Tag Archives: Submission

Thoughts on Harney County

Harney_County,_Oregon,_sign
Photo by By Ken Lund

Recently I drove to Burns, Oregon, a place many people are now familiar with, due to the recent stand-off between activists and the FBI at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Assuming that anyone reading this is in the know, and were attracted by the “Harney County” in the title, let me share some brief thoughts…

I drove the 7 hours to Burns because my friend Mike (Tenth Amendment Center) was speaking there. When the Hammonds were arrested, again, and the Refuge was first occupied, friends of the Hammonds and other members of the community, wondered what the right answers were to this conflict, what their rights were, and what they could potentially do about federal encroachment. Many of them felt at a loss. So, someone began doing their research and found KrisAnne Hall, (who is a feisty ball of constitutional terrific-ness). She was the first in an ongoing string of speakers and teachers, which, has also included the The Center for Self Governance and last Monday, Mike Maharrey.

We all watched the media paint the folks in the refuge as a bunch of crazed militants. I generally have my doubts about the integrity of the media at large, and this was no exception. I was looking forward to talking to some locals for myself, and hearing their take on the whole situation. A friend made a good point earlier this week, when he reminded me that we, as a society, have gotten further and further away from our agrarian roots, and therefore it’s hard for a lot of people to relate to some ranchers “out west.” It makes sense. I grew up riding my grandmother’s horses, and I love the smell of hay and earth. My great grandparents had cattle that we moo-ed at while swinging on the gate. I think of ranchers as the salt of the earth. I know a lot of people never had those experiences in the first place, and I can feel even my own disconnection now.

I liked the people I met in Burns. People told us that they had visited the refuge when everything started. They hung out with the occupiers  and never felt threatened by them. Of course that isn’t to say that every person in town agreed with what they were doing – or how they went about it.  People told us stories, like how Harney County used to have a thriving GDP, back when the sawmills were still open and the country ranches thrived, and that whether or not you agree with the way this group brought attention to the situation, the truth is, that these ranchers have been being bought out and pushed off their lands for years. The Bureau of Land Management still owns 3 million acres in Harney County alone, 62% of county land. Constitutionally speaking, most of this land should have been disposed of (sold or given to Oregonians) by the Federal Government, when Oregon became a state, as they are only supposed to hold lands for enumerated purposes.

My biggest take away was really just a reminder, that we need to do our research on why things are happening, and not just absorb the mainstream narrative. On all issues. Also, we have to find good ways to communicate that. I know I’ve shared background links on Facebook, though perhaps not many people read them. It’s also true, there is vitriol from some who agree with the occupiers and some who don’t. Let’s face it, every group has some kooks and hotheads. My disappointment is that the entire narrative here revolved around the occupiers being armed. I don’t condemn the occupiers, as they were within their rights to be armed. I’m a 2nd amendment proponent. I get why they were. I just find it unfortunate that it stopped a bunch of people from relating to them, and really understanding what they were fighting for. Of course, I guess you could argue that that’s the issue which really got the media’s attention ( it figures), and is actually the reason this conversation has gained traction.

Mike encouraged the Harney County folks to tell their individual stories. I hope they, and many others, choose to do so.

You can read Mike’s terrific and much more informative blog post here; Refusal to Cooperate: The Moderate Middle Ground Between Revolution and Unlimited Submission.

The Blind Lead The Blind

Earlier I was involved in a conversation regarding a very large church here in Washington. I won’t go into the details. I’m sure it’s all over the Internet and if you are interested you can certainly seek it out. I feel nothing but grief for everyone involved and can’t offer anything constructive to that conversation, only my sincere wishes that there is resolution and healing.

However, the situation there, and the subsequent conversation with my friends, did bring up a very important issue that I think about fairly often, and which concerns me deeply. I think it can best be summed up by the word submission.

This is a word that often gets me into trouble.

On the one hand, most of the people I align with politically, are also wary of – if not outright hostile towards – the very concept. On the other hand, most of the people I associate with in a church setting, support it fervently, and seemingly without skepticism. Note that I did say *most*. I am aware that I’m generalizing a bit here, and that not quite everyone lands so firmly on one side or the other.

I personally understand the idea of submission in a positive, if generally difficult light. A child submits to a parent because there are rules that help us grow. One spouse submits to the other because we can’t always agree 100% of the time, and somebody has to lay their preference down (also true in friendship). And, we submit to leadership when we have entered into a beneficial relationship that we have come to learn from. In each case there is often struggle, and that my friends, is healthy. The meaningful issue is overcoming the struggle, and making a decision to submit; for the sake of the relationship, or in order to learn and grow.

You’ll notice that nowhere on my list does any kind of political figurehead appear. Neither, does any person without whom we have a relationship. And yes, I consider myself to have a relationship with God, so he would land on my list. Whether he lands on yours or not is your prerogative.

So here’s the problem…

I firmly believe that the church at large has damaged the concept it is so passionate about. It makes sense really. Regardless of arena, people are fallible, act wrongly, and will abuse power. The thing is, the church is supposed to be leading people in compassion, grace, humility, love, and freedom. They are supposed to be concerned with teaching people how to walk with and communicate with God for themselves. That means using the heart and mind that God gave YOU, people! Without that, Luther pretty much hung his thesis for nothing, and why bother continuing to print bibles for personal use?

Unfortunately, just like any bully anywhere, we sometimes brow beat people into going our way. I know, it’s a human failing, but one to which we should pay much more attention in ourselves. Often, we do this with the best intentions, without even meaning to. We do it by being sure that we know what is best for people, and expecting them to go along. I also think we do it out of fear. If we can just help people stay within right boundaries, we can somehow keep them from stumbling and crashing on their faces, which we are often afraid is going to happen in that big bad world out there.

When we raise people up and train them to have a posture of submission, not before God, but to man, regardless of relationship, and promote the idea that leadership should generally not be questioned (as they are ordained by God), we are telling people that leaders know better than them, and that they should trust the conscience (and divine witness) of their leaders, more than they trust their own.

So dangerous.

When combined with the overly fervent, unwaveringly patriotic mentality of most conservative churches, you are just asking for disaster. We have too many unquestioning idealists, who don’t want to be critical of other believers – because that’s not very spiritual of us. Of course George W. Bush could do no wrong. Heellloo?! He loves Jesus, don’t you know? What do you mean the Patriot Act was bad? Safety, people! And God, after all, ordained him to be president. Of course, God ordained Obama too, but apparently he does not love Jesus, so it’s far more acceptable to question his activities. Which, of course just means we can blame any ills on Obama, when really the problem is so much deeper.

It is impossible to fix a problem without the truth. The Bible exhorts us to see deeper truths. Ron Paul, quoting George Orwell, has said many times that “truth is treason in the empire of lies.” I find this so sadly the truth in the church today. It grieves me, deeply. We need to take back the idea of godly submission, and stop using it to train people to be lead by the nose.

In America, we snub our noses at history. We are modern and smarter than those who have gone before. We certainly cannot have been misled, and especially not by people we like. We do not conceive that we could have been those German citizens, in their church next to the railroad, singing louder as the trains went by. The truth is, we are those people. Flawed humanity. My sincere hope is that the American church at large will see the truth – very soon – and will start to lead the way by teaching people what freedom really looks like. Learning when it is appropriate to submit, and being skeptical of doing so too easily, is going to be a very important step.