John Oliver’s HBO program “Last Week Tonight” has certainly made a name for itself the last couple of years, exposing the inconvenient truth with respect to a wide variety of issues –from America’s frightening infrastructure problems to the corrupt Miss America Pageant. Oliver often makes some great points and does the public a great service – in a very humorous manner of course. Recently, however, in exposing the practices of unscrupulous televangelists, he swung hard and missed – quite badly.
“Without violence, nothing is ever accomplished in history.” – Karl Marx
“But I tell you not to violently resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.” – Jesus of Nazareth
Over 80% of black Americans identify as Christian. The word Christian means imitator of Jesus of Nazareth.
What is going on when you as an employer do not pay a larger wage to an employee? It could be that the price for a person’s voluntary expenditure of skill and labor tends to not go much beyond what you’ve offered and if you dramatically increased it, you might lose capital and efficiency necessary to continue risk-taking innovation that adds value for your customers.
Or, it’s possible that you are motivated by a sense of greed. You really could spare a bit more to your workers but choose otherwise. Looking from outside of a person’s mind, we are only left to speculate on motivation. Assume for a moment, though, that a person is motivated by selfish greed. He wants to keep his workers paid less so he can build a beautiful new beach house to impress his social network.
What would that motivation be? Perhaps we could call that greed a kind of evil. For those who wish to imitate Jesus, whether religious or secular, what would be an appropriate response?
Would we be ethically right to demand the boss to pay additional income or else face forcible confiscation of a portion of his wealth? If he still refuses to comply, would we be ethically right to approach him armed with deadly force and threaten him with being placed in a cage if he refuses our demand?
Of course not. That would be resisting evil with violence. That would be returning the “slap” of greed with a harder “slap” of violence. What if we got the whole office to join us? What if everyone agreed the boss needed to pay us more money for our time or else face wealth confiscation or a cage? What if it was 99 people to 1 person? Would that make it ethical as followers of Jesus?
Of course not. As Jesus demonstrated with the woman accused of adultery, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” In other words, just because a group is committing violence does not absolve each person in it of the violent aggression being perpetrated. No matter how good it feels, we cannot hit people or steal their stuff and call ourselves followers of Jesus.
“Black Lives Matter” and other groups speaking for black Americans are demanding a $15 dollar minimum wage. The minimum wage law comes backed by wealth confiscation and imprisonment for those who do not obey. Thus, the minimum wage law and any increases in it are incompatible with the ethic of Jesus which says “do not resist evil with violence.” Notice there is no asterisk.
This Jesus-derived principle also includes every other law that uses the threat of monetary confiscation or caging backed by deadly force to curb a nonviolent behavior we detest, no matter how ugly or evil said behavior may be in our eyes.
Some people will obfuscate this discussion by saying the Apostle Paul says obey the governing authorities in his letter to the Romans. I’m not dealing with the matter of obedience to the law. In fact, I believe we should obey the law to the fullest, even offering our entire outfit, so to speak, when a governing authority demands our coat.
But Jesus’ community was living in a context in which their state, Caesar, did not invite them to shape the law through voting nor judge the law through jury deliberation. Our government ostensibly asks us to shape its laws through representatives and direct mandates. It even tells us to use the jury system to strike down oppressive laws that abuse human life.
So since we’re invited to voice our say in the shaping of what law is in our society, we do not get to surrender our Jesus-imitating ethic. We do not get to “put on” another hat that magically makes what is anti-Christ to do ourselves alright if the voting crowd is large enough.
What would be an appropriate ethical law if we are to honestly imitate Jesus? We must focus on loving our neighbor as ourselves to find out. If you saw a victim being robbed of everything they own, would you be within your ethical right to intervene to stop the attack?
Yes, to stand by and offer no protective mechanism to defend your neighbor’s possessions from being stolen is wrong. It is to passively collude with the evil. It’s defensive force, a shield, that you are offering, not an offensive sword brandished at people who have not engaged in violence. So that would be an ethic we could extend in how we treat each other on a societal level: do not steal or defraud. If you do, you will have to pay back what you owe or have a “time out” from society.
What if you saw your neighbor being assaulted? Would you be within your Jesus-following ethical right to intervene on their behalf? Would it be ethical if they are being stomped on to use defensive force to stop the attack? Yes, so we as a society can have laws that prevent and punish assault or any other act of physical violence.
Every other law, no matter how well intentioned, is inherently violent and chaos-producing. When you resist what you perceive to be “evil” with violence, it multiplies, hardens, and increases the evil. It creates ripple effects of violence, resentment, distrust, and obsessed rivalries of revenge.
So here’s my proposal to Black Lives Matter. Here’s how we all imitate Jesus by not using aggression and vengeance to honor a community that has often been at the blunt end of a rigged statist game for generations. Here is how society extends mercy without violent sacrifice. Here is how we begin to actually heal from the cycles of violence that plague persons and draw them to cling closer to groupthink and collective identities. Here is how we actually save black lives. Here is how we make space for prosperity for black Americans on a level unheard of in history.
The United States of America should allow each and every black person to opt out of every law that uses violence against nonviolent behavior. Every law that uses violence to resist evil. Every victimless crime law that punishes vice with violence. Every regulation that interferes with choice, risk, savings, innovation, imagination, free expression, association, or voluntary agreement. Every law that forces human beings through threat of deadly force to use state-monopoly money—the dollar and its hidden wealth confiscation mechanism of rigged inflation—to save and render payment.
Every law that sends agents armed with deadly force to tell our neighbors to fix their tail light or else. Every law that puts human beings in a cage if they are caught peacefully driving their car with a suspended government ID. Every law that puts an artificial violent gag on speech, hiring practices, and expression thereby creating an underground of discrimination, hatred, and preferences. Every law that invents a fiction called intellectual property—the fantasy that an idea or a sound in your head can be exclusively owned by someone and therefore state agents can use deadly force on others who imitate or share it.
Every law that forces a person to financially support a “public” school system even if they fundamentally disagree with the philosophies and methods taught therein and have no desire for their children to use such services.
Every law that forces a gag on official state science-unapproved, non-patentable (the aforementioned violent fiction of intellectual property) medicine providers. In other words, every law that uses monetary theft, caging, and deadly force to prevent a person from saying Vitamin C cures scurvy. Or water remediates dehydration.
Every law that forces people to pay a portion of their earned money to a state-ponzi scheme like Social Security even though they will not see the value they put into it when they retire.
Every law that forces people with deadly coercion to hand over a portion of their money to Medicare, a system that rewards patented-medicine over natural solutions and medical cartels over innovative solutions that prevent and mitigate disease.
Every law that punishes the evil of income tax objection and its perceived sin of pride or greed with deadly force and caging. We don’t even cage our chicken eggs. But we think it is okay 2016 years after Jesus, to put a human being in a cage—that is to treat them as if they will violently attack someone if left alone—for the sin of greed. What happened to turning the other cheek? Is the sting of our neighbor’s greed so hard, we must humiliate, dehumanize, and cage them as an animal? Sounds like we are the primitive barbarians.
Every law that sends armed agents to cage a human being because he is late on his child support payment.
Every law that sends agents with deadly force to enforce taxes and regulations on a cigarette entrepreneur.
Every law that puts a sex worker in a cage for the sin of her desperation. Every law that forces her to do her work through a dangerous gang because her business is cast into the darkness of a black market.
Every law that puts a human in an animal cage for using a mind-altering chemical. Every law that forces the sale of said drug into a violent, contract-free black market. What would happen if we criminalized caffeine? A violent black market would open up in place of the contract-based, peaceful market for it that exists today.
In short, every fake law that destroys savings, robs the imagination, prevents risk and innovation, and results in millions of black lives not mattering every year.
We can get rid of all of these ridiculous, fraudulent laws tomorrow. But we have to have the mindset to do so. We are living in a prison state, no doubt. But we are first living in a prison state of mind. We believe in the way Karl Marx and other counterfeit Jesuses in history have offered: violent power is the highest good we should desire. Might makes right. Majority rules. The Public Will can sacrifice a misfit who objects. All those crusty, stinky, stupid barbaric mantras are shortcuts to heaven that lead to hell.
We can do this today. We can save millions of black lives from theft, assault, and death. We can reunite thousands of black families starting right now. But we have to renew our minds. We have to change our minds about who we want to imitate. Not some political party. Not some slogan about which lives matter. Of course all lives matter. But let’s prove it. Let’s imitate Jesus and love our neighbors as ourselves. For once in our lives, let’s stop this game. This guilty pleasure of casting out and dehumanizing our scapegoats of every pigment—black, white, brown, blue, whatever.
Let’s start this new mindset by extending Jesus’ mercy and grace to our black brothers and sisters. Let’s agree as a society to set them free from all of these fraudulent laws against nonviolent behaviors. Let them enjoy the full fruits of their labor. Let them innovate. Let them pursue their dreams unimpeded by government riggedulations. These realities are not our ethical right to even “let.” These freedoms are intrinsic to their humanity. They are intrinsic to the very image of God Jesus says is in every one of us.
O if we would only get out of the boat in the stormy sea. O if we would only realize that our Sea of Tiberius—our modern state edifice and its broken ugly, violent delights—is a storm of no consequence. A prison of our mind’s making. O if we would look at Jesus’ face and walk on water too.
Freedom starts with a mindset that acts. It starts with being like Jesus. In his own words, if we trust and enact his role model, we “will do greater things” than he. The world is scared to see. The world is afraid to wake up and claim its birthright of freedom. Of a social order founded on mercy, not sacrifice. Of communities where we bear each others’ freedom, in all its messiness and frustration, with love, not the threat of violence.
All persons deserve the dignity of a society built on voluntary choice, not preemptive aggression and revenge. Let’s share the abundance and healing of the nonviolent social order. It’s time to let our black brothers and sisters free. Let them be the first to fully use their freedom, prosperity, mercy and self-responsibility as the means of correcting vice and promoting virtue. This is the business of working out our salvation with fear and trembling. This is what it looks like to baptize all nations in the name of the one who declared, “Mercy not sacrifice.” The black community’s subsequent new opportunity for abundance will be a model that shocks the world for love and liberty.