This is a question everyone asks. And I do mean everyone. Not just atheists, but Catholics and Protestants. Even Evangelicals and Fundamentalists -- for all their Bible-thumping -- are a product of their culture, and our culture is at war with Micah.
Why bother trying to understand the Bible and some peasant religious nut who lived three thousand years ago? I am "modern" and "scientific" and I have no interest in church or religion. Please don't give me the Bible. What do I need with the Bible?
Our culture is at war with the Bible.
Vine & Fig Tree is a movement in solidarity with Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Jesus, and millions of working-class families who have given their lives to protect copies of the Scriptures from the violent institutions of church and state, and live that revelation out in their homes and in the world. This is Patriarchy.
There are two accounts of the Creation and Purpose of Man competing for your loyalty.
THE BIBLE SAYS that the human race was created by a loving, Infinite-Personal God, Who placed Man into a beautiful Garden to live in families and take care of the planet.
MODERN SCIENTIFIC DEMOCRACY SEZ there is no God, except as you decide to create him/her/it. Man is the random mutation of genetic material, emerging without purpose and without meaning from a "primordial soup" of chemicals and energy. Marriage and families are "oppressive," and the planet is to be (a) worshipped or (b) exploited, "for tomorrow we die."
What are the results? What has "modern" actually delivered?
These words come to mind:
People everywhere feel it:
People everywhere feel powerless:
Where are true leaders? Who are our heroes?
People everywhere feel lost:
THIS IS THE MODERN WORLD
PATRIARCHY -- as seen in Micah's prophecy -- is a viewpoint which self-consciously defends the Bible as an infallible revelation of the hope, values, and love of God. The "Enlightened" Empire of the Status Quo is at war with the Bible and with followers of Christ who for centuries believed it to be the Word of God.
The Christian Patriarch accepts as bedrock fact the Bible's historical chronicle of
To ignore these choices is to choose to die at the hand of the Status Quo.
Vine & Fig Tree is my choice; the Bible, not the Status Quo.
But can I trust the Bible?
Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:14-15
I answer: Can we trust those who say we can't trust the Bible? Let's take one of the most controversial issues surrounding the Bible: Creationism vs. Evolutionism. I'm a Flaming Fundamentalist -- a six-day Creationist.
It is precisely because my eyes are wide open to what "scientists" have done to us that I reject their lies. I find it far more comfortable to side with peasants who stood against powerful, violent Empires -- quite apart from any faith that God used them as mouthpieces of His revelation to us.
You take the Bible literally?
You believe the world was created in six days?!?
What are you, some kind of obscurantist?
DON'T YOU LISTEN TO SCIENCE?
What do I think of when I hear the word "science"?
But it's not the inventions; it's the ideology. It's the religious values upon which modern science is built.
The powerful and well-trained minds of the military leaders and politicians who plan their wars and turn the wheels of their war machine in an unmovable path toward death and destruction are dominated by a view of the world -- indeed, of the entire universe -- which is self-consciously at war with reality -- God's reality as it is described to us by God through Jesus and the Prophets.
Scientists want all the world to believe as they do, to accept their view of the universe -- its origin, nature and destiny - and, having accepted this view, to place our trust in them as those who understand best our world and the path to health, prosperity, safety, security -- in short, to salvation.
Everybody wants "salvation." Call it "the good life," or "the American Dream." The question is, How do you get it? Modern science says, "Better living through chemistry." Politicians have learned the lesson: Salvation comes through the barrel of a gun. Urban twelve-year olds carry machine guns in pursuit of this faith. The structures of our society teach Salvation through Power. We must resist their propaganda.
There are some people today who consider themselves "radicals" or "resisters." They have not resisted as they should have. Most people in the "Peace Movement" believe that the universe is as the President and his generals and scientists describe it. Conservatives listen dutifully to the prophets of the Empire, and spend great sums of money to send their children to their seminaries (Harvard, Stanford, Yale, etc.).
The priesthood of the Bush/Clinton regime -- in their white coats or silk ties, working in their university degree-lined offices -- has convinced nearly everyone that Jesus and the Prophets of God are hopelessly misinformed concerning reality. Rather than accepting their Word as an absolute authority, we have been taught to choose for ourselves. We are all "liberals" now, not "Fundamentalists."
The simple fact is that there are two competing religions here: Biblical Christianity, and an idolatry which we might call "neo-Baalism."10
We must understand these two religions, see that they are in complete opposition, discern which one leads to life, and then begin to live in terms of the one we choose.
Who believes in Neo-Baalism?
Who believes in Creationism?
Those who work with their hands
The Apostle James says,
True religion is not a mind full of facts and crafty arguments ready for rapid deployment in a theological debate. And while we ought to strive for "doctrinal purity," the goal is to be "unspotted" from the Empires of the world. A bridled tongue and compassion for the weak are among the Christ-like character traits we must develop. The Apostle Paul says that when we develop these traits, we will not be "carried about" by the Modern World, by defenders of the Status Quo, which is founded on "the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting."
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
I want my children to choose Micah's religion, not Caesar's. I want them to look forward to a day -- indeed, to make today the day -- we beat swords into plowshares. I want them to resist those who hypnotize us all into forging spears instead of hooks for pruning. I want to see them live in terms of Micah's Vine & Fig Tree vision. I am naive if I expect them to be indoctrinated in this vision in any institutional church or school.
To the extent our thinking has not been clarified, and as we are not consistent with our foundational principles, we will not experience the harmony that God intends for us and described through the words of the prophet Micah.
We have already seen this in the 20th century. We have seen it, but we refuse to see it. Over 200 million people have been deliberately killed in this century alone; a greater percentage of the population than any previous century. The century of atheism is the century of mass death. Evolutionism means Genocide.
But modern man seeks the Tempter's fantasy: "to be as gods" (Genesis 3:5). Anything is better than admitting that God is God and we are not. Even death.
All they that hate Me, love death. Proverbs 8:36
And so I write with a sense of urgency. And yet I don't write because I don't have the strength to face the battle. When the nation can silently view televised scenes of the government bringing tanks against citizens whose only "crime" is non-conforming thought, we are only days away from the time when those same viewers will hear the televised call to take up arms against any and all who will not confess that man is god and the State is his savior.
Jesus said His followers must be willing to "take up your cross." In our day He would have said, "take up your firing squad."
I am ready. Are you?
I was a fundamentalist when I discovered Peter Maurin. I still am. So is he, I believe.
A fundamentalist is a radical. A fundamentalist goes back to the "roots." A fundamentalist rejects "modernism"in favor of the traditions.
Yet Protestant fundamentalists are at odds with Catholicism. Why? Because the "traditions" are the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. In Catholicism, the "traditions" are actually innovations which have been added to the Scriptural "traditions" in the relatively-modern era. As a radical, I go to the roots, and question all modern innovations in terms of the roots.
I consider myself a Traditionalist, like Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker.
There is a great conflict between Modernism and Traditionalism.
The Bible speaks of its contents as "Tradition."
All other "tradition" is innovation; a departure from Biblical Tradition. (If an alleged "tradition" is squarely based on a Biblical command, it wouldn't be called a "tradition.") All "traditions" which compete with Bible are not traditions, but additions, based on pressure from outside the Church. All tradition outside the Scripture is modernism. Even if the repetition of this worldly wisdom is based on the claimed authority of a religious hierarchy. we shouldn't believe it. It's not Scriptural.
Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the Traditions just as I delivered them to you.
1 Corinthians 11:2
Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the Traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.
2 Thessalonians 2:15
But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the Tradition which he received from us.
2 Thessalonians 3:6
The Pharisees held to "tradition," and let their traditions take precedence over God's Tradition in the Scripture. Matthew 15 and Mark 7 are the classic descriptions of the conflict between human religious tradition and God's Scriptural Tradition:
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
Now in my humble, narrow-minded opinion, the Catholic church is guilty of putting their religious traditions ahead of God's Law. Much like the Jews of Jesus' day, the emphasis in their public gatherings is on rituals, not on cleansing our lives of
Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem.
 Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault.
 For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders.
 When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches.
 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?"
 He answered and said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.
 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'
 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men; the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do."
 He said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.
 For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.'
 But you say, 'If a man says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban"; ' (that is, a gift to God),
 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother,
 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do."
 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, "Hear Me, everyone, and understand:
 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man.
 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!"
[7:12] Then His disciples came and said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?" [7:13] But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.
[7:14] Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch."
 When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable.
 So He said to them, "Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him,
 because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?"
 And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man.
 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.
 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.
There is more emphasis on ceremonial traditions than on becoming truly human, according to the pattern of God's Law which Christ followed perfectly.13
evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,  thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness.
Paul experienced true conversion when he left Jewish liturgies and began establishing house-church communities.
But like he told Timothy to do, he purged these traditions from his life, so that he could become fit for use by the Potter. As Peter (the first Pope?) reminded his readers,
And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
There is a huge, immeasurable gap between the decentralized housechurch communities of the New Testament and a Cathedral, or even your local parish "Church." And the distance between the Catholic Church and Vine & Fig Tree patriarchy, as exemplified by Abraham, is unfathomable.
As obedient children, do not conform yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance;  but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,  because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."  And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;  knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,  but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.  He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you  who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
1 Peter 1:14-21
This is not to say that a person cannot become truly human in the Church. This is, as Jesus did, a critique of institutional hierarchies.
Because the Catholic Church is tied to hierarchy-buttressing traditions more than Scripture (whether those traditions are "religious" traditions in the form of ceremonies or doctrines, or political traditions, or philosophical traditions), the Church is not an effective force against the violence and hopelessness of the Modern World. Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker, might be the first to agree.
I hate that.
This stuff about Mark's Gospel not being literal history is dangerous bunk.
It is said that Mark's Gospel (and Moses' Exodus) is not "history," but a "story" or a "myth."
What is all this talk about "myths," anyway? Am I so old that I remember a day when someone could say, "Ahh, that's a myth" and we would all understand him to be saying it was false? But in Catholic Worker circles these days, it's trendy to believe in "myths." Joseph Campbell is the agent of Empire most responsible for this 180° shift in meaning. The idea, of course, is that there really is no such thing as truth, and so it's perfectly alright to believe a myth. This is Orwellian theological doublespeak.
The Bible says myths are bad.
The word "myth" is, in Greek (according to Strong's dictionary), "3454. muthos, perh. from the same as 3453 (through the idea of tuition); a tale, i.e. fiction ("myth"):--fable."
1 Timothy 1:4 nor give heed to myths and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.
1 Timothy 4:7 But reject profane and old wives' myths, and exercise yourself toward godliness.
2 Timothy 4:4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to myths.
Titus 1:14 not giving heed to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn from the truth.
2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cunningly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
And this is the stuff Catholic Worker trends are made of?
We also hear about Mark's "socio-literary method." This is designed to put distance between us and the Fundies. Fundamentalists believe it to be inerrant history. We Catholic Workers are more sophisticated. Who is right?
The trendy anti-Fundamentalist thing to say these days in Catholic Worker Bible Studies is that "Mark did not write like a 20th century historian." That is certainly true, given the fact that the overwhelming majority of today's historians are court-appointed toadies whose books are published by State-funded universities or entrenched publishing corporations and who are, to be blunt, anti-Christian. Mark writes as a Christian, not a CBS News-approved propagandist for Empire. Mark is a Christian who believes the Scriptures are the Word of God.
If Dorothy Day -- who we could certainly say was a "20th-century historian" by virtue of her being a journalist -- went back to 1st-century Palestine, saw the demonic struggle that was going on, and lived with Jesus and heard His explanations of current events according to the Old Testament Scriptures (Matt 5:17-20; 2 Tim 3:15-17), she would have written a Gospel just like Mark's. She would have understood that the State was energized by literal demons, which is the clear teaching of the Scriptures from cover to cover. She would have seen that in those days there really were "angels everywhere" (I refer to some medieval painting I saw recently -- see 2 Kings 6:16-17). In fact, Dorothy Day would undoubtedly write more strongly about the miracles, the exorcisms, the healings, etc., to counter the secularization of the 20th-century.
Now if Carroll Quigley14 or some other staff historian from the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank went back in time, his "gospel" wouldn't be anything like Mark's, nor Dorothy's. Does that surprise us? Jesus would be portrayed as a deluded crank, Rome the guardian of "world peace." What do you expect? There is no neutrality. "Twentieth-century scholars" are not "objective" about the Scriptures.
But we are so blinded by the universities and Time magazine that we constantly and unthinkingly spout off this nonsense about the Gospels not being historically reliable. Mark writes as a 20th century CHRISTIAN historian would write. People back then weren't stupid just because they didn't worship science and the State like we do. (See the following essay on the Loaves and Fishes).
Not just "liberals," but Fundamentalists too are blinded by science and the State. For all their claim to be "fundamentalists," they really are modernists. That's why I say no fundamentalist would call me a fundamentalist. They buy into too much of the Empire's propaganda. They really do want to be accepted and accredited by "the powers that be." I've got much more to say on this, but not enough time. More later.
Demonic possession in Mark's Gospel is a good place to check our presuppositions. Was it really possession by an evil but supernatural entity, or was it just a psychological condition?
Look, we have to come to grips with the fact that there really were demons back then, but that Jesus really did something remarkable to them. If you deny the first, you become a liberal; if you deny the second, you become a useless fundamentalist waiting for the "rapture." Mark says Jesus came to bind the strong man; not an impressive achievement if no such entity ever existed. But if Jesus triumphed over Satan and his minions, then we have the basis for reconstructing society by working for peace and justice.
Here is what I see the Scriptures saying about Jesus' triumph over the strong man:15
By His Power over demons, Jesus demonstrated that the Kingdom was not "postponed" but rather "at hand."16 By His Power over demons, Jesus indicated that Satan was being bound.17 Through the death (execution) of Christ, Satan was judged,18 and in His Resurrection and Ascension, Christ was enthroned, and the power which Satan and his host formerly held over the nations has been transferred to Christ.19
If you believe all those verses in the footnotes, you become a radical. Fundamentalists pay lip-service to certain of these ideas, but on the whole they deny them. Recall the message of Hal Lindsay's monumental best-sellers, The Late, Great Planet Earth and Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth. Fundamentalists make the mistake of being "premillennialists" instead of "postmillennialists." (I'll define the terms if you ask me.) They cannot answer this question: If Jesus bound the strong man, then who is "possessing" people today? My answer: today there is no "demon possession;" it is simply self-hypnosis in accord with Statist propaganda.
But at least the Fundies admit that there were demons, and don't accuse Mark of being
What the Fundies can't explain is
a) a liar
b) a jerk
c) a dumb-oaf peasant, not as sophisticated and spiritually aware as us state-worshiping mortgage-paying seminary-trained modernists with our Richard Rohr tapes.
Why was Jesus executed for exorcising and healing? Why were His "violations of natural law" also violations of Imperial Law?
Nobody is as close to answering these questions as those who attend Catholic Worker Bible Studies. But if they follow the theological trends of the Empire, they will lose their track and get lost in the Wilderness.
(9) Just as our nation has apostatized from the theology and cultural vision of the Puritans.
(10) We'll be discussing "Baalism" later on. It was an ancient religion which most scientists in our day believe.
(12) Ephesians 4:14.
(13) I have explored this Pattern in another essay.
(14) Major, major stuff coming off my computer in months to come about this guy!
(15) Thesis #55 in my "95 Theses on the State."
(16) Matthew 12:28
(17) Matthew 12:29; Luke 10:18; 11:20-22; Mark 1:24; Revelation 12:10-12; 20:1-4
(18) John 12:31-33; 14:30; 16:11.
(19) #18; Matthew 28:18-20; Revelation 20:1-4; Luke 10:18; 11:17-22; Colossians 2:15; Psalm 68:18 + Ephesians 4:8; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8; 4:4; Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:20.