Apostolic Epistles from prison

Kent Hovind, the self anointed, evangelical apostle of Young Earth Creationism, is currently in prison for tax evasion. For a long time he has been pointing his followers toward the writings of an imprisoned tax dodger named Irwin Schiff as well as promoting the Citizens Rule Book, a popular standard in the Christian Patriot movement. Using these fringe teachings, Hovind has been encouraging Christians to stop paying taxes and assuring his followers that they can't be prosecuted for refusing to pay. The teaching is too convoluted to encapsulate here, but rest assured that anyone who elects to follow these odd ball ideas are likely to also land in jail.

From his prison cell, Hovind is blogging to his flock, preaching from behind bars, sharing his holy adventures of bold evangeliztion and discipling of the prison population. At the close of each epistle, he writes, "Remember my bonds."

OK, so what! We all know Hovind is a whack-job fanatic. Who cares?

Frankly, I don't care. What caught my attention wasn't his usual inane blathering, or the fawning comments posted by his faithful sycophants, it was his signature: "Remember my bonds."

When I read that, I wondered if Hovind imagines that he's being persecuted for his faith, and envisions his present circumstances as the mark of martyrdom, comparable to Paul the Apostle, perhaps. It seems clear to me that Hovind’s imprisonment has nothing to do with his religious beliefs, but rather with his quirky, quasi-patriotic tax evasion. There is nothing I know in the Bible that can be interpreted as a mandate to avoid paying taxes. In fact, I think the opposite could be effectively and easily argued from statements attributed to both Jesus and Paul concerning rendering to Caesar and obeying the government.

Well, arguing about anything with someone who thinks the universe is only 6,000 years old is probably a complete waste of time, anyway, so I prefer to leave Hovind and his minions to their delusions. However, I have to thank him for signing the way he did, because it opened up something for me.

His admonition to be remembered brought me back to when I was a Christian and I would read Paul's writings, and would read the words "Remember my bonds" (Colossians 4:18). Back then my mind would be filled with romanticized images of a great man who was suffering unjustly for the sake of Christ; he was under persecution for his relationship with the risen Jesus Christ. Now, thanks to Hovind, I’m thinking something completely different: Could it be possible that Paul wasn’t imprisoned because of his apostolic faith, but for something else altogether? Could it be that Paul wasn’t being persecuted for being a Christian at all, but for something much more innocuous, such as disturbing the peace?

Well, OK, disturbing the peace might be an understatement. Paul's reported actions were more akin to inciting riots. Think about a riot for a minute. Doesn’t law enforcement primarily focus on quelling a riot when it occurs and capturing any culprits who might have instigated or encouraged the violence? Do they say, "Well, this is a religious riot, so we should let it alone."? Quickly scanning through the New Testament, I find Paul stirring up strife everywhere his feet take him. He even picks fights with the original disciples of Jesus, even with Jesus' own brother! Paul's not just preaching the Gospel, he's annoyingly disruptive. He gets beat up in the middle various scenes of anarchy he's stirred up. He's subsequently imprisoned, and then he asks everyone to "Remember me in my bonds." He also goes on a tirade about all the suffering and sacrifices he's made for the cause of Christ, claming to have labored "More abundantly than they all" (1 Corinthians 15:10).

Maybe Hovind and Paul have more in common than I originally realized. I wonder if we will soon be reading that Hovind is rejoicing that he in his being called to suffer and that he is laboring "more abundantly than they all" for HIS name's sake.

What do you think?

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