Perseverance and Punishment

The Letter

Needless to say, I’m a concerned for our country. It’s not from the economy—the state of which dates back to the Clinton years when the laws were set that affected the housing crisis. No, it’s not which political party is in charge—sometimes I can’t tell the difference, but that’s true of nearly any country’s politics. And, no, it’s not Obamacare—though I still think the country asked for it in November 2008. I finished grieving over the nationalization of Romneycare by the time Obama took the oath of office.

No, I’m concerned about a potential stand-off between honest police and honest citizens.. and it’s all from a misunderstanding.

I was raised as a Michigan Militia Redneck. Yep, a bitter nut who “clung to guns and religion”. That was me. It was how dad raised me. Don’t get me wrong, all my life, dad respected police officers and soldiers and he even taught me to respect every City and State Trooper, even if a traffic cop was in the wrong. If dad had a problem, he wouldn’t yell at police, he’d  thank the officer for keeping the roads safe, then go to Congress. Though I mellowed in time, as a Conservative I still believe that the US Constitution was the “constitution” of not only the nation, but also its prosperity. Dad, too, changed a little. Toward the end of his life, he stopped calling the Michigan Militia so much, stopped bothering Congress, and tried to live his own quiet life. We were pretty much in agreement about all that. To this day, while I don’t march with the Militia, I’m proud to have many Conservative hunters and gun owners as close friends. A 40 year old with camouflage and an NRA hat may scare a young city girl, but not me. They are my friends. So are many police officers.

Are governments evil? Both Democrats and Republicans would have us think so. China thinks every government is evil except their own, though I think they need to reconsider that position a little. As Reagan said, “Government isn’t the solution to the problem, Government IS the problem.” Yet, he didn’t encourage disrespect to authorities. Washington recently erected a monument to MLK Jr, who, himself taught that we need “peaceful” civil disobedience, sometimes, to make a point. I agree with our government’s respect for that man.

Have you heard the term “Sovereign Citizens“? Actually, they aren’t “sovereign”—they are angry and understandably so. But, “sovereign citizen” isn’t their own term, it’s a label they were given by law enforcement. By giving them special names, the government is unwittingly amplifying their influence. For the sake of peace: Governments, don’t call them a “movement”! They are individuals who don’t coordinate. Right or wrong, it would be best to call it an “attitude”.

As with many, there are two sides to this conflict, as well as a single Biblical solution for both. In a word: Patience. But, what does it mean to “persevere” or “have patient endurance”? Right now, both the angry citizens and the FBI think they are persevering, but they seem to have “perseverance” confused with “punishment”. No one has the right to take the law into their own hands—not citizens, not police, not police administrators, and not supposed Militias. If we don’t learn diplomacy on both sides, many lives could be lost.

During the Whiskey Rebellion, the Federal Government started stepping on the toes of corn farmers in the mountains. Corn is hard to transport, so, farmers refined corn into whiskey for easier transportation and more profitability. Next, laws come along trying to interfere with the market. George Washington, former general of the Militia, leader in the Revolution, and President of the Convention that gave us our current Constitution, called the military against the whiskey farmers. Probably, it broke Washington’s heart to do it, but the farmers were in rebellion without due process.

The Declaration of Independence was one step of a long and courteous procedure of expressing the frustration citizens had with feeling oppressed. The document summarized the tyranny of England as “eating out their substance”. That’s how the Whiskey farmers felt, but they didn’t write sober letters for appeal. They took up arms prematurely. The whiskey farmers were wronged, but their reaction was equally wrong.

It’s said that our founding fathers thought a rebellion in the nation would be good from time to time. But that doesn’t mean Thomas Jefferson wanted us to shoot a police officer when he stops someone for a traffic violation! If Supreme Chancellor Palpatine suddenly declared himself ruler of the USA, announcing it would be the first continental empire, and no more Congress.. then an armed rebellion would be in order, and the FBI and military would probably help out. Government officials and Tea Party leaders need to talk about these matters, not ignore them. By not teaching the American people why the founding fathers feared the government of their own constitution, “sovereign citizens” are without guidance and don’t know what made our nation’s revolution so special.

In one instance, a man was reportedly walking his dog in a local park. Well, actually, it used to be a local park, but the national park service had recently assumed command and, likewise, banned walking dogs without a leash. A park ranger asked for his name, he apparently didn’t want to be bothered by the bureaucracy that didn’t conform to the local community, and the ranger eventually tazed him. This is an example of “eating out their substance”. Walking dogs according to the new laws of the central bureaucracy is not punishable by tazer, but that’s what the ranger seemed to justify doing. The park ranger should be fired from any future police work at any government level in the nation. Officers of the law don’t shoot someone walking away who is not a threat, not even with an electric shock weapon. The man, however, should let this be a lesson to himself that he should take his grievances to Congress, not get mad and storm off. This time, it took two to fight, but the ranger was more in the wrong for using a weapon against an unarmed citizen who was not a threat. The national park service should have kept the previous “no leash” rule for that area of the park. The out-of-town-out-of-touch bureaucrats should also be fired. Let’s all learn from this. If you’re so smart—as a police officer or as a citizen or as a bureaucrat—then you should know how to keep situations from escalating.

American airline security screening also has a problem. But, again, my concern isn’t typical. If we looked at their track record, compared to the poor lady who forgot to leave her carry-hand gun at home, TSA has a terrible batting average of knowing who the real bad guys are. But one thing you won’t see me doing is stripping off my clothes at a security point with “fourth Amendment” written on my chest. The TSA officers may or may not be honest, but in any case, they don’t make the policies: Washington does. If you have a problem with TSA, think ahead, don’t wait until you arrive at the airport and create a scene. Instead, write the people in Congress who can make a difference. As for me, I refuse to travel on USA-bound airlines because of TSA, but not for the reason you might think. Many people quietly believe that TSA officers want to “eat out their substance” by conditioning the American public to think it’s okay to be harassed, so long the government has an excuse. However,  I disagree.  I’m not concerned about the TSA distributing pictures of my rock-hard body as most people may be. Rather, I’m concerned about the terrorists that may slip past their check points while Brad Pitt’s X-Ray has them distracted.

TSA doesn’t seem to do security, instead, I see politically correct grandstanding. Israel and China have greater security threats—and they have greater security effectiveness. TSA searches all the wrong people, much more invasively than even Communist China, much more expensively than Airports can afford, they don’t find any bad guys, and the wrong people still get past their nets. TSA isn’t “unethical” (like the tazer ranger was), but simply incompetent. We need capable national security in American airports.. which is why we don’t need status quo. The nation would be safer if China handled our airport screening, rather than the current bureaucrats, and I say this as a Conservative who respects City, County, State, FBI, and TSA officers. Until someone competent steps in, I urge citizens: If you don’t like TSA, don’t go to the airport to pick a fight!

Jesus said to Peter, “Those who live by the sword die by the sword.” Then He healed the soldier who was wrongfully arresting Him. Both Peter and that soldier learned an important lesson that day.. both of them. In Revelation 13, Heaven announces something similar, then calls Christians to “perseverance”. The Bible doesn’t only call citizens nor only police officers, but ALL of God’s people to choose “perseverance” rather than taking up arms and imprisonment.

(If you aren’t interested in the Greek, skip this paragraph.) Revelation 13:9-10 does not say, “if anyone is predestined for captivity,” as some translations may. It merely says, “if anyone is for captivity…” Based on the “kill with the sword, die by the sword,” idea in the early part of the verse, this sets a tone of the law of Sowing and Reaping. Therefore, in the Greek, “for captivity,” doesn’t mean, “captivity is your inescapable destiny,” but, “if you are in favor of imprisoning your enemies without a trial…”

This passage doesn’t address all of human history, nor it is about the death sentence discussion held through the centuries. This is about a serious and scary time period in the days just before Jesus returns when people and governments may get a little chaotic. Police officers and citizens alike may be very honest, yet misunderstand each other. There will always be corrupt police just like there will always be dishonest citizens. But, the closer we get to the return of Christ, the more trouble we will have knowing who our friends and enemies are. When civil unrest develops, many may say, “Those people are evil! They aren’t breaking any laws, but we still need to stop them!” Then, some may suggest taking up arms or prison sentences for crimes that laws haven’t been written for. When that happens, be patient. Persevere and don’t try to take the law into your own hands.

If you are a police officer who encounters a “sovereign citizen” attitude: Be kind, still, and calm. Say, “I understand and appreciate that you want to make sure I follow the State and Federal Constitution of our governments. If you like, I can provide you with my ID number in accordance with the law. But, for now, sir, you may still need to address this traffic ticket (or taxes, etc) properly.” Conscientious police can say this honestly and it could defuse an escalating problem. It may not seem like much if you are a police officer, but a citizen who is under a little stress might be really glad to hear those words, maybe even thankful. My father served in the MP during Vietnam. “That’s what we call, ‘keeping the honest people honest,’” he would often tell me. Proverbs 15:1, a gentle answer turns away wrath. This is perseverance and it could save two good men from an unnecessary conflict so both of them can go home to their families.

If you are a citizen who has “had enough” from the bureaucracy, whether at your job or with police and government: Don’t go rogue. Keep your head. Go to Congress. City, County, State, and Federal governments are different. If one government tells you, “We don’t handle that, the other government does,” they aren’t trying to push you off. Ask that official for help getting in contact with right elected official. And, remember: Only complain (respectfully) to elected officials (even if you voted against them) or their office staff, not bureaucrats that citizens don’t vote on. Politicians (including Sheriffs) love to hear from their voters. Most voters never call their governments. So, be courteous and decent. They may be glad merely to hear from you, but if you are disrespectful, they may be disappointed and then stop listening to you. It may not be right for them to do so, but you too can set a mature example. Still, it’s okay to be a little angry and let the politician know you’re angry, just make sure they know you are glad they take the time to hear you. Email is also great because they can read it fast and it doesn’t have to go through as much security screening—and they do actually read them. Think about it. Do things the right way and don’t take the law into your own hands. Proverbs 15:1, a gentle answer turns away wrath. This is perseverance and it could save many lives so all the good guys can go home to their families.

In the Bible, perseverance coincides with the Rapture of the Church. Jesus says to some of the Christians (Rev 3:10) “Because you kept the word of my perseverance, I will keep you from the great hour of tribulation..” (JEV—Jesse’s Evangelical Version, I know Greek so I translate it myself.) When I look at the call to perseverance of Rev 13:9-10, 14:12, and I see the struggle, I tend to believe that many Christians may be martyred, many will likely die in cataclysmic events (just as recently happened in Japan), and, maybe, only those who choose perseverance will see the rapture. The only words and terminology that refers to “taking” or “keeping from” in Revelation is Revelation 3:10, connected with perseverance. “Coming out of the great tribulation” in Revelation 7 doesn’t say how they came out or that they were “kept out”, it only says where they started and where they ended up.

Revelation 3:10 makes sense. To persevere rather than punish, is a tribulation of its own.  Any responsible police officer will say, “Punish them somehow. Prison, death sentence, something! You can’t just let criminals go loose or you’ll have lots of police work to do.” Yep. If you neither imprison nor have no death sentence—the police must persevere. This concept is not intended not for all time periods of history, but as Satan tries to take over the world according to prophecy about the End Times, there may be a point where we need extra patience. In our own lives, we might practice for that era now.

One time, recently, I was with a couple families on a Sunday afternoon. The boys in each family are friends and their horseplay was reaching that turning point where “fun” changes to “tears”. The situation hadn’t gotten ugly and I didn’t want to. I intervened, grabbing the more aggressive of the two boys, and started tickling him.

This boy has a strong will, so, he took exception to his “fun” being interrupted. He scowled at me and started clawing and biting. What did I do? I didn’t scold him. I didn’t slap him. I didn’t tell his mom.. I persevered. He’d try to attack me and I’d just keep him away. He’d grab for my shirt, I’d tickle him again. More and more he got tired and demoralized from lack of accomplishment. After five minutes, the conflict was reduced to a stare-off. He’d frown at me and I’d play-scowl until he laughed. Then, he’d get angry that I made him smile and he attacked me again. Five seconds later we’d repeat the same pattern and so forth. Finally, it was over and the rest of the afternoon was a fun time for everyone.

This happened in a public place. Sometimes, I got occasional looks of concern from people who didn’t know what all was happening. Was I attacking him? Was I playing too much? This didn’t look normal. If I had scolded him or taken him crying to his mother, people might have looked at me respectfully. But I’m not a politician seeking votes. My choice to persevere rather than to punish was misunderstood by those around me. Wisdom has a price and most people don’t understand what it means to apply perseverance to relationships. If you persevere with someone, you may also need to persevere with silent observers who don’t understand.

Perseverance isn’t an emotion, it’s a path. But it doesn’t merely mean that we keep pushing until we get whatever we want. Perseverance is, specifically, choosing an effective way that requires extra work on our part instead of punishing someone. Some situations call for punishment. We can choose between punishment and perseverance, just like we can choose between left and right. I’m merely pointing out the difference.

Wisdom can easily get us thinking that we must always choose punishment to prevent future problems. Yes, we need to think ahead and focus on the “principal of the matter”, but we should also consider perseverance as a responsible option. These days, we may have a use for both, but in the near future, our lives may depend on our choice to persevere. So, ask the Lord for wisdom. Seek out situations where you might choose perseverance rather than punishment so when the day comes, we know how to do the right thing. Let’s learn how to persevere now, while we have time.

There is much more that could be said about this. We could talk about martial arts where the Master only doges and blocks attacks until the aggressor becomes exhausted. This shows the Master’s great skill and wise patience. We could talk about the important role that forgiveness and grace may have in this. After all, it’s hard to be patient with people we hold a grudge against. We might consider the movie Soul Food where Grandmama simply makes things better and people learn without having to be scolded. If we explored this further there would be many other considerations, advantages, pitfalls, and in ten years I could probably write a lot more about it than I can now. But, for the time being, I don’t want to address all these questions in the same article. I just want to introduce the idea. If you have something else to say about this, please, I leave you the room to do so. After all, perseverance involves many people, by definition.

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