Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Economics of Literalism

"Maybe Doug Phillips will suddenly advocate following the mixed fiber law and then sell special non-mixed fiber costumes? It could happen."
Before posting my last article, I pulled out an entire sub-article that deserves its own post. You see, it’s this idea of economic literalism. Throughout the Bible and Jesus’ ministry, God comes down pretty hard on the wealthy. For example,

Psalm 49:16-17
“Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them.”

Proverbs 11:28
“Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”

Matthew 19: 16-24.
“Just then, a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Luke 12:13-21
“Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Luke 16: 10-12.
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

1 Timothy 6:16-18
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”

James 1: 9-11
“Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.”
1 Tim 6:10a
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. My family isn’t destitute and I have everything I want; I certainly have not yet achieved the selling of my possessions for the Kingdom of Heaven. Almost all Americans are rich, even those in poverty. We don’t live in huts as people do in Zambia or have to drink contaminated water as they do in many other parts of the world. We are all wealthy and we must be good stewards of that wealth. One of the ways we are good stewards is not flaunting our wealth. Doug Phillips and many of the leaders of the Patriarchy movement seem to have missed this memo. After all, if Jesus told us to sell our possessions and give to the poor, does that include Doug Phillips’ $7000 Leica M9 camera (with 1K-4K lenses) or the family collection of $500-$600ea. Saddleback Leather bags?

If Doug Phillips can afford expensive items and trips into the Amazon, he’s certainly very wealthy. Where is this money coming from and where is it going? There’s a sickening amount of product placement on his blog and the blogs of many other leaders. Do we really need to know that Doug Phillips has a Macbook?

How much did those gorgeous Reformation 500 costumes of the Botkin’s cost?

Almost all of the leaders have huge homes, complete with potted palms, huge kitchens, and lots of expensive things. Unless you're Peter Bradrick bragging about the resourcefulness of heating water on the stove. It makes me ill thinking of how one of his little children could have been burned while they were hauling boiling water around their "unheated farmhouse". Amazing that the founder of a network of safety "experts" (*groan*) can't provide his family with a hot water heater. Anyway, the followers of patriarchy, usually have far less. About ten years ago, a poor friend of mine, now deeply involved with Vision Forum, visited the San Antonio headquarters. Doug Phillips was super nice to him and gave him things to bring back to his family―but even at eleven, I was not impressed. Why? The items were all “seconds” that no one else would have wanted―I have a particularly strong remembrance of a lazy-eyed Liberty doll. The Phillips family is apparently very wealthy―yet, they’re not generous enough to give a poor man nice toys for his children? That’s like giving dented cans of spoiled food to a food pantry or old, broken toys to the children’s Christmas fund. It’s wrong. It’s always been wrong and always will be. What really bothers me is the hordes of patriarchy followers who want to emulate these leaders and spend thousands of dollars on things they don’t need. And the conferences and events… they’re so horribly expensive! Why does it cost $149 ($99 for under 18) to attend the Titanic dinner? That doesn’t even include lodging! The Father-Daughter retreat costs $405 per father plus $205 for each daughter. (That does include lodging.) I can’t even imagine how much the European or Amazon trips cost! An individual registration for the NCFIC Sound Doctrine conference is $299, plus any travel/lodging costs and the family registration for their White Unto the Harvest conference is $399. Why do these events cost so much? For that matter, who would actually pay this much, plus travel and lodging, for a conference? Vision Forum still sells expensive things like a harp ($375) and various $200-$300 book sets. Plus, very little of the audio/video for any of the NCFIC or Vision Forum stuff is free; if you miss a conference or event, you still have to pay between $50-$100 for the audio. Honestly, how can the average homeschool family afford any of this? I wish it wasn’t like this… because it’s really sad. People don’t need to spend their money on all the things the Patriarchy movement has to offer. They just need Jesus. The gospel Vision Forum presents is akin to the Prosperity Gospel of modern, secular Christianity. As Rich Mullins said, “Jesus said whatever you do to the least of these my brothers you’ve done it to me. And this is what I’ve come to think. That if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, who I claim to be my Savior and Lord, the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor. This I know will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers. But they’re just wrong. They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in a beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.” How is the patriarchy crowd doing at loving the broken? How are they doing at giving to those in need? And I mean the ones right here in the U.S., not the children of Haiti, where Doug Phillips can swoop in to save the day and pose with orphans to build up his image. (There’s absolutely nothing wrong with ministering to Haiti or those around the world… but that stint of Phillips’ reeked of exploitation for publicity purposes. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 6: 1-4: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly, I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.) The patriarchy crowd, especially its leaders, need to clean up their act. I’m not the first to say this and I doubt I will be the last. I pray that they will learn someday… before it’s too late.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9.