Saturday, March 12, 2016

J Vernon McGee, Anarchy and Freedom

The protestants charge the Church with simultaneous offenses: not enough bible study and little biblical interpretation.  Guilty on both counts, but the latter charge is disingenuous. To the former charge, the Church has been busy forming small groups for Bible study, as to the latter, the Church never has nor ever will interpret the Bible.  The protestants insist everyone interpret the Bible for themselves, as if this was new to the Reformation, but that was the Catholic thing all along (except for a few New Testament passages for which interpretation is existential to the Faith, see the creeds for example.)

For my part, I've been falling asleep to the radio broadcasts (via the net) of a preacher man, the late J. Vernon McGee.  He talks like Deputy Dawg and his tapes seem to be drawn from say about 1965 to 1980.  His program claims to cover the entire Bible in five years, but he does not read it, he just paraphrases a lot of it and comments on it.  So contrary to expectations, it is not exhaustive, but he is always interesting.

What is also interesting is to listen to him over this '65-'80 time frame move from a flag-waving cracker to anti-war to something of an anarchist.  Circa '65 he talks about "pride before the fall" and his examples are Cassius Clay and Adam Clayton Powell!  (No prideful white folk circa '65?) Vintage cracker.

The '70s seem to have been radicalizing for he stops complaining about Hippies and more about the state (probably prop 9 time).   Finally he is directly criticizing the US Military from a biblical point of view. No wonder I like him.

But more interesting is his dwelling on the Bible, the study of which I think introduced what anarchist inclinations he developed.  Think of a teacher who sends a disruptive kid to the hall.    What happens next?  The kid in the hall hopes the principal or a "counselor" does not happen by, for they will ask "why?" and none of the above will credit any exculpatory explanation he might have.   Anxious.  In time the teacher will come to the door and ask if the kid will now behave.  Yes, is the eager reply, and the chastened is glad to get back in the safety of the classroom.

And when anarchy reigned for 400 years in Israel (and possibly in such places as Carthage and Mohenja Daro as their city's architecture suggests) there were a couple of interesting aspects.  Along with the eye-for-an-eye law came the refuge city provision.  Should there be a killing, if one could make it to a refuge city, and gain admittance, then he was safe.

(The fascinating thing about eye-for-en-eye is we have no examples of it every being employed.  What we do have is examples where that law leads to settlements in which the rich and poor achieve perfect symmetry in a dispute.  A poor man who agrees to be the eyes for a rich man who lost his due to the negligence of the poor man gets to keep his eyes.  Alternatively, rich man who agrees to pay for a life assistant as the eyes for a poor man who lost his due to the negligence of the rich man gets to keep his eyes.  Brilliant!)

These cities had their courts at the gates.  Lot was insinuated in the Sodom society as a judge at that city's gate.  Why at the gates?  Should the judge find someone guilty, and the guilty party disinclined to accept judgment, well, he is not let back in.  Banishment from the city was the punishment, necessary and sufficient, for all crimes and misdemeanors.  Who needs capital punishment if the person is gone? Why lock him up when you can simply lock him out?

But won't these people gang up and become a gang harassing traders moving about?  Outside the city, who knows what those aggrieved inside the city might do on a night expedition against an unrepentant malefactor?  Point is, anything and everything can happen.  Today, malefactors are protected by our "criminal justice" system which trains them up while in the slam and then releases back on the city, ready for a repeat performance, but now with enhanced skills.  And in say Los Angeles, at a cost of about $230,000 per year per juvenile.  Ka-ching!

The freest city on earth, relatively speaking, today is Hong Kong.  They have a first rate legal system, but not too burdened for the fact that Hong Kong society also has first rate mediating institutions to arbitrate disputes.  If anything gets to a judge, both parties can expect to get "justice", good and hard.

I recall an agent of mine, Hong Kong native, whose position in a dispute was untenable, and the opposing parties outraged.  My agent found it a good idea to go into China until things cooled down.  And so it was.  He banished himself from Hong Kong until matters could be dealt with by cooler heads.  At the border, coming back, the gates so to speak, he'd be obliged to answer any outstanding complaints.

Just like the kid who wants back into the classroom, whose case is decided at the classroom door.

I am completely uninterested in theory, from say a Rawls, who posits if we start from an "original position" we can build a just society.  He is popular because the hegemon promotes only bad ideas. What I prefer is systems with a long history over times and place, with examples that work today.

So let's move the courts to the city gates, and replace all the punishment codes with one simple sanction: banishment (and the time frame fits the offense.)

The bible recommends it, ultimately.  No wonder the powers that be do not want the Bible studied.

Feel free to forward this by email to three of your friends.


Anonymous said...

I have listened to J. Vernon McGee too and I can confirm that there is no way that one could learn the entire Bible in five years because the Bible is divinely inspired therefore it is inexhaustible. McGee is entertaining to say the least and his interpretations are insightful.
In the New Testament there is also a provision for avoiding the court system along with wasted time and legal fees.
"If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses." Matthew 18:15-16
In many (not all) cases even arbitration could be avoided if two parties could come to a consensus by discussing things privately and in a civilized manner without a mediator.