Monday, January 14, 2013

Truth takes another hit

Last week, the guitarist for Christian fill-in-the-blank-core band (loud noisy stuff for the uninitiated :-) ) put up some interesting tweets about Christianity, homosexuality, and acceptance. Here's the Alternative Press article on the events, with the tweets.  Of course, as with any speech about homosexuality that doesn't just absolutely accept it as normal behavior and demand all adhere to that opinion, there was much outcry and internet flaming declaring the man an evil hater who should be wiped from the earth.  The decision from the band and Mike Reynolds was that he would leave the band, reporting that he is moving on to Bible college and possibly mission work in the Middle East (where, by the way, his view on homosexuality would often be considered nowhere near extreme enough, check the listed nations, legal status and possible punishments in the middle of this article from the Economist)
This stirs up many thoughts.  The first is to try really hard not to judge For Today or Reynolds for their decision.  Hopefully there was much prayer and discussion that went into it, not just trying to hide on his part and media damage control on the band's.  The second is that, reading the statements, there's nothing hateful there.  He is being honest about a Biblical attitude towards a sin, calling a spade a spade.  He doesn't elevate it as a worse sin than others, he doesn't call for gays to be strung up from the streetlights, he simply calls out the various fractions of society and of the church that are not being honest.  Let's tweek some words here.  What if he said "there's no such thing as an adulterous Christian" or "there's no such thing as a mass murderer Christian" (we're talking actively involved and trying to justify their actions, not someone who has seen the light and asked forgiveness).  Would there be any outcry from within the church, or from without?  Not likely. 
Just because something is socially accepted does not make it God accepted.  No matter what the excuses we come up with (it's genetic, it's natural, we can play with the words and interpretations from the Bible to say it's not a sin, ect) we have to stand up and call out sin as sin.  We still love the sinners, because they are in the same state we were before we got saved, and in the same state we occasionally slip into when we fall off our own spiritual wagons, but we have to love them enough to be honest with them and ourselves.  It's just amazing how the other side absolutely refuses to engage in any actual debate on the status of homosexuality as a sin, instead instantly demonizing anyone who dares speak out against their sacred cows.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I'm Back (and it's anybody's guess as to for how long) :-D

New year, time for the traditional "getting back to writing" post.  There are always lots of excuses for not doing stuff.  A long, nasty election season, the nasty, long effects of that election, the evidence that low information voters are making low information decisions and higher information voters are giving up, the horror of the Colorado theater shooting and the Newtown school shooting, and horror of the political ghouls leaping on the carcasses to throw in the fires of  their machine before the bodies were even cold.  The idea that taxing rich people more will fix our nations fiscal issues despite the fact that seizing the entire assets of the richest people in the US would only run the government for less than two weeks, and the fact that the aforementioned low information voters don't know enough basic math or economics to see through this distraction.
Fortunately, my little corner of the world has been going pretty well through all of this, and plots and plans are in the works to keep things that way, even make them better in many ways.  I know there are lots of people out there who are still doing well in the face of the big picture issues.  The headache is balancing paying attention to the bad, letting people know it's out there, and offering solutions with paying attention to the good, letting people know that it's out there too, and offering ways to spread that good around.
So that's the objective here for the new year.  Gripe about the greatest nation in the world going down the toilet at the hands of ignorant ideologues who have been building a Taj Mahal on a foundation of quicksand while talking about the folks who are trying to build something even bigger, even more beautiful on the rock solid foundations we started on, along with reminders that even when things look horrible from our perspective, God is always running everything, and His plans are working on a big picture we can't even imagine, a picture that makes our momentary discomforts like dust in the wind.  So happy new year y'all, here's to seeing a lot more from here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Justice, fairness, and eternity

Reading is a very important need in life, and one of the things I've been working on is taking the time to do some serious reading (almost) everyday.  Part of that is a daily Bible reading plan, part is working through the stack of ebooks on my phone, and part of it is working through the actual hard copy books on the shelf that I haven't gotten through yet.  The hard copy book I'm on right now is Lee Strobel's The Case For Faith, and it is rapidly becoming one of those books that I think everyone should read, regardless of their faith or lack thereof, simply because it will challenge people in both camps.  The man, a former atheist, takes his journalistic background and delves into asking the serious, major questions and objections that people have about faith and God, interviewing various scholars of faith and philosophy to find the answers.  The first objection is a common one, that since there is evil and suffering in the world, a loving God cannot exist.  An image that he refers to several times is an old cover of TIME magazine showing an African woman holding her baby who had died in a vicious drought.  People who want to argue against God claim that because all it would have taken to save that child is rain from the heavens, from God, this is proof that there is no good, loving God.  Later in the book, the more direct question of how can a loving God kill children, specifically referencing the cleansing of the Holy Land by Israel, where God ordered Israel to put every living person in the land to the sword, regardless of age or gender. 

I'm not looking to answer those questions, but the direction I went with these questions was that we have lost sight of the difference between fair and just, as well as looking at these issues through our own finite glasses.  The slaughter of the people of the Promised Land looks horribly unfair to us, and in reality it is.  But that cleansing was not meant to be fair, it was meant to be just.  We do not have the details about how God offered those nations the opportunity to repent and turn from their sin.  Throughout the Old Testament, we see examples of how God gave individuals and nations the chance to save themselves.  Jonah gives us both, Jonah got the chance to repent from his sin of disobedience, and Nineveh got the chance to turn from their wickedness and not be destroyed.  How many times did Pharaoh have the opportunity to let Israel go free without losing every firstborn child in Egypt?  These and other examples before and after Israel took over the Promised Land show us that God doesn't just randomly smite people.  These events were deserved in the name of justice, in the name of God enforcing His rules on mankind.

The first place dissenting minds are going right now, and some agreeable minds as well, is what did that dead infant and their mother do to deserve their fate?  That delves into several other thoughts.  There is a very strong, Biblical theory that there is an age requirement to get into Hell.  People who die before that age of responsibility are spared eternal torture.  It's a deep theological theory which we don't know the exact age and it's not my point, so for the purpose of this discussion we will assume that theory is correct.  So the fate the child receives is a place in Heaven, and the fate the mother, as well as others who loved the child receive is, if they are believers or become believers later, is that internal peace and the goal of getting to join their lost loved one in Heaven when it is their time to die.  It's rather difficult to argue that those fates are unfair or unjust.  Their short term, worldly fates may seem to be, but God operates far past those limited planes.

What of the fairness and justice of this event in the eternal view?  How many people saw that picture and it burned their heart to help out not just the mother who lost her child, but the others suffering from the drought, either by prayer, awareness raising, monetary contributions or even going to Africa to provide spiritual and physical support on the ground?  How many people saw that picture, and questioned their own faith, and the internal debate bolstered their trust in God and His wisdom, or even led them to finally accept God and His word?  The short term sufferings led to much greater things, things we will in all likelihood never have a clue about until we see eternity.  Ravi Zacharius swings the idea in a different direction, with the same eternal viewpoint, he envisions nonbelievers going before God and asking "why is there all this suffering and diseases and problems?" and God's answer is "I sent you millions of souls with the answers to those problems and cures for those diseases, and you decided those lives were too inconvenient and aborted those children."  Our visions of fairness and justice have gotten so polluted by worldliness that we ignore God's visions of them.

God doesn't like watching us wallow in our sins.  He doesn't take pleasure in sending people to Hell, or meting out worldly consequences for our actions.  He does see how pain that seems interminable to us in the short term can lead to great things for the Kingdom.  How many are inspired to faith by the stories of those who have died for their faith in the past, or even by seeing those who do now in many parts of the world?  Remember the man who was born blind in John 9, who the disciples asked if his condition was punishment for his sins or his parents.  Jesus said that it was for neither, but so that God would be glorified.  Think about that for a little bit, being blind in first century Israel was a far poorer existence than being blind in modern day western culture, yet Christ Himself said the reason it happened to this man was so that the works of God could be shown.  Not only was the man healed, but read the discussion he had with the Pharisees, and think about the huge amounts of theology that are crammed into that exchange.  All because this one man enured being blind his whole life.

The world's definition of fair is coming up a lot right now, especially since it's an election year.  Some people think it is fair to take from group one and give it to group two, some think that it is fair that we all be handed the same material things so that everyone has exactly the same amount of everything.  Justice is on the lips of many as well, often believing that public opinion is interchangeable with the term.  The mess that is the Treyvon Martin case is a fine example of how clueless we are on the definition of justice.  People are screaming that George Zimmerman must face justice, and I'll be the first one to say that it is possible he needs to go to jail for unnecessarily killing that young man.  But lynching the man without a trial or even an investigation is not justice, not by a long shot.  Worldly justice is innocent until proven guilty, not trial by media.

God's justice is not trial by media either, nor is it lynch mob justice.  It only seems that way when we are looking at it through earthly eyes.  God's justice is laid out in His law, specifically for this discussion, the law that sin leads to death.  God would have been perfectly justified in smiting Adam and Eve as soon as they bit into that apple.  He was perfectly justified in flooding the world, drowning everyone but Noah and his family for their sins.  He is perfectly justified in telling us "I never knew you" if we stand before Him on our own at our judgement.  Fortunately, He was also justified in providing a way out of trying to defend ourselves in His court, by sending Jesus to stand in for us in His death.  That is still justice, only the justice is served to one who was willing to accept it on our part. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

More than just Peeps and plastic grass.....

Usually, I tend to skip the big events, simply because everybody and their dog is talking about X at that time.  This can lead to unimportant stuff being on everybody's lips or important stuff just become part of the white noise that surrounds us.  The big event coming up is Easter, and it has sadly become part of the background.  Easter is the whole point of Christianity, without the empty tomb, the crucifixion, Jesus' ministry, the nativity,they all become meaningless.  Easter is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion.  First and foremost, few other belief systems have a savior, someone who lifts man up from the grave.  Typically, other beliefs hold that it is up to man itself to do the right deeds and be good enough or go through enough pain to be purified and move to whatever the next level is supposed to be.  There are deities, there are leaders, there are prophets, but no saviors.  Jesus was miraculously all four, God incarnate, the head of the Church, he knew and told the future, and He provided a way out of death. 
Next, while every other major religion's leaders/founders/prophets/ect have died, none of them have come back.  There are some who are supposed to come back at some point in the future, but their bones still sit in the grave. You can visit the graves of Muhammad and Confucius,  but while a couple of sites are believed to be the tomb Joseph of Arimethea, there is no body in either one.   This is huge. The world is covered with the gilded graves of not only religious leaders, but of kings, philosophers, musicians and others over the centuries that draw crowds of admirers, followers, zealots, ect.  Even David and Solomon's tombs were part of the landscape Jesus walked.  It is an ancient custom to build memorials to those they believe to be great, as evidenced by the Egyptian pyramids and the emperor's tombs in China.  Yet there is no memorial for Christ, because there is no where to put it.
Christmas gets most of the attention in modern times, yet in the Bible, it is not even afforded an accurate date.  Easter on the other hand, is attached to the Jewish Passover festival, along with the details about how Jesus was crucified on Friday, and hurriedly buried before the Sabbath began.  Easter gets lost in chocolates and eggs, the same way Christmas gets lost in gifts and trees, but Easter is the defining moment of Christianity.  I think we don't like to think about all the death and blood attached to Easter through the necessity of Jesus dying on the cross before He could come out of the tomb, and it's easy to get too wrapped up in the pain and suffering of the Passion, but it is all part of the whole.
This Easter, like every Easter, is a chance to remember what an awesome God we serve.  He sent His own Son to endure human life, to fulfill the promises that fill the Old Testament, to open the gates of Heaven to all.  That Son willingly went to the cross, took the sins of the world, past, present and future on Himself, and died.  Then, as if all that was not enough, God raised Jesus from the dead, glorified and perfected His body, and sent Him back to provide the proof of who He was.  (Stubborn as we are, the miracles, the prophecies, the healings, the resurrections weren't enough.)  Nevermind speaking creation into existence, molding man from the dirt, building the nation of Israel from one old couple, taking that nation out of slavery in Egypt to the land promised to that old couple, even all that pales in comparison to what Easter did for us.  Nothing wrong with enjoying biting the head off a few bunnies too, but keep these things in your minds and hearts this weekend, and the rest of the time too.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Internal Medicine

All right, I'm still on the metal kick that was mentioned last week, and one of those odd juxtapositions struck me.  I recalled an old metal album entitled Pierced From Within.  The album cover featured a rotting corpse strung up with a ring of large spikes projecting out of it's gut.  Yummy, I know, but there is a point.  Last week we talked about the war that we all face and fight, particularly our internal battles.  That picture seemed exceptionally appropriate to follow up with the war imagery.  Those battles we fight can grow inside of us, getting larger and larger, sharper and sharper, pushing their way out, ripping through our bodies, not only causing us our own pain, but even making it impossible for others to come near us to help as the pointed spears create a wall around us.  Sometimes we forget about the internal front in spiritual warfare.  We try and bury those seeds of thought and action deep inside, only to have them sprout through all the compost we cover them with.
As I was working on this, I had to make a run, and when I started up the van, Seventh Day Slumber's song "From The Inside Out" was playing, a not so subtle reminder that the spiritual positives work the same way.  Our armor isn't built up by piling more on the outside, it's built up by growing layers on the inside.  Outer armor is often like the whitewashed sepulchers Jesus referenced.  Armor built up from the inside, with much prayer, study and fellowship, grows and makes its way to the outside, not quite as painfully as the impaling spikes, but it still starts from the inside. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Prepare for war....it's prepared for you.

I've been on a metal kick lately, and in that kick, the war imagery that permeates Christian and secular metal of all genres has been sticking out.  Secular bands dig into the violence and gore of the battlefield, along with the pride of victory and agony of defeat, while Christian bands tend to use the imagery as a metaphor for the spiritual battles we face.  The question that comes to mind is if such imagery is appropriate in the Christian realm.
The Old Testament is replete with not just war imagery, but real war as Israel both acted as the means of God's judgement on the various people occupying the Promised Land and as they faced judgement for breaking God's covenant.  Along with the historical books, the prophets and psalms use battle and weapons to illustrate the conflict between not only God and the world, but the internal spiritual battles mankind fights.
The New Testament moves away from the physical war, with Jesus setting an example of pacifism.  However, as Jesus was approaching his arrest, He instructed the disciples to buy a sword if they did not have one, indicating that there is a time to fight.  Later, Paul uses the reference to both the weapons of our warfare and the full armor of God to describe the struggle between the Christian and the world, and how those struggles are to be handled. 
That is the clincher here.  Anyone who has been honest about their struggles with sin, whether it's lust, addiction, anger, doubt, or any of the long list of what we fight against inside knows it is a war, period.  Anyone who is honest about the struggles we face trying to show and convince the world about the truth of Christ knows it is a war, period.  These aren't spiritual debates (though they may be worldly ones) they aren't board games, they aren't book reports, these are nasty, vicious, bloody, fights to the finish.  It's barely even a metaphor to describe the need for swords and shields to win these battles. 
I think while we need to maintain Christ's example of not engaging in unnecessary worldly battles, the pendulum has swung a bit too far, with too much focus on being a door mat for the world, with not enough honesty about how our struggles, both internally and with the world need to handled.  It can be very easy to take the mindset too far the other way, focusing too hard on the battle and not those weapons and where we get them from, or be looking for the worldly victory over spiritual ones.  But we can't win the battle if we walk into it prepared to flip tiddlywinks, either.    

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why Rush Shouldn't Have Apologized

Rush Limbaugh made some comments about a young lady who stood in front of Congress to explain why the Jesuit affiliated college she is attending should be forced to go against their firmly held, consistent beliefs against birth control and provide it to their students.  One of the specific comments was that contraception costs $3000 a year, leading Rush to speculate about how much activity this women and those going through that much birth control a year are engaging in.  The left and the media (redundant I know) pounced, some sponsors bailed, and Rush took the high road and apologized.
I absolutely believe there was no good reason for him to do so, for several reasons.  First, the man was expressing an opinion.  Where did we get this ignorant idea that everyone's opinions have to be nice, or even that we have to accept those opinions?  I work in a prison, and get all kinds of nasty words thrown about referring to me and the other C.O.'s, kitchen workers, teachers, and every other employee.  Do I get to raise a stink to earn a apology?  Do I deem the comments worth even reacting to 99% of the time?  Do their words really mean a hill of beans to me?  The answer to all three is no.  Ms. Fluke went publicly in front of Congress, and made some very bold statements about a controversial issue, among those statements some of questionable validity, like the $3K annual cost, or the idea that these students and employees have no other option for their birth control methods then through their school, who is opposed to such things. 
The second reason is very related.  Google Bill Maher and Sarah Palin, then Louis C.K. and Sarah Palin.  Those are just two examples of some of the sick, nasty things that have been spewed at Palin by left leaning folks, and only examples of what was thrown at her, never mind the horrible things said about other conservative and Christian individuals.  Then you can easily delve into viscous attacks on organizations, ideology and people groups from various individuals, groups, media organizations, ect.  Where are the demands for apologies and sponsors fleeing from them and front page news stories?  It's the hypocrisy and doublethink out of these people that makes them undeserving of any apology.
Thirdly, the people demanding the apology refuse to accept it.  Everywhere you look, commentators are saying Rush only apologized to save his show, it was meaningless, he was just lying.  I hate to break it to folks, but Rush could probably walk away from his show today and never have to look back financially.  His show is the top market share, and has a list of people wanting to be advertisers that runs around the block.  According to the man himself, some of the "leaving" sponsors have already asked to come back, and I'll bet a huge stack of bills that if you keep track of those lists of advertisers "blacklisting" Limbaugh, in six months to a year tops, they will be right back on the EIB network, because few companies, no matter what their professed political leanings may be, are going to turn their back on having their product exposed to that many people in one fell swoop.  Back on track, even Fluke herself, the only person the apology really should matter to, said it doesn't change anything, and she hopes Limbaugh doesn't try to contact her directly for a personal apology (See here)
Rush did the right thing.  I'm glad he did.  I'm glad he was a big enough man to overlook these and many other reasons that I'm sure he and others could think of and issue an apology for his words.  As an individual, the apology is always the right thing to do.  But I will say I think he could have used the opportunity to highlight the hypocrisy of his detractors as well as their pettiness.  Of course both shine through even in light of his apology.  But neither will garner anywhere near the attention of the event itself.