When Brothers Don’t Get Along

On December 4, 2015, the B’Ney Yosef Region 35 Conference convened at Camp Copass in Denton, Texas, for the purpose of bringing together people in the central part of the United States to seek YHVH’s direction about His Kingdom work at this time.  The initial concept was to continue in the spirit of the First B’Ney Yosef National Congress in the interest of building Ephraimite (Israelite) identity among believers in Messiah Yeshua.  The Holy Spirit quickly expanded that concept into a call for repentance within the Hebrew Roots/Two House movement and reconciliation with other parts of the body of Messiah, particularly with our Christian brethren.  That was the motivation for this address which opened the conference.

BFB151204 MNF-IThe best boss I ever had was the man under whose supervision I served the last time I was in Iraq.  He was also the most profane man I have ever met.  The name of Jesus Christ was for him but one weapon in a formidable arsenal of expletives.  Not a single day passed that some outrage did not fall from his lips, causing my ears to burn and my heart to wonder how long I would have to endure such offense.  And yet I continued in his service, not merely because I had no choice (both of us, after all, were soldiers assigned to serve together), but because God gave me grace to look beyond the offense to see and benefit from the substantial qualities he possessed.  Those qualities included an encyclopedic knowledge of intelligence functions and procedures based on decades of hard experience.  He possessed as well a dogged determination to persevere through all opposition and achieve success in whatever goal he or his superiors established.  That determination sprang from his undying loyalty to the United States of America, and to his belief in the ultimate good of our mission in Iraq.  Yet none of that would have mattered in the least had this man lacked the greatest quality of all:  he regarded every person as having intrinsic value, and as a potential ally in achieving the goals set before him.  He may have spoken roughly, and even in private moments vented his frustration and anger, but he never diminished the value of the human beings in his charge, nor of those under whom he served.

We had occasion to work with military and civilian officials from a number of services and agencies.  Whether they were Army like us, or Marines, Air Force, or Navy, they were all “great Americans” in my boss’s opinion – if for no other reason than because they had volunteered to wear the uniform and be deployed to a Middle Eastern war zone.  He could not call our British, Australian, and German colleagues “great Americans”, but he did hold them in high esteem – while at the same time recognizing that the highest priorities for each of them were the interests of their own nations, not those of the United States.  The true professionals among us, regardless of nationality, recognized this.  We knew that at times there would be questions we could not ask and answers we could not give, but whenever and wherever possible we helped one another.

That “great American” description did extend to the civilian intelligence professionals we encountered.  Those men and women represented nearly all of the 16 agencies of the U.S. Intelligence Community.  The ones you would expect were all there:  each of the agencies of the military services, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the State Department.  Our office dealt mostly with the CIA, whom my boss lovingly called, “Klingons”.  Like our foreign counterparts, they, and all the other intelligence agencies, had their own priorities which were not necessarily the same as ours in the Department of Defense.  Their vision of how to support the national interests of the United States sometimes clashed with ours, and the means and resources at their disposal often put them at an advantage over us.  We had much reason to distrust them, but we had even more reason to work with them – just as the Start Trek heroes found reason to cooperate with the Klingons to defeat their common enemies.

We laugh at the description of the CIA as Klingons, but long before I arrived in Iraq I understood exactly what my boss meant.  Early in my tenure in Washington, DC, I had occasion to work with the CIA on a joint project.  Most of the people with whom I worked were intelligence analysts, people not very different from myself.  They were well educated, often from privileged backgrounds, highly academic (a reflection of the CIA culture), and professionally courteous.  As part of our project we had to consult with a different type of CIA employee.  This person was not an analyst.  Intelligence analysts look at information from various sources and put it together in different ways to understand what it means.  They are the friendly face of the CIA.  There is another face, however, and it is not very friendly.  That face belongs to the operators, the men and women who go about the difficult business of collecting the information.  They are consummate professionals, very good at what they do, but they are not the kind of people you would want in your social circle.  Quite often the name by which they introduce themselves is not the name their parents gave them at birth.  In the course of their duties they will have to do some questionable things, and perhaps even some very unpleasant things, to acquire information their agency has commissioned them to gain.

This was the kind of person with whom we met in that office on the CIA campus in Langley, Virginia long ago.  He was an impressive man, and one whom I admired for his courage and devotion to his country.  I could tell without asking that he had suffered much personal loss in service to the nation, and that my own poor service paled in comparison to his.  Yet we could not be friends, and we would have difficulty working together as colleagues.  His world was one I could not enter, and my world was one he would not find comfortable.  Nevertheless, my work could not continue without him, and without me his work would have no meaning.  That is why I have never forgotten the man, although our paths have never crossed since that day.

BFB151204 US Intelligence CommunityWhat would happen if this vast intelligence community in the service of the United States of America ceased to function as designed?  What if the various individuals and organizations within it forgot that they were all Americans, and instead placed their own personal agendas, or the name and reputation of their own agencies and services, above the interests of the country?  That is not a rhetorical question; I can tell you what would happen.  I have seen it.  What happens is a fragmentation of the national intelligence establishment. 

For the most part that establishment consists of good, honest people trying to do the best they can with limited resources and time.  They have a tendency to focus exclusively on the work right in front of them, whether it is office administration, counterterrorism analysis, national technical means of information collection, the number of tanks in the Russian Far Eastern Military District, or poppy production in Afghanistan.  They forget that there is a wider world out there, and that their work is but one small piece in a very, very big puzzle.  It does not take much to convince them that their piece is the most important.  Once convinced, it is but a small step toward competing with others to gain a greater share of attention and resources.  Having entered that arena, it is nothing to begin pushing others aside in ever more aggressive ways, taking resources and people away from them so that one’s own piece of the puzzle grows in size and importance, and the competitors’ pieces shrink, or disappear altogether.  In time the picture that emerges is distorted at best, magnifying certain things to the extreme, diminishing others, and ignoring important bits that would otherwise tie together the seemingly contradictory reports from various sources.  That is the picture which goes before high level decision makers like the commanders of our forces in the Middle East, and even the President himself.  Is it any wonder, therefore, that we have national disasters such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001?

My lesson from this should be clear.  National defense is a team effort.  I know my part of the effort, and my job is to do it to the best of my ability.  I do not know most of the millions of others involved in the effort, nor do I understand what they do.  I could not do what most of them do, nor could most of them do what I do.  Very few of them could be considered my friends, and most of them would probably never want to associate with me anyway.  Nevertheless, we need each other:  every warrior, every clerk, every mechanic, every technician, every lawyer, every cook, every aviator, every logistician, every sanitation worker.  If we do not find a way to cooperate, then this living, breathing organism we call the National Defense Establishment will fail, and with its failure the United States of America fails.

Is this any different from the living, breathing organism known as the Body of Messiah?

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Fox Byte 5776 #1: When Good is Not Enough

The Barking Fox just completed the annual Torah Cycle and is ready to embark on another year of Bible commentary.  Rather than embark on another systematic journey through the Torah and Haftarah, in this Hebrew year 5776 Fox Bytes will focus on selected books and topics, starting with the book of Job.

Marlon Brando as Marc Antony in the 1953 film version of Julius Caesar. (Photo: 451 Years of William Shakespeare, The Telegraph
Marlon Brando as Marc Antony in the 1953 film version of Julius Caesar. (Photo:  “451 Years of William Shakespeare”, The Telegraph)

A sad commentary on human nature is that people who stand for what is right rarely are the people with whom one would prefer to be seen in public.  We may honor such saintly persons as Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, or William Wilberforce, but we do not want to be close friends with them – or at least not let such relationships be known.  Our preference is to hang out with “good old boys”, friends who like the things we like, sympathize with our problems, and make us feel better about ourselves without actually causing us to change.  That, of course, is the problem with those saintly people:  they uphold high standards of right living which make us feel uncomfortable.  It does not matter how blessed they appear to be, or the peace they seem to enjoy in any situation, or that they give the authorities no cause for alarm.  The truth is that they are righteous, and their righteousness interferes with our desire to live comfortably and indulge whatever pleasure seems good.

Shakespeare understood this fact of human nature.  He made use of it in his masterful manipulation of the Roman public through Marc Antony’s speech in Julius Caesar.  Caesar’s assassins justify their murderous act by saying the great man was ambitious and that his ambition would have been the death of Roman freedom.  Antony seems to agree, saying “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones”, a statement that indicates whatever good Caesar would have done has died with him.  Then he turns the tables, calling the assassins honorable men – good men whom the good citizens of Rome should trust, and with whom they should be glad to associate.  Yet their honorable good pales in comparison to Caesar’s selfless ambition:  an ambition that enriched Rome through his military service, that wept for Rome’s poor, and that refused a kingly crown thrice offered.  In other words, any honor that may have accrued to Caesar’s assassins was as nothing compared to the great man’s righteousness in life and legacy in death.

We learn through Shakespeare’s theatrical Marc Antony a truth written centuries earlier to a real Roman audience by a man who also understood something about human nature:

For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.  (Romans 5:7 NASB)

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Foundations of Ephraimite National Identity

Bney Yosef National Congress BannerThe first day of the Bney Yosef (Sons of Joseph) National Congress has concluded with great promise.  The delegates gathered at Ariel, Israel, among the hills of Samaria, are united in the understanding that the time has come at last for the Lord God to fulfill His promises to restore all of Israel in preparation for Messiah’s coming to establish His throne in Jerusalem.

It was my honor and privilege to present the first address to the Congress.  This presentation on Israelite identity met with a positive reception from the assembly.  I share it here as a glimpse into the matters we are deliberating.


Foundations of Northern Israelite (Ephraimite) National Identity

Albert Jackson McCarn

presented at the First Bney Yosef National Congress

Ariel, Israel

May 26, 2015

By this time I hope that all of us have had our first “moment” here in the Land. You who have enjoyed such an experience know what I mean: it is that instant when you know you are home at last. On Shavuot I had the honor of being present when such a moment came upon one of our brethren at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem. Another brother shared his moment at the Har Bracha (Mount Gerizim, the Mount of Blessing; Deuteronomy 11:29, 27:12-13; Joshua 8:33) yesterday. My moment came last week at Caesarea. Allow me to share it with you.

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Fox Byte 5775 #25: Tzav (Command)

צַו

Operating in deadly environments. Clockwise from top: James Franciscus, Gene Hackman, and Richard Crenna in the 1969 space drama Marooned (photo: Movie Hunger); Peter Coyote, Samuel L. Jackson, and Dustin Hoffman under the sea in Sphere (photo: Torrent Garden); Gregory Peck sends John Meillon ashore in the radiation charged atmosphere of San Diego in the film adaptation of On the Beach (photo: Senses of Cinema); Dustin Hoffman in a virus-infected hot zone in Outbreak (photo: ET Online).
Operating in deadly environments. Clockwise from top: James Franciscus, Gene Hackman, and Richard Crenna in the 1969 space drama Marooned (photo: Movie Hunger); Peter Coyote, Samuel L. Jackson, and Dustin Hoffman under the sea in Sphere (photo: Torrent Garden); Gregory Peck sends John Meillon ashore in the radiation charged atmosphere of San Diego in the film adaptation of On the Beach (photo: Senses of Cinema); Dustin Hoffman in a virus-infected hot zone in Outbreak (photo: ET Online).

Consider the fragility of human existence.  We survive within a specific set of environmental parameters – a fixed range of temperature, hydration, radiation, and atmospheric content.  From a cosmic perspective the margin of error is very small; the slightest adjustment in even a single factor, such as the amount of oxygen, quickly moves the environment from pleasant to deadly.  Yet we have learned how to venture into the realm of the deadly when necessary.  Thanks to protective clothing, equipment, and protocols, our species can operate within the vacuum of space, in the ocean’s depths, in the radiation-charged atmosphere of a nuclear reactor, and in the hot zone of an infectious disease laboratory.

We venture into these deadly environments, but we do not live there.  We cannot survive there without observing the strictest standards.  Those who enter these realms understand this.  Astronauts, deep sea explorers, nuclear engineers, and epidemiologists are professionals who have answered the call to highly specialized career fields.  Not all who enter the paths of these professions advance to the point that they can operate confidently in the most dangerous places.  The selection and training standards must be established at the highest possible levels for the simple reason that the slightest error can produce lethal results.  Richard Preston explained this principle in The Hot Zone, an investigative look into the origins of viral hemorrhagic fevers like Ebola.  We learn from his book that the protocols for entering, working in, and leaving an infectious disease lab are elaborate and time-consuming, but necessary.  No amount of caution is excessive when microscopic killers can infiltrate through the tiniest puncture of a protective suit or escape through an improper seal of an airlock.  The viruses create the hot zone, whether it is in the lab or in the human body.  Because of the radical transformative nature of these microorganisms, the highly trained professionals who work with viruses like Ebola in a very real sense act as mediators between them and the general population.

In fact, the role of these professionals is not unlike the role of the Levitical priests.

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Fox Byte 5775 #24: Vayikra (He called)

וַיִּקְרָא

In this scene from The Cat in the Hat, the son takes action to stop the desecration of the house.  (Picture from The Cat in the Hat, read by RC Ward, on Just Books Read Aloud)
In this scene from The Cat in the Hat, the son takes action to stop the desecration of the house. (Picture from The Cat in the Hat, read by RC Ward, on Just Books Read Aloud)

A standard feature of civilization is the rules of the house, the guidelines by which a person can be welcomed into and remain peacefully within someone’s home.  At the most basic level these are rules children learn from their parents at the earliest age.  Parents explain proper behavior and children grow up doing what they have said, or suffering the consequences if they disobey.  As adults the children pass on these rules to their children so they may act properly when visiting Grandma and Grandpa.  This maintains peace in the family, not only ensuring respect for the elders, but establishing and reinforcing a foundation for loving relationships.

If this is so, then how should we approach The Cat in the Hat?  Since its publication in 1957 by Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), The Cat in the Hat has become one of the world’s most popular and successful children’s books.  Geisel wrote it as an attempt to find an easier way for children to learn to read, but his creation has become much more than that; the Cat is now a cultural icon.  The book has everything that would appeal to children:  an engaging story told in simple, silly rhyme, colorful illustrations, and an outrageous degree of irreverence for the house rules.  The story opens with a rainy day in a normal house, where a Boy and his sister Sally are left at home with nothing to do while their Mother is out.  Suddenly their quiet boredom is interrupted by the entrance of the Cat who promises, “Lots of good fun that is funny”.  He then proceeds to violate every rule of the house by using everything he sees – including the pet Fish in its bowl – as a plaything.  Just when we think it can get no worse, the Cat introduces his friends Thing 1 and Thing 2.  The three anarchic intruders accelerate the mayhem, and in a very short time everything that is sacred, including Mother’s new gown and her bedroom furniture, have suffered violence.  At the height of the disaster, the Fish alerts the children to the approach of their Mother and urges them to do something to stop the destruction.  The Boy jumps into action, grabbing a large net with which he captures the Things and orders the Cat to pack them up and take them away.

With the intruders gone, the children and the Fish contemplate how to clean up the enormous mess.  To their surprise, the Cat returns with a machine that puts everything back in order just in time.  Thus The Cat in the Hat ends on a good note, with the house rules mended.  Yet that is not the end of the lesson.  While Dr. Seuss may not have intended it, his story resembles the tale of another Son concerned about violation of the house rules established by His Parent:

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.  And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den.”  (Matthew 21:12-13 NASB)

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