Marching Away From Babylon

I’ve been blogging here about the Pageant of Steam I recently attended. In my last story I asserted that the introduction of the steam tractor was the beginning of the end of traditional agrarian life and culture in this country. But I also made the point that the steam tractor was a good thing in that it brought people and communities closer together (e.g., when farm families gathered to share the work of threshing).

So the steam tractor presents us with something of a paradox. But the seeming contradiction disappears when you look at how the machine (a steam tractor or any other) is used. Is it used in a way that weakens families and destroys community? Or does the use of the machine strengthen families and preserve community?

And while we are looking, let’s also consider whether the machine directly or indirectly creates toxins that sicken people and poison the environment.

Few people look at machines and factories (which are, essentially, a lot of machines working together) from those perspectives. But I think more people should. We should question the ethics of a machine’s purpose and how it is employed. We should question whether the machine is harming people, families, communities, and the environment. We should use ethical evaluations to judge the legitimacy of all machines.

At the core of any ethical belief is a person’s religious worldview. Even an atheist has a faith-based presuppositional worldview. Can an atheist prove there is no God? No. Then he must believe it by faith. I rest my case.

My Christian, Biblical worldview is at odds with much of our modern, industrial world’s use of machinery and technology. It is also at odds with the unholy trinity of corporations, fiat money, and centralized government control (not to mention, manipulation).

Yet, here I am, smack dab in the clutches of a modern Babylonian civilization. I use products that were created by factories that undoubtedly poisoned someone or some piece of creation with their waste. I drive an automobile that burns gasoline which poisons the atmosphere. I drive my car to a factory job. Perhaps worst of all, I am a government employee. So, everywhere I look, I find I am participating in something I find abhorrent and terribly unethical.

How can anyone who sees and believes this, reconcile themselves to it? For me, the answer to that question can be found in my attitude towards the industrial culture, my degree of involvement, and my dependency on industrial systems. Here’s what I mean…

All of us who live in the industrialized world are expected to conform to the norms; to follow the industrial flock; to toe the line. For example, we are all expected to give our children to the government school system for proper so-called education. And while we are at it, the government has also decided that we must see that our children get the numerous immunization shots that the health care system says they need.

If you choose not to be involved in those things, you are out of step with the industrial system. Most Christian-agrarians do not get involved with those things. They also choose not to be materialistic consumers. They choose simplicity. They make do with less. They are loath to acquire debt. Christian-agrarians are not fashion conscious. They care nothing about the newest clothing styles nor other passing fads.

Christian-agrarians choose productive physical work over leisure activities. They choose to grow their own food (at least some), care for farm animals, cut firewood to heat their homes, and craft many of the goods they use. They choose to use their brains, their hands, and their backs to supply their own needs, all of which renders them, to some degree, independent of the Industrial Providers.

Christian-agrarians typically live in a more rural area where life is harder than it is in a city or suburban setting. They may choose to start a home business, not to make a lot of money, but to be home with their family and sustain a home-centered lifestyle.

In short, Christian-agrarians choose little over a lot, humility over hubris, contentment over discontentment, weakness over the acquisition of power, piety over rebellion, family over career, forgiveness over unforgiveness, to give rather than take, and to love rather than hate. All of these choices run contrary to the expectations of the industrialized culture we live in. This way of life is summed up in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12:

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

To live that kind of life is to live apart from an industrial civilization that is at war against God and His creation.

It is impossible for us to be totally separate, at least while the system is still firmly in place. But every choice we make not to participate in the foolishness is an act of separation. And every step towards separation is a personal declaration of independence from man’s system and dependence on God’s system.

Freeing ourselves from modern Babylonian bondage is a step by step process and, frankly, I would like to be further along in the process than I am. But every step away is a step in the right direction.


Tabletop Homestead said...

Bravo, Mr. Kimball. I'll be posting a link to this in my next blog, when I get to it. :)


Anonymous said...

Your thoughts remind me of Wenell Berry's similar attitude. If you've never read his assay "Why I am not Going to Buy a Computer", here it is. You may also get a kick out of the responses to the essay, and Berry's responses to the responses...