Category Archives: Society

Christian Culture

Evo X asks why Star Wars is more popular than God. I’ll answer.

My parents were really into the Christian culture thing (my mom even owned a small Christian bookstore home business for a couple years) and so was I until some time in my early 20’s. I watched Veggie Tales, McGee & Me, the Greatest Adventures, Gerbert, and the rest. I listened to the music of Carmen and DC Talk (but not the Newsboys), and tons of Christian metalcore, punk, and hardcore (FaceDown Records!). I read the Left Behind, Wally McDoogle, Baker Street Sports Club (and spin-off), and Lightning on Ice series, among many others. I owned the Picture Bible (the Bible in comic book format), many of the Archie Christian comics, and Heroes of the Faith bible comics (which I thought were pretty cool at the time, because look at that blood and brain matter. That series was surprisingly gory for the Christian culture industry).

So, you can believe me when I say I know that there are people who do (or at least did) try to keep their kids in the Christian culture industry. As far as I can tell, some people in my church still do. I’ve seen kids in my church carrying around their Action Bibles and Christian manga.

The problems are many. First, it doesn’t work unless you isolate your children from non-Christian children. I enjoyed Veggie Tales, but when your friends at school have no idea what “Whoa I ate the bunny” is and are instead referencing the Simpsons (which you’re not allowed to watch) then you want to watch the Simpsons, just so you can understand what “Hi diddly ho, neighbourino” refers to. When the secular culture is omnipresent, its very difficult to confine your kids to Christian culture.

(This can lead to some ridiculous situations. If you can only listen to Christian music or have Christian cultural products, it becomes tempting to try to define what is Christian as broadly as possible, so you can enjoy what your friends do. Every even quasi-spiritual band is scouted for how Christian they were. I’ve watched as young Christians argued that Linkin Park is Christian).

Second, it’s limited. Sure, there are some comics, some shows, and some movies, but there’s only some (and even fewer which are actually good). How many times can your kids watch Veggie Tales before he gets bored? How may times can you turn on the Greatest Adventure, until you get sick of hearing it in the background, much less your kid? There’s more books, but still it’s limited. There are only so many Christian products being produced, you’ll eventually run out. I like metal, there’s some, but not very many, Christian power metal bands. I couldn’t fill my desire for metal on them alone.

Third, it’s comparatively crappy. Everyone, including almost every Christian, knows that Christian cultural productions are not very good. This is especially so in the area of movies and TV. The only truly good Christian movie I can think of was Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, which was created apart from the Christian culture industry. Most of the rest range from crappy to mediocre. As someone in our sphere (I think, I can’t find the piece), wrote on somewhat recently, it takes the whole support system of Hollywood to make a believable movie, and Christians just don’t have that.

It’s somewhat better in books, because those don’t require as much support, but even so: Left Behind was the Christian cultural phenomenon, but the books were decent at best (I read most of them) and the movies (I haven’t seen) were supposedly terrible. Wright’s the best contemporary Christian fiction author I’ve read (by far) and he’s outside the Christian culture industry. TheChristian talent pool is also much smaller, so the likelihood of a spectacular Christian writer is lower. As well, the need many Christians have for works to have an explicit Christian message and to eliminate vice (no swears or drinking) makes subtler and/or realistic stories more difficult, while also severely limiting some genres such as fantasy (ironic, given the predominance of Tolkien and Lewis in the genre, I know) or SF.

Music is also somewhat better. There are some solid bands, but still, Christian music is generally inferior. Besides the talent pool issue, one problem is the Christian music industry attempts to be relevant, which generally ends up meaning they’re chasing whatever trend is popular at the time. So, by the time they actually get around to writing and producing the music, they’re already feeling like mediocre derivatives of trends from a few years ago. KJ-52 is an excellent example of this. He is (was?) the biggest name in Christian rap, but he put out his first CD a year after the Slim Shady LP, and was signed to a Christian label a couple years later. He sounded like an Eminem clone chasing the trend (and naming one of his main tracks Dear Slim didn’t really dispel this). Most Christian music is like this, copying what was popular years, sometimes decades, before. The only genre I can think of where Christians really lead the fore is metalcore (I don’t know how or why Christians became such a strong presence in metalcore, although it might have something with the influence of Living Sacrifice).

The Christian music industry also has the problem of mainstreaming. There’s a general trend that as a Christian band distinguishes themselves and becomes more popular, they begin to tone down the Christianity and lose their distinctiveness. For example, my two favourite bands a decade ago were Disciple and POD. In their early stages, Disciple had a heavy, distinct, and somewhat vicious rap-metal sound with a very strong Christian message (most of their early CD’s contained a sermon as a closing track), but as time went on, they became more popular and started getting some mainstream attention. The music became more generic, less heavy, and the rap-metal sound was replaced by grungy heavy rock. The Christian message was heavily muted. Same with POD, who got a lot of mainstream attention for a Christian band. A band that had a song called “Abortion is Murder” and explicitly named Jesus in their first album, eventually moved to esoteric talk of Zion and Jah, sounding more Rastafarian than Christian. They also moved from a distinct, heavy rap-metal sound to a reggae-infused generic nu-metal. This process has repeated among countless other bands.

That being said, given the nature of the music industry, there are some great Christian bands out there. In metal, Theocracy is one of the best power metal bands, period, while Tourniquet played unique progressive thrash I have yet to see matched. I’m sure most other genres have similar examples.

Finally, a major issue for individuals is cost and availability. Christian stuff simply costs more and is available in fewer places. A mainstream CD costs from $10-15 (CAD) from HMV, which can be found in any mall. A Christian CD from a Christian bookstore is generally $15-20 (or more, I remember one Disciple CD putting me out $28), and you have to drive out of your way to get there. Even buying from Amazon it costs more. I remember the books costing more and the movies costing more. Amazon may be leveling this out, but I remember the price differences being quite significant.

So, the Christian culture thing is possible and people do it, but there are a lot of factors that pull against it and make it difficult. Bu even if you do do it, in the end, it doesn’t really work. Even if you homeschool, eventually your kid will join the rest of the world (unless you do an Amish colony type thing) and secular culture will get him. There’s a huge trend of Christian kids losing their faith in college and the Christian cultural industry is one of the contributors to it. Antibodies to secular culture needs to be built up while young so the child has a hope to resist it. For example, I’m the only one of my siblings to remain a practicing Christian, despite our upbringing in the Christian cultural industry and my parents attempts to limit secular culture. I’ve seen a number fo other families whose Christian-culture raised kids have strayed upon leaving high school. Some come back, some don’t.

A Facebook Poll asked people to list their favorite books; while Harry Potter came in first, 7.2% of people listed the Bible.

Obviously this is not a good way of comparing affection for Star Wars to affection to the Bible, but having interacted with people, 7% feels rather close to the actual percentage of real Christians.

This one is interesting, because despite my regular quotations of the Bible around here, I would likely not list the Bible as being among my favourite books.

I’m not fully sure how to explain it, but there’s something separate between the sacred and the profane. Important sacred things are measured by different standards than mundane things. I wouldn’t read my Bible for fun and enjoyment and I know of few Christians who actually enjoy reading scripture, yet it’s the book I’ve spent the most time reading by far. I wouldn’t call it my favourite book, but it is definitely the most important and influential book in my life. It’s simply measured differently.

Maybe a more relatable example will help. Amazing Grace is simply the most beautiful, emotionally moving song I know. Yet, I have never listened to it for entertainment. It’s not and has never been in my iTunes or on my MP3 player. I would definitely not call it my favourite song. It’s in a separate category all its own, along with other hymns. It’s set apart.

Relatedly, however much I love heavy metal, I’d strongly object if we added heavy metal worship music to my church. It simply wouldn’t be right.

That might be the problem with the Christian cultural industry, particularly music. It is trying to make the sacred profane and bringing the profane into the sacred. Worship music is set apart; the old hymns have a power and meaning to them. Translating that power, that meaning, into popular music is difficult. The Bible has deep truths, translating those into mundane stories of popular fiction is difficult, something only the most skilled wordsmiths are capable of doing right, which is why so much popular Christian literature is so heavy-handedly clunky.  It takes a lot of skill to produce Narnia, very few writers have that skill. While trying to make a mass market thriller spiritually meaningful is a near hopeless task.

One example of the profane infecting the sacred that really rankles me is Grace Like Rain. It’s a “redone” Amazing Grace in contemporary style that adds a course. The song itself is okay if you like CCM, but churches have taken to adding this to the worship music repertoire. So, you’ll be singing along to Amazing Grace, then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a pop music course of “Hallelujah, grace like rain…” will interject itself, completely ruining the power and atmosphere of the hymn. The sacred song is profaned by the injection of CCM.

The secular and the sacred are separate. Adding the sacred to the secular is difficult and the unskilled will ruin it. Adding the secular to the sacred ruins the sacred. (also, CCM should be kept out of the church).

Culture Loss

Why not bring in immigrants and refugees? These people just want a better life, why not open the doors and let them in?

Spandrell found a thread of a Belgian couple sharing their journey through the Congo in 2008, and it is interesting, and answers why we shouldn’t.

Big mistake. We were stuck. The water came to the bottom of the door. This particular mudpit had a bit of a funny smell. It was the favourite place of the pigs so it probably contained a fair amount of sh*t. It sure smelled like it. The entire village gathered round us while we got out, knee deep in sh*t.

They did not offer help.

We started clearing the wheels. Josephine hurt her foot on a stick, the pain could be seen on her face. The people thought this was extremely funny and burst out laughing. This was very humiliating for Josephine and I could see the anger on her face. We looked at eachother and understood that this was not the time to get angry or start discussions with 50 or so people. We continued to work. As I bend over to clear the mud from underneath the car my pants get wet up until my ehrm.. ‘privates’.. . Once again this is the funniest thing these people have ever seen. Hilarity ensues. This was very humiliating to us.

Eventually they offered to help us if we pay them. I tell them that I do not have money. They did not move an inch.

The same thing happens a little bit later:

No surprisingly nobody they offered their assistance, they even had some shovels. But they wanted money first. By now you probably think we are just stupidly stubborn and naive. We probably are, but we refused to give in to corruption. I once again told them they were free to help, but we would not give them money. So I continued to dig on my own with an entire village as an audience.

Here man meets tribal culture. He calls it corruption, but it isn’t, it’s culture. Why would people help others outside their tribe without a reason? Why would someone honestly expect unrelated others to help them?

I live in Canada. Everybody gets stuck in the snow on occasion. When you do, you’ll always have someone stop to help push your car out and get you on the way. One time I slid up the curb and got stuck in a small snowbank at 2 am on New Years (it was a patch of ice, not alcohol). The family in the house came out and helped me push and dig it out for 15 minutes, until someone in a 4×4 showed up and gave me a quick tow. I’ve stopped to help others push as well. Helping to jump-start someone else’s car is barely worth remarking on. It’s just something you do because you trust people will help you out when you need, and so we all get to avoid freezing to death trying to get our cars going.

This is a cultural practice built up by an uncountable number of positive interactions over a unnumbered years. The Canadian experience is the unnatural outlier, the Congolese experience is the natural norm. Helping strangers get their car unstuck is an unnatural cultural practice held by a limited number. It is just one of many western Europeans have built up. These practices have not built up in many (most?) other countries.

If you import foreigners from Congo who do not have this cultural practice, fewer positive interactions and more negative interactions build up, and eventually a some tipping point, you no longer have the cultural practice.

This is the harm immigration causes, it wears away at built-up cultural practices. The insidious danger of it is that this regression is barely noticeable until one day you get stuck, look around, and wonder, ‘why is nobody helping me?’

Of course, cultural practices go far beyond simply pushing someone’s car.

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I asked them if they would want us to help them if they had a problem. The acknowledged this. I said what they would think if we asked for money before we would help them. They called us racists and immediately demanded money from us.

Welcome to your future.

Also, the demands for money or free stuff is omnipresent throughout the trip. Everywhere they go, someone is demanding money, drinks, phones, or the like from them. Is this the cultural practice you want imported to your country, where ‘le Blanc’ is seen primarily as a source of free stuff?

We opened a can of Coke (still from Zambia) and a jar of pickled onions to eat with our bread.

Those ‘horrible’ people did not have a Coke, even if they had the money to buy it, it was not avaialble. They did not have pickled onions either. And between the two of us we ate as much bread as an entire family would eat for an entire day.

We tried putting things into perspective. Maybe we shouldn’t be here after all?

This is what immediately follows their ‘stuck in a mudpit’ story. The answer to the question is ‘correct, they don’t belong there’.

But more interesting is how they do not seem to make a connection. Maybe there’s an underlying reason why people who won’t help others stuck in mud don’t have Coke and pickled onions available. Coke and pickled onions require cooperation in the marketplace, but how can there be cooperation when you can’t even trust your neighbour to help pull you out of the mud?

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If you want to know why there’s no social trust, here’s an illustrative example:

We came across a small motorcycle. You’d see them from time to time, it is the most luxurious transportation people have here. They are litte chinese 50cc (or 125cc) bikes. We stopped to let him pass and he stopped to greet and ask us if we had some oil for his engine.

All over the world there is an unwritten rule that in remote or difficult to travel areas people help eachother. That is why in the sahara everybody says hi to eachother. That is why in the Mongolian steppe people drive for kilometers just to check up on you. People help when needed as they know they will be helped when they are in need. We very much honour this unwritten rule and will always assist when we can.

So when this guy asks for oil, I do not hesitate and take out a my spare can of oil. I warn him that this is oil for diesel engines, but that does not matter to him. It is probably the best oil he would ever find to put in his little bike. As I am pouring oil from my can in his can the passenger of the bike starts begging with Josephine. I am not impressed when Josephine tells me. And when the bike owner too start to ask for money, it really pisses me off. We are helping this guy and still he begs for more? So I pour the oil out of his can back into mine and tell them to sod off. In our car and off we go.

For almost a month now we were in a serious fight with Congo. We were fighting against corruption. We were fighting against the roads. A constant battle. Congo was giving us a serious beating, but we stood strong and did not give in. Slowly but steadily we were winning this battle against the Congo.
But while we were so busy battling the roads and the corruption, Congo sneaked in from behind. It had transformed us into loud and angry people. With no remorse, no compassion, and a total lack of rules.

What happened to the unwritte rule of the road less travelled? The rule we nohour so much? All out of the door..

Congo had beaten us a long time ago already. Just like it had beaten most of its own citizens.. And we didn’t have a clue

The defections finally got to our generous tourist and finally defected himself. I wonder if this will cause him to further defect in the future?

Foreign cultural practices are acidic and burn away your cultural practices.

****

Here’s the price for not having a culture of trust and cooperation which would allow for road-building:

As said, traffic is always local. They somehow manage to get cars into larger towns and then drive it around town, but no trough traffic. So cities/towns/village that are not on a river or on the limited railroad network have very limited supplies.

Up to 600kg of goods are transported on these bicycles. They do not ‘ride’ them, but push them instead. You can see there is a stick connected to the bikes handlebars.

This is the major transport method in Congo. It is probably one of the most ‘popular’ (this does not seem like a good wordchoice) jobs. There are fixed routes and people often travel in groups. For security reasons but also to help eachother on the hills.

At regular intervals on the main “bicycle” tracks there are “service stations”. This is usualy a small hut where one can eat a meal of fufu. They would also have a pump and some basic tools to fix flats.

We saw many of these overloaded bicycles before, but on this stretch of the road it seems to be the only means of transportation.

It must be very hard work to get these loads over the sometimes very rough roads. The ‘drivers’ are away from home for weeks on end and probably barely make any money out of it.

And here’s another cost:

We came across a truck that was parked in the middle of the track. Luckily the surrounding area was pretty open, so we could pass it.

Us: “Bonjour, ca va?” – “Hi, how are you?”
– Them: “Ca va un peu bien ” – “I am doing a little bit ok” -> typical Congelese answer this!

Us: “Votre vehicle est en panne?” – “Did you truck broke down?”
– Them: “Oui, mais ils vient avec des nouveaux pièces” – “Yes, but they are coming with spare parts”

So we chat a bit and we ask what their problem exactly was. They left Ilebo for Kananga with a load of building materials for a rich guy in Kananga. Their engine had completely seized. Their cargo was transferred onto another truck and they had taken the engine out and transported the engine to Kinshasa to get it rebuild. In the meantime the truck ‘crew’ stayed onsite to safeguard the truck. But they were very happy as they just received news that the necessary parts for the engine were now ordered in Germany, so the parts would come arrive in Kinshasa in a few weeks time!

A fascinating story, and they told it as if the was the most normal thing in the world. Fair enough. We said our goodbyes and asked them one more final question. How long had they been here?

“Un peu plus qu’un an maintenant” – “Just over a year”

The most normal thing in the world“. Is this the culture you want to import?

****

After the preceding stories, someone did help them:

It took three more attempts to drive out before the village priest (7th day Adventist by the way) encouraged a few strong men to help.

***

Some other people in the Congo were more proactive:

When we continued on the same road we would pass other smaller mudpits. These bogholes always had a “crew”. When a truck arrived, they would throw in rocks so the truck could pass… for a fee ofcourse. After the truck passed they removed the rocks again. A lucrative occupation!

In our books this is just plain wrong and we refuse to support such behaviour. So we always charged trough in 4×4, hoping we would not get ourself stuck.

The corruption is omnipresent and not just limited to roads. The tourists can hardly go anywhere without some official or another demanding a road toll, a non-existent “tax”, or a “fine” for some made-up infraction. As the tourists note, despite all the road tolls:

Nothing ever returns to the maintenance of these roads, or anything remotely related to the province it is in. It shows:

All the roads are like that or worse, My favourite is the one with the tree in the middle of it:

Here’s there first two days of travel. Remember, day one was the fast part of their trip with the best roads.

Less than 200 miles in day one, barely 50 in day two, while driving a sturdy 4×4. That’s how bad the roads are.

But between the corruption and and distrust, why would anyone build a decent road? Who would build a decent road?

There was one group who tried, the Belgians, which brings me to the next point.

****

At some points the trip reminds me of Skyrim. The Congo resembles a pre-civilized society but there’s the (sometimes functioning) ruins of an ancient civilization scattered about.

Fallout 4 or a Belgian Ruin in the Congo

They’re driving down unkempt, potholed dirt roads, then suddenly:

The bridges were something we were very concerned about upfront. Congo has a lot streams and rivers and we knew the roads had not seen maintenance in many many years. If a bridge broke down, that could be a major problems. Up until now however we did not have any problems with the bridges. Some of the smaller bridges might have been dodgy, but all of them were passable. Most of the large bridges were fortunately made out of steel and in reasonably good nick.

Take the bridge we just crossed for example. I find it amazing that is still there. Numerous armies have crossed the Congo in the last 20 years, chasing their enemies down to the capital. Now, I am not a military expert, but if my army was losing terrain to the enemy army and I have to retreat. The one thing I would certainly do was blow up all bridges after me. Had it happened but was the damage so small that it could easily be repaired? Or did they just not bother? Or did they lack the explosives and time to actually blow it up? Who knows…. but at least the outcome is good for us now!

A bridge made by the evil Belgian colonialists over a half-a-century ago still functions, but the Congolese can’t keep basic roads functional. Here’s the ruins of “what once must have been a grand building… marked with logos from a Belgian University… [that] must have once been some scientific study centre of sorts.”

Everybody talks shit about imperialism and colonialism, but when the Belgians were there the people of the Congo had peace, order, bridges, working roads, a functional bureaucracy, non-corrupt police, and scientific study centres. Are the Congolese better off being ‘free’?

Here’s the tourist on the dark Belgian history:

I presume you are referring to the “not so nice” role Belgium has had in the history of Congo. For a while I thought that would be a problem as well, but it isn’t. Just about anything that still exists in Congo is made by the Belgians. The older generation who had their education from the Belgians really have fond memories of that era. And at the moment Belgium is still one of the main funders of the country (via aid). The dark pages of history during the Leopold 2 era is not what the Congolese people think about. All in all I think being Belgian was actually a plus. As a matter of fact, a lot of people asked how things were going with the “war” in Belgium :-o

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Speaking of functional bureaucracy, mismanagement is not limited to infrastructure. Here’s the tourists on getting a permit to be tourists:

Nobody really know what kind of permit one needs, let alone where to apply for it. But everybody agrees that a permit is required. Officially it has got something to do with the many mining areas to be crossed. We contacted the few people who have attempted travelling trough congo but they too never managed to get hold of the permit. One of these guys did get arrested and deported because he could not provide a permit.
Our Belgian Consulate really tried hard to get this stupid little piece of paper for us, but to no avail. They even managed to get us invited with the governer of Katanga, but he too could not give it to us. After many days of trying we asked the consulate to give us some sort of official looking letter with an official looking stamp. We would chance it without the permit!

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There are some actual functional paved roads around, made by foreigners:

So, why is there an asphalt road in the middle of Congo? Not connected to the rest of the road system (due to lack of road system).

There reason is simple: Diamonds. This is the main diamond center of Congo. This has attracted many people ofcourse, but the local people barely benefit of the natural wealth of the region. Officially it is the third largest city of Congo, after Kinshasa & Lubumbashi. Although by now it is probably the second largest city with over 2 million inhabitants. It also a politically important region. Most of the recent political problems start here. When Mbuji-Mayi “explodes” the rest of the country usually follows shortly after.

The diamong mining companies ofcourse need transport. Most is done via air, but the heavy supplies (fuel) are brought in by train. The nearest train station is in Mwene-Ditu. Hence the tar road between Mwene-Ditu and Mbuji-Mayi.

It’s hard to say “the local people barely benefit” when the mine is the only reason there’s a decent road in the area.

Here’s an interesting tidbit on who they talked to while prepping for their trip:

2) Coca-cola company: If there is ony thing you can find anywhere in the world it is Coca-Cola. They should know how to get their goods in the country. We had no response on mails, so we called them up. Their answer was pretty short: They do not have a distribution network outside the major cities in Congo 8O And it proved to be true, Congo is the first country we have visited were Coca-cola is hard to get once you leave the major cities.

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An interesting thing about the trip, is the number of Catholic missions in the Congo, how often that’s where the tourists stay at them, how much the tourists appreciate them and their kindness, and how much a relief the priests are. From the way the tourists talk about them, Catholic monks seem to be what keeps the country even somewhat functional. I’m not going to quote all of the references, but here’s a few.

Here’s some priests picking up the white man’s burden. It speaks for itself:

The priests (Brothers actually) are nice guys. There are 4 of them, young and smart. All of them have studied in Lubumbashi or Kinshasa. After they finished the seminary they were sent to a mission. They cannot choose which one. We could hear the sadness in their voices when they told their stories.

They sampled the “world” when studying, they have a degree (one of them had a masters in engineering) and then they are sent to a mission. They know they will probably never have the chance again to live in a city. At the mission they take care of the kids, teach, etc.. A noble and rewarding job. But they carry all this knowledge that they cannot put in practice here. They have no computers, no tools, no electricity, no budget, …

Their living quarters were very comfy and clean for Congolese standards. They had a radio and a TV set. Because of their proximity to Lubumbashi they had a regular supply of newspapers.

The priest-engineer was setting up a project to generate clean energy from a river. He had a recycling project. A radio project. An irrigation project, … He had to run all these projects without any funds, without material. So many ideas, so little chances.

They remained positive but you could see it in their eyes that they were sad. Without a doubt they would take the first opportunity to get out of there. It would be a great loss for the mission and the village but I couldn’t blame them. In the way our talks went we thought we could hear them crying for help. To take them to Europe, to give them funds, to supply them with material. They did not speak these words, but to us it was clear that they really longed for those things. We were not able to provide this. It made us sad and we felt guilty.

Here’s another set of priests carrying the burden and the thanks they get for it:

We rolled into Kamina and had a warm welcome by several “frères” (Brothers), among them Frère Louis, the belgian brother that hosted us in Luena. The other frères were Croatian. They all have their missions deep in the brousse, but this week they had their annual gettogether.

The missions was big and well organized. They had all the facilities, even a workshop. They were responsible for almost everything functional in Kamina. Churches, school, farms, factories, …

That night we talked for hours with Frère Louis. Our little adventures here dissapear in the nothing compared to everything he went trough. He had been in DRC for over 40 years, he stayed during all the wars. He had to abandon everything and run for his live three times as teams were sent out to kill him. But he always returned. Many books could be filled with his adventures.

He is also responsible for most of the bridges Katanga. He build hundreds of bridges himself. He has a small working budget from Franciscans, but he funds most of it all by himself. He has put every last penny in the Congolese people. That is why his house in Luena was so rundown.

He also told us about the Mayi-Mayi rebels that still roam the jungle. We were not prepared for the horror stories we would hear. I still have problems giving these stories a place. They are not just stories though, he gave us a 100 page document with his interviews of victims. If you thought, like us, that cannibalism was something that belonged in comic books and dusty museums about Africa. You are wrong. :cry:

But not everybody is called to the self-sacrifice of the mission field:

Unfortunately the father of this mission was not there, but his apprentice was. A very young guy, fresh out of school. He was not happy to be here, that much was clear. He did nothing else but complain and he would whine on endlessly. He was not a bad guy, but was wan’t very good company either.. oh well.

And not every priest remains uncorrupted:

We discussed our plans with Abbé Omer in the garden of the mission (it must have been a wonderfull garden back in the days.. now it looked a bit rundown). The good news was that there was good ferry here that could take us across the mighty Kasai river. The bad news was that nobody every uses that ferry and it does not see any regular action.

Omer knew the guy who was responsible for the Ferry, a chap called Barthélémy. He even has his phone number, but he does not have credit on his phone. No problem, he can use ours. A conversation in Lingala starts, it takes about ten minutes until we run out of credit on our phone. I actually think they talked 1 minute about the ferry and the other 9 minutes about other things, but anyway. Here was the deal:

– Price for a two-way trip is 50$US
But,
– we have to supply our own diesel the engine of the boat. 150 liters is required (!). that’s about 200$US (Diesel here is cheaper because they have a regular supply via boats from Kinshasa).
– we have to supply two batteries to start the engines of the boat
– the ferry is on the other side of the river and they would only be able to get it across somewhere next week

That’s just great!

We immediatelly uttered to Omer that that was a ridiculously high price, one we would never pay. And that we wanted to cross as soon as possible. preferably tomorrow.

What followed was a very difficult negotiation. Abbé Omer insisted that he acted as an intermediate person. According to him to protect us from getting ripped off (because we were white). I was actually convinced that he was playing a game with his mate Barthélémy to make some money out of us. It took us many hours on the phone to finally convince this Barthélémy to come to see us to discuss the price. He would come at 8 the next morning.

Later that evening Omer suggested that we he would have to inform the police of our presence (c’est normal!), it took us a lot of persuading for him not to ‘give us in’.

Interesting that Omer is a local.

****

Of course, some secular non-profits are there to, but they are not as effective as the evil Catholics, MNC’s, and imperialists:

They told us about the mysterious roads. Apparently some NGO (they did not know the details… or they told the details and we forgot) has funded the construction. Several teams started working at several locations. The different bits were supposed to connect at one point. As of recent, work had nearly stopped… no more budget. It was unclear if more budget would become available or not. In any case the idea of the construction was to invest all the money in labour instead of buying an expensive CAT. Great idea ofcourse, that way all the money stayed in DRC, instead of filling the pocket of some bigwig at CAT. If you look at the road it was quite a feat. They thought about drainage and everything. Unfortunately they could not compress the earth enough with the tools they had. We already started a few ruts, it would only take 1 heavy truck to completely destroy these roads again. These roads would not last a rainy season.

Here’s Barthélémy’s ferry:

We couldn’t believe our eyes when we finally saw the ferry.

It looked brand new!
It wasn’t..

A German (?) NGO had funded the restoration of the ferry recently. It had received a nice fresh coat of paint, but the money to rebuild the engines had gone missing.

****

Here’s some more local cultural practices excerpted from a 131-page document by a priest:

“Y”‘s brother went fishing in Missa and saw mischief like cutting of ears. They fry the ears in a pan eat them. They make the victims look at how their own ears are being fried and eaten. They are being accused of cooperation with the Congolese FAC army. The May May continue to eat humans. Y’s brother managed to escape to Bukama, this is where I met him.

They kill those four soldiers and eat them. They then carry one of the heads of the murdered soldiers to Kintobongo and put the head on the table in our mission. They do this as warning not to attack hem, if not this is what happens.

..The hunters (May-May) asked food at the woman of Chef Kitumba. The women told they did not have food. The hunters then demanded that they roast their children for them to eat.

The commander Bati dared to display a naked woman. With a pen he pointed at every part of the “intimate organs” and told the onlookers the names in dialect. What a humiliation.

We are living in a situation of pure and simple cannibalism. The may-may plunder, rape and kill the civilian population. They then eath their meat, raw or smoked. This is true for the May-MAy chief Kabale, who was killed recently (15/05/2006) by the population of Kayumba.

Do we really want to bring these kinds of cultural practices here?

****

Of course, it’s not all bad:

We stopped in the first village. A car in the village.. with white people in it. Now that is an attraction ofcourse. And if they are covered in mud from head to toe it is even more interesting.

I do not have to explain we drew a bit of a crowd?

But people were actually quite nice. They offered us to use their shower (a tree with a mud wall before it and a bucket) and after an hour or so they actually left us alone.

Later that evening some kind of custom officer came to see us. He wanted to see our permits and whatnot. We kindly told him to bugger off and come back tomorrow. Surprisingly, it worked. Next day we were gone before he came back ;-)

As soon as it got dark we got into our tent and looked outside. We could see several fires in the village were people would gather around and sing and dance (mostly women). Small groups of men were having discussions. Peaceful village.

But small villages aren’t all good either:

The first village we encountered seemed deserted at first, but as soon as we entered the village we saw people coming at us from all sides. They had machetes and sticks and were shouting. “Des Blancs. Argent!” – “White people. Money!”. They were all over the place. This was not good! I floored it and sped out of the village. A rock hit the back of our car.

What in gods name was that all about?

Very few Congolese had made us feel welcome, but this was plain agression! It scared the hell out of us.

We passed another village, and once again a mob formed as soon as they heard us coming. Machetes flying round, racist slogans shanted. Once again we did not give them the chance to get near us and blasted out of the village. They tried following us. This was turning ugly, if we would get stuck here we would be in big trouble, these people did not want a chat!

****

Anyway, I’m about twenty pages into the thread and it goes on for almost 100 pages. I’m done reading and commenting on this (for now?), but I hope you found this illuminating, or perhaps endarkening?

Order and Freedom

Freedom comes from social trust, social trust comes from order.

Formal rules are only necessary when there is a lack of social trust. When people trust each other, there is no need for an impartial mediators such as law and bureaucracy, as social norms . When I lend money to a friend, I do not make him sign a contract, because I know he will pay me back. Evolutionist X outlines this more thoroughly.

Social trust is built through repeated positive interactions. If I’ve lent $10 to a friend before and he paid me back, I’d consider lending him $20 at later time. If he has a repeated history of paying me back and spotting me when I needed a loan, I may even lend him $1000 if he needed.

I would probably not loan $10 to someone I had never met. But, if I’ve loaned to many friends (and they’ve reciprocated) within a social circle over the years and was always paid back, and I met someone new within that social circle at dinner and they forgot their wallet, I’d likely be willing to spot him $20 for dinner. By being part of the social circle he has inherited that social trust.

Social trust is destroyed through negative interactions. If just once my friend stiffed me, I’d probably never loan to him again; it’s possible I may no longer remain his friend. I’d also be less willing to loan to other friends in the future. If I was stiffed a few times, I’d probably never loan again.

Social trust builds on itself. If I loan to a friend, he’s likely to loan to me in the future, and I in turn am then even more willing to loan to him in the future, and upwards rides the virtuous cycle. Likewise, social distrust spirals downwards. If my friends stiffs me, I refuse to loan to someone else, who in turn refuses to loan to me, which in turn makes me even less likely to loan to others, and downwards spirals the vicious circle.

Eventually, the virtuous cycle results in a social norm of lending and repaying. The vicious circle results in no social norm of lending and repaying arising. Rather, if someone ones to borrow money, legally enforced contract loans become necessary. The vicious cycle leads to law and regulation. It also leads to much higher transactions costs. In the virtuous cycle, a $1000 loan requires little more than politely asking a friend or two and providing an explanation. A $10 loan requires nothing more than a “can you spot me til payday?”  In the viscious circle, a $1000 loan requires lawyers, banks, contracts, insurance, and interest. A $10 loan is impossible because the extra costs would be worth more than the loan itself.

Those first few interactions are critical. If my first interactions are positive, the virtuous cycle will build itself and will naturally continue. Once I’m caught up in the virtuous cycle with strong social norms, even the occasional defector will be regarded as a bad apple rather than representative of the group. Only a critical mass of defections will destroy the cycle. On the other hand, if my first few interaction are negative, the vicious circle will start to decay. Once I’m trapped in the vicious circle, the positive interactions will be seen as the unrepresentative outliers. It is nigh impossible to rebuild a virtuous cycle as a critical mass of non-defectors will rarely build up as others defect on them.

Because of this, it is necessary to stop natural defectors from destroying those initial interactions. Order is what prevents defectors from defecting. If a potential defector knows he will be punished should he defect, he will not defect and will not start a viscous circle. In the loan example, if someone knows there is a social norm of shunning by the group for refusing to pay back a loan, they will likely not defect.

Because there is order in the group, we can freely loan. There is no need for laws or regulations regarding loans because we know the social norms will enforce repayment, and these social norms were originally built by the maintenance of order.

We can also see order builds upon itself. The social norm of punishing defectors, leads the the social trust virtuous cycle, which leads to the creation of the social norm of repayment.

If freedom is your goal, order will break down; if order is your goal, freedom will naturally result.

As we can see above, freedom is the natural result of order. Social norms lead to social trust which leads to further social norms which frees us from regulation and bureaucracy.

We can start this order with law as well. If the authority emplaces an authoritarian initial law that harshly punishes stiffing on a loan, people know defectors will be punished and will be willing to engage in those initial positive interactions, even with people they don’t know. The virtuous cycle builds upon this initial law.

In this situation a man’s handshake becomes his bond. When a man’s handshake is his bond, there is no need for contracts, there is no need for lawyers and no need for regulations on the minutiae of contract law. Social norms enforce the spirit of the agreement and there is freedom in loan-giving.

On the other hand, if that initial law against stiffing on a loan is not put into place, people can not trust that defectors outside their close social circles will be punished. So defectors defect. With no social norms people turn to written, enforceable contracts. As they write contracts, they will realize the letter of the agreement is enforced, the spirit is not. This leads to the necessity of lawyers to ensure the letter is correct and the need for detailed regulations to define every aspect of lending contract. With no social norm enforcing the spirit of the law, people will learn to manipulate the letter. In order to prevent the injustices of those manipulating the letter of the law, further regulations will be introduced to prevent manipulation. This will result in a bureaucracy to create these regulations, which will itself be manipulated, and so on down the vicious cycle, as more regulations are placed upon more regulations. Order and freedom break down, replaced by the letter of the law and regulation.

Order is freedom, chaos is tyranny.

As above, we see that order leads to freedom. In a ordered community, strong social norms make intrusive, detailed regulation or bureaucracy unnecessary. The social norms uphold themselves while allowing freedom.

On the other hand, where there is no order, where there is chaos, laws and regulations become necessary. If you can’t trust your neighbour not to defect, not  to violate the spirit of any agreements, you need laws and regulations to enforce agreements make up for the lack of social trust.

Increased regulation is a sign that your community is becoming more chaotic and more disordered. Increased tyranny is a result of disorder.

As well, tyranny creates chaos. As shown, as regulations increase the letter of the law and of the agreement becomes more important than the spirit. When the letter become more important, people stop simply not defecting. Instead, people try to defect as much as possible on the spirit while still holding to the letter. Trust breaks down, and chaos reigns.

Increased regulation leads to more chaos, which leads to more regulation. Tyranny is not order, tyranny is chaos and chaos is tyranny.

Order is freedom.

If you desire freedom, order should be your primary goal.

The Wages of Aspiration

Trawling the advice columnists again, I found this gem, which I’ll quote in full:

Dear Amy: My sister lives across the country. She has been married for 33 years. They’ve raised two daughters who are now adults, but she’s been living the most boring life ever!

I don’t know how she could be happy doing nothing but cooking and cleaning for all these years. And then she has the nerve to criticize me for not having enough time in my day, when she has no clue what it’s like to work full time.

Well, OK, she did work full time once — years ago before her daughters were born. She also had a little job when her kids were in school, but it wasn’t a “real job,” just a little part-time lunch-lady position.

I can’t understand why she doesn’t want to work more and help her poor husband with their finances. Then they could travel and see the world! They hardly ever go anywhere. I want so much more for her!

She has never had to live through things like illness, job loss or divorce, as I have. She has been supportive sometimes, but not all the time. I guess I’m a bit jealous because she has so much free time.

I’ve asked her to write me a list of what she does all day. I’ve sent her lists of what I manage to accomplish in the three hours I have in my home, but she has declined to provide her list.

It’s so sad that she has never had any aspirations!

It makes me so sad to feel like she’s wasted her life; she’s only in her 50s! I told her all this in an e-mail, but now she’s mad at me for just being honest. She expects an apology, but I’m hurt now, too. How do we get past this? Do you have any advice on getting her to see my view? — Frustrated Sister in PA

Amy rightfully smacks her down.

The ressentiment here is hidden worse than a toddler’s lies. This women is alone, hurting, and busy-working herself to death, and you can tell she hates it, however much she protests otherwise. She has so little going on in her life, she spends the”three hours I have in my home” on hectoring her contented sister who lives on the other side of the country. She’s looking for validation for her misery, but her sister refuses to provide it by buying into her lies, so instead she tries to destroy her sister’s life because she wants “so much more for her!”

She has refused to tend her own garden, she has leaned in, and now she seethes with resentment towards her sister who is “wasting her life” on creating a loving family. Instead of a family, she chose divorce and a job, and you can feel the pain and betrayal she experienced with her job loss. You can also feel it from her mention of illness; I do not think many people were there to care for her.

Notice how in her miserable ressentiment, she frames her choices as compared to her sisters. “Aspirations!” “So much more!” “Boring”

Having a quiet, happy family life is not an aspiration, but working for a job which would abandon you any time the profit margins were right is? Working your ass off, so you only have 3 hours of free time a day, so that you can go on a vacation once a year is more? Having a contented home life is less? Having a happy family is boring, but working in a cubicle for 13 hours a day is not?

What kind of mutilated soul thinks that way?

This women is in her 50’s, or thereabouts. Retirement looms in a decade. What will her life be when she doesn’t even have her job to distract her from her loneliness? How much of this rage towards her sister is because she knows that horror awaits her soon and she needs to justify the dear she feels to herself?

Dear young lady who may read this, reread that letter and decide carefully which of these sisters you want to be.

Male Physical Intimacy

In their continuing efforts to destroy itself, Cracked has an article up on being in the closet while in other countries. It’s a low effort post consisting of 5 “facts” that are mostly blindingly obvious (Some geographic spaces have people more accepting of homosexuality than people from other geographic spaces! Surprising!) and a complete absence of humour. But there was one thing in it I wanted to comment on (aside from it being just another note on Cracked’s continued decline).

In Botswana, it’s customary for men to hold hands while chatting and walking. (No, the irony of such a homophobic country being filled with men skipping down the street holding hands was not lost on me.)

This is not irony. It is in fact the definitional opposite of irony, it is exactly what you’d expect.

These men are friends, engaging in male bonding. Touch is and always has been and important part of bonding and there is absolutely nothing implicitly homoerotic about men engaging in physical male bonding. In past, intimate physical contact between men was normal, and in other parts of the world that have not been homoeroticized it still is.

Take a look at this picture (one of a hundred similar ones from Art of Manliness):

Are these guys gay? Probably not. Yet it probably looks gay to you. In a healthy culture, intimate physical contact between men is normal and healthy. There would be nothing untoward or sexual about this, it’s just some friends hanging out. In our homoeroticized culture, this  kind of intimate contact between males is gay. We can see this difference from the Cracked article:

I didn’t even have to hide my boyfriend, whom I met at the gay underground party. He came to visit me for a weekend in my tiny village, and no one seemed to notice or suspect anything unusual about two dudes quietly holing up in a house together and sweating a lot. They must be great friends who love to work out!

As was pointed out in the Way of Men, men want to be recognized as masculine, as men within their gang who have attained the masculine virtues. Gays are effeminate, not masculine, and exist outside the gang. Normal men don’t want to be seen as effeminate or gay as this represents a failure to attain manhood and puts one outside of the gang.

In a “homophobic” society were homosexuality is proscribed, men can be physically and emotionally intimate with each other without being gay, because this intimacy is simply a normal, close friendship. So King David can say of his best friend:

“Jonathan lies slain on your high places.
I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
very pleasant have you been to me;
your love to me was extraordinary,
surpassing the love of women.

And it’s not gay, because it isn’t gay. A man can have and signal intimacy with other men without it signalling gayness, because homosexuality doesn’t exist outside the occasional condemnation in a religious sermon. Male intimacy is normalized.

But, in a society where homosexuality is normalized as an accepted alternative lifestyle, and homosexuals publicly display their sexual proclivities through displays of intimacy, you can no longer safely display intimacy. If you do, there is a significant chance that other men around you will think you are signalling gayness, you will lose your masculinity. Through this, homoeroticism colonizes male intimacy. When homosexuality becomes normalized, male intimacy becomes denormalized.

In a gay society, you can not be homosocially intimate without being gay.

There are some modern attempts to bring non-sexual male intimacy back into normalcy. Both bromance and no homo try to explicitly counter-signal hetorosexuality and masculinity while engaging in male intimacy. But even then, our society is so gay that bromance is seen as “an increasing openness of society in the twenty-first century to reconsider gender, sexuality, and exclusivity constraints” rather than an attempt by young men to close the gaping spiritual and emotional wound that the lack of intimate male friendship has left in their hearts. These attempts have mostly failed.

In a non-gay society, you could slap your friend on the ass after the game, and walk to the showers with your arms around him. In our gay society, this sounds gay to you (and to me) because male intimacy has been colonized by homosexuality. This is one vague, virtually invisible, unquantifiable harm the homosexual movement has done to the majority.

The Bible on Refugees

Recently, the migrant crisis has caused a lot of Christians to display their holiness by calling other people to let migrants in to rape their daughters. Generally, as with this example, these are rather vague allusions to the exodus or Christian charity. I’ve written about Christian ethno-nationalism before, but what does the Bible actually say about allowing hundreds of thousands of invading immigrants into your country?

First, in Levitical law it is repeated often and is very clear that the sojourner is to be fairly treated; he is not to be oppressed, he is to receive fair justice, and he is to given charity and love.

You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
(Exodus 23:9 ESV)

For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the LORD. One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you.”
(Numbers 15:15-16 ESV)

And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.
(Leviticus 23:22 ESV)

He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
(Deuteronomy 10:18-19 ESV)

On the other hand, the sojourner is to be forced to assimilate. There are repeated commandments that the sojourner must follow the laws and customs of his hosts.

Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death. Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death. Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life. If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him. Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death. You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the LORD your God.
(Leviticus 24:16-22 ESV)

For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread.
(Exodus 12:19-20 ESV)

but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.
(Exodus 20:10 ESV)

This assimilation is not absolute though. He is not to be forced to engage in religious sacrifice/ritual, although he is free to join.

Thus it shall be done for each bull or ram, or for each lamb or young goat. As many as you offer, so shall you do with each one, as many as there are. Every native Israelite shall do these things in this way, in offering a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. And if a stranger is sojourning with you, or anyone is living permanently among you, and he wishes to offer a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the LORD, he shall do as you do. (Numbers 15:11-14 ESV)

The foreigner is different from the citizen, though. The sojourner could not own land.

And Moses commanded the people of Israel according to the word of the LORD, saying, “The tribe of the people of Joseph is right. This is what the LORD commands concerning the daughters of Zelophehad: ‘Let them marry whom they think best, only they shall marry within the clan of the tribe of their father. The inheritance of the people of Israel shall not be transferred from one tribe to another, for every one of the people of Israel shall hold on to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. And every daughter who possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the people of Israel shall be wife to one of the clan of the tribe of her father, so that every one of the people of Israel may possess the inheritance of his fathers. So no inheritance shall be transferred from one tribe to another, for each of the tribes of the people of Israel shall hold on to its own inheritance.’”
(Numbers 36:5-9 ESV)

Here’s an interesting passage though:

And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. No foreigner or hired worker may eat of it. It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.”
(Exodus 12:43-49 ESV)

This suggest a difference between foreigners and sojourners. I’m not a Hebrew scholar, but this Hebrew scholar deals with that verse and states that the sojourner is someone who who is essentially a naturalized citizen. I looked up the words Brian Webster mentioned. Ger (often sojourner) is the one to whom all these protections apply. On the other hand, nekar (often foreigner) is used almost entirely negatively. The protections above are only for the ger and are not given to the nekar.

Foreigners (nekar) are to be barred from Israel’s religious practices and there is a constant stream of warnings to Israel against adopting the religious and cultural practices of foreigners:

“Thus says the Lord GOD: No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, of all the foreigners who are among the people of Israel, shall enter my sanctuary.
(Ezekiel 44:9 ESV)

And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the LORD only.
(1 Samuel 7:3-4 ESV)

There are warnings against intermarriage with foreigners:

In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people. And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take an oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin. Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?”

And one of the sons of Jehoiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was the son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite. Therefore I chased him from me. Remember them, O my God, because they have desecrated the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites.

Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work; and I provided for the wood offering at appointed times, and for the firstfruits.
(Nehemiah 13:23-31 ESV)

As well, God explicitly discriminates between different foreigners.

“No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever, because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. But the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam; instead the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loved you. You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever.

“You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a sojourner in his land. Children born to them in the third generation may enter the assembly of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 23:3-8 ESV)

Aliens with whom have dealt kindly with Israel should be treated well, but Israel was actively commanded not to pursue the prosperity or peace of aliens that dealt poorly with them.

He also repeatedlt orders the extermination of foreigners and refers to those not exterminated as barb and thorns:

And the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places. And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it. You shall inherit the land by lot according to your clans. To a large tribe you shall give a large inheritance, and to a small tribe you shall give a small inheritance. Wherever the lot falls for anyone, that shall be his. According to the tribes of your fathers you shall inherit. But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. And I will do to you as I thought to do to them.”
(Numbers 33:51-56 ESV)

Although, these were specific to genocidal conquests, not to immigrants, the thorns and barbs remarks would likely still apply to hostile migrants.

Also interesting is that among the mountain of curses listed for violating the covenant is this:

The sojourner who is among you shall rise higher and higher above you, and you shall come down lower and lower. He shall lend to you, and you shall not lend to him. He shall be the head, and you shall be the tail.
(Deuteronomy 28:43-44 ESV)

****

I might be mistaken, but as far as I recall, there are no specific commandments to the treatment of foreigners or immigrants, beyond the basic love your neighbours and help those in need commands which apply to everyone.

****

So, from all this, what’s the biblical Christian position on refugees:

Migrants you allow into your country as naturalized citizens and permanent residents are to be treated justly and charitably, but treating them justly also means applying the law against them (ie. the death penalty) when they commit crimes. All foreigners are to be assimilated into the dominant cultural and legal practices, although they can be exempted from strictly religious practices. They are not allowed to spread their religious practices to citizens. Although you can do so, there is no command to allow migrants into your country but there is a command to keep those migrants that would be harmful to your religion and traditions away from the assembly. You are to treat foreigners of friendly nations well in your country and can let them in, but you have no obligation to foreigners of hostile nations and should not let them in. Being ruled by naturalized foreigners is a curse and having hostile minorities is a thorn and a barb.

****

So, here is the biblical positions as applied to the current migrant crisis:

The foreigners migrating are generally from countries hostile to us, so we have no obligation to them, but, while we are inviting them to stay here, we should be treating them justly. Should they commit crimes (such as Rotherham) against our people and we should execute them. The current migrants have generally been thorns and barbs in our nations’ sides, so extermination is not out of the question. They are bringing foreign gods to our nations and should not be allowed to do so. Any we decide to keep should be forced to assimilate.

So, in sum, the biblical position is to feed the migrant horde, then send them back home, except for those who have committed crimes who should be executed. We should consider taking in Christian refugees and maybe Kurds and other allies who are friendly to us, but are not obligated to. Those foreigners who we’ve already allowed in should be treated justly, which includes expelling those groups who are committing crimes against our people and leading them to worship foreign gods.

****

Now, having said all this, it is debatable whether these laws cited are to apply only to the specific state of Israel or are more broad guidelines for all nations. I’m not sure myself, and probably, not being a theonomist, lean towards the former, but whatever the case, it is clear that the ‘let them all in’ doctrine is definitely not commanded by any honest reading of scripture and is in fact contradicted by many passages. In fact, scriptural remedies for the migrant crisis might be quite the opposite of what many Christians are now preaching.

Tending Your Garden

Not everyone can be above average, half of all people will be below average (more or less), and very few are special in any practically meaningful sense. These are truths that are self-evident, yet, inpractice, they are often forgotten.

Athelron has remarked (recently, when I began writing this post) on the save the world mentality he finds among his Silicon valley friends. The manosphere is full of people decrying “average” men and calling for men to become their own particular idea of a superman. Since Don’t Waste Your Life became a big hit, evangelicals have adopted the ‘don’t waste your life’ ethos. Throughout life, everybody seems to want to get involved in the big causes: poverty in Africa, violence in the Middle East, national politics, etcetera, etcetera.

Now none of this is necessarily bad in moderation: you should try to do good for the world around you, you should work to be a better version of yourself, and Christians should work to advance God’s kingdom, but it’s gotten to where the normal life is actively impugned. The family man is painted as a sucker wasting his life in a dreary cubicle, while the mother is painted for wasting her life on her children (rather than, ironically enough, spending it in the cubicle). Everybody has to be the best, to achieve more than their neighbour.

Yet this should not be. While yes, some people have to work on big things, on saving the world, on foreign missions, on becoming ubermensch, most people are not, and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact it is good that most people will not.

Throughout most of history, a man’s world would consist of his tribe or village, he would know about a Dunbar’s number’s worth of people throughout his life. A man could have a significant impact on this world. If you brought down a deer, everyone in your whole world would be fed for a day or two. If you were a blacksmith, you were probably the only one, the best one, in your village. It was easy to save the world when your world was a couple dozen people, it was easy to be (one of) the best at something when only a few other people in your entire world did what you did.


But, as the comic above illustrated, it’s not so easy. Saving a million, a billion, people is a lot harder than saving 50, it’s almost impossible. Being the best in a field is rare when there your field consists of tens or hundreds of thousands, rather than a handful. Yet we still try, we’ve even made an ideology of it, to our own ruin.

Look at the consequences of when everybody tries to do big things: Young people waste years and huge dollars in college to “pursue their passions”, men turn from family and productive work out of frustration of ‘not accomplishing anything’ or in hopes of pursuing ‘greater things’, men think of themselves as losers for doing honest work and raising a family, women turn against family formation to pursue “accomplishment” and become miserable and childless working to achieve that coveted high-impact job, people get parasitical jobs in the ‘non-profit’ sector, billions are wasted on ineffective foreign aid, wasteful status competitions ensue over who is the best or the most impactful, short-term missions waste valuable resources, ineffective Twitter campaigns provide an illusion of dogoodery, etc.

This is the wife of the “leader of the free world” who controls the strongest empire in history and a million-man military. If the most she can do is a selfie, how will you save “our girls”?

The simple fact is, outside of a handful of exceptional individuals, most people will not be able to have any real impact on the world as a whole, but that is fine. You don’t need to.

The Parable of the Talents

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

(Matthew 25:14-30 ESV)

Not everyone has been given ten talents, most people probably haven’t even been given five. Most people have one or two. But you don’t need have ten, you simply have to use what you have to do what you can. The demand is not even for doubling, but just to collect interest. You don’t have to be the best, you don’t have to save the world, you just have to invest what you have to do what you can.

Looking back at the above, what if, instead of trying to save the world through the useless #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign, each tweeter had instead donated $10 to their local homeless shelter? what if, instead of wasting tens of thousands so a youth group can feel good about themselves, the money was given to an actual missionary or directly to local Christian missions? What if instead of pursuing their passions, their greatness, their high status job, their large house, etc. men and women were content to raise work a modest job, raise a family, and engage with their community? What if instead of protests for foreign aid, people spent that time volunteering in their local community?

Wouldn’t that be better? Wouldn’t that actually be far more useful? Wouldn’t people be happier?

The problem is, too many people try to think globally and act globally, too many people spend too much time on issues which they can’t effect, while they ignore the people and issues near them which they can effect. Remember who your neighbour is:

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
(Luke 10:29-37 ESV)

While usually this is interpreted to mean: your neighbour is the person who needs help whoever it is, there’s also the other way to interpret it: the neighbour is the person who’s there needing help. The Good Samaritan did not travel to Sudan for missions, he did not start a charity to help robbed, he didn’t run a political campaign to make safer streets, he did not send $100 to Tibet to help the mugged, all he did was stumble across the guy at the side of the road and help him out. Even Jesus does not demand more from everybody. Some have special callings, most don’t, your calling is probably just to help the guy at the side of the road. All that is demanded of you is to help those around you.

Finally, great men are not solitary. Alexander the Great was only great because of the support of thousands of men. Genghis Khan conquered Asia with the help of a nameless horde. Jesus’ words spread because of 72 unnamed disciples. Every missionary requires monetary support, every general requires troops, every titan of industry requires workers. Great men are great because they’re leading and supported by many more average men. In our modern hyper-competitive society, a lot of people shit on those average men, but they’re the ones who get shit done. Being that average man supporting the great men is valuable in its own right.

You don’t have to be special, it’s impossible for everyone to be. You don’t have to save the world, you can’t. Some people are called to do great things, most aren’t. You can do average things and still have a meaningful, impactful life. You don’t have to save the world, be the best, or become a super alpha male, instead, focus on something meaningful you can do and do what you can where you are.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
(Matthew 25:34-40 ESV)