Archive for October 2016

A History of Contrariness   Leave a comment

And this will be the last one on this subject for today.

aurorawatcherak

In examining my anabaptist roots, I am struck by how often these advocates for non-violence and separation of church and state used civil disobedience as their means to protect themselves from the encroachment of the government into their faith.

For the purpose of this article, “civil disobedience” is defined as:

Purposeful, nonviolent action, or refusal to act, by a Christian who believes such action or inaction is required of him or her in order to be faithful to God, and which s/he knows will be treated by the governing authorities as a violation of law.

This article further assumes a Christian stance which rejects violence as a means to any end.

Three Scripture passages are generally cited for the proposition that Christians are to obey the government:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to the…

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Posted October 31, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

A Cloud of Devils   Leave a comment

And another.

aurorawatcherak

Since the 4th century AD, when the Roman emperor Theodosius adopted Christianity as the “official” state religion of the empire, Christians have been told to interpret Romans 13 as a justification for statism. The problem with that interpretation is that it contradicts large portions of the Jewish and Christian Testaments and our known history as a people of faith.

Examples of Biblical believers resisting “the state” abound.

  • The midwives of Goshon resisted the authorities by not reporting the birth of children to Hebrew slaves in Egypt. Moses’ parents resisted the rules of Egypt by refusing to kill their baby. His mother resisted the rule of Pharoah when she put him in the basket in the Nile. Read in a secular light, you could say the Jewish religion would never have come into being if not for several acts of civil disobedience.
  • Later, Shadrach, Meshach and Obendigo were thrown into…

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Posted October 31, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Spiritual Discernment or Disobedience?   Leave a comment

Another in the series. I should have labeled these in order, but I didn’t, so sorry if they seem to skip around.

aurorawatcherak

When is it spiritual permissible for a Christian to disobey the law?

Let’s start with an understanding that the United States of America is different from ancient Israel. God established ancient Israel. He guided them through direct connection with their leaders — called judges. Ancient Israel was a theocracy. Even the king (given as a concession that God warned they would regret) was answerable to God.

We don’t live in the same situation. The United States was set up as a secular nation self-governed by the people, many of whom were Christians. They were expected to vote their consciences and thus there is ample evidence that the Christians were well-represented in the early years of the country. Individual Americans who are Christians are answerable to God. If we are working for the government or an elected official, we remain answerable to God and then to our employer. When our employer…

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Posted October 31, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Judging the Line   Leave a comment

Another one in that series and worthy of contemplation as we near an election that many of us see backed by ominous storm clouds.

aurorawatcherak

Christians are commanded by God through His scripture to be under authority. Our first allegiance is to His authority, but He also sets pastors and governments over us. Sometimes, however, those other people are wrong in their governance, using their authority for evil rather than for what God commands. When that happens, Christians are called to obey God rather than man and that can result in civil disobedience.

So where do we draw the line?

Christians should certainly stand with Peter and Andrew in insisting that our gospel preaching is inviolate. Today, there are Christians who violate the law of their countries just by believing what they believe, but more so when they talk about what they believe. Muslims who convert to Christianity face a death sentence in at least a half-dozen countries. In other countries, you can be a Christian so long as you keep it silent, but there…

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Posted October 31, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

God Uses Government Overreach to Spread the Gospel   Leave a comment

This appears appropriate, considering the state our government is in now. Christians may be coming to a point of having to choose between obeying God and defying the government or submitting to governmental authorities and defying God.

aurorawatcherak

The New Testament, particularly Acts, makes it clear that that Jesus’ followers did not blindly obey the governments under which they found themselves. Faithfulness to God was primary for them. History records that the 16th-century anabaptists were faithful to God first and the state second. Jesus knew that His followers would be in tension with the authorities. He instructed them (and us):

You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit (Mark 13:9b-11 NIV).

These are hardly the instructions of a leader expecting His followers to

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Posted October 31, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

It Was All About the King   Leave a comment

In the mercantilist conception of the nation-state and society in general, it was taken for granted that the king’s government had both the right and responsibility to control and direct the economic activities of the sovereign’s subjects. The lands and the people in these countries were viewed as the property of the king to use and dispose of in any manner that he considered most beneficial to his interests.

If the monarch took any interest in the most immediate well-being of his subjects, it was only as a necessary means to the end of his own betterment.

Antoine de Montchrestien (1575-1621) expressed this understanding in a book addressed to the king and queen of France in which he warned of the danger of permitting foreign sellers to compete in the French market:

First of all, I point out to your Majesties that all the implements, the manufacturing of which you are in charge, both in and out of the kingdom, not only in cities but in entire provinces, can be made abundantly and at a very good price in your Lordship’s country.

And further, that allowing in and receiving foreign-made goods here means to take away the life of the several thousands of your subjects to whom this industry is an inheritance and the source of their income; it means reducing your own wealth which derives from and increases through the wealth of the people.” Antoine de Montchrestien (1575-1621), A Treatise on Political Economy (1615)

Image result for image of divine right of kingsMontchrestien offered a conclusion to the monarchs: “Let us, therefore, relish in the fruits of our own labor, that is to say, let us rely on ourselves.”

The mercantilist theorists of the day saw trade with other countries as a cause of national disaster that would cause job losses and falling incomes. International trade was seen to undermine the commercial traditions of the people and believed to reduce , and it reduced the income and wealth of the government by lowering tax revenues.

Mercantilists acknowledged some benefits of trade, but only if the value of the goods imported from other countries was minimized and the value of goods exported to other countries was maximized. Of course the mercantilists argued for the government to control and direct foreign trade to assure a “positive” balance of trade. (This sounds so much like Trump’s economic policies, by the way).

Thomas Mun (1571-1641) articulated this idea in his posthumously published work,England’s Treasure by Foreign Trade (1628):

“Although a Kingdom may be enriched by gifts received or by purchase taken from some other Nations, yet these are things uncertain and of small consideration when they happen. The ordinary means therefore to increase our wealth and treasure is by foreign trade, wherein we must ever observe the rule; to sell more to strangers yearly than we consume of theirs in value.

“For suppose that when this Kingdom is plentifully served with Cloth, Lead, Tin, Iron, Fish and other native commodities, we do yearly export the [surplus] to foreign countries to the value of twenty two hundred thousand pounds; by which means we are enabled beyond the Seas to buy and bring in foreign wares for our use and consumptions, to the value of twenty hundred thousand pounds;

“By this order duly kept in our trading, we must rest assured that the Kingdom shall be enriched yearly two hundred thousand pounds, which must be brought back to us in so much Treasure; because that part of our stock which is not returned to use in wares must necessarily be brought home in treasure.” Thomas Mun (1571-1641), England’s Treasure by Foreign Trade (1628)

The mercantilists saw money, in the form of gold and silver, as the greatest and most valuable form of “treasure” (wealth). With a large “war chest” of gold and silver, the monarch would be able to acquire, at home and abroad, all the real goods and services that might ever be needed to win in the conflicts and combats among the nations of the world that the mercantilists considered inevitable and inescapable if a country was going to survive on the international political stage.

“A King who desires to lay up much money must endeavor by all good means to maintain and increase his foreign trade, because it is the sole way not only to lead him to his own ends, but also to enrich his Subjects to his farther benefit …

“The Gain of their foreign trade must be the rule of laying up their treasure, which although it should not be much yearly, yet in the time of a long continued peace, and being well manage to advantage, it will become a great sum of money, able to make a long defense, which may end or divert a war.” Mun

Mercantilist societies sought to be as self-sufficient as possible. If imports were needed, they wanted to limit them to raw materials that could be worked up into manufactured goods at home. It was believed this would stimulate domestic employment, meet certain national economic needs, and have a greater value for re-export so to acquire a net inflow of gold and silver to add to the King’s “treasure.”

My fantasy series does not completely align itself to medieval European history and economic systems. My Celts have been gone from Europe for a thousand years and so have developed some other systems. Mercantilism is not found in Celdrya, the primary society in the series. However, neighboring nations may practice a form of it.

 

Posted October 31, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in History

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Samhain   11 comments

Halloween has always been a sort of ho-hum holiday for me. I grew up in Alaska, where winter arrives in mid-October, so by October 31st, it’s usually cold, there’s snow on the ground and it’s dark by the time school let’s out. You can’t really do a costume because you have got to wear a coat, boots, a hat, and gloves. I guess you could go as a hockey player.

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Image result for image of halloweenAnother reason that I’m a bit ambivalent about the holiday is that I’m not a huge candy eater. I’m not generally a picky eater, except when it comes to sweet things. I like chocolate without nuts or anything else and pretty much everything else is disgusting to me. So I often ended up with a bag full of stuff I wouldn’t eat. The year I turned 8, a bunch of local kids were hospitalized when some college students at an apartment complex dosed the candy with some chemical that induced violent vomiting. After that, my parents would only allow me to trick-or-treat at homes with people we knew. The year I turned 10, I chose to not trick-or-treat and pretty much never did again.

When my kids were little, a local church would do a fun holiday festival that allowed them to dress up, do activities indoors and get some candy out of the deal. Our daughter trick-or-treated with friends in high school. Our son has accompanied younger kids as a body guard. But mostly, it is still too cold by October 31 to enjoy going door to door in a costume.

Image result for image of samhainSo, that’s all I have to say about Halloween, but that holiday is a modern recreation of an ancient Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. In ancient times, it was the start of the new year, celebrated from sunset on October 31 to sunset on November 1, about halfway between the autumnal equinox (September 21) and the winter solstice (December 21). It was one of the four Celtic seasonal festivals, along with Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh. Back then, it was called Samhain (pronouced Sow-in).

Of course it was a pagan festival that is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature. It was a time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and livestock was slaughtered for the winter. Special bonfires were lit that were meant to have protective and cleaning powers. The rituals involved were meant to protect the living from the dead as Samhain was considered a liminal time when the boundary between our world and the Otherwould could easily crossed. People sought to propitiate the fairies (or the dead) to ensure that people and livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink were left outside for them. Costumes were worn door to door, perhaps as a way of imitating the fairies.

Image result for image of samhain

In the 9th century AD, Western Christianity shifted the date of All Saints Day to November 1. All Souls’ Day was held on November 2. Eventually, the two holidays became a single modern celebration of Halloween.

Daermad Cycle (The Willow Branch and Mirklin Wood) is a Celtic-influenced fantasy series, so I borrow heavily from Samhain traditions for scenes in the third book. I have the village where Padraig is staying gather for observance. They build a bonfire, there is discussion of the fall slaughter, the sheep being brought to the winter pastures, the local priest performs a ritual. People are meant to extinguish their fires before they go to the observance and then kindle them anew from the Samhain bonfire in the village. I use these details to create tension between my Believer main character and the society in which he is residing.

Image result for image of samhainBecause the boundary between the world and the Otherworld is considered thin at Samhain, I make use of it for my own purposes. You’ll have to read the book (Fount of Dreams) to find out what I did with it.

Several years ago, Brad and I lived next door to some neopagans (they might also have been Wiccans. They were kind of hostile to Christians, so we never asked them). One Halloween night, when we were coming home from the fall festival with our children, the neighbors had built a bonfire in their front yard. They were walking around it muttering invocations of some sort and tossing what we assumed to be salt over their shoulders. That was actually what caused me to research Samhain in the first place. It fit perfectly into Daermad Cycle, so I included it in my research.
Of course, modern Halloween includes traditions from many cultures. Check out what my fellow authors found in their research.
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