Thursday, August 21, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (4) Restitution

The New Testament prescription for unrighteous wealth is to give it away. Jesus message was that unrighteous wealth should be given away.

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys (Luke 12:33).
Jesus frequently told his hearers to give away their possession, because unrighteous wealth was so common. The shrewd manager understood this.

If it is known who the unrighteous wealth was stolen from, restitutions should be fourfold as required by Exodus 22:1. If it was general conniving, the response is extremely generous giving, particularly to the class of people who have suffered. Zacchaeus is an example of new believer giving away his unrighteous wealth.
Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount (Luke 19:8)
He gave away half of his wealth and promised to pay fourfold restitution to anyone who had stolen from.

Zacchaeus did not need to ask Jesus what to do. Being a good Jew, he would be familiar with the message of the Torah and understand the Instructions for economic life. When he realised that Jesus loved him, he spontaneously put these instructions into practice. He made fourfold restitution for money that was stolen. He gave generously from money that had been obtained through general unrighteousness.

The giving that Jesus was expected was not in discriminant giving. That would be pointless. The wealth should be given to neighbours and “one anothers”, who need help to get back on their feet. The giving should be designed to help struggling people get into a place where they can manage for themselves.

The ministry of the deacon was established to facilitate this giving. Deacons were people who were skilled in managing their households and their work. They channelled much of the giving because they and their spouses were able to teach others how to manage their households better, so that they did not get into trouble again.

Much of the wealth held in the western world is unrighteous wealth. If there is a gospel advance in the next few decades, we should see a massive amount of unrighteous wealth being given away. This would be an amazing event that would transform the world.
Large holdings of unrighteous wealth and a few people with righteous wealth are a consequence of gospel failure.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (3)

If a person works hard, and saves some of their earnings, their savings are righteous wealth. If they use their saving to buy assets that make them and other people productive, those assets are righteous wealth. If a person starts a business that supplies goods and services that people need at a market price, without coercion, deception or manipulation, the retained earnings of the business are righteous wealth.

On the other hand, business that relies on any of the following produces unrighteous wealth.

  • limited liability laws,

  • monopoly rights,

  • government privilege,

  • debt and inflation,

  • exploitation of workers,

  • cheating,

  • coercion,

  • theft,

Unfortunately, much modern wealth is unrighteous wealth. Christians should understand the difference, but many hold unrighteous wealth that is blighting their lives.
  • Some Christians have unrighteous wealth that they accumulated before the came to faith.

  • Some Christians have inherited unrighteous wealth. It is still unrighteous, because the process of inheritance does not change its character.

  • Many Christians are engaged in activities that produce unrighteous wealth.

There are only two ways to transform unrighteous wealth.
  1. Giving it away (preferably from those from whom it was taken, but that is not always possible.

  2. God’s judgment (which is compulsory giving).

I will describe these further in the next two posts.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (2) Definition

The key message of the parable of the shrewd manager is the distinction between “righteous wealth” and “unrighteous wealth.

So if you have not been trustworthy in handling unrighteous wealth, who will trust you with true riches (Luke 16:11)?
This parable is the first of a series told by Jesus that builds on this distinction.

Righteous wealth is gained through hard work, honest trade and diligent investment. We can use righteous wealth to advance the kingdom, but it still has limited value. True riches are found in Jesus.

Unrighteous wealth is “mammona adikia”. It could also be translated as “wealth of injustice”. It refers to wealth obtained through activities that are contrary to God’s will, particularly those that are unjust. Jesus did not define unrighteous wealth, because this had already been done in the Law and the Prophets. We are not familiar with the expression, but when his listeners heard it, they knew what he meant. He was referring to wealth held contrary to the Instructions for Economic Life.

The following are the main categories of unrighteous wealth.

  1. Anything that is stolen becomes unrighteous wealth.

  2. Lending to people that cannot afford the interest and then seizing the assets that has been pledged as security when they default is unrighteous wealth. This has been an easy way to gain wealth in every age.

  3. The accumulation of houses and land is unrighteous wealth. The prophets spoke against those who accumulated land and houses.

    Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land (Is 5:8).
    In the modern world, residential housing is a popular investment, but this can be unrighteous wealth.

  4. Property and profit received through collusion with political powers is unrighteous wealth. People with political power often protect their positions by providing land and property to their supporters. The people who had become rich in Jesus times gained their wealth through their place in the Roman political system. It was unrighteous wealth. Once these people had chosen Jesus as their King, they could not retain land and property that represented loyalty to King Herod or Caesar, so they sold it. They would probably have lost their property anyway, once their new loyalty became clear.

  5. In the modern world, governments often give a group of people monopoly power over an aspect of the economy, eg import licenses, mining licenses. This enables them to become very wealthy, but this is unrighteous wealth.

  6. Limited liability laws allow business to take excessive risks and then leave their creditors (often small contractors) carrying the burden when they default. Wealth gained through limited liability could be unrighteous wealth.

  7. Wealth obtained through debasing the currency is unrighteous wealth, whether it is done by a counterfeiter or a government.

    See how the faithful city
    has become a prostitute!
    She once was full of justice;
    righteousness used to dwell in her—
    but now... your silver has become dross (Is 1:21-22).
    Those who become wealth through debasing or inflating the currency are creating unrighteous wealth for themselves.

    In the modern world, people have found less direct ways to take advantage of inflation and debt. Many people have become wealthy through investing in real estate to benefit from the capital gains that come through inflation of property prices. These gains are often amplified by using borrowed money to pay for the properties. Large returns are earned through an activity that produces very little for the economy.

    The high returns are dependent on continued price inflation that is caused by the government manipulating the currency. Collecting capital gains caused by inflation is sharing in the deceitful activities of currency manipulators. Wealth obtained from capital gains obtained by highly leveraged investments in real estate is unrighteous wealth.

The shrewd manager understood the nature of unrighteous wealth.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Unrighteous Wealth (1) Parable of the Shrewd Manager

The parable of the shrewd manager is hard to interpret, so it is mostly ignored. The translations do not help much, because they dull the meaning of the parable by talking about worldly wealth. However, the parable has a very important message. To understand it, we need some context.

The shrewd manager was asked to give an account for his management. He was accused of not watching his master’s wealth carefully enough. The accusation was probably correct. The rich man was corrupt, so it is not surprising that his manager did not care about his property.

The shrewd manager knew that much of the rich man’s property was unrighteous wealth. He owned land and made his money by renting it out to tenant farmers in return for a share of their production. One tenant had to pay a thousand bushels of wheat each year for his use of the land. Another who rented an olive grove had to give 3000 litres of oil each year.

These deals were stacked in the property owner’s favour. The tenant did all the work and carried all the risk. If the weather was bad and the crops failed, the tenant still had to give the full payment to the landlord. In a really bad year, the entire crop might be enough to meet the claim of the property owner. The landlord would take the crop, and add the deficit onto the payment due from next year’s crop. Tenant farmers were usually poor.

Operating this way was contrary to the Torah. God had distributed that land equally among the people. Every family in Israel was given a share of the land. The allocations are listed in Joshua 13-19. If a family fell into debt, there was a process for restoring their share of the land back to their children (Lev 25). Accumulating land was strictly prohibited, so the prophets condemned it.

Woe to you who add house to house
and join field to field
till no space is left (Is 5:8).
The rich man had probably gained control of his land by cooperating with the Roman invaders.

The rich man’s wealth was unrighteous wealth. Therefore, the shrewd manage believed he was justified in changing the amounts owed by the tenants. The shrewd manager had signed the original agreements, so he knew the rents specified were quite arbitrary. He had pushed them up to as much as he could get. They were arbitrary when they were agreed, so arbitrary changes were justified. He had authority to change the agreements up until the day he was fired. However his objective had changed. He reduced the amounts owed to make friends for himself.

The rich man commended the shrewd manager for being shrewd. He had gained his wealth by being shrewd, and slightly corrupt, so he appreciated shrewd.
Jesus summarises the message of the parable in Luke 16:9.
I tell you, use unrighteous wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
Jesus said that Christians should use their unrighteous wealth or wealth of injustice to make friends for the Kingdom. The only way to do this is to give the unrighteous wealth away.

Dirty Poltitics

The general election in New Zealand is about a month away, so the election campaign is heating up. An investigative journalist has released a book called “Dirty Politics” that uses leaked emails to illustrate some of the underhand tactics that have been used by various members of parliament from the governing party. The general message of the book is that we used to have good politics, but now they have gone bad.

People are shocked, but I am not. The book just reveals the nature of the system. Political power attracts the spiritual powers of evil, so politics is always dirty. Modern technology is just making it harder for the powers of evil to hide. Nasty stuff is normal, because the spiritual powers of evil that work in the political system are nasty.

The following is an excerpt from a book called the Authority of God that I am working on.

When the people of a city or nation submit to their political leaders, they give them authority over their lives. If the powers of evil get to control the people at the top of the political hierarchy, they gain authority over all the people submitted to them. Concentration of political power leverages the authority of the powers of evil.

The spiritual powers that control political leaders are called “principalities and powers” in the Bible. Some, like Prince of Persia, take the name of their nation (Dan 10:20). They have immense authority on earth, despite their defeat on the cross, because people submit to the leaders controlled by them. Political leaders have legal authority of their people, so attacking them gives the principalities and powers control over cities and nations.

Focussing on individual people is a very inefficient way for the powers of evil to use their shrinking power. If an evil spirit gains control over one person, it can make that person’s life miserable, but that is all. By getting control over a political leader, the same spirit can make an entire nation miserable. The powers of evil amplify their power by attacking people with political authority.

The power of evil is mostly an illusion, but concentrating on a few powerful people has allowed the forces of evil to magnify their pathetic power. Controlling human political power has amplified their authority out of proportion to their strength.
  • When principalities and powers gain control over the political leaders of a city or nation, they gain authority over all the people who submit to them.

  • When political authorities ignore God, they give the principalities and powers authority over their city or nation.

  • Politicians are committed to the power of coercion, so they align naturally with the principalities and powers. They unwittingly collude together in a silent partnership, because they need each other.

  • When new people gain political power, they are quickly overwhelmed by the principalities and powers, so they just go along. Democratic change usually fails, because any new government is dominated by the same spirits.

Christians often assume that only evil nations are controlled by the powers of evil. It is easy to point at a nation like Iran and see the “Prince of Persia” at work. However, it is much harder to see the principalities and power that control our own nation. Nevertheless, they are there, because all political power attracts principalities and powers. If Christians submit to the political authorities in their city or nation, they give the associated principalities and powers some authority in their lives, even if they do not know who they are. They are for more dangerous that those we often point our fingers at.

The election campaign here is getting nasty. However, it is not a struggle to see which political party will control the nation. It is an exercise by the spiritual principalities and powers to make sure that they remain in control.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Port Hills

Christchurch is flat except for the Port Hills in the south. Today we took a gondola ride to the top of the hills.  We got a great view of the city, and could see the snow-covered southern alps in the distance.

Over the other side of the hills is the port of Lyttelton. The main access to the port is through a tunnel under the hill.
Blessed Economist enjoying the view.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

More Demolition

Looking south east from the corner of Hereford and Manchester Streets. Earthquake damaged buildings being cleared for the eastern frame.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Ahab Complex (5) Consequences

The consequences of the Ahab/Jezebel complex are as follows.

  1. Isolation
    God was not with him.

  2. Vulnerability:Pastors can get isolated from their spiritual support.

  3. Spiritual drought
    1 King 17:1.

    Vulnerability: Spiritual poverty.

  4. Blown about like a reed
    Swaying like a reed in the water. 1 Kings 14:15
    Like sheep without a shepherd 1 Kings 22:17

    Vulnerability: Open to the Jezebel spirit (1 Kings 16).

  5. Illness
    1 Kings 14:1; 13:6; 21:4
    Rev 2:22

    Vulnerability: Many sick in the church.

  6. Depression, Suicidal
    Rev 2:22
    1 Kings 16:18; 21:4.

    Vulnerability: Many pastors are depressed.

  7. Failure
    God began to reduce the size of Israel In those days.
    2 Kings 10:32.

    Vulnerability: Many churches are declining.

  8. Died of Wounds
    Ahab was defeated
    1 Kings 22:35-37; 2 Kings 9:24; 8:28,29.
    He was routed. 2 Chron 13:12,15.
    God executed judgement on house of Ahab 2 Chron 22:8.

    Vulnerability: Many pastors die of their “wounds”.

  9. Humiliation
    Blood licked by dogs
    1 Kings 14:10,11; 16:4; 21:24; 22:38; 2 Kings 9:10,36.

    Vulnerability: When pastors fall they are usually humiliated.

The full set of notes on the Ahab Complex can be found here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ahab Complex (4) Attitude to the Prophetic

Ahab had an ambivalent attitude to the prophetic.

  1. User
    Ahab used other people for his purpose.
    1 Kings 21:3-11; 22 1-4: 18:5, 22:26
    He used a woman to do his dirty work
    1 Kings 14:2; 21:5-16; 19:1
    He was willing to use prophets when it suited.
    1 Kings 13:6, 14:2, 20:3.

    Vulnerability: Many pastors like to have pet prophets. Some use woman to achieve their goals.

  2. Court Prophets
    They can be relied on to support what the leaders say.
    1 Kings 22:10-13,22,23.

    Vulnerability: Many churches have tame/pet prophets.

  3. Hostile to Prophets
    Ahab attacked the prophets when challenged. He tried to destroy them
    1 Kings 13:4; 18:9, 14, 22:26,27
    He raised hand against the prophets

    Vulnerability: Many prophets have been destroyed by Pastors.

  4. False Accusations
    He made false accusations against the prophets
    1 Kings 18:17, 21:20.

    Vulnerability: It is easy to spread rumours about prophets.

  5. Rejected Prophetic Challenge
    Ahab was unable to accept a challenge.
    1 Kings 17:1, 13:4.

    Vulnerability: Many Pastors do not like being challenged.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ahab Complex (3) Authority

Ahab had an interesting relationship with authority.

  1. People Pleaser
    Jeroboam was appointed by the people not God
    1 Kings 12:20
    Ahab was willing to let the people decide.
    1 Kings 18:19,20
    1 Kings 12:20; 13:33; 20:32, 34 20:4; 18:19,39.

    Vulnerability: People pleasing is a danger for pastors.

  2. Outsider
    Ahab came from a lower level position
    His mother was a widow 1 Kings 11:26
    God exalted him 1 Kings 14:7
    Jeroboam, Zimri, Baasha, Omri, Jehu were all outsiders who went to the top.
    This leads to insecurity
    1 Kings 11:28; 1 Kings 15:27; 16:9, 16:16.

    Vulnerability: Most pastors come from outside the church, invited by the people. They have to win acceptance of the people. This leads to insecurity.

    In the New Testament, leaders are raised up from within church. They were known and come with credibility. They did’nt have to establish themselves.

  3. Deception
    Ahab used pretence, deception to achieve what he wanted
    1 Kings 14: 2,6; 22:30.

    Vulnerability: Many Christian leaders wear a mask. This covers up insecurity.

  4. Factions
    Ahab and Jeroboam took advantage of the factions to consolidate their position
    1 Kings 12:19; 16:21; 18:21.

    Vulnerability: Pastors can be tempted to manipulate factions.

  5. Usurper
    Ahab took a position that was not his by right.
    2 Chron 13:5,6. 1 Kings 16:9
    He plotted, conspired and took a position given to the house of David.

    Vulnerability: Jesus is the chief shepherd = senior pastor.
    It is dangerous to take that title.

  6. Opportunist
    Ahab took advantage of people’s weakness to get his own way.
    2 Chron 13:6,7
    1 Kings 16:9, 15:27.

    Vulnerability: Pastors often surround themselves with weak leaders.

  7. Ruthless
    Ahab dealt severely with predecessor’s heirs
    2 Kings 15:29, 16:1.

    Vulnerability: How do you treat the people loyal to your predecessor?

  8. Control
    Ahab desired control
    1 Kings 13:4.

    Vulnerability: over-control is a temptation for all leaders.

  9. Power Struggle
    Ahav won a power struggle. He prevailed
    1 Kings 16:22, 18:20.

    Vulnerability: joining power struggles is a temptation for all leaders.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ahab Complex (2)

God held a plumbline against the house of Ahab and it failed the test. The house was not upright.

The Bible teaches quite a bit about the weaknesses in Ahab’s character. It provide important lessons for church leaders. These weaknesses leave church leaders vulnerable to the Ahab spirit, which opens the way for the Jezebel spirit. I have listed the vulnerabilities in the notes.

  1. Populism
    Ahab walked in the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat (1 Kings 16:31)

    Jeroboam = the people increase, multiply
    Nebat = look.
    Ahab and Jeroboam looked to the people. They were populist leaders.

    Vulnerability: Insecure leaders find populism hard to resist.

  2. Presumption
    Ahab thought to himself, he devised schemes in his heart
    1 Kings 12:28,29, 22:8, 12:33.

    Vulnerability: Many Christian leaders copy the ideas of other men.

  3. Compromise
    Ahab was enticed into compromise when he should have stood firm.
    1 Kings 12:28,29; 16:31,33: 20:32,34; 11:40 II Kings 17:21; 8:18; 2 Chron 21:13 (prostitute themselves).

    Vulnerability: Just as harshness is always a temptation to prophets,
    compromise is always a temptation to pastors.

    Ahab = Brother is father
    Everyone was Ahab’s brother
    Hiel rebuilt Jericho in Ahab’s time 1( Kings 16:34).

  4. Tolerate
    Ahab tolerated evil.
    Rev 2:20, 1 Kings 16:31, 20:4; 20:33.

    Vulnerability: This is risk for pastors in church without prophets. The problem is not Jezebel, but leaders who tolerate evil for the sake of peace.

  5. Comfort
    Ahab enjoyed the comforts of the flesh
    1 Kings 16:9; 18:41; 21:1,2; 22:34; 21:16.

    Vulnerability: Enough said.

  6. Jealous
    He was troubled by covetousness and jealousy
    1 Kings 21:2; 11:26,27.

    Vulnerability: what if some of your sheep go to another church. Will you be threatened.

  7. Money
    He used money to achieve results, bribery
    1 Kings 13:7; 20:3,4; 21:2.

    Vulnerability: Money problems are common in churches.

  8. Anger
    Ahab was sullen and angry (vexed NASB)
    1 Kings 20:43; 21:2.

    Vulnerability: sullenness and sulking are a slippery slope.

  9. Threats
    Ahab used threats and intimidation to control people.
    1 Kings 18:10,11.

    Vulnerability: Controlling guilty or vulnerable people is easy for pastors/leaders.

  10. Up and Down
    Sometimes Ahab was hard-hearted. Other times he was humble – a convenient humility
    1 Kings 20:25-29.

    Vulnerability: inconsistency is risky.

  11. Rebellion
    Ahab ended in rebellion
    1 Kings 11:26; 12:19; 16:20; 21:25;
    He set up idols
    1 Kings 12:31; 21:26.

    Vulnerability: Some church programmes can become idols.

  12. Resisted the Kingdom of God
    2 Chron 13:8,12
    Rev 2:26,27.
    Those who persevered in Thyatira were promised the Kingdom of God
    They would have the Morning Star, ie they will defeat Satan (Is 14:12).

    Vulnerability: there is not much interest in the kingdom among church leaders.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Ahab Complex (1)

Christians get worked up about the Jezebel spirit, but before there can be a Jezebel there must be an Ahab.
Ahab brought Jezebel to Israel.
The church must understand this.

There were a set of behaviours that were repeated again and again in Israel.
These behaviours opened the way for the Spirit of Jezebel
They started with Jeroboam

House of Jeroboam

This was the sin of the house of Jeroboam that led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the earth (1 Kings 13:34)
Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:10).
These curses reached a climax in Ahab (2 Chron 22:8; 2 Kings 10:30).


→ Baasha

→ Zimri
→ Omri

Not a Wimp
Ahab has been totally misunderstood by Christians. We think of him as a wimp, but this is wrong. His father Omri was the commander of the army, and you only got that job in those days, if you were physically tough and totally ruthless. Omri killed off all the opposition to become king. Ahab was Omri’s son, so he would have been brought up tough (1 Kings 16:16).

Kings did not last long in those times, so Ahab’s twenty-two year reign was a record (1Kings 16:22). He built palaces and a fortified city (1 Kings 22:39). He was a very successful warrior-king at time when war was fought hand-to-hand. Ahab was mean, tough and strong, and had killed his share of men. He was a bully, not a wimp.

Ahab married Jezebel for political convenience. He needed a peace treaty with her father and their marriage was part of the deal.

Ahab was a hard, tough, mean political and military operator, who expected to get his own way. When he asked for something, people would jump to get it. This is why was sulking over the Naboth incident.

The Jezebel spirit cannot get a hold in church, unless an Ahab spirit that already exists among the leadership opens the way.

The full set of notes on the Ahab Complex can be found here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Praying Medic

I have just read a book called Divine Healing Made Simple by the Praying Medic. I found it the most interesting book on healing since I was given a copy of Healing by Francis McNutt in the 1970s.

My book called Healing: Insights for Christian Elders describes the spiritual basis for the healing of Christians and non-Christians more clearly, but Praying Medic's wisdom is unbeatable. He shares numerous experiences that illustrates the wisdom that he is imparting. Everyone interested in Christian healing would be encouraged by this book.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Centennial Pool

The Centennial Pool in Oxford Terrace a few weeks ago.

Now it is nearly gone.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Building in Christchurch

Further round in Cambridge Terrace, foundations are being dug for a new building.

The new building next door is nearing completion.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Demolition in Christchurch

The former Ernst and Young House on Cambridge Terrace is coming down.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Served but not Served

My father knew many men who had been sent to World War 1. Chris Cooper was one of them.

The farm next door was owned by a man called Chris Cooper. He had five children. His land was across the road from ours, a half a mile down the road.

Chris Cooper bought the farm when he returned from the first war. He paid 20 pound an acre, which soon proved to be far too much. Life was always a struggle for him. He had “trench feet” from standing in water and could not walk properly. His wife died in childbirth, so he had to look after the five children himself. When she died, he lost interest in the farm.

Chris was a good friend with Mr Butterworth who lived over the river. They would get together every day and just sit and smoke and talk. A track was worn through the riverbed where they walked across each day.

Chris had to keep his horses in a paddock that was very swampy. They seemed to get a lot of worms from drinking swamp water and were always dying. The farm was only 200 acres so it was too small to be economic. He could not afford lime, so his crops were always poor and full of weeds.

He was eventually sold up by the bank. Twice the sale was cancelled by pressure by members of the Farmers Union, but this time there was no stopping it. Chris would have been left with nothing, after struggling for many years (and serving his country).

Chris and his five children went to live in an empty farm cottage belonging to a farmer friend. Some years later, I met Chris in town where he worked as a cleaner in the Timaru Post Office.
Selling up the farms of returned servicemen became common during the 1930s.
The “selling up” of farmers was taking place as banks and mercantile firms were foreclosing on farmers who owed them money. The first I remember was Harry Webb in the Craigmore soldier settlement. Uncle Bob had taken me to the sale. I remember Mr Webb, standing before the farmers gathered for the sale, bitterly declaring that the nation had been pleased with him when he went overseas to fight in the 1914-18 war, but now when he was fighting for his survival financially, they seemed to have forgotten about him. He was quickly shut up and the sale went on.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Baxter (8) Hospital

After several days they left the train and marched through the countryside. After about a week on the road, he collapsed from exhaustion and was left behind. He was lying a hole half-conscious, when a couple of English soldiers found him and took him the an English dressing station. After being given some food, he was put on a trained and sent to a field hospital.

I came to consciousness to find myself lying in bed in what was evidently a hospital ward. When I  had last been conscious of my condition I had been stiff with mud and dirt under the en wrapping blankets, and very lousy. Now the bed was clean, and, what was more surprising still, I was completely deloused. I had not the faintest recollection of the process by which this state had been brought about, or, indeed, of anything at all, since the train. I asked how long I had been there and was told two days. I felt weak indeed, but my head was now perfectly clear and I had no more lapses into unconsciousness. Only too clear; for it was not long before I realized what sort of place I had come to. It was a ward for mental and nerve cases.

I never found out whether it was a separate hospital or a special section of a general hospital. In the ward in which I found myself there was a terrific din going on. Men without a vestige of control were wailing and crying over their wounds, in many cases self-inflicted. Others suffering from delusions were holding forth on imaginary grievances.

One voice rose above all the rest. It belonged to a man who had been badly shell-shocked and who was quite oblivious of his surroundings. He would lie for hours at a stretch on the broad of his back, singing until he frothed at the mouth and grew purple in the face. Then the orderlies would seize him and shake him. He would give one blood-curdling yell and stop, to begin again the next morning. It was apparently useless to try to stop him until he had reached a certain stage, and it took him the same time to reach that stage every day. He seemed to compose his song as he went along. Dozens of verses, all variations on the same theme.

I was greatly distressed to find myself in such a place.
Some seemed to be normal and healthy.
One man I talked with seemed to be perfectly normal and well. He told me he had gone to the colonel and asked for leave to go over to England to place certain verses of scripture before Lloyd George. He was convinced that if he could only point these verses out to Lloyd George he, LG, would then know how to stop the war and would, of course, immediately bring it to an end. He had been put under observation and had still clung to his idea, with the result that a label had been tied round his neck with ‘mental' on it and he had been dumped here. He was simple-minded and earnestly religious, no more mental than he had ever been. Thousands of people have thoughts like this but, unlike him, they don't think them strongly enough to put them into action, especially not in the army - so they don't land in mental hospitals.
Self inflicted wounds
There were a number of men there with self-inflicted wounds. Some of them were quite uncontrolled and cried continually over their wounds and their future fate. The man in the bed next to me had a very bad hand. It was being drained with tubes and the dressing was a painful process. His nerve was completely gone and he would cry and call out the whole time it was being dressed. One day the surgeon, while he was dressing the hand, said to him, "You wouldn't do this again, would you, if you had another chance?" He cried "No! No!" But he had worked himself into such a state that it took a long time to get him quiet again.

Another man, who had been a showman, had put a bullet through his ankle. When he went before a board they asked him if he would promise not to do that sort of thing again. He told us he had said, "No, but I make you a promise that next time I’ll put it through my nut!"

One man - there were many such cases - had cut his throat. It had been stitched up and had left a hideous scar. He used to look at himself in the glass of one of the windows and wail, "How can I go home with this? How can I look my mother in the face again?"
When Baxter's health recovered he was returned to a hospital in London, before being sent back to New Zealand at the end of the war. Even there, he was hounded by the army for a while.

Archibald Baxter lived until 1970. His son, James K Baxter becomes one of New Zealand’s greatest poet.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Baxter (7) Beaten

Baxter was beaten up by officers for his conscientious objection.

He ordered me again and I refused. "You -!" he shouted, and struck me in the face, knocking me down. I got up and he ordered me again. I refused. He kicked me and struck me another blow, knocking me down. This time I did not rise quickly, and shouting, "Come on, none of that!" he dragged me to my feet, knocked me down again and kicked me several times about the body. His anger increased by the murmurs of the men with him, he gave me a final kick, the effects of which I felt for a long time after, and ordered the men to bring me out.

"I'll kill the bastard yet!" he shouted.

They carried me out and laid me down gently on the duckwalk. "Lift him up as high as you can," he ordered, "and drop him on his back on the boards." They lifted me high on their arms and lowered me to the ground ever so gently, keeping hold of me all the time. Three times, cursing, he ordered them, and three times they lowered me in the same way to the ground.

It was a brave act on their part for though, technically, they had obeyed the order, they were incurring the wrath of the captain and there were many ways in which he could make it unpleasant for them afterwards.

Then, at his orders, they carried me out into the parade ground and set me on my feet. But my legs wouldn't support me. I fell and lay against my pack. I felt completely dazed and had little idea of what was happening.
The Ypres campaign was eventually broken up and Baxter was sent back towards the Somme. For the first part, they travelled by train, but Baxter was not attached to a platoon, so he was not given any food.

After several days they left the train and marched through the countryside. After about a week on the road, he collapsed from exhaustion and was left behind. He was lying a hole half-conscious, when a couple of English soldiers found him and took him the an English dressing station. After being given some food, he was put on a train and sent to a field hospital.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Baxter (6) Trenches

The officers and soldiers in the trenches treated Baxter well. They had heard about his stand, and seemed to respect it. I presume that many felt they were being used on a foolish cause, and wished that they had had the courage to make the same stand. The real hostility came from the officers who remained well back from the front line.

My life dragged on from day to day, each day much the same. Rations were often short up there. The other men supplemented them from the canteen, but I was unable to as I had no money, what I had having been taken from me by the police.

Every day I went up the lines with a man in charge of me. One morning we started off, following the duckwalk in a zigzag course among the shell holes. As usual there was a certain amount of shelling going on. At a corner we came to some bodies lying side by side, wrapped up ready for burial. We walked on, glancing at them as we passed. I thought of them as individuals, of what their lives had been before, of the friends and relatives who would, in time, get this news. Not sentimentality, just as much fact as these corpses lying beside the track. I had felt the same about a dead German we had seen in a shell hole further hack, lying with his arms spread wide and the rifle still beside him. Just after we passed the corner a shell passed close to us and struck a bank a few yards to our left. We were knocked down by something - we did not know what.

When the earth heaved up by the explosion had fallen again we pressed on and found that the duckwalk had been blown up in places. Arriving at the brow of a little hill we - the man who was detailed for my escort and I- found we had lost sight of those in front. We were walking in twos with about ten yards between each pair. Presently we saw some of them in the distance. We left the duckwalk and took a short cut over some low-lying ground to catch up with them.

Halfway across my companion shouted "Gas!", adjusted his box respirator and helped me with mine. I do not know whether it was defective, but I found I couldn't breathe in it, at any rate while I was moving. At the last gasp, my labouring lungs unable to draw another breath, I pulled it off, thinking I might as well take my chance with the gas as die by suffocation then and there. I could smell nothing, but there was a dark blue haze floating among the shell holes. The other man persuaded me to put it on again. It was just as bad as ever, but by the time I was forced to pull it off again we were pretty well out of the area affected by the gas shells. It must, however, have had some effect on me. For weeks afterwards I coughed up black stuff.

We could see the other men going up a hill a little ahead of us. Afterwards heard that that hill was in dlrect view from the German lines. Shells were bursting between us and the men ahead. We paused for a moment, doubtful what to do, then went on. Shells began to fall behind us. As we hurried up the hill they came thick and fast and gained on us. When we got to the top of the hill we met the other men corning back. The shelling was closing in on us from both sides. We were surrounded by a perfect storm of shells. We all stood for a moment huddled together, the last thing we should have done.

The officer in charge of the party was standing close to me as the storm closed over us and I heard him call out "Every man for himself as he jumped over a bank. I had a quickened sense that something frightful was happening. The earth seemed to be like the waves of the sea, and struck me again and again. I felt a strange swaying motion, another bump and then utter darkness and suffocation. There was a violent tugging at my legs and before I could realise that I had landed head-first in the mud at the bottom of a shell hole, I came out choking and spluttering but able to breathe.

One of the two men with me in the hole - they had tugged me out - plunged his arms nearly to the shoulders into the mud, retrieved my helmet and slapped it onto my head. The shelling was still going on. One of the men said, "Come on, it's not good here," and we scrambled out. I gave one glance up, saw dark fragments falling through the air, and looked down again. We were knocked down several times, but not one of the three of us was directly hit. We came right on a little door that seemed to lead into the earth. It was a small dug-out over the top of a shaft. One man was there at the windlass.
"It's no good here," he said. "It won't stand a shell and I am expecting it to go any minute.

He directed us to a place about a hundred yards further on. At that moment a shell almost blocked the entrance. We scrambled out and found the other shelter, a wooden drive with steps leading deep underground. For the present we were safe. The others took out their cigarettes and pushed handfuls into my pockets. I did not know them and I thought it probable that they did not know who I was. I did not feel I could take their help and comradeship on false pretence, so I told them I was refusing service.
Don’t you worry”, they said. “We know all about you”, and they offered me more cigarettes.
Twenty-eight men went out, only eleven returned.