Thursday, October 1, 2009

My Brother's Keeper

Politicians, preachers and pundits have long used the expression "my brother's keeper" as a persuasive for social involvement. But they don't understand what this expression means except that it is from the Bible which gives it an authority (No other book is used in this way).

"Am I my brother’s keeper?" Were the words of the first murderer. Cain, Adam and Eve’s first son, killed his brother Abel because he was jealous of him. And God, who of course knew what he had done, asked Cain, “Where is your brother?” And Cain mouthed off to the Almighty and said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

President Obama likes to say “I am my brother’s keeper and my sister’s keeper”. He thinks that is a good and noble thing, to keep and provide for people. Cain was the ultimate keeper of Abel; he kept him from living! I don’t want the president to be my keeper.


  1. Hi, Debbie! Welcome to the Blogosphere!

    Fellow dog-lover here...I've got a "step-poodle" myself. (My wife's had her since she was a puppy.)

    I've got to disagree with your interpretation of the verse. My reading is that "keeper" means "guardian" or "protector".

    So Cain isn't boasting that he kept his brother from living. He's trying to deceive God by saying, "Why should I know where my brother is? I'm not his keeper. He's an adult, and he doesn't need someone to watch him every minute of the day."

    This really points the evil of Cain's act. Saying, "I don't know where my brother is." would be a lie, and that would have been bad enough.

    But he compounded the crime by scoffing at the idea that he was responsible for his brother's well-being. This reminds us that he was responsible, and he actively betrayed that responsibility.

    The phrase "brother's keeper and sister's keeper" is evocative. We're more or less equal to our siblings, so the phrase implies that this is a mutual guardianship between equals, rather than a paternalistic guardianship. So it ties in neatly with the virtue of Social Justice, the idea that "we're all in this together and we have to look out for each other". (In contrast to the Cainite philosophy of "every man for himself")

    Anyway, it sounds like you're afraid that President Obama wants to kill you. I've read his books and listened to some of his speeches, and I don't think he's all that interesting in killing people.

    Of course I've heard the stories about FEMA Death Camps and Medicaid Death Panels and ACORN Secret Police, but if you actually look at the details, it seems like people are just making up wild stories to get attention. A lot of them are trying to sell books or get listeners for their radio programs. They're mostly Christian, though, so I guess God will forgive them for their repeated and willful violations of the 9th Commandment.

    It's a shame that they've got you in a panic, though. Is there any particular rumor you're worried about? Maybe we could research it.

  2. Wow Chaos, you sure read a lot into my post. You are correct that Cain was saying he wasn't in charge of looking after Abel. My point is that Cain did take charge of Abel. Abel would have been a lot better off if his brother had minded his own business. I am not my brother's keeper. I am not my brother's guardian. I am a guardian to my children until they can be independent. I am and will always be my dogs keeper.

    All I need from the government is to be protected from people like Cain who don't mind their own business. I don't think it should provide for me. I should be free to pursue my own interests.

  3. I'm really starting to despair at my ability to read the Bible. I thought I understood the various points that the Cain and Abel story was making, but I completely missed how the central message was, "Mind your own business".

    But isn't that one of the bits of the Old Testament that gets revoked by the New Testament? I'm thinking of the parable of the Good Samaritan, and the bit about Lazarus and Dives. The point of those stories is that we're supposed to help our fellow humans, even if we're not directly connected to them. Or am I misreading those passages, too?

    Also, I'm still not sure why you think President Obama wants to kill you. Is it the rumors that there's a delayed-action poison in the Swine Flu vaccine? I'm pretty sure that's a hoax. Why would the government want to kill off most of the tax base? Anyway, you don't have to take the vaccine if you don't want it.

  4. All I need from the government is to be protected from people like Cain who don't mind their own business. I don't think it should provide for me.

    Debbie, are you saying that you think the government shouldn't provide you with education, libraries, fire brigades, roads, bridges, etc..?

  5. Chaos, yes you have missed the point of the Cain and Abel story. It has nothing to do with anybody helping anybody, or looking after my fellow human beings. Cain killed Abel because he was jealous of him. Abel's sacrifice was accepted by God but Cain's was not. Abel did it God's way Cain did it his own way. I think it is stupid for politicians to miss quote the Bible to make their point. That is the point of my post in the first place.

  6. Chaos, I will gladly expound on the story of the good Samaritan and the story about the poor beggar Lazarus. The point of the story of the good Samaritan is that he was the good neighbor of the Jew who was robbed and assaulted. The religious Jews who should have helped him passed him by. Giving someone help when he needs it is a message for all individuals, especially those who believe in God because God shows His love through people. The religious Jews who passed by the injured man showed by their actions that they really had no relationship with God. They had Godless religion.

    The story of the rich man and Lazarus is even more enlightening. The rich man lived a life of luxury. He depended on his riches he didn't think about God at all.
    On the other hand, Lazarus was poor, probably disabled and not able to work and provide for himself. It said that dogs licked at his sores. I don't think that the dogs were comforting him but they were hungry waiting for him to die so that they could eat him. He had nothing in this world, anything he got he knew came from God. He had life because of God and he knew that God had more for him than just suffering.

    The scripture says that the rich man died and was buried. He had a first class funeral. But Lazarus died and was carried by the angels to "Abraham's bosom". Abraham the believer. Lazarus was a believer in God like Abraham. Abraham, by the way was rich himself; what he and Lazarus have in common is belief in God so they both share in eternity with God.

    The rich man had everything in his life that he wanted, he was his own god and lived as if he was a god. Everyone catered to him hoping to get something from him. The beggar was just an annoyance, he didn't understand that Lazarus had more to share with the him than the rich man could ever give to Lazarus. If he only took the time to talk to the beggar and learn how he could know God and use his wealth to help others.

    After the fancy funeral the rich man ended up in a place of torment. He becomes the beggar. He begs Abraham to send Lazarus to bring him some cool water. He was still trying to give orders! Abraham informs him that their destinations are fixed there is no second chance. The rich man pleads with him to send Lazarus to his brothers to warn them. Abraham says that his brothers can read the Bible "they have Moses and the prophets". But the rich man says "no, they need to have proof from beyond the grave!" Abraham says that if they don't believe that God spoke to Moses and the prophets they won't even believe if someone rises from the dead.

    Jesus died and rose from the dead and told us everything we need to know to have eternal life. What else could He do?

  7. OK, good, I think we're sort-of in agreement about the New Testament bits. (I'm more comfortable with a broader reading where they're about universal moral principals, but I can see how other people can prefer a narrower, sectarian-Christian reading.)

    That said, I don't agree that President Obama was misquoting the Bible. I think he was making a Biblical allusion rather than a direct quote.

    By alluding to the story of Cain and Abel, he's saying: "When we deny that we're our Brothers' and Sisters' Keepers, then we've started on the path to the Sin of Cain."

  8. The point of Cain and Abel is that Cain did not believe God. He refused to sacrifice as God had said and he apparently thought he could get away with murdering Abel without God being aware. The reason he mouthed off was part of his cover, that is, that he had no idea what had happened to Abel. Cain actually thought he could lie to God and get away with it! Not.

    Cain was a self-centered unbelieving immoral rebellious young man and was no doubt the bane of his parent's existence. Imagine being Adam and Eve and seeing one son kill the other son and realizing that it was that one decision to defy God amplified before their eyes!

    Those who come to the Bible with the attitude of Cain will not be able (pun alert) to understand the meaning clearly. Thus, we have so many ignorant misquotations of a mouthy rebel as if it was a good thing.

    Imagine going down to the South Side of Chicago and, believing that all people love their monthers, walk up to people and say, "Your Momma!" as if it was a loving phrase instead of an invitation to get your head busted in. You may have heard the phrase but you sure didn't understand the context! So it is with all these politicians and celebrities blithely going on about being their brother's keeper.

    God isn't going to getcha for misusing that quote. But if you come to Him unbelieving at the end of all things? It is not going to be good.

    Adam and Eve may not have truly reconciled themselves to God until this deed was done. But after these events in Genesis Four, this is written:

    Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth,saying, "God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him." Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.
    At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD.

  9. Mispelling alert. I do not think anyone in Chicago has a "monther" unless they are a mad scientist with a lisp.