Saturday, January 19, 2008

Kettle, meet Joseph Farah

WND's head pot levels an accusation of blackness:

Some of these misguided Christian clerics cite a handful of random, out-of-context verses that might, possibly, in some way, maybe, be interpreted, if you use your imagination, to suggest we should just forgive and forget all transgressions and trespasses against our national sovereignty and our laws regarding our nation status.

I won't deal with those Scriptures again, except to call your attention to the earlier work.

I will, however, introduce just one more verse I think is very relevant. It is Deuteronomy 27:17: "Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour's landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen."

Amen, indeed.
Farah's take seems to be that Moses here is talking about 'transgressions and trespasses' against national sovereignty, and since no one has accused illegal immigrants of literally removing a neighbor's landmark, it seems quite possible to me that he's using (and I quote from somewhere close) a random, out-of-context verse that might, possibly, in some way, maybe, be interpreted, if you use your imagination, to relate to the political issue of illegal immigration*.

But I suppose before we can decide if a verse is 'very relevant' or if it's that other thing, it might be a good idea to understand the verse in question. Let's look at it again:

"Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour's landmark," or in the vernacular, "The man who removes his neighbor's landmark from its place is cursed."

Now, what does it mean to remove (lit: "to move away," or "to displace") someone's landmark? I went back and checked the translator's notes for the Geneva Bible and found a very succinct explanation, that here God "condemns all injuries and extortions." But that seems to give us two very different interpretations here, unless an illegal immigrant is to be presumed an extortionist, which I think we can all admit is a bit of a stretch. The strong usually extort from the weak, and there are few weaker in a society than its immigrants.

So what does the verse mean? One way to find out is to look at the places it is elsewhere used in scripture. Two of the three other uses are found in the Proverbs, which we will skip for the reason that their uses are poetic and don't add much** to Deuteronomy. But in the same book (19:14) we find an expanded version of the same command: Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour’s landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it. In short, the landmark is a literal "land mark" which denoted the boundary between two fields, fields that were the property of families, provided their livelihood, and passed through inheritance***.

Now if I am your neighbor and we have a land mark between our fields, it might be very tempting to sneak out in the middle of the night and move it a little, an act that would make my field bigger and yours smaller. Moving a landmark was a sneaky way to steal land from a family, and if it was done through threat of violence it was an extortion. In either case, it is still an injury; that's why the Geneva notes call it such.

Therefore our verse has everything to do with stealing your neighbor's physical property and absolutely nothing to do with where a person lives, so long as they live there peacefully. If Mexicans were clandestinely moving the border marker pictured above, then the verse might apply - in a collective sense they would be stealing our land****. In the sense of individuals who choose to live peacefully on one side of that rock as opposed to the other the verse does not apply at all.

Of course, the misuse of an isolated verse happens all the time, especially when it comes to political application. But it's fair game to be pointed out - and I might add, mocked profusely - when the writer at the same time calls out his political opponents for doing the same thing.

* The Christian's treatment of the illegal immigrant is a different issue altogether and, I might add, one where Farah's case is significantly weaker.

** Though the second, Pr. 23:10, also warns not to 'enter into the fields of the fatherless,' i.e. to steal the harvest from a weaker member of society. Extortion is at least implied.

*** They also reverted to the original families in the year of jubilee, meaning that they were a more-or-less permanent fixture. Land could be sold, but it still legally went back to the family after an appointed time. Under Hebrew law, the land belonged to the Lord, and this arrangement was designed to ensure that no Israelite family would be forever disenfranchised.

**** Which might even be a cause for war between the US and Mexico, coincidentally how that border came to be where it is today.

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