Monday, January 26, 2015

Icons teach us to commune with Christ, the Saints, and each other.

My family and I have recently embarked on a journey to join the Orthodox Christian tradition.  Our path in arriving here is an interesting one and will the the subject of some future post I'm sure.  This journey has been an enlightening and surprising one.  Many of the strange and ancient traditions, coming from a protestant perspective I was sure I was going to hate, have actually taken me by surprise and served not only to cause me to fall in love with the Orthodox Church more and more, but have also deepened my faith and my relationship with Christ.  One of the most interesting of these is the Orthodox tradition of icons.

In my protestant turned neo-Calvinist understanding of Christianity, icons never really entered the picture (See what I did there?).  Icons from my perspective were strange bits of idolatry that my greatest exposure to was in the Mexican section of the grocery store with those odd Roman Catholic candles that were right next to the corn tortillas.  The idolatrous label that I had accepted toward icons pretty much prevented me from exploring the concept any deeper. Why would I entertain this idolatry? I already knew enough to reject it on its face.  Besides, as a good little Calvinist I already had my theology all the way figured out and all I needed was Scripture.  Icons were minimally a form of Christian art, but the incorporation of them into worship was likely a heresy.  This was my take on the issue, although I will admit that in the two or three years prior to my first setting foot into an Orthodox Church I also went through a great doctrinal softening, so to speak, and even an abandoning of many of my hyper Calvinistic tenants.

We arrived at Orthodoxy by means of some friends who's journey intrigued us, but as I've illustrated, I arrived with some reservations.  We took the inquirer's class offered by St Elijah's, and taught by Deacon Ezra.  Deacon Ezra is a great teacher who isn't afraid to use some really big ideas to get a point across.  Being a former Baptist minister, his own history and his excellent teaching helped put me at ease a little as he presented some of these very new (to me) ideas.  I quickly was able to grasp the idea that icons were not idols.

My understanding of icons began with them simply being additional tools used to tell the Gospel, and the history of the Church.

"Icons do with color what Scripture does with words."

This quote made sense to me.  Orthodoxy had already validated many fundamental shifts in my theological paradigms that I had been entertaining, one being the authoritative nature of the Church and of it's tradition in the keeping of the doctrines and of the pure Gospel, and in this context icons simply do as Scripture does to a similar effect.  Now I was beginning to be intrigued, but I had no idea what was in store.

As we continued in some classes on the subject the concept of icon's was explored further. When God says in Genesis 1:26 "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness," the word in greek for "image" is the same word we get the word "icon" from. An icon differs from a picture, or an idol, or even a painting. An Icon is the likeness of the person in the Icon. It is similar to the person and serves as a physical window to a spiritual reality. The saint in the icon did not cease to exist, we simply cannot see him or her at this time, and the Icon helps to remedy that. The person being depicted in the Icon is real, existing in the invisible reality that we are blinded to by our physical condition.

As soon as this idea hit me I looked around the room, which was a chapel in our church filled with icons, and the room came to LIFE!  All of the sudden the presence of those Saints, and of Christ himself, surrounded me like the cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12.  Deacon Ezra says that during worship it isn't uncommon for the veil that separates us from the invisible to be momentarily parted, and I believe that is what I began to experience.  As I gazed upon each icon I saw past the wood and the paint to the spiritual reality that was the person who's likeness the icon was communicating.  As I looked upon Christ and Mary I was almost overwhelmed, and even as I looked upon the saints that I was unfamiliar with I somehow sensed their presence.  Deacon Ezra explained that we are living inside the icon of the Transfiguration of Christ, Christ manifests the invisible reality of His Kingdom right here into our physical world.

The next Sunday at the Divine Liturgy the experience resumed, Christ and the Saints joined us in a very real and visible, if not tangible way.  I was now experiencing a fullness of the Church that I had previously not even been able to imagine.  Christ was the focus and I was worshiping him along with the Saints and with every other person in attendance. Even the work of the priests took on a whole new meaning as their colorful vestments and their purposeful movements caused them to create a living transition between the physical world and the spiritual reality they and the icons were leading us to participate in.  This was amazing to me, I was awestruck at moments and almost welcomed the fleeting nature of the revelation occurring around me as it seemed it could at any moment be simply too much to take in.

Divine Liturgy at St. Elijah's in OKC

I now understood why many in the Orthodox Tradition venerate or pay special honor to the icons, even kissing them.  This was not idol worship, they were simply honoring and communing with their Savior and with the Saints that have kept the Church throughout history.  Just as we might greet, hug, and honor a wise, loved, and respected elder as we pass by the pew where he sits, in fact, exactly like that.  This honor doesn't detract from our worship from God, it adds to it.

Then a thought hit me that changed me.

It is amazing and incredible and fulfilling for me to be able to commune with Christ and the departed Saints in the way that the icons facilitate. This experience edifies me. Which is good, I need to be edified, but many may argue that they experience similar things in other methods of worship, through song, speaking in tongues, even through a powerful sermon. And while edification of the self is good, shouldn't we be seeking to edify the whole church? Icons may edify the individual, but how do they edify the Church? I had learned to experience the iconography of the Church to aid in my worship, but it occurred to me that the icons were also teaching me so much more.

If we are made in the likeness of God, as Genesis 1:26 says, more literally we ARE icons of God. Each person is made in the likeness of God, just as each icon is made in the likeness of the person in the icon. When I look upon the wood and paint of the icon, it teaches me to see beyond to the spiritual truth and the person that the icon is communicating.  If every individual is an icon of God, what if I began to look at other people in the same way that I looked at icons?  What if I saw them as more than what they were presenting to me in the physical, but looked beyond to the spiritual reality that was just as much a part of their being as is their physical appearance?  I could now begin to see the whole person.

Icons have not only taught me to commune with Christ and the Saints in a way that I had never before considered, they not only created a fullness of Church that I had never imagined could be possible, but they had now taught me to see other people in a way where the likeness of God in them was plain and apparent, no matter their physical appearance, or even my personal opinion of them. Try hating a person who's mere presence communicates to you the likeness of God, try defrauding them, try hurting them.  In a very real way icons are teaching me to love others in a superior way.

Once you see it, you can't un-see it. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hatred of our own bodies leads to an inability to love others.

Ephesians 5:29 "After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church--"

Ever since I first read this verse I had questions about it.  I mean I know people who seem to hate their own bodies.  They don't feed and care for it, in fact some of them starve, poison, and abuse their bodies.  Now for some who are addicts or self medicating, it isn't their bodies they are hating when they are poisoning it, it is in fact out of a love for their bodies, and a desire to escape some kind of pain that they are futilely engaging in this destructive activity.  And then there are some people who abuse their bodies out of ignorance, or out of a desire for pleasure, which doesn't fit into the category of hatred.

However there seems to be many others who actually hate their bodies.  I got to thinking this morning about this. To me it is common to think of a person hating their own body.  I wonder if this is a cultural concept that the Apostle Paul's culture may not have been familiar with, but that my culture is very familiar with.  I read articles all the time about how people in our culture are subjected to an unrealistic and unacheivable concept of what their body should look like.  This bombardment of unrealistic expectations eventually leads them to hate their own bodies, and they starve and cut and poison themselves in a vain attempt to live up to the fantastical standard set by marketers and media.

Has the prolific bombardment of a mass media inculcation of what ultimately becomes self hatred created a cultural reality where we do in fact find it common for people to hate their own bodies?  Something that possibly earlier cultures who were free of this bombardment would have been unfamiliar with?  What does a culture of self hatred cause with regard to our ability to relate to God?  What does it cause with regard to our ability to relate to each other?

I think it is very significant. The second greatest commandment according to Christ regards self love as the standard by which we are able to love others.

Mark 12:31 "And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these."

Hatred of our own bodies leads to an inability to love others.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Firewall words

It's amazing to me how much thought we are restricted from thinking because of how ideas have been packaged and presented to us.  Tools such as humiliation, praise, punishment, association, authority, etc are used to cause us to think, or not think a certain way about certain ideas.  There are words and ideas that create a sort of firewall around certain concepts.  Anarchy is one of those words.  When it comes up most people have been conditioned not to think beyond it because they have been told that anything regarding it is bad, etc.  So even if a very rational argument is presented, the fact that it is presented on the other side of the firewall means that the person will not even consider it, their mind unwilling to traverse the firewall and enter into a "restricted zone" of thought.  This is a way of controlling the thought lives of people and keeping their thoughts safely within what is acceptable and controllable.

I am struggling to find my own firewall words and learning to think through them and explore the ideas on the other side.  Not necessarily to accept those ideas, but at least to have a reason as to why I think they way I do about the idea.

Here is a quick list of some other firewall words I could think of off the top of my head. Some of which may trigger a mental shutdown in your mind with either a positive or negative connotation or possibly just a specific connotation, but in any case basically irrational and impulsive:


Obviously I probably can't actually recognize the firewall words that I am currently being bound by because, well, they are firewall words and my mind won't go there.  What I am trying to do is notice when my mind does this and humble myself and at least entertain the argument, even if it is in the restricted zone.

Can you think of some firewall words?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Is a person without a body still a person?

All the people you know either have or had at some point, a body.  Is having a physical body a requirement for being a person?  When their body dies, it seems that the person doesn't.  Because the person has already been defined in your mind, and even though they are no longer in their body, their person still exists, more than simply a memory, but the definition of them as a person that sets them apart from all the other things your mind knows about.  So the person part of a person doesn't seem to need the body to be a person. You might say, "well that's just your idea of the person, since they no longer have a body, you can no longer interact with them, so they are no longer a part of the relationship".  But is interaction required for a person to be a person?  What if they moved far away, do they cease being a person to me?

It might be argued that any relationship with the person after they have died, or have moved far away, is simply an interaction with your idea of the person.  But how different is that really than our interactions with the person while they are still living, or close to us?  We don't live inside the physical brains of other people, we only relate to them from within our minds, and with our ideas of them.  Once we get to know a person we can even seem to know how they would respond to certain questions or circumstance.  So even after they are gone we ask ourselves, "What would so and so do?" and our minds access that person and return to us an answer, just as if we had asked the person.  What comes first the person or the body?

Is the idea of the person that survives the body still the person?  I can't see how it could be argued that it is not.  Person-hood is clearly a distinct trait from physical existence.  A person is such a clearly defined concept that we can even continue to relate to the person after they have died, or moved far away.

Did their body create their person?  Can we create a person who did not first have a body and relate to them similarly?  Would not fictional characters fit this definition?  Is a fictional character a "real" person in this sense, or does physical life alone set the criteria to be a person?  A fictional character is obviously not a human being, but is it a real person?  Some of the greatest ones surely seem to be, they "take on a life of their own" so to speak in the minds of the people who relate to them.

If a person can be created by means of fiction, are there persons that exist by other means, other than by means of fiction or by being a human?  Are there persons that exist or have existed that never had a body, and were never imagined into existence by another person, only related to by them?

Just some questions I have about persons.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

God the eye-light thing in my mind during an allergic reaction.

Last night this whole allergic reaction thing was still getting to me.  I was laying in bed and was wheezing pretty bad, and I had taken some prescription meds that were supposed to help, but I still couldn't sleep.  These meds had also relaxed me like these kind of meds tend to do, but I still had an annoying wheeze that was keeping me up.  I was praying to God a frustrated prayer for healing, but also a prayer that I could, you know, live right and stuff and know Him better. 

All of the sudden I saw a vision in my mind's eye of some evil faces with condemning scowls looking at me, some had lightening and fire shooting out at me and my spirit calmly said "look beyond all that", and then I saw that these scary faces were illuminated by distorting the light of God that was shining on me.   There was just a single point of light now, but it was dimmed so that I could look directly at it. The point of light then took the shape of an eye and I could see that God was looking at me and I was looking at Him, or at least a vision of Him as an eye-light thing. 

I said God please heal me, and tell me what I should do with my life to be happy and please you.    The word's of Christ came immediately to my mind "I only do what I see my Father doing."  I then realized that if I was looking at God's eye-light vision thing that I was aiming in the wrong direction to be able to see what He was seeing.  So my spirit said, "You'll need to turn around to see".  Since I was sick I assumed that when I turned around somehow I would be provided relief from the wheezing, but instead I rolled over and my eyes immediately fell upon my wife and one of my daughters laying there asleep.  "This is what I am seeing for you to be doing, it's right in front of you every day." was the phrase that rang through my spirit.  It struck me very deeply, and confirmed in me a conviction that I need to prune some activities from my life and focus more on my wife and family.

The wheezing didn't stop then, I actually had to get up and go sleep in a chair because it was more comfortable to breathe.  This morning I got up to go to my weekly meeting I have with my friends at a local restaurant where we talk, pray, and discuss many things, but mostly spiritual things.  One of my good friends noticed I was still having trouble breathing, and told the group "let's pray for Dax right now", and so they did, and over the course of the conversation after that my lungs loosened and my breathing eased.

I think God sees me increasing my love for family first and also friends, and spending less time on things over which I have little influence or control and that cause me the kind of stress that even my allopathic doctor blamed for bringing upon this allergic episode to begin with.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How did Jesus become sin for us?

If I have the power to forgive sin, say a murder or a fraud, and I do so, on whom does the responsibility for the crime now lie? It is not now on me? So for there to be justice mustn't I now accept the punishment for the crime that I have taken upon myself by my act of mercy? Would the victims of the crime be right in now placing the blame upon me?

2 Corinthians 5:21 "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

The Bible teaches that Christ became sin for us. But this always seemed somewhat arbitrary to me.  It does not seem just for God to place the burden of my sin upon someone else.  What about the sins I have committed against others?  If God, who is the ultimate Judge, forgives me, doesn't the blame now fall upon God for my crimes?  How can my victims now forgive him?

I believe that it was not by an arbitrary act that God just as soon could have propitiated by means of a gnat or a rock that Jesus became our sin, because he would have been abandoning justice in the process and forcing the victims of sin to now hold him accountable with no avenue of reconciliation. However, in Christ's fullness as God, by giving us mercy he took upon himself the responsibility for the sin he had forgiven and then he bore the punishment. In doing so he is was able forgive me of my sin, but also to be forgiven of my sin.

This is how he "became sin" and how he is both just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus.

Romans 3:26 "he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."

Here is a related post "I Forgive God of His Sins Against Me"

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The secret to achieving liberty.

We can talk about liberty all we want but we will never achieve it unless we are actually able to diffuse the very real authority that the state holds over the people. What the Constitution says is irrelevant if the state has another will and the authority to accomplish it. Their authority is established by the dependency of the poor upon them. This dependency is established through social welfare programs that feed, house, and provide other services to the masses from whom all political power throughout all of history is derived. The only way to fracture the political power base of the state is to redirect the dependency of the poor away from the state, by meeting the needs in a superior fashion, much like what happens to a regime when sanctions are placed upon it and it is no longer able to feed its people. The people quickly turn on it and place their political self-determination upon whatever entity steps up to feed them. The poor I am talking about feeding are not only the innocent victims of social misfortune, but also the despised fraudsters who game the system in order to take advantage of it. If it were not worth it to the state to tolerate this fraud they would find a way to stop it, it really isn't that difficult to do, but they don't. Because it is worth it to pay for a man's food and even his home if he will relinquish his political authority. The simple fact of the matter is that unless we are willing to make the sacrifice to take on the burden of the dependent class, the state will never give up its authority, and they shouldn't be expected to since by the nature of dependent transactions, they have secured it.

This truth has recently hit me as an epiphany (if you didn’t know, an epiphany is a truth that when realized kind of makes you go “AH HA!”). It's really exciting to think about and the implications of it are truly profound. I have written about 20 pages in a journal of ideas relating to this epiphany. The ideas are somewhat jumbled and need to be organized, but they are powerful. I have been struggling with how I should begin to communicate this epiphany. It's one of those things that is very simple, so simple in fact that I feel like if I present it incorrectly it will be immediately dismissed. So I've been racking my brain about how to do it. How to write it, how to organize it. A video, a blog post, facebook? Well I've opted to just start telling it and those who have ears to hear will just have to hear it. This document is over 10,000 words long, I'm sorry for that, but it turns out that sometimes it takes a lot of words to explain a big idea, at least until that idea is fully understood. Here is the very short version, if you find some merit in it, please keep reading:
  • Our federal government is incompetent, corrupt, and in many cases evil. (duh)
  • Their agents regularly commit acts of violence and fraud that are totally immoral.
  • For some reason, even though their acts are immoral, I cannot resist them and my arguments against their immoral acts seem to fall on deaf ears.
  • My avenues of resistance all seem to be fruitless, or worse, only serve to strengthen the existing system.  I have many smart friends that have offered up solutions, none of those solutions seem to work as none of them are able to effectively dislodge the authority of the established regime.
  • I believe the reason these things are so is that the federal government actually does have the authority to do the things they are doing, and they have garnered this authority by carrying out the activity that has historically always been used to transfer actual political power, feeding the poor.
  • My epiphany is this: The secret to achieving political power is by feeding the poor, and the secret to achieving liberty is by feeding the poor in a way that the dependency resulting from the transaction is not able to be manipulated by a human or human institution.
Yes, that is the epiphany. Simple huh? You're probably tempted to quit reading now; it’s such a basic and idealistic notion. But let me ask you to bear with me a bit, because if I can communicate this properly, you will see that it is an achievable method to displacing the overreaching power of our out of control government. I am writing this with some broad strokes and for the sake of getting it on paper I am making some historical and factual assumptions that I believe to be true but I will admit that I have not diligently researched the validity of every one of them. In fact I may in some cases be ignorantly assuming a progression of history that fits my narrative better than it fits actual history. Regardless, I believe my premise to be true, and I don’t want mistruths or ignorance to detract from it if it is. Any input you could provide with regard to insight and truth would obviously be welcome, as my interest is to perpetuate an idea that can be used to establish liberty, and not to simply promote another misconception. That being said please consider what I have to say.

You've probably heard the old quote by Chinese Communist Chairman Mao, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." It is an idea that is almost universally held as true. That the state is able to maintain power because of what some call their "monopoly on the initiation of force", they are the only ones allowed to beat and jail people without being beaten and jailed for doing so. The fact that the state can arrest or even kill you is taught to be the reason why we so willingly submit to them. This idea is so prevalent that we rarely even question why one person who is dressed up in a certain uniform is allowed to do things to other people that if anyone else attempted they'd be arrested, committed, jailed, or possibly even killed. You pay your taxes, drive the speed limit, refrain from certain substances, and tolerate intrusive searches and accusals all because these things are either mandated or restricted by an edict from the state, and the state has armed enforcers that they employ to coerce your compliance. Sound about right?

What if I told you that this is all a very clever slight of hand? That while the use of violence may be how the state carries out much of their political agenda, it is by no means the source of their power. It is not simply might that establishes authority. The right to wield the sword of the state must first be granted by the people, or the violent attempts to garner political power will only result in a constant stream of rival gangs overthrowing each other. These kinds of incidents do happen, but they are generally not long lived, because an authority established in violence cannot maintain power and because eventually an entity finally steps up and garners the actual authority from the masses. Political power is established by a mandate from the masses that choose to accept or tolerate the authority of a ruling class, however it is not simply achieved by the ruling class through the application of violence.

Who are the masses? Are they the wealthy elite? Not even close. Are they the middle class? Close, but no cigar. The masses are the hungry, homeless, sick, uneducated, unmotivated and dependent poor. The people that the rest of us are often taught to despise and dismiss, possibly because doing so hides the fact that all political power finds its source in the dependency of this group of people. Throughout history it is the downtrodden masses that rulers have toiled and schemed to placate, subjugate, and domesticate in order to maintain and ensure their own political position.

How do the masses transfer their self determination to another? Is it by voting? Worship? While these techniques may be used, they, like the application of violence, serve as a distraction from the actual means to the transfer of power. The transfer is accomplished by the meeting of felt needs and creating dependency. When the state feeds the poor as a part of that exchange it receives their dependency. All charitable/benevolent transactions include an exchange of authority and dependency; it is an inescapable part of the nature of these transactions. Systems of social welfare inherently establish political power, and most of the time this is why they are established. Once established they can be manipulated in order to sway public opinion, or even to destabilize a population to create conflict and justify violent tactics on the part of the state, under the guise of keeping the peace. In reality the entire process is used to establish some deeper entrenchment of power.

Have you ever wondered why we tolerate the abuses of the state to the degree that we do? We regularly put up with incompetence at a level that is unacceptable, fraud to a degree that it almost unimaginable, and abuse by their agents for fabricated non-crimes that have no victim. We daily hear stories of people being beaten or even killed by agents of an oppressive state. We often even see videos of these events, but strangely the videos never include a scene of the people fighting off the state's agent on behalf of the victim. We often find ourselves with the hand of the state wrapped around our throat, or poised in a fist threatening to strike us lest we obey. Why on earth do we tolerate this extortion? The simple fact is that we know that the hand that is on our throat is connected to the same body as is hand that is feeding us.

You might retort: "I am not fed by the state, I am a very self-sufficient middle class American, working hard to be independent." I would first challenge you to inspect your self-sufficiency. The system is very pervasive, making us dependent even upon the use of its own counterfeit money for the food we eat. However, even if you are more self-sufficient than one who relies totally on the state's welfare, the state uses their care of the poor to coerce the compliance of the less dependent. This is done by creating sub-classes of people who are totally dependent upon the state. Many of these people are strategically situated in ghettos, prisons, nursing homes, and orphanages located throughout the country. These ghettos serve as a sort of standing army unaware; the middle class of the area is coerced into compliance by the prospect of the under-funding of these ghettos. Where would all these people go, what would they do if they were thrown out of their homes and had nothing to eat or nobody to care for them? So in an act of self-defense, the less dependent classes vote, submit, and tolerate an incompetent, fraudulent, and violent government. Obviously the vote of the dependent class (if they are afforded suffrage) is a forgone conclusion. The government then uses a combination of threats, violence, and the manipulation of the poor to maintain their power.

The manipulation of the poor is evident in the way politicians threaten to stop paying social security checks, complain about the lack of funding for public education, and highlight the shortfalls in the food stamp or government housing programs. The rhetoric is always designed to strike fear both in the hearts of the dependent class as well as into the hearts of the more independent classes who are at risk to a destabilized dependent class within their communities. The technique seems to work very well as we continue to re-elect an ever more unpopular group of people to positions of power and tolerate the continuation of the fraudulent, violent, unprincipled, and unreasonable edicts and actions of the government they administrate. This may sound like a grand conspiracy, the intent being so malevolent that it makes it hard to believe it to be true, but consider that the malevolent intent needs not to be present in order for the system to manifest these problems. The simple nature of the transaction of dependency combined with the politician’s and bureaucrat’s natural inclination to perpetuate their position creates the environment of manipulation without the need for an organized, malevolent conspiracy.

You may be wondering: If this technique is so effective in maintaining government power, even without a conspiracy, why has the opposite effect not been purposely capitalized upon to depose oppressive governments? In fact this technique is very commonly used to overthrow governments and we see it happen regularly. Generally the first action the "global community" takes against a regime they don't like is to sanction the regime. These sanctions remove the ability for the regime to feed their people, sanctions are coupled with humanitarian aid provided via the entity that will ultimately be used to rule the country (the UN). The sanctions and subsequent humanitarian aid serve to redirect the dependency of the people away from the regime being deposed, and on to the humanitarian force. Rebels from within the dependent class are then armed and allowed to overthrow the target regime violently and establish a weak puppet government that is typically overthrown every few years through a repeat of this same process. The establishment of a regime born out of a violent rebellion helps to perpetuate the convenient myth that political power is established by violence, meanwhile the "humanitarian" arm of the UN remains in place as the actual authority over the region, stepping in whenever necessary to prop up another local administrator. (For an example of this phenomenon see every tin pot dictator in Africa) The term “NGO” or “Non Government Organization”, which is a household word in “developing” countries where the UN has a significant presence, is really a misleading, Orwellian term. It is often by the means of the NGO that political authority is actually established and directed. Powerful states that have the ability to sustain themselves have the direct resources to feed their population (they don’t even have to do this well, they just have to keep out the competition), and their population is also systematically propagandized to accept their own dependence, disarmament, and if necessary genocidal culling in order to maintain a manageable and obedient dependent class. In short, in order to overthrow a regime, undermine their ability to feed the population and then arm the population and let the situation play out.

As a final example of the historical prevalence of this technique and to segue to the solution I am proposing to curtail this cycle of manipulation and violence, let’s consider the example of the early Christian church and the eventual emergence of the American system of government. Biblical and extra-biblical sources indicate that the early church was able to establish a culture counter to and independent of the Roman population that they lived amongst. I would argue that it was the independent nature of the Christian lifestyle, born as the outworking of their beliefs but not necessarily the beliefs themselves that served as the primary motivator for the Roman government to persecute and attempt to put down the spread of the Christian way of life.

Biblical accounts report that believers were able to meet all of each other’s needs, even going so far as abandoning the Roman systems of justice in order to resolve conflicts among their membership. The early Christian Church did not actively rebel against Roman authorities; their charity amongst each other simply resulted in the irrelevancy of the aid Rome had to offer, the government of Rome became obsolete to them. Even more troubling to Rome was the evidence that the charity of the early church extended well beyond its own membership. Julian the Apostate, emperor of Rome from 361 to 363 AD, is famously quoted as remarking:

"Why do we not observe that it is their [the Christians'] benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead and the pretended holiness of their lives that have done the most to increase atheism? [atheism to them was not believing in all of the Roman gods] ... When ... the impious Galileans support not only their own poor, but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us."

Why was this Roman emperor, also known for being a philosopher and social reformer, so concerned with the Christian's care for the poor? Why would he not have been relieved to see the needs of the poor being met and to have that burden lifted from the drain it was on the resources of his government? Was the concern born simply out of a theological difference, was it out of a jealousy for the worship of this despised group that he seems to be wringing his hands? That seems unlikely. I would argue that his focus on care for the poor was born out of a genuine concern that the power base of the Roman government was being undermined by the poor's growing dependence upon the Christian's benevolence in preference to the aid being offered by Rome. Ultimately, the allegiance born out of this transaction of dependency was so effective that instead of attempting to stamp out the Christian church, it was eventually usurped and integrated into the governmental system and ruled the world for quite some time in the form of the Roman Catholic Church. This power structure was essential in establishing the authority in the monarchies of the middle ages, and its influence does not go unnoticed even today. The benevolence of the church was used to garner the political power base and the leadership of the church (often also the leaders of the government) then directed the people toward human kings and administrators that exercised the authority according to the political will of the time.

Once the political authority was established through the poor’s dependency, the power was maintained by propagandizing the poor to view their position in society according to what was necessary to keep them manageable. People were divided into classes, some with more value than others, and some given divine right (by the actual benevolent authority, the Church) to rule over or even own others. Kings and lords ruled or owned the people and this was tolerated by the people with the occasional or even frequent violent overthrow of a kingdom, each one seeking the proxied authority of the people being held by the Church (the Church holding this proxy by means of their care for the poor). Fractures began to emerge within the Church's political power base through ideological factions in the form of the Protestant reformation and other political and ideological divisions. These divisions were able to garner pockets of power (through the placation of the masses), such as Calvin's government in Geneva, and while these governments still sought to establish power in the form of human administrators, the dissonance in the system caused some new thought processes to become established and evolve. Eventually, in the American colonies, an attempt was made to establish a government that was created with a principle tenant being the separation of the benevolent power of the church from the violent power of the state.

Today you might hear many Christians arguing that the separation of church and state was never intended by our founders. It is very clear that while the founders did not seem to be so concerned with a politician’s expression of faith or belief, they were quite clear about separating the role of the state from that of the Church. The first amendment to the Constitution, adopted as a requirement of its ratification, expressly states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". The prolific quantity of quotes and sentiments of a religious and theological nature that are attributed to the various founders of our country, often in official communications, offer proof that the restriction of the government with regards to the establishment of religion has nothing to do with the individual expression of their own theological understanding, even if they were an agent of the state. The display of a monument engraved with the Ten Commandments, a nativity scene on the court house lawn at Christmas, a Menorah, or even a pentagram symbolizing some pagan ritual I am unfamiliar with would have more than likely not caused much of a concern for any of our founders with regard to the establishment of a religion. They would have more than likely and appropriately simply viewed these activities as expressions of the local culture's identity.

Where the founders would have begun to appeal a first amendment encroachment would have been as soon as the physical resources of the state were used to fulfill the physical mandate of the Church. They would have recognized that this action was a dangerous infringement by the state upon the people’s right of self-determination. Founding father and former President John Adams is quoted as saying:

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
 The constitution's limitation to provide a government for anything other than a moral and religious people can be attributed to the fact that it presupposes the elevation of a significant portion of the population in their freedom to assume self-sufficiency to the level previously reserved only for Lords and Kings. It also assumes these people will provide for the needs of the poor in their community, as the Constitution not only fails to enumerate to the Federal Government any such power, but through the first amendment, expressly prohibits it from doing so. The government that was established “by the people, of the people, and for the people” did so by putting the responsibility of the poor (from whom political power is derived) not into the hands of a power elite, but instead into the hands of the very people that historically this power was used to extort. The authority of the American government was vested into the people, not by a power enumerated in its Constitution, but instead by a power denied to the state. The people, not the state, were given the responsibility to care for the poor, and as a result also achieved the authority to be the law of the land by the very nature of this responsibility.

The separation of the church and the state is necessary to maintain liberty. Specifically it is the separation of the body that extends the arm of benevolence from the same body that flexes the arm of justice. In his teaching about giving to the poor, Jesus taught that one should not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing; he also taught that the greatest among his followers would be those who became the least and best served others. Clearly he understood the nature of dependent transactions, and the dangers of allowing the power transfer inherent in these actions to be abused by combining them with the power of violent coercion. The combination of these two powers into one body is a historically proven recipe for corrupt tyranny. It is a perversion of the proper identity of these two institutions to combine them into a single entity. There is a reason why we use two different words to describe “church” and “state”, it is because they are different, with different and separate roles. The American founders also clearly understood the importance for the preservation of liberty in maintaining the integrity of these institutions and in barring the state from access to the political power that is derived from the care of the poor. Along with the idea of individual sovereignty, the concept of a government limited in it scope of power were fundamental principles to the identity of our Constitutional government.

Any entity established with principles is at risk to the administrators charged with executing those principles. At a fundamental level a government is simply a transactional engine. It takes resources in and distributes them according to a predetermined set of principles or instructions in order to accomplish a political agenda. Similarly the benevolent arm of the church simply serves as an infrastructure to collect needs and match them with collected resources. People entrust money to these institutions with the hopes that it will be distributed according to the principles the institution espouses. The problem with these institutions is that they depend upon the integrity of a human administrator to facilitate the transactions. Humans are prone to fraudulent behavior and error, and all of history is full of examples where people have established institutions of noble principle that ultimately have fallen due to human corruption or ignorance.

Our Constitutional government is no exception to this rule. The founders developed the system of government with explicit rules. These rules enumerated the specific powers that the federal government was to have. Because they still had to rely on human administrators to ultimately facilitate the transactions according to the principles of the new government, they developed intricate systems of checks and balances of power in an attempt to offset corruption and ignorance. The principles upon which the institutions they created were founded were well documented, however over time human corruption and incompetence has eroded the founding principles that operate our government. As the government began to step further and further outside of the roles prescribed to it by the Constitution, it began to divert more and more political authority away from the people by the means of taking on the dependency of the poor. In the past century this transfer of authority has been all but completed as more of the population of the United States than ever depend upon the federal government for all or part of their needs.  This dependency is a shift away from the people, in the forms of families, charities, and churches and with it goes the political power of these individuals and institutions.

After the reformation the fractured nature of the church actually helped to guard it from amassing the kind of political power it enjoyed in the past. If the Christian church were to hold true to the mandate of Christ to care for the poor, it would powerfully serve as a mechanism to diffuse the political power transfer that occurs in transactions of dependency. The ideological fracturing of its overarching organization would actually serve in the interest of the people as it would not be able to appropriately organize and achieve a congruent political power structure that would inevitably fall into the hands of incompetent and corrupt human administrators. However, with the Federal government comfortably entrenched in power through ubiquitous entitlement programs that feed, clothe, house, provide medical care, and other services to the poor, churches and charitable organizations are left to pick up only that small part of the population that falls through the cracks of the federal system. Tax laws governing non-profit institutions provide an additional incentive for donations; however these incentives come at the cost of any political power that might be garnered through the charity. Tax exempt charities are not permitted to be political and retain their tax exempt status. This along with the fact that the actual charitable care they provide has to aim at such a small target so not to overlap with existing federal programs, the tax exempt incentive is all that is keeping some donors from simply keeping their money. Sadly, instead of feeding the poor with their resources, most churches have resorted simply investing their tax exempt donations into their own infrastructure. Food stamps, section 8 housing, public schools, and now with the takeover of health care, all of the services traditionally in the realm of the church and charities have almost been completely monopolized by government, and the resultant political power they have achieved is evident in the increased encroachments upon our liberties and fraudulent raiding of our wealth with little or no repercussions for these criminal actions.

Let me be clear here. While the actions against our liberties and wealth are immoral, as long as the federal government is feeding the poor it will have the actual authority to continue these activities unabated. The political authority goes to whoever takes on the dependency of the poor.

I think I've about brought this full circle at least with regards to the situation we find ourselves in today.

I hope I have at least partially illuminated a few facts:

  • That political power comes as a result of feeding the poor, and that whoever can take credit for meeting the needs of the poor will also receive the transfer of their self-determination as a result of the dependency.
  • When combined with the violent aspect of state power, by feeding the poor a government can establish a very extensive system of control over a population. That power can be flexed by the careful application of violence and the manipulation of the resources provided to the dependent class.
  • That the church and the state must be separate, not to protect the population from hearing bad theology, but to prevent the state from garnering the political authority that comes as a result of the authority granted through the dependency of the poor upon the Church’s mandate to care for them.
  • That the Church’s political power can be usurped to serve tyrannical ends.
  • That institutions of principle are always at risk to the fraud and ineptitude of human administrators.
The problem is clear but what is the solution? To just state that we must feed the poor is too vague a statement to make direct any kind of action. I often hear people say things like “if only we’d stop watching television, only buy organic food, ignore immoral law, demand sound money, oust dishonest politcians, etc, etc” as the solution to our problems. And while these ideas would solve many of our problems, they are all predicated on this idea of a mass movement of individual action. In order for a mass of people to be motivated to change a clear vision has to be set before them that appeals to their already existing sense of morality, fear, or benefit. Real solutions have to come in the form of ideas and projects that people can actually identify and participate in. Ideas for projects like these also abound but too often they aim at accomplishing ends that will not solve the root issue.

For instance, a violent revolution against the state only serves to perpetuate the violent systems that are already in place. Not to mention that any rebellion against authority at the outset forfeits the premise that the authority is illegitimate. If you have to rebel against it you are admitting your position of weakness up front. The premise that political power can be acquired through violence should at this point be seen as a clever illusion used to distract us from the actual source of political authority. If we are to come up against the power of an illegitimate government, it must be done from a moral high ground, and a position of strength.

Working within the current system to bring about reform may have some merit, however the system has evolved and has been corrupted to ensure that dissonant opinions are marginalized or silenced all together. Recent examples include the rumors and evidence of massive vote fraud in our elections, congress passing bills before they are even read, our President acting with impunity outside of any kind of legal mandate, even to the extent of waging undeclared wars and assassinating citizens without charge or due process. Even the corruption of the political party process to ensure that candidates who are running on a platform of actual reform are silenced has become almost expected by the public at large. Some reformers have been tempted to resort to the same fraudulent tactics being used to silence them, but once again, even if they are successful in these tactics, they have only established their position upon the same premise of fraud that they are seeking to destroy, and they've not even addressed the issue of the actual authority (vs the positional authority provided within the established system). It won’t work. Even if elections are rightfully won, and men and women of integrity are placed into positions of power, we are still forced to trust that the integrity of these individuals will remain intact amongst the constant barrage of temptations to power and wealth. Ultimately, because our government has usurped the dependency of the poor, it holds a power with which no person or group of people can be trusted. Because of the stranglehold the federal government has on the dependent class, the actual authority of the state, even when exercised unreasonably and immorally, seems to have no effective resistance. Obviously the target must be the dependency of the poor upon the state in order to undermine its actual authority.

The solution to dislodging the authority of the state lies solely in the care and feeding of the poor and garnering their dependency. Many systems of charity already exist; some of them are feeding people all over the world very effectively. Some of them are even used by our government and the UN to provide the benevolent redirection needed when overthrowing an oppressive foreign regime. However, in order to dislodge the political power structure of the government that has usurped the American geography, only a system that meets the needs of the poor of America in a superior fashion will be able to facilitate the transfer of dependency that will force the state back into its Constitutional role. Libertarians have been unsuccessfully campaigning for years to garner the positional authority within the current system and use it to reign in the government, however their Achilles heel has always been the fear the public has as to who will fulfill the roles they have grown dependent upon the state to provide. I say instead of leading with policy, we should solve the issue of dependency first, and then the policy directions will solve themselves. 

The fact is that we have to make a choice. It is not a moral choice, nobody has a moral obligation to help the poor. You have a choice, with consequences. It is not immoral to decide to keep what is rightfully yours, but there is a consequence for this decision. If we choose to abdicate the responsibility to care for the poor upon another entity, then we must also accept the consequence of entrusting that entity with the political authority that results. Complaining about how they use that political authority is a bit like wanting to eat your cake and have it too. Once the authority is established and as long as it can sustain itself it can only be removed by building a parallel and superior system to obsolete it. Yes that means you will have to pay your taxes AND sacrificially give to care for the poor until your voluntary system can garner enough dependency to dissolve the authority of the state.

If a system were to be designed to accomplish this end, it would have to be done with the lessons and pitfalls of the past clearly in our minds. Simply creating another system of dependence that had at its core human administrators who would eventually fall prey to the same temptation of power and greed would be an exercise in insanity. There is no solution found in simply recreating the current situation with different names at the helm. Just as the American founders designed a system of justice with the strengths and weaknesses of the resources they had at their disposal to accomplish it, we must also inventory our abilities and similarly develop a system of benevolence. The reason the Constitution is inadequate for governing anything but a moral and religious people is because liberty is always at risk to the state amassing too much power by taking on the responsibility of caring for the poor if the people refuse to do it. The founders counted upon the resource of a moral and religious people to provide a sort of firewall between the poor and the state. If we no longer have that resource, then it does no good to demand that the Constitution be obeyed, we must shift our focus to how we are caring for the poor and use what resources we have available to us to develop a system of benevolence that does not transfer power to the state. Only when the problem of the poor is solved will we be able to demand that the state retract back to its constitutional limitations and have some expectation of it actually happening.

The printing press was a technological resource used by the founders to put the principles of the government they were trying to establish within the minds of the people. It is doubtful that without the books and pamphlets put out by the revolutionaries that the ideas of the new government would have been able to take hold amongst the people. Today information technology enables us not to only communicate the principles of a system, but it even allows us to ensure that the principles are executed according to our expressed intent. When systems are designed properly, transactions can be audited to a degree that provides a very high level of trust that what we told the system to do is actually what it did, and will do in the future. These systems can even be designed to be distributed in nature so that a centralized takeover of the principles and functionality of the system is all but impossible. If only we could trust our legislatures and pastors to operate with such integrity! But that is exactly the problem isn’t it? For an amazing example of how technology can be used to create systems of trust in order to facilitate the transactions of principle consider the online black market called the Silk Road and the virtual currency called bitcoin.

The Silk Road ( is a website that can only be accessed by using a special internet client that anyonymizes your internet activity over a distributed network of encrypted channels called the Tor network ( The Tor network hides your source internet address from the websites that you visit so that your visit to the website cannot be traced back to your home or office internet connection. The system also makes it very difficult to identify the location of a server hosting a website on the tor network, so the Silk Road is able to maintain an open storefront without agents of the state being able to find out where it physically exists. This is important because the Silk Road is a market place for items prohibited by the state. The main products offered on the Silk Road are illegal drugs. The site uses feedback and has other systems of trust developed to allow anonymous buyers and sellers to be comfortable in participating in their very risky, mostly illegal transactions. The currency of the Silk Road is bitcoin.

Bitcoin ( is a technological innovation that enables people to exchange value via the internet while remaining anonymous to each other if desired. A major obstacle to a truly free market online is the fact that in the middle of every transaction is a bank acting as the trust agent to process the credit card. The bank not only takes a high fee for the transaction, but it also ensures that the parties involved in the transaction are identified and stored in a database. It also requires that both parties, particularly the merchant, trust the bank. Trust in banks is waning, if you haven’t watched the news lately. In addition to this, the information the bank keeps on the transactions have of late been more and more accessible to government agencies wishing to impose upon the market with regulation and taxation.

Bitcoin was launched as an idea of principle that garnered an online community of developers who created a system to execute those principles and enable online transactions that are trustworthy, anonymous and require no middle man. By employing sound economic principles and trusted technology, bitcoin has developed into an actual currency that is virtually if not actually impossible to counterfeit, has no central authority, allows for the direct exchange of value between two anonymous entities, and it is trusted daily by millions of people to facilitate transactions of actual value as money. The bitcoin system offers anonymity, but interestingly enough it also offers an ability to audit transactions in a way that makes fraud very difficult to perpetrate  because every transaction is publicly recorded in the network (as encrypted source and destination “addresses”), if an individual was more interested in the integrity of the transaction vs. the transaction’s anonymity, then the bitcoin system allows for the transaction to be audited in a way that can undeniably show that the amount invoiced was the amount actually paid. This is sometimes referred to as triple entry book keeping, where a neutral third party (the peer to peer bitcoin network) has a record of every transaction. So it would be difficult to create an invoice for $100 and then for the parties to conspire to pay $1000 and split the $900 between themselves or use it as a bribe. The bitcoin network would be able to actually show that the documented transfer of value was the actual transfer of value. It is by definition and in multiple ways, a facilitator of trust.

The bitcoin and tor technologies were created in a way that people trust them even to facilitate transactions of value that if not done properly could result in arrest and imprisonment! The people who developed these tools did so trusting that the principles they shared could reliably be established and executed by technology. The development of these technologies was also done in a communal and open way that allowed for transparent input and competition among ideas so that the most effective ideas were implemented in order to achieve the principles of the projects. The Silk Road does over $2 million a month in sales and the bitcoin currency is becoming recognized even in traditional circles as a reliable conveyor of value. In effect these two technologies have allowed people to step outside the view of what they see as an over reaching government meddling in transactions over which many believe they should have no moral authority, and voluntarily trade with each other according to their beliefs.

The point I am trying to make here is that the Silk Road and bitcoin are clear examples of people taking principles they commonly believed in and putting them into action via technology in a way that they trust, and trust at a level that enables a person to act in spite of the fear of imprisonment looming as a result. These systems have minimized the dependency upon human administrators to perform the work of executing the transactions, opting instead to automate these principles through technology.

Now obviously bitcoin and the anonymous internet are not the final solution to overcoming the inappropriate authority currently in the possession of our federal government. In fact these innovations really do very little to overcome the problem that the people participating in these markets actually face. The government still has the actual authority to arrest and imprison someone for conducting a transaction they have determined to be illegal, even if the transaction is not immoral. Since the government is the one feeding the poor, the authority it holds as a result is the actual problem we face. What if instead of using these technologies to bypass the authority of the state, instead we used the technology to fracture the authority of the state by feeding the poor?

We humans are creative beings. We are without match when it comes to creating new ways to interface and manipulate reality to our benefit. The problem is that we also have weaknesses, physically and also moral weaknesses such as greed, fraud, and laziness. It is common for us to build machines to help us overcome our weaknesses. If we need to break the hard soil, or lift something very heavy, or perform an important, but boring and repetitive task we are very proficient at delegating these activities to machines we have created. We reason and design so that the machines we create can be trusted to perform the physical work that we are too weak, incapable, or uninterested to properly carry out ourselves. Our reliance upon mechanical machines has enabled us to master and transform the physical world that our weak, unreliable bodies would never have been able to accomplish. These machines have even served to free people from systems of slavery by enabling the the demands of the market to be met without subjugating a class of people to do the work. If physical machines have served us so well, why would we not look to intellectual machines to accomplish the same ends? When it comes to our weakness in properly executing our own deeply held principles, I think it is just as appropriate, if not greatly more important, to use our creative and inventive minds to develop machines that can automate and secure the integrity of our principled actions as well.

I purpose that an open source project be established to develop technology that targets transactions of dependency in order to fracture the political authority that result from those transaction. This technology would take the principles of “not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing” and the separation of benevolence and force (church and state) when giving to the poor, and encode and entrust those principles into an executable software system that actually enables benevolent transactions to occur without transferring political authority to anyone, particularly not to the state. I do not have the entire picture of what this system would look like, but I am going to provide some general ideas as to the direction I could see it going. If an open source project were to be established I am confident that the details of the system would be worked out within that process.

What I can envision is a platform that can be used to gather resources and needs and match them with each other. This platform would be open so as to allow any kind of group or individual who wants to commit resources to caring for the poor to do so according to a pre-determined set of criteria. The criteria for meeting needs could vary from group to group using the platform in order to welcome all dispositions and ideas with regard to caring for the poor as well as to allow for the open and transparent competition of ideas. It would exist as a sort of social network for the needy and for people and organizations committed to meeting the needs of the needy. Charitable organizations could use the system to establish trust with their donors, so that donors would be confident that the charity was actually spending resources uncovering needs and that the resources they were donating were actually going to meet those needs. The platform would need to be distributed, much like how the bitcoin system is, so that the hosting and maintenance would not be centralized to human administration and would not require any kind of fixed overhead in order to operate. The development, operation, and maintenance of the system would be driven by the voluntary open source community and would remain available via a peer to peer infrastructure as long as the internet continues to exist.

One possible scenario could include a methodology for created a “need object” these software objects would be encrypted or partially encrypted files that would exist within the peer to peer network, very similar if not exactly replicating the bitcoin infrastructure. The need object would be created by defining a particular need, and would relate specifically to that individual need. For example a need for groceries may be established within the system. As a component of the need a unique bitcoin wallet, or some other trusted, distributed, anonymous, audit-able and secure method of value transfer, would be created for the purposes of receiving the resources to meet that need. Donors would submit resources along with criteria to be used to expend those resources these would then be matched to fund the need objects. It is similar to a customer of an insurance company filing a claim against a policy, if the claim fits the policy then it is paid, if not then it is matched against another policy. The difference is that the person receiving payment for the claim is not the person paying the premium, the premium payer is actually not insuring against the claim being paid, but instead by paying the claim the premium is going to fracture dependency upon the state and insure against the continued growth of government tyranny.

So if a person donated 20 bitcoins for the purposes of buying groceries, the system would match that donation with the previously created need and transmit the resource of 20 bitcoins to the address of the bitcoin wallet associated with the need. The bitcoin wallet could be further protected by creating a “gift card” transactional network. Each person who used the system to have their needs met would have a card with a pin number attached to it. The bitcoin wallet of the needs they created would be encrypted with their card number and pin. When they went to purchase the groceries or otherwise expend the resource given to them to meet their need, they would swipe their card and enter their pin in order unlock the specific resource allocated to meet their need. This would all happen quickly and automatically within the network at the point of sale. The system could publish a directory of needs, as well as help people crafting needs in matching them to the criteria of available resources. These directories could be localized so that people could see how needs are distributed through their familiar geographies. Whether bitcoins are used, or some other method of storing and transmitting the value needed to meet the need is irrelevant, the point is that if systems currently exist that can provide the level of trust to transact an illegal trade over the internet between unknown parties, then a system can also be developed to feed the poor in a trusted, secure, and distributed way that also fractures the ability for any one group or person to garner the political authority resultant from the transaction. This system would server the same purpose as sanctioning our own government in order to force it to stop participating in some unwelcome behavior.

What about fraud? Won’t people simply lie to the system in order to get resources that they really don’t need. Of course they will. The system will need to be designed to accept this kind of fraud up front. People already lie to the systems of welfare that are currently in existence, this is nothing new. The problem is that the systems we currently have also entrench political authority within the hands of a corrupt government, and that government uses that authority to oppress you and me. Remember the purpose of the system is to offset political dependency, not to actually reform people trapped in a lifestyle of poverty. That is the actual work of the ministry of the gospel, and of other social organizations focused on these kinds of personal development. To put your mind at ease about accepting this fraud, please consider a couple of things. First the system will not tolerate any kind of fraud at its core. It will only do exactly what it is programmed to do according to the principles outline by the community and the individual groups establishing resources within the system. So even if fraud is perpetrated at the edge of the system to receive a resource, the resource will not be allocated unless the criteria for allocating it are met. Over time and through competition and experimentation, the criteria for allocating resources will reach an optimum balance that attracts the dependent class in order to offset their political authority, while at the same time maximizing the ability to meet legitimate needs. This as opposed to our current system of social welfare which often seeks to minimize the meeting of legitimate needs and maximize the political authority derived from the transaction.

Let me take an opportunity here to comment about the fraudulent or lying poor. The outrage we are taught to feel with regard to the poor for defrauding systems of social welfare for their own gain is another distraction from the real problems plaguing our society. Many social welfare programs that exist within the church and charities spend an inordinate amount of energy attempting to develop criteria so that they never give any money away to people. As a former pastor I have been involved with these systems and have personally told people we could not pay their $100 electricity bill because we felt that they had failed to live up to some moral standard we had established, all while we had at least $10,000 in the bank at any given time specifically designated to meeting these kind of needs. We claimed that our duty to be “good stewards” of “God’s money” compelled us to make these kinds of hard decisions, but I often wonder if God would not have rather seen us spend the $100 on a lie, and used the situation as an opportunity to develop a relationship with the people depending upon our charity. We have been convinced that the lying poor are the source of all of our society’s ills as they try to con us out of a $100 electric bill, or defraud the food stamp program in order to buy liquor or cigarettes. As if these nickel and dime indiscretions pose some kind of real threat to our economic system. We have been blinded or desensitized to the fraud that is at the core of our government that are the lying rich who are stealing trillions of dollars and even waging wars to make it happen, and they obtain the authority to commit these crimes by doing the work of charity that is the Christian churches mandate directly from Jesus. We focus our attention on the tiny speck of fraud that exists at the edges of our system, and use it as an excuse to hold on to our money. We then turn a blind eye to the log of fraud that is at the core of our system, a fraud that must steal our money via taxation and use it to feed the poor anyway in order to maintain the authority to continue to perpetuate their crimes! Let’s just feed the poor ourselves! Let’s build systems that can tolerate the inevitable fraud that will happen when we actually interface with needy humans, but that cannot tolerate fraud with regard to the principles the systems was designed to operate upon and that don’t create a centralization of authority that is inevitably used to oppress us!

When I talk about this idea, one objection that inevitably comes up is that people don’t want to give their money to support other people who are able to work or otherwise provide for themselves. We complain and scheme that we ought to have drug tests and work requirements for welfare recipients, but these kind of actions are rarely instituted. There is a reason why the government makes it so easy to get on and stay on their dependency programs, it is because it is worth it for them for you to be dependent. When a person who is able to work chooses to instead be dependent upon another entity, that person does not get the help for free. The old libertarian axiom that “there ain't no such thing as a free lunch” (TANSTAAFL) comes to mind. The state wouldn't be buying your lunch if it wasn't worth it to them to do so. As we are considering building a system of dependency, lets also consider the actual value of a person who instead of forfeiting their political self-determination to the state, instead forfeits it to nothing, even while being completely dependent upon others for their day to day needs.

With the general idea I have presented here I think it is clear that a technology could be created to establish a decentralized system of transacting charitable giving that could be trusted by those involved and attractive to those in need of it, and that could successfully fracture any political dependency that resulted from the transactions. It would enable us to determine the principles by which we would like to see the poor cared for, without having to put those principles at risk to human administrators in executing the actual transactions. I believe this to be a solid and accomplishable idea. The technology exists, the premise seems to be sound, but as with any good idea, it is only as effective as its ability to be marketed. The obvious weakness of this idea is that it would require that people sacrificially give, on top of the taxes they are paying, in order to compete with a government that currently has the authority to actually print money in order to pay for the dependency they need from the poor. In 2012 the SNAP (food stamp) program alone cost the tax payers $47 billion dollars. So in order just to dislodge that dependency, this system would need to be able to come up with a similar amount. That would require almost 10 million donors to designate an average of $5000 a year. These numbers alone are staggering and we haven’t even talked about health care, housing, public schools, day care, and other entitlements currently being used by our government to create dependency and maintain power.

What does the poor’s dependency upon our government really cost though? Is it just the billions that would be required to duplicate the programs we currently have? Don’t forget that the programs we currently have in place also are the source of the political authority that the state uses to bailout banks, wage wars, and build bridges to nowhere. All of the sudden the billions needed to care for the poor is starting to seem like quite a bargain. There also has to be a consideration for the fact that the current systems of social welfare that are funded by our government’s counterfeit currency are at a real risk of becoming destabilized. As the American government continues to inflate their money and engage in debt and spending, the money they use to pay for these social programs will quickly begin to purchase less and less. It would be very beneficial for the security of our communities to have another benevolence system in place, a safety net for the safety net, should a currency or debt crisis put our dependent populations at a risk of destabilization. Even if the system could be stood up where it was only partially functional it would be a smart move to have it in place prior to any kind of economic incident. The key to getting the system off the ground will be communicating the idea, establishing an open source developer community, and most importantly appealing to individuals and organization to actually fund needs through the system.

Marketing of the system could be done though traditional methods like church meetings, social media, web marketing, etc. However, because the system has a very important political aspect, people who want to promote the idea could do so very effectively by running for political offices and using the platforms that come as a part of a campaign to share the idea. It would not be all that important to win the elections, what would be more important is to use the opportunity of running to capitalize on the audiences that you could get in front of. Local and state political offices could be great target campaigns, especially if the development side of the application could focus on localizing the ability to meet needs. The idea itself could be packaged almost into the platforms of a political party, and then the party could be used as a vehicle to spread the idea.

Spreading is important, and fine tuning how it is communicated will also be essential. People need to be able to easily understand what the system is for, why it is important, and they need to see the value that it creates. Giving to the poor, especially the poor from whom the kind of political dependency we are looking to redirect, is not really a satisfying endeavor. This is evidence by the fact that the government has to force us to do it through taxation, and many charities rely upon the additional incentive of the tax deduction in order to compel people to give donations. The level of giving that this system will require in order to be successful is sacrificial. I think there are at least two groups of people who would be able to see the real incentive in sacrificially giving to provide resources for this project, activist patriots and Christians.

I do believe that people who are patriotic and who desire to actually see the government shrink back to its constitutional role would be interested in providing resources for this system. I believe they would be able to understand why it is important to redirect the political dependency of the poor, and this would serve as a powerful incentive for them to give. This group of people are generally activists, they have been trying hard to use the political system to fight the encroachments of big government, and they are also very adept at using all forms of media to get their ideas out into the public. Unfortunately, because they have not be able to provide a solution the problem of feeding the poor up front, they have been unable to successfully garner the political authority needed to change the direction of our country. I am one of these patriots, and I am frustrated with the time, work and money that have been put in to losing campaigns, and other efforts that have made some progress, but have by no means slowed the advance of the state. The prospect of a system that could actually diffuse the power structure of the federal system is truly exiting to me, and if it were developed in a way that I could understand and trust what it was doing, I would gladly and sacrificially give to see if it could make some headway for liberty.

The other group that may be able to hear this message is Christians. Many Christians are discontented with the state of the church as a whole. They are tired of building buildings and buying sound systems and putting on flashy concerts, all of which seem to be almost totally irrelevant to making real change to our culture. Many Christians are hungry to get back to the core of Christianity and see the kind of community that is described by the book of Acts regarding the early Church. Many believers want to give to care for the poor as is commanded by scripture, but unfortunately, ministers without integrity is almost as euphemistic as politicians without integrity. We are at a place in our society where people have a very difficult time trusting other people with the management of resources to be used to enact systems of principle. The bible says that the early Christian church sold their possessions and laid the proceeds at the feet of the apostles who distributed it to each as they had need.

"For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need." Acts 4:34-35

This single verse contains within in it a complex system of trust, integrity, organization, and logistics. In other words, they, like the founding fathers, used what they had available to them in order to achieve the principled ends they were seeking. The early church was fortunate to have Apostles that were more or less universally trusted to carry out the responsibility over these resources with integrity. I know of no such Apostles, and even if I did, convincing you that they could be trusted would be a whole different chore. However communicating ideas and principles to you is much easier, and many people are very comfortable with automated systems, especially if they can see this system actually execute the principals they were designed for reliably. Consider the admonition of Christ in Luke 16 regarding the shrewd manager, where he rebukes his followers for not having the common sense to deal with money and business systems that even a dishonest business man could figure out. He then commands them to use unrighteous money to make friends. It is clear to me that Jesus taught us to care for the poor, he also taught that the most powerful among us would be those who served. With an understanding that political power is derived from the dependency of the poor, we can see that Jesus was pleading with us to be shrewd about how we go about caring for the poor.   The parable of the sheep and the goats, the admonitions of scripture to care for the widows and orphans are clear commands of scripture.  In our failure as a church to meet the demands of these requirements, and our relegating the responsibility onto the state, we justify our "stewardship" (hoarding of resources upon our own infrastructure) by placing barriers and moral standards between the poor and our charity.  I am certainly glad that God did not place such standards on us when he gave us the gift of Christ.  Maybe we should follow his lead in caring for the poor. Many Christians see the danger in using systems of benevolence to lord power over others.  In fact many organization end up using their benevolence as a method to accumulate "trophy" people that have reformed their lives while receiving their charity.  The programs are then perverted away from the original mission of loving and helping people and instead attempt to capitalize on their personal transformations, and inevitably end up putting an unrealistic expectation upon the people they are attempting to serve.  Rebellion and relapse are common under these circumstances because the broken people find themselves being viewed as a renovation project instead of as a human being.  A system such as the one I have been describing would enable Christians to meet the commands of the gospel and give to the poor, while programmatically ensuring that their left hand didn’t know what their right hand was doing, thus defeating the temptation to amass power and enabling them to focus on developing relationships and loving the poor as people. By taking the wisdom that the agents of our government have clearly figured out to control us, and then using that same wisdom to diffuse political power instead of to concentrate it, I can clearly see the path to fulfilling our obligations to the Gospel, and creating liberty for all the people in the process.

This idea is a perfect fit for me. It is born out of my intellectual and vocational passions. I have always felt like a bit of a misfit. My passions for ministry, information technology, and politics seemed to be an odd combination that left me feeling that something was missing when I would become active in any one of these areas. When I am active in all three of the areas I often felt that I was stretch into multiple and contradictory directions. The idea that feeding the poor integrates these vocational areas of my life almost perfectly is very exciting to me. I know that what I have written here is somewhat jumbled and often wordy and possibly even confusing, but I hope that I have said enough to spark an interest within you. I am not a natural born leader. I am an idealist and a dreamer by nature. Putting the nuts and bolts together of an idea like this will be very difficult for me. Not to mention that I don’t really have any experience leading or developing within an open source community, or even in logistics of marking an idea this big so as to see it come to fruition. I know that I understand the idea and will continue to fine tune how I am communicating it, and I pray that along the way those who can also see this vision will come along side, or even take the whole thing over and actually make it happen. If you’ve gotten to this part of this document, I’m assuming I've held your interest. Do you want to make it happen? I am not looking for money, and I plan on keeping my day job as an IT person to pay my bills. I will give sacrificially to the project if it comes to life. I will give of my money and time, and of my ideas, because I can truly see the vision of liberty that it could create. Will you join me?