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Volume 7, Issue 6: Anvil

The Nose Under Joe Camel's Tent

Douglas Wilson

Part of the liberty found in the law of God is through due consideration of the alternative. When a Christian discovers that he is to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, he discovers as a liberating corollary that he does not have to live according to the whims, fancies, and traditions of men.

This is Christian liberty. We must never suffer our consciences to be bound by anything other than the love of Christ. This stand is not to be taken in the name of Christ, neglecting His Word, but rather in submission to His authority to speak to us in His Word as our Lord and Master.
Finding a Christian who would disagree with the general sentiments above would be difficult. Finding Christians who agree with them in application is equally difficult. Take, for just one ripe and juicy example, the refusal of our national Christian leaders to stand up for that reprobate Joe Camel.
Certain self-elected members of our national conscience have been in a dither because ol' Joe's sophistication (!) has been leading little ones astray. It appears that the nation's tykes are more able to recognize Joe's homely visage than other more edifying visions dear to the hearts of the Officious. Consequently, the move is on to ban all tobacco advertisements.
We are headed toward another national prohibitionist frenzy, with humanist wowsers leading the charge, and evangelical social conservatives galumphing along for a merry ride.
But if we grant the point, and acquiesce in this kind of tyranny, then there is absolutely no reason why we should then get our hackles up if 250 ATF agents descend upon our homes in flak jackets to make us take our vitamins. But if they do that here, we can give assurance that you will be reading about more Unpleasantness In Idaho next morning in the paper.
Of course a column such as this requires that we hedge ourselves about with the appropriate qualifications about how we do not smoke and drink, and how our concern in all this is the larger and more principled one. But until Christians learn to distinguish real sins from bogus sins, and then go on to grasp the important biblical distinction between sins and crimes, such a qualification is one which we must refuse to give.


Beating Wife-Beaters

By Douglas Jones

By the end of the sixteenth century, Reformation Geneva shone as "the woman's paradise." Among other helps, Geneva led Europe in a focused effort against wife-beating. Reformation good news had breathed new life into marriage and family bonds. Protestant towns in general dragged weaselly, wife-beating husbands before marriage and church courts. But Geneva led them all with its speedy justice. Just between 1564 and 1569, the Genevan church excommunicated sixty-one husbands for wife beating.

In more masculine eras like the Reformation, communities did not always linger for justice to be handed down by courts. Brothers and fathers lived closer to their sisters and daughters and could quickly get into the face of effeminate husbands who warred on weakness.
In our enlightened modernity, wings and wheels make it all too easy to separate families beyond ranges, hidden behind rows of anonymous city blocks. Brothers and fathers can't get there quickly enough, if they tried. Our police "families" have troubles helping too. And so, daughters fall to crushing blows, and the evening traffic muffles their screams. Sometimes. Other times, blind "neighbors" turn their ears away.
Yet Scripture still decries crushing the weak. Few sins have more wrath directed at them. Though overused and abused in some parts of the abortion debate, Proverbs 24 instructs us to "deliver those who are drawn toward death. . . . If you say, 'Surely we did not know this,' does not He who weighs the hearts consider it?" (Prov. 24:12). Such wisdom in a wife-beating scenario doesn't force a potential defender into usurping any existing laws, since current law gives place to the defense of adults.
A good, disciplining church could deal swiftly with professing Christian men who harm their brides. But what of that Christian sister married to the anti-Christian husband? Or even the non-Christian wife next door weeping under violence?
Police solutions are now often like awkward foreign interventions. When police are shackled, neighbors could have a much more effective, constant, and lawfully deputized response. After polite reasoning fails, one could start with, say, a neighborly threatening note. "Dear Mr. Effeminate, Wife-Beating, Scum, Sir. Twelve of the local men would like you to know that the next time we hear you beating your wife, we will bring our bats to bear upon your knees in an excessive manner. We are watching you. Love, Brother Bob's Bible Study." If he's O.J.'s size, bring bigger bats and bigger men or just leave "encouraging" notes in unnerving locations. The results will be suprising. Admittedly, this notion needs to be qualified in important ways, but it's a start.


Reconciling Baseball and Literature

By Douglas Jones

Now that baseball season is behind us once again, we can finally concentrate on trying to reconcile that ugly breach between baseball fans and literary types. How much longer must our cities be plagued with the unsightly results of Baseball-Literary violence?—bats and balls heaved through library windows; mounds of Dickens and Dostoevsky blocking homeplates. Who is not tired of hearing of bookmark-under-the-pitcher's-nails episodes? And bunting-Vergil tirades? It's just sick. Sure, these deep hostilities have festered for centuries, or at least one. We need reconciliation.

After all, both sides share the same fascination for the tense grip of storytelling. Literary types know that some of the best stories draw us into ascending, often subtle, tensions pressing against sympathetic characters. Once under a story's spell, we empathize with certain characters until their problem is resolved, and we can breathe again. Tension, relief; tension, relief; tension, victory. But good literature is not just good plot. You need engaging, somewhat odd, sympathetic characters as well. The masterpieces of literature do both of these and more without drawing attention to the act of storytelling itself.
But look, this literary structure lies at the heart of baseball. The best baseball involves odd, sympathetic characters, whether your own squirrelly, victimized children, or some twitching, moustached professional. These characters have rich histories of tragedy and triumph they bring with them to every at bat and catch. The enemy is clear—the evil, opposing team—but not always clear—your own fielding errors.
Unlike the scattered horizon of football and basketball, baseball tension predominately hangs on one clear conflict—pitcher and batter. It forces our attention to a painful, ascending silence that could lead to concerted wildness at any moment. Each inning builds upon the prior. Hope starts to flee. If the other side leads, matching seems unattainable. But if your team has the same lead, disaster is just a pitch away (but enough about the Mariners). The struggle builds and dies, all the way to the ninth, and then it goes into highest gear in extra-innings. Tension, relief; tension, relief; tension, victory!
The best baseball is exquisite storytelling. So true baseball fans (who can read) can find the structure of baseball in literature, and literary types can find plot, character, theme, and point-of-view in baseball. So baseball fans should start trading novels, and literary types should start slapping one another on the butt. And peace can reign in our cities once more.


Free Trade and All That

By Douglas Wilson

Christians like to talk about worldview Christianity when it comes to issues like education, abortion, gay rights, or the like. All of the Bible for all of life, we chortle and then an issue like free trade and trade deficits comes up.

What does the Bible say about NAFTA and GATT? And what does the Bible say about x-amount of Toyotas coming into our country as compared with y-amount of wheat going out? Hey?
In many ways the confusion exhibited by this sort of question is akin to someone wondering if the Bible really prohibits blowing someone up because the word dynamite is not in his concordance. But murder is murder whether by knife or gun. And theft is theft whether by hand, fountain pen, or computer.
And dishonesty is dishonesty whether the thief moves a boulder marking the boundary of an Israelite's farm, or if modern internationalist bureaucrats are pleased to call "tightly-regulated trade" by another name say, "free trade." But King Ahab would not have avoided Elijah's wrath if he had had the good sense to call his theft of Naboth's vineyard "land reform."
On many issues, the problems resolve if the basic biblical requirement of clear thinking is brought to bear, and the practice in question is held up against the principles set forth in God's law, and a simple comparison made.
First, the phrase free trade is a misnomer when applied to all our modern internationalist agreements. What those who support treaties such as NAFTA are after is a regulated international trade which is made to more closely resemble our regulated domestic trade. But we will not have free trade between Canada and the United States until we have it between Idaho and Montana. And we will not have it between ourselves until we learn what it is. Free trade is something conducted by free men and treaties are not required to bring it about. When a treaty attempts to manage free trade between nations of slaves, somebody is yelling up the wrong rain spout. Trade will never be free until men are free, and only Christ can free a man. Freedom is not the absence of government regulation; it is the presence of Christ.
This leads to the next question, which concerns whether trade between nations should be free without qualification. Christians too frequently simply accept the "free trade" position without realizing that trade, like everything else we do, is an expression either of oppression, abdication, or godly dominion. Neutrality exists nowhere. This means it matters what we are buying and selling, and it matters also with whom we are buying and selling it
It is quite true, as Adam Smith would have affirmed, that in every free exchange both parties believe themselves to have been benefitted. But what is frequently overlooked in this is the fact that one or more of the parties is commonly wrong in that belief.

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