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If you are a Christian free-market Republican or Libertarian who opposes our 36% rate cap on payday and title lending on the grounds that the sacred FREE MARKET will keep things fair, this is for you….
This is the Mercat Cross here in the market centre of Aberdeen, Scotland. ((They spell market like they say it here in Scotland, mercat. And no I’m not intentionally using British spellings now (i.e. center or centre), autocorrect does that – apparently it can tell where I am.))
These structures are in many European cities that existed in the Medieval Period. These were erected as designations of Royal permission to physically designate a spot as a market for free trade. Markets were forbidden elsewhere and it was because at Mercat Cross buying and selling and trading could be overseen by the Soveriegn. These rulers of medieval Christendom erected these to regulate economic activity to thwart bad actors and make sure the poor had access to necessities. Mercat crosses effectually policed economic activity and kept trade fair. In the name of economic justice their times were regulated to ensure common poor people had access to goods in preferance to financial speculators. These markets were free and not taxed because the rulers knew that fair buying and selling helped everyone in the society. A purely free market like we long for today was considered barbarous because of the ease in which “it graduates into the exploitation by brigands.”
Today these exploiting brigands are payday and title lenders who dish up the financial equivalent of rotten meat to serve the starving (poor). We need market crosses in every place of our economy. I’m not saying over regulation but there is a Christian duty to make sure the poor aren’t being exploited. We are probably past the day when a state government like ours can erect a cross in the middle of an economic market. However, through strict rate caps and oversight we can effectually ensure these Christian values of concern for the poor govern our economy.
The end game of good theology is worship and devotion. If you don’t arrive there in your study of God, you haven’t glimpsed him. Good theology is anything but dry and boring. It’s not hard to tell if a theologian is correctly grasping the revelation of God- they are people of prayer and worship. This is the litmus test of good theology and a good theologian. The reason those around the Throne sing holy, holy, holy endlessly throughout eternity is because every nano-second a new and overwhelmingly mind-blowing and beautiful aspect of God’s nature is revealed. The best theologians begin the day asking God to show them what the angels saw that made them cry HOLY!
Those were sentiments I shared recently on Facebook. Today I’d add we’ve come to a correct grasp of a theology of the cross when we come to tears. What provokes this post is that I find myself in the middle of a classical European theological school where we are still trying to make sense of guys like Hegel who looked at the cross and broadcast to the world: God is dead. His followers pressed the seeds of his atheism into full bloom intentionally influencing religion, education, media and economy (Marx). I won’t rehearse all that here but rather move right to my point.
Seems to me there are three reactions to the Cross. First, some reject it as foolishness. The message of the Cross is a profound offence, a scandal and foolishness to the perishing. The second reaction is we are indifferent. We take the Cross out of it’s central place and put up big screens instead. We don’t mention it or the blood but rather try to reach the world by telling them how to have better marriages and sex lives. The problem with that is God reached the world through the message of the Cross not messages on better marriages and better sex lives. The third reaction is we are moved to tears.
For years I preached through Lent without any real feeling about it all. Then I heard John Stott teach on the Cross of Christ and at one point he started to weep. I prayed that God would reveal to me what Stott saw in the Cross. Could it be said that theologians who occasionally tear up when talking about the Cross are the ones who raise up a generation of pastors who have Good News share with the world?
Kristen and I are so thankful for Alan Hood and his Excellencies in Christ course. At Thomas and Melody’s graduation last summer the young gal who gave the valedictorian speech mentioned this course. She said one day early on during her time at IHOP-KC, her and her class mates came out of the course crying and profoundly moved. Another student walking by in the hallway asked what course they were coming from. She replied, “Alan’s Excellencies course.” The other student said, “Oh, you’re at the Cross.”
For those who wonder, in my growing revulsion of the escalation of violence among people and against animals, I haven’t shifted into pacifism entirely. Though some are now saying so, I’m not sure Bonhoeffer did either. Yes, we all should shift toward a Sermon on the Mount peace ethic and drag our feet very slowly into war. As praying people we should all read Mark Twain’s War Prayer and think long and hard about how we think about our enemy. And we shouldn’t always be at war – war for oil, turf wars, class wars, race wars, holy wars, war for revenge.
If I was preaching this Sunday (the week Obama vetoed a defence spending bill – only the fifth defence spending bill ever vetoed in US History) I would title my message “The Emergency of Peace.” We need to take it more seriously. The UK has capped defence spending at 2% of the GDP. The US should as well. We should figure out how to use communication technology to promote peace and turn the world against violence instead of spending another trillion on a high-tech killing machines. Something is wrong when our headlines read: She kills people from 7,850 miles away.
However, for me, there is some measure of justification for a human rights war – Kurds getting gassed by Saddam…. the Kurds are like the Jews, everyone hates them…
“The Kurds have no friends but the mountains.” -Kurdish Proverb.
My friend Joel Richardson asks in his documentary, shouldn’t Kurdish people have better friends than mountains? Answer, yes.
Or Saddam’s sons driving through the streets of Baghdad looking for happy couples walking hand in hand, a man with a nice looking woman… then grabbing the man, throwing him in a wood chipper and raping his wife.
I was thinking this morning about the ethics of war, on Bonhoeffer and about the first killing of a human being. Imagine… if there were three brothers in the field that day not two; Cain, Abel and their other brother Larry? How would that change our discussion about the ethics of war? If only there were a brother’s keeper in the field that day.
Seems to me, at this point in my thinking, only a brother’s keeper war can even be remotely justified. Perhaps our War for Independence from British oppression and our Civil War could be construed as brother’s keepers wars. Certainly I wouldn’t be here in the UK now typing these things if the Allied Forces didn’t play the role of the brother’s keeper against Hitler’s murderous expansion. Not sure how the Christian sits by in that type of instance.
I’ve been ask to pray at the homecomings of our battalions and shaken the hands of soldiers coming home. I’ve pastored the parents of soldiers and soldiers themselves. The way I say it is: It is a God-like thing to do to send a son or daughter in harm’s way on behalf of the welfare of others. In this brother’s keepers war sense only can war be construed as a greater love… laying down lives for others. Even so, I’ve always said divorce always involves sin and I’ll add so does war. In the case of divorce God made an allowance for the hardness of humans hearts. Maybe there is a similar grace for a brother’s keeper war. And maybe for once we can try to drop relief instead of bombs and see if the Scripture isn’t true that it’s like heaping burning coals on the heads of our enemies.