien, orphan, or widow.
Deuteronomy 24:19-21 - Don't be too thorough in harvesting; leave some for the orphan, widow and alien.
Deuteronomy 26:12 - The third-year tithe is for the Levite, stranger, orphan and widow.
Deuteronomy 27:19 - Cursed is the one who distorts the justice due to an alien, orphan or widow.
Deuteronomy 28:20-44 - The Lord will take away good things (make people poor) if they forsake Him.
Ruth 1:5 - Women bereft when husband died.
Ruth 1:20-21 - Naomi laments her poverty.
Ruth 2:2-23 - Ruth, in her poverty, gleans in the field.
1 Samuel 2:7 - The Lord makes poor and rich.
1 Kings 17:9-24 - Elijah and the widow of Zarephath.
1 Kings 18:4 - Obediah provides the prophets with bread and water.
2 Kings 4:1-7 - Elisha provides oil for the poor widow to sell and repay her debt.
2 Kings 4:38 - Elisha provides stew for the famine-stricken sons of the prophets.
Nehemiah 5:1-13 - Famine and taxes and usury have made the people poor.
Job 5: 15-16 - Eliphaz says God rescues the poor from the hand of the mighty so the helpless have hope.
Job 20:18-19 - Zophar says the wicked cannot enjoy his riches because he has oppressed and forsaken the poor.
Job 24:9-10 - Job says evil people take from the poor.
Job 24:14 - Job says the murderer kills the poor.
Job 31:16-22 - Job defends himself by citing his kindness to the poor.
Job 34:19 - Elihu says God does not show partiality for the rich over the poor.
Job 34:27-28 - Elihu says God strikes the wicked for turning from Him and causing the poor to cry out to Him.
Psalm 34:6 - The poor man cried out and God saved him.
Psalm 37:14 - The wicked attempt to cast down the poor and afflicted.
Psalm 37:16 - The little of the righteous is better than the abundance of the wicked.
Psalm 41:1 - Blessed is the man who considers the helpless.
Psalm 49:1-2 - The psalmist calls on all to listen, rich and poor.
Psalm 68:5 - God is a father to orphans and a judge for widows.
Psalm 69:33 - The Lord hears the needy.
Psalm 70:5 - A needy man calls on the Lord.
Psalm 72:4 - May the king vindicate the afflicted, save the children of the needy and crush the oppressor.
Psalm 72:12-14 - The king will have compassion on the poor and rescue from oppression.
Psalm 82:3-4 - An appeal for God to save the afflicted, destitute, weak and needy, and deliver them from the wicked.
Psalm 94:6 - An appeal for God to save the widow, orphan and stranger.
Psalm 107:35-38 - God makes a place in the wilderness for the poor to dwell.
Psalm 107:40-41 - God blesses the needy.
Psalm 109:9-12, 15-16 - David prays for poverty for the wicked who oppressed the needy.
Psalm 109:21-22 - David asks for help since he is afflicted and needy.
Psalm 109:30-31 - God saves the needy.
Psalm 112:9 - The man who fears the Lord has given freely to the poor.
Psalm 113:7 - God raises up the poor and needy.
Psalm 132:15 - The Lord promises to satisfy the needy with bread.
Psalm 140:12 - God will uphold the cause of the afflicted and justice for the poor.
Psalm 146:7,9 - The Lord gives food to the hungry, protects strangers, fatherless and widows.
Psalm 147:6 - The Lord supports the afflicted.
Proverbs 3:27-28 - Do not withold good to those to whom it is due, such as neighbor, when you can do it.
Proverbs 6:6-11 - Laziness results in poverty.
Proverbs 6:30-31 - Nobody despises you if you steal because you are hungry, but you must pay it back sevenfold.
Proverbs 10:3-5 - Negligence results in poverty, diligence in wealth.
Proverbs 10:15 - The rich man's wealth is his fortress, the ruin of the poor is poverty.
Proverbs 10:21 - Good advice feeds many. Fools die for lack of understanding.
Proverbs 11:24-26 - Generosity [perhaps to the poor?] is rewarded. Selling what people need is blessed.
Proverbs 12:9 - Better to be well off but not esteemed, than one who honors himself but is poor.
Proverbs 12:11 - Diligence leads to wealth but the pursuit of vain things does not make sense [makes poor?]
Proverbs 12:24 - The diligent rule; the lazy will be put to forced labor.
Proverbs 13:7 - Some people pretend to be rich but are poor, and vice versa.
Proverbs 13:8 - The rich can pay a ransom, but nobody even tries to get the poor to pay a ransom.
Proverbs 13:18 - Poverty comes with lack of discipline; honor by accepting a reproof.
Proverbs 13:21 - Sin leads to poverty, righteousness to prosperity.
Proverbs 13:23 - The poor has abundant food in the ground, but injustice sweeps it away.
Proverbs 13:25 - The righteous have enough to eat, the wicked go hungry.
Proverbs 14:20-21 - The poor is hated even by his neighbor and the rich are loved, but it is sin to despise your neighbor and good to be gracious to the poor.
Proverbs 14:23 - Work leads to profit; mere talk to poverty.
Proverbs 14:31 - Oppressing the poor is an insult to God. Graciousness to the poor honors God.
Proverbs 15:6 (?) - The righteous have wealth but the wicked have trouble.
Proverbs 15:16 - Better is a little with the fear of God than treasure with turmoil.
Proverbs 15:17 - Better vegetables with love than a fattened ox with hatred.
Proverbs 15:25 - The Lord opposes the proud but protects the widow.
Proverbs 16:8 - Better is little with righteousness than much with injustice.
Proverbs 17:1 - Better a dry morsel with quietness than feasting with strife.
Proverbs 17:5 - He who mocks the poor insults their Maker.
Proverbs 18:23 - The poor plead; the rich answer roughly.
Proverbs 19:1 - Better a poor man of integrity than a fool of perverse speech.
Proverbs 19:4 - Wealth adds friends; poverty separates a poor man from his friend.
Proverbs 19:7 - A poor man's brothers hate him, and his friends avoid him.
Proverbs 19:15 - A lazy man will go hungry.
Proverbs 19:17 - Being gracious to the poor is lending to the Lord, who will repay.
Proverbs 19:22 - Better to be poor than a liar.
Proverbs 20:4 - The sluggard does not plow, so he begs at harvest-time.
Proverbs 20:13 - Sleep and grow poor; open your eyes and you will have food.
Proverbs 21:9 (?) - Better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house with a contentious woman.
Proverbs 21:13 - He who closes his ear to the cry of the poor will cry out and not be answered.
Proverbs 21:25-26 (?) - The sluggard refuses to work and craves more, but the righteous does not hold back in giving.
Proverbs 22:2 - God made both rich and poor.
Proverbs 22:7 - The rich rules the poor. The borrower is a slave to the lender.
Proverbs 22:9 - The generous gives some food to the poor and is blessed.
Proverbs 22:16 - He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth, or who gives to the rich, will come to poverty.
Proverbs 22:22-23 - Do not rob the poor or crush the afflicted.
Proverbs 23:21 - Heavy drinking, gluttony and drowsiness will bring a man to poverty.
Proverbs 24:30-34 - The sluggard comes to poverty.
Proverbs 25:24 (?) - Better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house with a contentious woman.
Proverbs 28:3 - A poor man [alternate reading, "ruler"] who oppresses the lowly is like a driving rain that leaves no food.
Proverbs 28:6 - Better to be poor with integrity than rich and crooked.
Proverbs 28:8 - Getting rich by charging high interest gathers money for someone who will be kind to the poor.
Proverbs 28:11 - The rich think they are wise, but a poor man of understanding sees through him.
Proverbs 28:19 - Farm your land and have plenty; follow fantasies and have poverty.
Proverbs 28:27 - He who gives to the poor will never want; those who shut their eyes to the poor will have curses.
Proverbs 29:7 - The righteous are concerned about the rights of the poor.
Proverbs 29:13 - God gives light to the eyes of both the poor man and the oppressor.
Proverbs 29:14 - If a king judges the poor with righteousness, his throne will be established forever.
Proverbs 30:8-9 - Agur prays for neither poverty nor wealth lest he be in want and steal or be full and deny God.
Proverbs 31:6-7 - King Lemuel says that strong drink is for those who are perishing, whose life is bitter and in poverty.
Proverbs 31:8-9 - King Lemuel says kings should speak for those who can't, for the destitute, and should judge fairly and defend the rights of the poor.
Ecclesiastes 4:1 - The preacher sees the oppressed who have no one to comfort them. [I assume the oppressed are frequently the poor.]
Ecclesiastes 5:8 - Don't be shocked if you see the poor oppressed by government officials.
Ecclesiastes 5:12 - The poorer working man sleeps well, while the rich man with a full stomach does not.
Ecclesiastes 9:14-16 - The preacher recalls a poor but wise man who saved a city, but was forgotten. The wisdom of the poor is despised.
Isaiah 1:7 - Isaiah describes the land, cities and fields of Israel as a desolation.
Isaiah 1:17 - Defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
Isaiah 1:23 - The rulers do not defend the orphan or listen to the widow's plea.
Isaiah 3:14-15 - The elders and princes of Israel have plundered the poor and grind their faces.
Isaiah 10:1-2 - Isaiah pronounces woe on rulers who deprive the needy of justice, who take away the rights of the poor so they can take advantage of widows and orphans.
Isaiah 11:4 - A shoot from the stem of Jesse will judge the poor with righteousness.
Isaiah 14:30 - A prophesy regarding Philistia: The helpless will eat and the needy will lie down safely.
Isaiah 30:20 - The Lord tells the people of Zion that the Lord has for a time given them bread of privation and water of oppression.
Isaiah 32:6 - A fool lets the hungry go empty and withholds water from the thirsty.
Isaiah 40:20 - A poor idolator makes an idol from wood rather than gold or silver.
Isaiah 58:3 - Those who say they are seeking God at the same time drive their workers hard.
Isaiah 58:6-7 - God's fast is to loosen the chains of injustice, to let the oppressed go free, to share food, clothing and home with the poor.
Isaiah 58:10 - If you help the hungry and afflicted, you will be rewarded.
Isaiah 59:13 - Isaiah lists promoting oppression as a sin.
Jeremiah 2:34 - Israel chastised for killing the innocent poor.
Jeremiah 5:3-4 - Jeremiah defends Israel to God by saying the bad examples are the poor who don't know the way of God.
Jeremiah 5:28 - The wicked do not plead the cause of the orphan, or defend the rights of the poor.
Jeremiah 7:6-7 - God says that if the people do not oppress alien, orphan, or widow, or follow other Gods, they may remain in the land.
Jeremiah 8:10 - God promises to bring to poverty (give their wives and fields to others) to those who have rejected the Lord's word.
Jeremiah 17:5 - God curses the one who trusts in man, saying he will not see prosperity but will live in stony wastes.
Jeremiah 22:3 - Do not mistreat stranger, orphan, or widow.
Jeremiah 22:16 - It is good to plead the cause of the afflicted and needy.
Jeremiah 34:15-17 (?) - The people are condemned for promising to release their neighbors from servitude but not doing so.
Jeremiah 39:10, 40:7 - Some of the poorest people were left when the rest of the population was taken to Babylon.
Jeremiah 52:15-16 - The poor people are now taken off to Babylon, but some of the very poorest are left to work the land.
Ezekiel 16:49 - Sodom sinned by not helping the poor and needy.
Ezekiel 18:7, 16-17 - God blesses the one who (among other things) does not oppress and who gives food to the hungry and clothing to the naked.
Ezekiel 18:12 - God curses the one who (among other things) oppresses the poor and needy.
Ezekiel 22:7 - Jerusalem sinned by (among other things) oppressing alien, orphan and widow.
Ezekiel 22:29 - The people wronged the poor and needy and oppressed the sojourner.
Ezekiel 34:18-21 - The fat sheep mistreat the lean. They drink their fill but needlessly muddy the water and trample the grass for the rest.
Daniel 4:27 - Daniel urges the king to show mercy to the poor, and thereby prolong his prosperity.
Amos 2:6 - Israel sinned by selling the needy for a pair of sandals.
Amos 4:1 - Condemnation of women who oppress the poor and crush the needy.
Amos 5:11-12 - Condemnation of those who trample on [or, NASB, impose heavy rent on] the poor, and exact grain from them, and turn aside the poor at the gate [or, NIV, deprive them of justice in court].
Amos 8:4 - A condemnation of those who trample the needy and do away with the humble.
Amos 8:6 - A condemnation of those who buy the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals.
Micah 2:1-2 - Woe to those who seize a man's fields, home and inheritance [i.e.- who make him poor.]
Micah 3:2-3 - Condemnation to those who strip their fellows of everything, down to skin and flesh and bones.
Zechariah 7:10 - Do not oppress widow, orphan, stranger or the poor.
Malachi 3:5 - God will judge the one who defrauds the wage earner of his wages, who oppresses the widow and orphan, who turns aside the alien [NIV, deprives the alien of justice].
Matthew 5:3 - Blessed are the poor in spirit.
Matthew 5:42 - Give to the one who asks [Perhaps the poor are more likely be in need and ask.]
Matthew 6:2-4 - Give to the poor quietly, without fanfare.
Matthew 11:5 - Jesus answers John's messengers about himself, saying (among other things) that the poor have the gospel preached to them.
Matthew 15:5 - Jesus condemns people who refuse to help their [poor?] parents by saying that anything they have that may help them is devoted to God.
Matthew 18:23-34 - Parable of two men who cannot repay their debts and the forgiveness shown and not shown.
Matthew 19:21-22 - Jesus tells a rich young man that if he wants to be complete [NIV, perfect] to sell all he has and give the money to the poor.
Matthew 23:14 - Jesus says woe to those who devour widows' homes while making long prayers.
Matthew 25:35-40 - Jesus says he will welcome the kindly, and compares their caring for the hungry, thirsty, and stranger to caring for Him.
Matthew 25:41-46 - Jesus says he will send away the unkind, comparing their lack of caring for the hungry, thirsty, stranger to not caring for Him.
Matthew 26:8-11 - The disciples say the perfume the woman poured on Jesus could be sold for the poor. Jesus defends her, saying the poor you will always have.
Mark 10:21-22 - Jesus tells the rich man to sell all he has and give it to the poor.
Mark 12:41-44 - The poor widow gave more than the rich people because she gave all she had.
Mark 14:3-7 - The disciples say the perfume the woman poured on Jesus could be sold for the poor. Jesus defends her, saying the poor you will always have.
Luke 3:11 - John says the man with two tunics should share one with the man who has none. And also with food.
Luke 4:25-26 - Jesus says there were many widows in the time of Elijah, but Elijah was only sent to one of them.
Luke 7:22 - Jesus answers John's messengers about himself, saying (among other things) that the poor have the gospel preached to them.
Luke 9:58 - Jesus says he is homeless, unlike the foxes, which have holes, and the birds, which have nests.
Luke 10:4 - Jesus tells his disciples to go out in a poor manner, with no purse, not bag, no shoes.
Luke 11:40-41 - Jesus urges Pharisees to give that which is within them to the poor.
Luke 12:33-34 - Sell your possessions and give to the poor.
Luke 14:33 - No one can be one of Jesus disciples unless he gives up all his possessions. [Become poor?]
Luke 16:19-25 - The rich man and Lazarus. The rich man received his reward on earth; Lazarus received his in Abraham's bosom.
Luke 18:22-23 - Jesus tells the rich man to sell all he has and give it to the poor.
Luke 19:8 - Zaccheus gives half of his possessions to the poor.
Luke 19:26 - The one who has will be given more; the one without will have even even the little bit he has taken away.
Luke 20:47 - Jesus condemns the scribes who devour widows' houses.
Luke 21:2-4 - The poor widow gave more than the rich people because she gave all she had.
Luke 22:35-36 - Jesus says when he sent out the disciples without purse or bag or sandals [in a poor state], that they didn't lack. But now he tells them to take along their purse and bag and sword.
John 5:5-8 - Jesus heals a sick man who has nobody to put him in the healing pool. [I assume he was poor or he would have hired someone to put him in the pool.]
John 12:4-8 - Judas objects to putting perfume on Jesus, saying it could be sold for the poor. He was not concerned for the poor but was a thief.
John 13:29 - At the last supper, the disciples thought Jesus may have asked Judas to give some money to the poor.
Acts 3:2-8 - A lame beggar asked Peter and John for money, but Peter said they had no money and healed him instead.
Acts 6:1-3 - The widows of the Greek Jews were being overlooked in the distribution of food, so Stephen and six others were selected to organize it.
Acts 11:28-30 - The prophet Agabus predicts a famine, so the people who could sent relief to the brethren in Jerusalem.
Acts 20:33-35 - Work hard to help the weak [poor?].
Romans 12:16 - Associate with the lowly [poor?]
Romans 15:25-27 - The church in Macedonia and Achaia send a contribution to help the poor saints in Jerusalem.
1 Corinthians 13:3 - If you give all your posessions to feed the poor but do not have love, it profits nothing.
2 Corinthians 8:1-4 - The poor Macedonian church begged to give, and gave beyond their ability.
2 Corinthians 8:9 - Jesus was rich but became poor that through his poverty we might become rich.
2 Corinthians 8:13-14 - Paul urges the Corinthian believers to contribute to help other believers in want, that those believers may help the Corinthians when they are in want.
Galatians 2:10 - The council in Jerusalem asks Paul to remember the poor.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 - Work that you may not be in need.
2 Thessalonians 3:8-9 - Paul worked for a living so as not to burden the people, and to be an example.
2 Thessalonians 3:12 - Paul says if a person won't work, neither let him eat. He condemns the undisciplined, who are acting like busybodies.
1 Timothy 5:3-5 - Honor widows who are widows indeed. But those who have families, their families need to take care of them.
1 Timothy 5:8 - Believers should provide for their own family members who are in need.
1 Timothy 5:9-10 - Widows should be put on a list (for support) if at least 60 years old, have had one husband, a reputation for good works, brought up children, shown hospitality to strangers, washed the saints feet, assisted those in distress, and devoted herself to good works.
1 Timothy 5:11-14 - Younger widows should not be put on the list (for support) because (in part) they become idle, gossips and busybodies. They should marry and raise a family.
1 Timothy 5:8-16 - A believing woman with a widow in her family should assist that widow and not let the church be burdened, so the church can help those who are widows indeed.
1 Timothy 6:17-18 - Rich people should be generous and ready to share [with those in need, I assume].
Titus 3:14 - The people should help to meet needs.
Hebrews 13:16 - God wants us to share [with those in need, I assume].
James 1:9 - The brother in a humble circumstances [poor?] should rejoice in his high position.
James 1:27 - Pure religion involves visiting widows and orphans in their distress.
James 2:2-6 - Do not treat the rich differently from the poor when they come to church.
James 2:15-16 - Blessing a brother or sister who needs food or clothing but not giving them what they need is not good.
James 5:4 - The rich have sinned by withholding the pay of their laborers.
1 John 3:17 - If you have material possessions and see a brother in need but don't help, how does God's love abide in you?
Revelation 2:9 - The church of Smyrna is in poverty, yet is rich.
Revelation 3:17 - The church of Laodicea says it is rich, but is wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.
Revelation 13:16 - All people, including rich and poor, receive a mark on their right hand or forehead.

Monday, June 11, 2012

'Appeal to the Cat' Argumentation

I've been thinking about a little argumentation technique my wife and I have developed which I want to recommend.

I call it, "The Appeal to the Cat," and it works like this:

Let's say you and your spouse (or friend, or whomever) get in a "discussion" which is on the edge of becoming tense. It goes somethig like this ...

"Are you going to pick up your socks someday?" she says.

"I pick up my socks!" you reply.

"Really? What do you call those?"

At this point she directs your attention to socks on the floor which you cannot by any reasonable argument make out to be anybody's socks but your own.

Hmm. You know the Christian thing would just be to admit you are wrong, say "Sorry," and pick up the socks, but you are still feeling a bit feisty and are unwilling to humble yourself. So, enter the cat, Archie.

"Well," you say, "Archie told me it was okay."


"Yeah, he said the blue of the socks goes nicely with the tan color of the rug."

At this point she gets that it's a joke, and plays along.

"I don't believe Archie said that! All he ever says is 'meow.'"

"Yeah, but in cat-talk that means it's okay to leave my socks on the floor."

"Well, you need to straighten out Archie on that. And tell him the colors don't match."

Turning to the cat, you shake your finger and say, "Archie, did you hear that? No socks on the floor!"

Turning back to her as you pick up the socks, you sigh and say, "I'm always having to pick up after that cat!"

So, what could have turned into a fight ending in hard feelings becomes a joke, and the problem solved.

Will this work if you just blew $25,000 on the stock market? Uh, probably not; just for little things.

Also, you may be asking, "Does this technique also work with dogs?"

Hmm. I dunno. Give it a try.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

In a Faith Denying Environment, Should I Go or Stay?

At my Bible study group recently, the topic came up of a woman who attends a spiritually dead church who had come to know Christ. Someone in our group asked if she should leave that church or stay, and everybody said she should stay.

The reasonable logic was that Christ calls us to be a witness to the world (in this instance, to her very-dead church), and not to withdraw into our own little huddle.

True, very true ...

And yet in retrospect I think that answer is inadequate. I think a proper answer depends on the person.

Are you at least standing firm in your faith in a faith-disparaging environment? Better yet, are you reaching out with the love of Christ in that environment?

If so, it is probably a great thing for you to stay. If you are an evangelist, by all means be one!

Or, do you find yourself hiding your faith and being a bit evasive if people ask about it? ("Well, yeah, sometimes I go to church on Sunday. It's kind of something my Mom expects.")

If so, are you going to change? If you can't honestly say you will change then you should probably get out. For the time being, at any rate, you need a more supportive environment. And I am not just talking about getting out of a dead church. I am talking about getting out of a job, a neighborhood, a city, or any other negative environment.

If you become a just one more worldly Christian then you become just one more reason for the world to despise Christ.

And yes, even if you get out of a destructive environment and into a good one, like my Bible study friends say, you are still called upon to reach out! But if you read the very short Third Letter of John in the New Testament you will find John says (vs 8) that those who support Christian workers are "fellow-workers with the truth." So, do your outreach by supporting a missionary, by giving to Christian relief organizations, by supporting an inner-city outreach, or just by being like Tabitha (Acts 9), who helped the poor by sewing clothes.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Where Did God Come From, Part 2

There is an old atheistic argument that says that if you can't show where God "came from," that shows there is no God. This is really lame. God is eternal and created time. He is independent of time.

Nevertheless, some atheists sneer at the "God is eternal" argument. Everything, they insist, has to "come from" something. So, let me approach it from another angle.

If being unable to say where God came from means God does not exist, then nothing at all exists.


Well, let's pretend the atheist's argument is correct: God didn't come from something earlier so God doesn't exist.

Okay, then it must also be true that if the universe didn't come from something earlier then the universe doesn't exist.

So... what earlier thing did the universe come from?

Atheists may try to avoid this question by claiming the universe has been cycling around forever, but that is just saying the universe is eternal, and if my saying God is eternal is invalid, then the atheist's saying the universe is eternal is equally invalid.

But, if rabbits and flowers and ice and gravity and sunshine and Einstein's equation and the universe itself actually DO exist, then this atheistic argument is false.

Here is my earlier discussion of this topic.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Qualifications to be a Pastor

I've been cleaning out my computer and stumbled upon an old list I made for a member of a pastoral search committee at our church who asked what qualifications I would want in a new pastor. Amazingly, I did not include "loves Jesus." How could I forget that? Anyway, here's what I wrote (and I'm delighted to say this is what we got, plus the "loves Jesus" part).

The candidate I believe is qualified to be our pastor is one ...

- Who loves the Bible and accepts its teaching as authoritative.

- Who sees the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament.

- Who studies all the relevant passages in the Bible to reach his conclusions instead of reaching his conclusions and then going to the Bible to find a verse to confirm them. In looking for a pastor, I'd ask: Are his sermons serious explanations of what the Bible teaches, or does he just pick a verse that seems to bear some relation to his topic, use it as a touchstone, then take off to discuss what he wants without much further reference to the Bible?

- Who preaches mostly from the Bible, and only occasionally refers to other disciplines, such as polls, psychology or sociology. In looking for a pastor, I'd ask: Does his inspiration seem to be drawn from the Bible, or from other sources? While there's nothing wrong with these other sources, I think the vast majority of the sermon should be from the Bible itself.

- Who sticks with one good version of the Bible as his main preaching Bible, and uses other versions and paraphrases (such as The Message and The Living Bible) only on occasion to give a fresh look at a biblical passage. When a pastor switches from version to version with no explanation of why, it sometimes makes me wonder if he is just trying to find a version that agrees more closely with what he wants to say. Overly suspicious of me, perhaps, but the thought occurs.

- Who explains the relevant Bible passages relating to his topic, especially those that seem to take a different view. When I hear a message and instantly a well-known Bible passage pops into my mind that appears to contradict the pastor's point, and if he does not address that issue, I doubt his message.

- Who does not pronounce authoritatively on topics the Bible has nothing to say about.

- Who preaches both theology and practice. The Bible has both; so should his teaching.

- Who speaks clearly. If he uses obscure theological terms, he should explain them.

- Who, in a book study, does not neglect difficult passages. The easy passages I can figure out myself; it's the hard ones I need help with.

- Who, at the end of his sermon, leaves the congregation enlightened, encouraged or challenged.

Friday, March 16, 2012


I've created a new Christian news blog featuring lesser-known information from around the world. You can see it here: XnConnect

Monday, January 23, 2012

Wally and the Election

Earlier Wally stories here, here, and here.

"Wally, you have a strange look in your eye," Tom Johnson said, looking up from his video game.

Wally Lim glanced at Tom for a moment with a conspiratorial smile, then stared off into space once again.

"Yeah, Gabe Espinosa said. "Is high school is gettin' kinda dull for you? It's been a while since our last prank."

"Hmmm," Wally replied, then, "What do you guys think about another little adventure?" Wally asked, turning to the other three members of the gang, Robert Saylor, Larry Urbano and Sarah Steiner.

"I'm caught up on my homework," Sarah said. "I suppose I'd be up for some fun."

Robert and Larry nodded in agreement.

"Well...," Wally said, waving a flyer he held in his hand. "School elections are coming up next month... ."

"Maybe we should run for office!" Gabe said.

"Yeah... I wonder what it would be like being school treasurer," Sarah added.

"Okay, let's do it!" Wally said.

"Wait a minute," Larry said. "I think you've got something more in mind - don't you Wally?"

Wally smiled. "Okay, here's what we do ..."


Ms. Stoneman was no longer the trusting woman she had been earlier in her acquaintance with Wally and his friends.

"You want to run for class treasurer?" she asked Sarah Steiner, doubtfully.

"Yes Ms. Stoneman. Could I get the paperwork for that?"

Ms. Stoneman opened a drawer and pulled out the paperwork, but held on to it.

"Is Wally Lim involved in this at all?"

"Yes, Ms. Stoneman. "He will be helping some of us run our campaigns."

Ms. Stoneman was immediately on guard.

"You understand, don't you, that you can't mention Jesus or Christianity on your campaign signs, and you can't mention them in any campaign speech or literature?"

"I promise that none of my materials or speeches will say anything about Jesus or Christianity."

"You realize that on this form you need to sign an agreement saying exactly that?"

"I understand, Ms. Stoneman."

"And you're a Christian, right? And Christians aren't supposed to lie? Right?"

"Right. Are you a Christian, Ms. Stoneman?"

"I most certainly am not!"

"Is it all right for you to lie, then?"

"Please don't change the topic. Here are the papers you need to fill out."

"Thank you, Ms. Stoneman," Sarah said, and started to walk out the door.

"Oh, by the way, Sarah. Did you say that more than one of you will be running for office?"

"Yes, Ms. Stoneman. Several of my friends will also be running."

"But not Wally?"

"No, Ms. Stoneman."

Sarah left but Ms. Stoneman was still bothered. She would have to keep a careful eye on things.

Over the next several days Larry, Gabe, Tom and Robert also came in and got filing papers, and gave Ms. Stoneman the same story in response to her questions.

And the following week Larry came in to get his campaign signs and speech approved. The sign was a simple banner that read:

"Urbano for Class Secretary"

Ms. Stoneman examined each of his signs carefully. They were exactly the same. She read the campaign speech carefully... twice.

"No secret ink or anything that will pop out later?" she asked.

"No, Ms. Stoneman.

"You realize you must give the speech exactly as it is approved?"

"Yes, Ms. Stoneman."

"Hmm," she said, and reluctantly pressed the "approved" stamp to each of the signs and to the speech.

Later, the others brought their signs and speeches in. They were almost the same, their last names followed by their office, though Robert and Tom each had an extra line: "He's the One!" and "Our Leader." And even the speeches were similar -- standard campaign boilerplate.

Ms. Stoneman wasn't sure why she was bothered, but she could find no reason to object and stamped each speech and each sign as "approved."

The campaign posters began appearing around the school, ad Ms. Stoneman examined each one carefully, but could find no problem.


"Okay," Wally said one afternoon at Sarah's house, "tomorrow is the school election assembly, and that's where it gets fun."

Before school the next day Wally and Tom and Gabe and Robert and Larry and Sarah arrived early, and with a ladder began taping their campaign posters, one close beneath another, high on the wall of the auditorium.

At the election assembly that morning, the principal, Mr. Johnson, walked to the podium to give the introduction. He looked around smiling, then froze when he saw the campaign signs for Wally's gang.

He looked at the signs. He was sure they were unauthorized, but he adjusted his glasses and looked closer. They DID have the school's permission stamp.

The students noticed his hesitation, and the direction he was facing. Those who hadn't already seen the signs looked over.

Students began to snicker throughout the auditorium and Mr. Johnson thought it best to distract their attention. He began his speech.

"Welcome to this year's Associated Student Body elections," he said, then stumbled distractedly through the remainder of his introductory remarks.

Then the candidates spoke.

As promised. Tom, Gabe, Sarah, Robert, and Larry each said exactly what they had written, and each ended his speech in almost the same way.

Tom pointed to his sign on the wall and said: "As my poster says, 'Johnson for president.'"

There was a low snicker from the audience as the students looked over and read, "Our Leader, JESUS, He's the One!"

Then Gabe ended his speech by pointing to his sign: "As my poster says, 'Espinosa for vice president.'"

The snickers grew louder. "Ooooh," they thought with glee. "These guys are going to get in trouble."

Sarah pointed to her sign: "As my poster says, 'Steiner for treasurer.'"

The students were enjoying this immensely. Not because many of them were Christians, but because they enjoyed watching people buck the school's authority.

Larry pointed to his sign: "As my poster says, 'Urbano for secretary.'"

The laughter became uproarious.

And finally, Robert pointed to his sign: "As my poster says, 'Saylor for spirit commissioner.'"

"Woo! Woo!" Students yelled and clapped and cheered, even though they weren't sure these were the best candidates. They just enjoyed watching a fellow student get away with something, or, even sweeter, maybe they wouldn't get away with it.

. . .

The five candidates and Wally stood in front of Mr. Johnson's desk.

"Wally, I know you instigated this, but I can't prove that. However, I have plenty of proof against the rest of you - fifteen hundred students worth of proof! I am going to suspend each of you for three days!"

"Wow, Mr. Johnson, that's big news!" Wally interrupted.

"And I think," Johnson added, "that each of you should be very ... What do you mean, 'big news'?"

"High School Suspends Five ASB Candidates," Wally said, moving his hand across the air as if following a banner headline. "I'm sure the newspaper will want to know all about this! I'll call them right away! Big news! Maybe you'll be famous, Mr. Johnson!"

"I, uh ... well."

"Maybe we'll all get our pictures in the paper, or on TV! Oh, wait! I'm not suspended. Could you suspend me, too, Mr. Johnson?"

"Well, Wally, it's, uh, not my intention to make this a reward, and I see that perhaps this is not an appropriate punishment. I think that maybe, instead of suspension, if each of you will just withdraw your candidacy I'll just let the whole matter drop."



"Thanks Mr. Johnson! You're the best."

"Wow! I was afraid I might actually get elected."

"Woo Hoo! I SO didn't want to be spirit commissioner!"

The gang walked out of Mr. Johnson's office laughing and talking, closing the door gently behind them.

And Mr. Johnson sighed, then chuckled forlornly, then put his head down on his desk and thought, "How much longer before Wally graduates?"

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Brotherhood

My new book, The Brotherhood, is now available on Amazon.

Sandy Kilburn, a reporter at a small-town newspaper in the American Midwest, encounters both a cult that is slowly and inexorably taking over the world, and his own failures and compromises.