Tag Archives: love

First Letter to the Corinthians

Reading Paul’s words about Jesus, I kept thinking of Joshua and Moses.

consecration of joshua

First Corinthians is a book written after the excitement. While Paul was fashioning a Christianity that could rebuild Roman civilization, and the exponential growth of Christianity would continue for centuries, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ were now in the past. The LORD, who had made men out of clay like a potter makes pots and ate steak and milk with Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 18) had ascended into heaven.

And now things were going wrong.

But this was not the first time. Both Joshua and Paul think back to the Exodus, when the glory of God was followed by immediate apostasy and decades in the wilderness

Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in its midst; and afterwards I brought you out. When I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, you came to the sea; and the Egyptians pursued your ancestors with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. When they cried out to the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and made the sea come upon them and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did to Egypt. Afterwards you lived in the wilderness a long time.
Joshua 24:5-7

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.
1 Corinthians 10:1-5

Joshua — who had seen the how mighty governments can fail when God and “human cohesion” are against them — resorted to sarcasm in addressing the nation of Moses

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:15

Worship Ba’al? Worship Enki? Whatever. Just have the decency to chose one pantheon.

St.-Pauls-Vision-by-George-Kordis.

Paul’s letter is equally sharp as Joshua’s speech.

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Quite apart from us you have become kings! Indeed, I wish that you had become kings, so that we might be kings with you!
1 Corinthians 4:8

Joshua and Paul are not just leaders, but teachers, concerned about day to day affairs, and at the end of their ropes. Both had been miraculously visited. Now both had handle these people.

joshua meets the commander of the lords armies

Both upbrade their followers.  Paul, with simple (and funny) exasperation

For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you!
1 Corinthians 11:20-22

Joshua, with stark divine threats, but the people’s response (worthy of a four year old) provokes its own laughter from the reader

But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.”

And the people said to Joshua, “No, we will serve the LORD!”
Joshua 24:19-21

The moral of Joshua’s farewell address, and Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians are the same: the criticism of idolatory. In ancient times Canaanites worshiped a god they knew didn’t create them, Ba’al, because he was powerful. Operand conditioning as theology. But this is hardly new, or old. Money is the answer to all things, although money did not create us. Weather Paul’s followers worshiped Zeus or money, or Joshua’s followers worshiped Ba’al or silver, there is no difference: the use of a tool and the love for a tool have profoundly different consequences

Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.
Joshua 24:14

Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
1 Corinthians 8:4-6

Fittingly, Joshua ends his talk and seals a covenant between God and Israel with a tree and a stone

joshua-renews-covenant

So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem. Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak in the sanctuary of the Lord. Joshua said to all the people, “See, this stone shall be a witness against us; for it has heard all the words of the Lord that he spoke to us; therefore it shall be a witness against you, if you deal falsely with your God.” So Joshua sent the people away to their inheritances.
Joshua 24:26-28

Paul also knew of a covenant, a tree, and a stone. And what happened next. The branch of Jesse’s tree.

EmptyTombRelief

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
Isaiah 11:1-2

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And of course the stone, the empty tomb

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
1 Corinthians 15:3-8

For as Joshua stated, obey all the commandments

Therefore be very steadfast to observe and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right nor to the left,
Joshua 23:6

But one thing is at the heart of all things:

Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Matthew 12:29-31

Or, as Paul put it:

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing….

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-2,13

emptycrosstomb

Credit where credit is due

I’ve criticized the goonish Group of 88, but at least one of the lynch-mob professors, Dr. Hardt, nonetheless is correct in his view of love as politically transformational. I got the video from Durham in Wonderland, a normally great blog, whose dismissal of Dr, Hardt for using jargon is off-base and unprofessional.


Love, not solidarity

To quote from Michael Hardt’s lecture on love:

“It seems to me that what love does, rather than solidarity, is that love extends beyond our standard conceptions of rationality. Beyond the rational calculus of interest… But I understand solidarity as essentially a calculation of interest in which we aid each other or unite with each other because of mutual interests.

I’ve written about love and the extending embrace as central to the Rise of Christianity.

Tom Barnett, the grand strategist, said it without the jargon:

Embrace.

Love.

Connect.

Embarrass yourself.

A final thought: How is it that someone who knows so much about love, as Mike Hardt seems to — nonetheless acts out of hate and fear in the persecution of innocent youths?

Simple: we are rational. Speaking well does not correlate with acting well. We do what we do, we say what we say, and these activities tend not to influence each other much.

Christian Love, Public Goods, and Open Source

“Public goods” is the economics idea of something that benefits everyone and can’t be denied to anyone. The schoolbook example of a public good is a lighthouse, by some scary rocks in the sea. When the lighthouse is working, every captain, and not just those who helped pay for the lighthouse, enjoy the benefits of seeing in the nights. All boats become safe, and not only those ships whose owners have paid.

Another example of a public good is national defense. Everyone, common citizens, soldiers, and criminals, enjoy the military’s protection from foreign armies. Sure, the government can come after you in other ways if you don’t pay your taxes, but there is no way for the government to allow the barbarian horde to enter your home without allowing it to enter our national borders, as well.

Interesting, the Bible describes hatred as destroying public goods. In Malachi when God famously loves Jacob but hates Esau, hatred is operationalized by destroying things that all of Esau’s people would have enjoyed…

And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.

Whereas Edom saith, “We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places”; thus saith the LORD of hosts, “They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever. “

Pretty heavy stuff.

Esau’s people lose the public good of collective security — they experience hate.

And so you don’t think this is just part of the Old Testament forgotten by the kinder, gentler Christians, Paul repeats the story in his Letter to the Romans. Yes, the same Paul who emphasized Love as the core of Christianity.

God’s providing us with a clue on the meaning of love and hate. Hatred means, among ohter things, destroying public goods. Love means, in part, building public goods. A loving, Christian government would thus build infrastructure, such as lighthouses. A loving, Christian government would thus bring security to the people with an army. But both lighthouses and armies fall short of a true love, because both involve taking things away from others in order to provide it to the public. Thus, true love by the community would involve generating public goods without the use of taxes — without police powers. “Forced love” is called rape.

A more loving public good are the open-source word processes and document formats. These are free, universally available, tools that allow professional word processing, spreadsheet calculation, and presentations. They have no marginal cost and no fixed cost. They are available to all people in all places, weather students or lawyers, Rwandans or Americans. OpenDocument is a public good. OpenSource OpenDocument is a public good. Encouragint the widespread adoption of the open source OpenDocument technology is as simple as using OpenDocument-compatible tools, such as free-as-in-speech OpenOffice and free-for-use Google Docs & Spreadsheets. Quiet evangelism, such as making your originals in ODT and sending those alongside Microsoft Word DOC files, helps.

But the government can help the people — all people — too. Recently, California became the fourth state to consider requiring that “all documents, including, but not limited to, text, spreadsheets, and presentations, produced by any state agency shall be created, exchanged, and preserved in an open extensible markup language-based, XML-based file format.” For little or no extra cost, California may liberate millions of Californians from the rentiers (ron-tyays) at Microsoft. Even better, the spread of this technology in California would have viral effects, ultimately making everyone’s information easier to make, easier to store, and easier to read.

The Beloved Warrior’s Theme (Lyrics for "All The Way Up to Heaven" by Guster)

All The Way Up to Heaven,” by Guster, Lost and Gone Forever, 28 September 1999, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B00001SIEW/002-8053330-8680837?v=glance (lyrics).

Why is monotheism positively correlated with violence?

Because when God loves you this much, you can do anything for Him.

He said to only look up
He said to never look down
Down is where he came from
He said to hope for the best and take a load off my chest
Soon I could be happy
And go all the way up to heaven
And go all the way back home
(whistles)
He thought I might need his help
No one gets high on themselves
I just seem so lonely
He’s just trying to be nice
And spread around his advice
I could be that happy
And go all the way up to heaven
And go all the way back home
Stay the way I am today and serve to more disaster
He could tell a fairy tale that’s happy ever after
Just relax and green of grass will grow here for a change
Maybe then we’ll last a million years or more..or more..or more
And go all the way up to heaven
And go all the way back home
Yes, I do believe what he says
I want to be happy
I could show you this hell
No one gets by on themselves
He can make me happy
(It’s a long silent peace)
And I will only love him
(It’s a weakness in your knees)
And I will never look down
Down is where we came from
(It’s a perfect place to go for everlasting love)
Because it’s all in the past
(Nothing to fear, nothing to hide)
He took a load off my chest
(You just say what’s on your mind)
(Needn’t think before you speak)
Ooh cause it’s not happy
(This is how it’s meant to be)
Cause I had needed his help
(Never high, never fall)
No matter how by myself
(You can do no wrong at all)
I am going nowhere
(In this heaven up above filled with everlasting love)
And now I’m changing my plans
Because we only live once
Ooh could be this happy
Once, I could live by his side

It might be the theme of Saint Paul and Heavan.
It might be the theme of Mohammad Atta and Paradise.

It’s the theme of any super-empowered monotheist faith-warrior.

No wonder the polytheist Romans were spooked.

No wonder the faithful can embrace struggle and pain.

Jesusism-Paulism, Part I: Love Your Enemy As You Would Have Him Love You

alpha_chi_ro_omega_md

The founders of Christianity knew how they would win

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Jesus (Luke 6:27-31)

The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Paul (Romans 13:9)

Generally, there are two means to use against an enemy — violence and politics — and two strategies — take-over and take-down. To put it in a 2×2 matrix

Many movements try to use several methods, so that the enemy has to protect himself on many fronts. For instance, American conservatives are trying to both neutralize the courts (by limiting the Judiciary’s powers of even allowing Congress to overturn Court rulings) and co-opt them (by making more conservative judges). Similarly, in Iraq the terrorists are trying to destroy the Iraq government (violently take it down) and conquer Iraqi lands (by moving forces into cities like Fallujah, creating mini Islamic Republics that keep existing infrastructure).

Christ and Paul ruled out the destruction, conquest, or neutralization of the Roman Empire.

No Destruction: The State’s military must be supported

If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles [centurians could lawfully force a subject to help carry their gear for one Roman mile — tdaxp]

Jesus (Matthew 5:41)

No Conquest: The State must not face rebellion

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

Paul (Romans 13:1-2)

No Neutralization: The State’s finances must be supported

Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

And they were amazed at him.

Jesus (Mark 12:13-17)

By ruling out destruction, conquest, or neutralization, The Apostle and The Christ forced the faithful to co-opt the Empire. And indeed by AD 313 the Roman Empire had submitted itself to the Christian Faith. But how did this work?

In 4th Generation War, sometimes called “netwar,” the object is not to destroy your enemy’s ability to resist — it is to destroy his will to resist. This is why some famous 4GW tactics — terrorism, exagerating civilian casualties, hit-and-run-attacks — are the tactics of the weak. Because a lot of enemy will can be destroyed by using little strength.

Jesus and Paul understood that the Roman Empire was a hyperpower. It was undefeatable in any meaningful sense. Even areas “liberated” of the Roman military (like Germania) quickly fell into the Roman economic and cultural orbit. Further, as Jesus lived a day’s walk from a town that had been butchered in a reprisal by Roman troops, and Paul had been a secret policeman for a State Church, both respected the Roman security system.

To understand why love was an appropriate tool to co-opt the Empire, think back to friction networks.

Friction exists when two entities oppose each other. This can be a block moving along a table

medium_friction_cray_sm.jpg

Or two enemies who hate each other.

To co-opt the Empire Jesus and Paul decided to limit friction — to become slippery.

(If the friction nets were complete slippery on each other, they would “embrace” by sharing all attributes — they would be “in bed” with each other)

As long as Christianity could avoid becoming existing, supporting the state was a methodical route to Christian victory. The Empire. To see how this worked, imagine the Roman power structure as a table.

The State rested on many groups, the People, the Senators, the Armies, the Merchants, etc, who gave their power to the state. In this way they supported Rome like legs support a table. (The same, of course, is true of any government.)

However, they demanded that the state protect their interests. So while the state ammased power from these special interests, it had to turn around and spend it on them too!

 

 

This situation is stable. But the Christians knew things would change — they only had to wait

 

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

Jesus (Matthew 24:4-8)

 

Sure enough, the Romans soon faced new barbarian enemies — further drains on its power

 

You can think of this like an even heavier load being placed on the Roman Table

 

 

The Romans had to look for a cheap new power source. The power source had to be already running (because the barbarians were at the gates now), resiliant (because the barbarians are violent and effective), and inexpensive (it had to support the state even if the state couldn’t export security to it). Christianty was for Roman political power what cold fusion would be to modern-day electric power. Sure Romans now found themselves ‘encouraged’ to convert, but that was a lot cheapter than gold for a new army, an army for a new market, or a new market to enrich the merchants, or more merchants to tax to enrich the Senators.

 

 

By loving their enemy, by intermeshing their friction nets, the Christians had only to wait for a Crisis and see the Empire spread their belief over the Realm. This is why Rome became Christian when Rome became weak. Christianity treated Rome as it wanted to be treated — as an object of veneration and protection.

 

And so the last become first, the poor become rich, the weak became strong, and Christianity co-opted the Empire.

 

In the modern world, the United States is the only hyper power. Is there a “new Christianity” out there, giving us a co-option attack like the Christians gave Rome?

 

Early Christianity was, and continued to be, a netfaith, until finally deformed under the heat of the Islamic Invasions. But that is a post for another time….


Jesusism-Paulism, a tdaxp series in six parts
1. Love Your Enemy As You Would Have Him Love You
2. Caiaphas and Diocletian Did Know Better
3. Every Man a Panzer, Every Woman a Soldat
4. The Fall of Rome
5. The People of the Book
6. Embrace and Extend