Giving Away Books

Our local excitements continue. Just like that man on the old Ed Sullivan shows, we have seventeen rods with seventeen plates spinning on the top of them. Well, maybe not seventeen but this is not for lack of trying. And we also have a few odd characters off-stage smashing crockery back there to make it sound like we are not successfully completing our job for the audience. And what is our job? Well, to make this kind of thing look easy. You too can handle this kind of thing effortlessly after hours of practice in the basement. But you have to have a godly wife and extra plates.

Right now we have two tax-exemption situations on appeal (NSA and Anselm House), a need for a tax exemption decision to be made for these same two entities for the coming year, two complaints filed by the same people against two other Christian ministries (Logos School and Community Christian Ministries), the recent decision against New St. Andrews on selective zoning issues, not to mention some behind-the-scenes scuffling on some other matters. Now that I mention it, let me tell you (just a little) about one of those behind-the-scenes thingies now.

In addition to everything you have already heard, Mr. Anonymous has filed a complaint against me, alleging that I perjured myself when Christ Church initially applied for our tax exempt status for Anselm House (prior to all the other complaints). As a result of this particular complaint, an investigation of me is now under way (conducted by long-suffering public servants who are simply and carefully doing their jobs). Perjury? That’s a serious charge. That’s a felony. Somebody out there would be happy if I got sent up the river to get involved in the culture wars there.

Now what would an example of this kind of alleged perjury be? In what manner did I misrepresent what we were all up to? Well, let me give just one example, typical of my nefarious ways (and this example is representative of what is alleged). In my testimony, I said that Canon Press gives away books. Yes, I did say that, I confess it. I said this on account of the fact that we do. When Canon Press releases a new title, we take stacks of them to church, and make them available in the back for folks to take away gratis. We call this “giving away books at church,” and I told the people deciding on our tax exemption that this is something we do.

Well, our anonymous accuser is apparently the kind of person who can look at laws and testimony through a keyhole, and still use both eyes. What he apparently did was compile a list of all the books that Canon Press has published that were not given away at church. See? perjury. Right. But the lion’s share of those books on his list were titles that were published prior to 1998, when we started this practice that we call “giving away books at church.” There were some other exceptions too, because Canon publishes things like Latin grammars, which we don’t give away at church.

I said in my testimony that we give away books because I thought that having given away hundreds and hundreds of books constituted something like “giving books away.” From the year 2000 to the present we have given away approximately $91,000 worth of books. From 1998 to part way into 2000 (a period where we kept track of the inventory differently), we gave away about $30,000 worth. I know, some might be thinking that we just blew $121,000 worth of treasure in heaven because here I am on the world wide web talking about how generous we were. But there is this accusation of perjury out there, see? And there is a certain kind of mind that, if the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing, accuses the right hand of perjury. Or forgery, or auto theft, or anything else that might stick.

We have said before that this conflict in Moscow is not about the various issues that are the grist of the battles. These are the places where the conflict is occurring, but they are not why the conflict is occurring. The reason for the conflict is that we are attempting to live out the lordship of Jesus Christ over every aspect of human life. This does not mean that we impose this on other people in a top-down fashion, but rather that we seek to explore the ramifications of living under the lordship of Jesus for ourselves and our own families. So the issue is not zoning regs, or tax exempt status, or whether I committed perjury by saying that we give away books (merely because of all the books . . . but I covered that).

All these controversies are really attempts to change the subject, or to get us to go away, which would have the result of changing the subject. But St. Paul resolved, when he was with the Corinthians, to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified. And that is the center of all this, and this is why I want periodically to remind everyone that they need to come to Jesus. He died on the cross, was buried, rose again from the dead on the third day in accordance with Scripture, and then ascended into heaven to rule our world from the right hand of God the Father. From that place, He bestows salvation and forgivness on us. Because this is the greatest truth ever to erupt in the middle of human history, idolatrous paganism became a cultural impossibility for the long haul. Jesus is Lord, and that is why we are having these “discussions.” Not everyone wants to acknowledge His Lordship, and this causes problems, because His lordship is not dependent upon that acknowledgment.

But we are Christians and so we do want to do this, and so we acknowledge all this publicly. It is a public truth, and should not be excluded in an a priori way from the public square. This is not going to be accomplished because we have political designs (by political means) on anything, but rather it will be accomplished because over time the Holy Spirit of God will bring more and more people to acknowledge this freely. Just call it divine grace democracy. Until they acknowledge it, we are certainly not going to force it on anybody. When they acknowledge it, we will all rejoice together.

In the meantime, please remember what this is really all about. For the Christians who read this, please continue to pray for us. The stakes are high. But as you pray for the particular issues (zoning, tax-exemption, perjury charges), remember that these are all just means toward an end. The end is the proclamation of Christ’s forgiveness to everyone in our community. For the Christians who for various reasons have teamed up with the Intoleristas, I would just say that bitterness is something that will corrode any jar you try to keep it in, and after that, it gets all over your soul. And for the non-Christians who read this blog (some of whom are just looking for ammo — “Ooo! He just admitted stealing $121,000! File another one!”), I only have one thing to say. In all sincerity, to my enemies and to bemused bystanders alike, I would only invite you to come to Jesus.

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