Being Lovingly Kind by Letting the House Burn

Recently on Facebook my publisher, Fred Zimmerman, pointed me to this article, titled “Tennessee family home burns while firefighters watch

Vicky Bell told the NBC affiliate WPSD-TV that she called 911 when her mobile home in Obion County caught fire. Firefighters arrived on the scene but as the fire raged, they simply stood by and did nothing. “In an emergency, the first thing you think of, ‘Call 9-1-1,” homeowner Bell said. However, Bell and her husband were forced to walk into the burning home in an attempt to retrieve their own belongings. “You could look out my mom’s trailer and see the trucks sitting at a distance,” Bell said. “We just wished we could’ve gotten more out.”

South Fulton Mayor David Crocker defended the fire department, saying that if firefighters responded to non-subscribers, no one would have an incentive to pay the fee. Residents in the city of South Fulton receive the service automatically, but it is not extended to those living in the greater county-wide area.

The firefighters did the moral and ethical thing, which was to allow the home to burn.

The Bible repeatedly instructs us that the State is a tool of social order (this was a theme of my series, “Jesusism-Paulism,” and my monograph, Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity. Because it’s been a while since I talked about the concepts, some major themes of my work were

But anyway…

An unstated thought behind the entire series — one that is so obvious it is often missed — is that the State is a provider of security. This is the core competency of the State, and one that it does better than any other form of institution — indeed, when other service providers become effective in the security spaces, they in effect become micro-States unto themselves. (Indeed, the United States is explicitly designed to have multiple levels of security providers, one level of which are called “states” and the other is the “United States”!)

The State can achieve the scale necessary to provide security through its relationship with violence the State can MIHOP (make it happen on purpose) or LIHOP (let it happen on purpose). The State can throw individuals in prison, or simply direct local security officials to not intervene when violence befalls individuals. The State’s power to provide security is thus intertwined with the State’s power to tax: Without this understanding of what the State is for and what it does, Christ’s and Paul’s directives to embrace State power make no sense.

So, back the the story: a family chooses not to pay a State tax, and the State, in line with its policies, withdraws either MIHOPs or LIHOPs the family. This is as unremarkable as stating that a a man chooses to ignite a stove, and the ensuing flames warms his food. If the object (the State, the stove) did not have this function, why would we even have it?

Of course, whether MIHOP or LIHOP is a better method of collecting taxes is a policy question, that depends on the time, the place, and the culture. In more individualistic cultures, the Christian thing to do is probably co-opt the self-reliant streak in the culture and rely in LIHOP; in more collective cultures, MIHOP might be more appropriate.

In this case the State chose LIHOP. As the State in question is not only American but in an area where the Scotch-Irish frontier strain is predominant (Kentucky), LIHOP seems appropriate.

Good show!