Sunday, February 22, 2009

Covenantal Anarchy II: Foreshadowing

Here's something I wrote in June 2008. As it turns out, I did not cast a vote for no one, but I wanted to repost this as something of an introduction to my thinking around Covenantal Anarchy, which is something I want to talk about on this blog periodically. (Here are posts I've written previously in my other blog that included CA as a topic) In brief, it is my modification of anarchy in light of the Gospel, taking seriously its denunciation of domination systems with its call to remain in relationship and to organize our lives in some way. Anarchy, in my thinking, wasn't enough to cover what I was thinking of. Anywhere, here you go:

I would like to cast my vote for an empty Oval Office for four years. Give us all a rest. Let Congress do it's job without line-item vetoes. Let the troops, wherever they happen to be, figure out what the best idea is without some idiot in Washington inventing wars for them to die fighting, pointing at spots on the map full of people for them to kill. No more hypocritical, demoralizing speeches. No more talking heads and flapping lips blathering about his every move and word. No more state dinners. No more photo-ops with Girl Scouts. No more press secretary juggling lies like Barnum and Bailey's best.

Let people tour the White House as a museum of national relics and oddities. "Here is where the President once drank coffee. Here is where he once ate sandwiches. Here is where he plotted the assassination of foreign leaders. Here is where he went to the bathroom. That was back when we had a President. Now, if we want something done, we get together and figure out how to do it ourselves."

I wish I could cast a vote for an empty Oval Office. I would campaign for that. I would work a phone bank for that. I would donate to that.

As it is, I'll grudgingly cast my vote for what looks like a minimal evil, have a nice meal to get the sick feeling out of my stomach, and get on with enduring the vast miasma of lies, hypocrisy, waste and stupidity that we call a government, hoping against hope that it will do nothing, that it will leave it to the rest of us to get done what has to get done, knowing all the while that nowhere, at no time, in no place, do human beings refrain from using every shred of power they are able to wrest from others.

I leave you with a rendition of Jotham's parable from Judges:

Once upon a time, the trees all gathered to elect themselves a politician. They elected the olive, but the olive refused, saying that its job is to produce good oil. They then chose the fig, but the fig refused - shall it give up its sweet fruit in order to be above the other trees? But the trees demanded a politician to have authority over them. They elected the vine, but the vine answered like the first two. Finally, they approached the bramble, which accepted eagerly. Take refuge among my thorns, it said, and if you don't like the thorns, then you'll be burned up.

I love this parable.


Aric Clark said...

That last parable is fascinating... break it down for me. How do you interpret it?

Why do the trees want a politician? Why would the olive, fig, and vine have to give up their fruit? Why is the bramble eager? What are the thorns a metaphor for? And What does it mean to be burned up?

Furthermore, why is Jotham telling the parable, and to whom? For that matter, who is Jotham?

Doug Hagler said...

Jotham is a prophet speaking to the people during the Judges period - they are wanting a king, and Jotham is speaking out against the idea of kingship. Specifically, he is speaking out against Abimelech. Abimelech wanted to be king, but was the son of Gideon's concubine. So he resorted to force, killing all of his half-brothers, with Jotham the only one escaping. That's the abridged version, anyway.

As I see it, Jotham is saying a few things. First, rulers do not produce anything for the good of the people, like fruit trees do. They do not *produce*, but rather separate themselves. Second, rulership is an issue of force - it is power which is taken, on some level, and involves violence against those who resist that power necessarily (the resisting trees who are burned up). Third, rulers are prickly, injurious - they are brambles. You get caught in them. They tear at your skin and clothes. They grasp, and take, but do not give in return.

It is also sort of ironic, because when one clears brambles, you tend to burn them, especially in a dry climate, because its such a hassle to pull them up or chop at them or remove them in some other way. So the bramble wants to turn the tables and burn all the fruitful trees because they resist.

Granted, the target of the parable had just murdered all of Jotham's brothers, but I still thought the parable was apropriate. It actually came up in my reading of the book you gave me by Jacques Ellul...