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Sunday, October 20, 2013

There was Rebar in the Roof

Before I get to the main topic today, I stumbled across something in my schoolwork that made a light bulb go on.

Luke 15:4-7 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.  I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

I would like to focus on the word lost. I did some research and in the Greek that word means destroyed. So, an unsaved person is not just wandering around without knowledge, but their soul has been destroyed.

Now, to the topic at hand

Mark 2: 1-5 When He entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that He was at home. So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the doorway, and He was speaking the message to them. Then they came to Him bringing a paralytic, carried by four men. Since they were not able to bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above where He was. And when they had broken through, they lowered the mat on which the paralytic was lying. Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Do you notice how it was not just the faith of the guy who was let down through the roof, but also the faith of the guys who took him there? His friends did not tell him he had to “pull himself up by his own bootstraps” or tell him that “God helps those that help themselves.” Rather, they all believed something would happen and all they needed to do was to take their friend to Jesus.

While I was a Conservative Mennonite I longed for someone in the church to tell me that they, as a business owner, had a job for me that I was able to do. Yes, there were manual labor jobs offered to me, but as someone who has a physical IQ of around 50, I knew that it would not end well. Accepting a manual labor position would have been similar to putting rebar in the roof and telling the lame guy he had to use a hand saw and break through the roof himself.  

I find that a lot of American's, not just Conservative Mennonites, are hyperactive about working and not wasting time. They claim that if you spend more time on a computer, any other non-money making activity, or a non-spiritual activity than they think is normal that you must be wasting time.

This work ethic is based on the protestant model of righteousness brought forth in the mid-1500s to early-1600s in Europe. 
The protestants taught at that time that the way you sought the Lord’s blessing was through hard work, labor, discipline, and thriftiness. They taught that the acquisition of wealth and all the capitalistic values that go with that, one could demonstrate that there was the blessing of God on your life. This was a direct result of the influence of Calvinism. (Paraphrase of Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904–05))
Strange thing is, this is the very teaching that the “name it, claim it” churches teach and the Conservative Mennonites hate those churches because they are too materialistic, and they right on that point.

So what is the difference between the Protestant Work Ethic and the Anabaptist work ethic? This webpage sheds some light on the subject. I will quote a portion of that website.
For the Anabaptists, work became a means by which toleration and the right to exist was guaranteed by the authorities of Switzerland, France, Germany, Austria, and Prussia. Thus, for example, the emigrating Dutch Mennonites earned toleration by reclaiming areas of the Vistula Delta in Prussia (cf. Séguy, Hostetler, Penner, water technology). The subsequent toleration of Mennonites in the above-named countries; and the establishment of the Mennonite colonies in Russia, Canada, Latin America; and the vast and prosperous agricultural area in Europe, Canada, and United States, attest to the massive amounts of labor Mennonites have done. "Hard work" has always been an important element in Mennonite identity along with sobriety, honesty, dependability and the other virtues. Troeltsch insists that Mennonites came from the masses and represent the revolt against oppression of the laboring strata, hence the emphasis on work is genuinely inherited.

As Troeltsch avers, Mennonites in time "capitulated" to the "Protestant calling" (p. 705) and forsook their ideal. This is the direct consequence of interaction with the Germanic and Protestant work ethic, a concept described and popularized by Weber and others. Hence, by the end of the 19th century, Mennonite attitudes toward, and involvement in, work can be said to be rather similar to that of Protestantism. The phenomenal achievements of the Hutterite colonies; Mennonite agriculturalists in Europe; Mennonite colonies in Russia, Canada, and Latin America; and the Mennonite settlements in various parts of the United States; not to overlook the achievements of Mennonites in business, are well established facts.

There is a book I would like to get my hands on and read. "Anabaptist/Mennonite Faith and Economics," edited by Calvin Wall Redekop, Victor A. Krahn, and Samuel J. Steiner

Basically, the modern Anabaptist work ethic is no different than the groups that they detest, like Calvinists. Note, I am not a Calvinist.

Is being productive wrong? NO! However, the people who fled to the Americas took the ethic to the extreme and forgot that work is made for man and not man for work, likewise the sabbath is made for man and not man for the sabbath. All work and no rest is actually bad for your health! Have you ever wondered why so many people died so young in the colonies and the early years of the nation? Yes, there was a lot of disease, but they also wore their bodies out by working long hours in harsh conditions.

This work ethic has led to a major problem in America. The problem is that those who dare to disagree with the Protestant work ethic are considered lazy, no matter if they are not. It is a “one size fits all” fallacy.

Here is good blog article on why busyness should not be viewed as a virtue.

But, this is not the only problem. The way SOME Conservative Mennonites view the impoverished is a major problem. They claim that it should be the church's responsibility to care for the poor and not the government, yet some look down on me, an Asperger guy with limited job prospects. See, as an Aspie my sensory organs are abnormally vocal, my feet have been misshapen since birth and I cannot work in a restaurant due to allergies. I can’t even work around large amounts of dust without gloves and a mask or my hands and bronchial tubes go crazy.

I recently had an encounter with an uncle of mine that solidified my thinking on this subject. I told some of the folks in my youth group that I would not be going on a hike with them due to some specific injuries. All of a sudden my uncle, who overheard the discussion, decided to give me verbal whipping. He told me I was the laziest guy he knew and that if I were his son, he would whoop me good. It was the maddest I have ever seen him! It probably did not help that I laughed at him. Why did I laugh? He had berated me sometime before this on the subject of laziness. I tried to reason with him then but he would not listen.

It seems that he thinks I am lazy just because I didn't have a job. Well, in the nine months between finishing college and that encounter I had filled out close to 1800 applications. I had only 3 interviews and only one job offer! (I turned that one down to the extremely low rate of pay versus the actual cost of me working there. I would have been on the losing end financially. It was a minimum wage part-time job 30 miles from home.)

The problem is not with my unwillingness to get a job, but the unwillingness of companies to hire an odd person. Telling me you would beat me if I were your son is not conducive to the situation rectifying and makes me wonder about your stance on non-resistance.

Do I forgive my uncle? By all means! Do I consider him dangerous to emotionally weaker brothers and sisters? Yes. Why? Because I am not the only person he has bullied. He has bullied numerous people in the church and has rarely repented of it, though he has mellowed a bit in the past few years. Many of those in the church who recognize he is a bully are too scared to do anything about it or they are no longer part of the church. Why are they so scared of him? Because he is one of the wealthiest men in the church and has considerable influence. A very highly respected individual within the Floyd church has admitted to me that he wishes that someone who was not afraid of my uncle would stand up to his bullying tactics. Another person and I were the only ones to confront him. Since we are gone, I doubt anyone is left that will do so.

Now, at this point some would say that I am bitter about the situation. I assure you that I am not bitter. I am actually grateful that this happened because it was a factor in awaking my spirit to what I would become or portray to the world if I did not leave. What Satan meant for evil (the attempted destruction of my faith), God has used for good!

So, what is my purpose of mentioning this story? It is to give an example of how some people within the Mennonite Church think on the subject.

Next week: I am soooooooooooo awesome

1 comment:

  1. Computers are a lot like paper, we can write anything on paper and the obedient paper just lies there and allows us to abuse it, whats worse though about the computer is that it is endless. Oh but havent we all written things that we later regretted? Yet we pride ourselves in that what we wrote was 1000% truth, at least justifiably so in our own minds. Thus we tend to perhaps care not that we have offended others and driven them away, then we sit back exasperated wondering why on earth no one agreed with us and we find ourselves alienated for no apparent tangible reason, resulting in a sad lonely isolated life. Or does it even matter?


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