Watchful eyes

Americans everywhere are furious that the Obama administration is tracking American texts and emails, as am I. I find is a curious violation of our civil liberties for a democratic administration, regardless of whether they actually read the content of the messages. I am just as upset that Obama would follow this path as I was that Bush did, and am encouraged that many on the far right are being consistent and supporting him as they supported Bush. On this, they will not compromise their values for the convenience of politics.

I would hope that the rest of the Christian Right supports him because keeping an eye on your brother's sins is a cherished Christian tradition. I was raised Baptist Preacher's Kid (BPK), and it was considered our Christian duty to make sure that some one knew when a brother or sister in Christ was “straying from the path.”

This was especially true in my case. Members of my church, especially the deacons, ran to my father to let him know when they saw me hanging around with kids who smoked because that meant I smoked, kids who drank because that meant I drank, and browsed the magazine and book rack at the drug store because that meant I was looking through Playboy magazine.

Actually I did smoke, drink and read Playboy but I picked those habits from older BPK relatives, not from friends. Older relatives whose fathers were Baptist preachers like mine. So my associates were entirely innocent. Something the administration should remember when it uses text messages and emails to track connections and associations.

Whether or not our government has the right to track citizens is a Constitutional question. Whether or not Christians should be snooping on the lives of other Christians is a question of conscience and interpretation. Certainly the tradition I was raised in believed that the best way to keep believers on track was to keep a watchful eye on them. I'm not so certain. In my experience, keeping a watchful eye on others was the best way to avoid reflecting on your own shortcomings.

Is there a time to intervene in the lives of other Christians? The scripture makes it clear that their are times when it may be appropriate to do so, but those times are the exception, not the rule. And it should come with great soul searching, something that in my experience rarely happens. We are all aware of intervention syndrome, where the intervention tends to be more self-serving and more damaging than the behavior it is intended to help.

Yes, if you are aware a friend is breaking the law or putting his family in jeopardy you should call it to his attention. I am not sure the scripture obliges you to call it to anyone else's. Once you have made a Christian aware of his responsibility his duty is to himself, God and his family. Not to you. Nor is it to the body of Christ. This may be hard to accept, but it is nonetheless true.

If he is stealing from the church, tell him, then tell the pastor. You don't need to tell the church.

If his or her behavior is harming the church, it will become obvious and the church will work it out. Trust me, there will be somebody else even more eager than you to shine a light on your brother's or sister's shortcomings.

But first, make very sure you are truly acting out of concern for your brother's well being and not avoiding the need to reflect on your own failings. This is one of the central lessons of the Sermons on the Mount and Plain. Jesus was very clear on this, your heart must be pure before God. Everyone else's is irrelevant.

This is a lesson the government should learn as well. When they start focusing on looking for terrorists hidden among ordinary citizens there is a good chance they are missing the miscreants that passed the screening in Washington.

 

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