Random D-Day Thoughts…

d-day-usa

 

June 6th, 1990. I had just graduated high school and was getting ready to move to Alabama with some vague plans of going to college. I was the kind of kid to sluff off and do just enough in school to get by, and my work ethic wasn’t much better. But hey… I was an adult now, right?

Eighteen, and I thought I knew it all. It never once occurred to me that, on that same date some forty six years previous, thousands of men — kids, really, kids MY age — had jumped out of perfectly safe boats to run headlong into the face of certain death, with the impossible hope that some precious few of them would make it through the storm of bullets to the most meager — and most temporary — of shelters at the inside slope of the beach, just long enough to catch their breath and brave the storm again, offering themselves upon the altar of battle as they fought to turn the tide against the Nazi scourge.

I was eighteen, and the worst I’d had to deal with was an alcoholic step-dad (who, incidentally, was one of the greatest role models I could’ve asked for, but you couldn’t tell me that at the time) and an uncertain future at college. Eighteen, and I was gonna live forever. Those brave souls in Normandy, many of THEIR eighteens didn’t see the end of the day.

Now here we are, on the seventy-third anniversary of D-Day, and eighteen year olds are still just as self-absorbed as ever — maybe even more so. I’d like to think that, as this country becomes more politically charged and more people realize just how BAD an idea having a strong central government is, maybe the eighteen year olds of today are “slightly” more aware of the value of liberty, and maybe, just maybe, a handful of them genuinely understand the terrible price that must be paid to keep it, as evidenced by their willingness, men and women alike, to follow in their great-grandfathers’ footsteps and brave the storm of bullets to advance the cause of liberty.

I’d like to think that. And I can even trick myself into believing it, so long as I don’t turn on the news or Facebook. My only alternative is to turn into my Grandpa, who would shake his head in disgust at the idiot teenager that I was, a teenager that looked NOTHING like the brave souls he grew up with and served alongside. I’d like to never get that cynical, but when I look at the world today, I can’t help but think that the Great Generation was perhaps the last time that we as a people WERE great.

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Official Review of “The Shack”

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Yep. I watched it. I swore I wasn’t gonna. I was absolutely sure that the criticisms about it were accurate. But on my wife’s insistence that I form my OWN opinion, I suffered through it.

…and confirmed to myself, once again, that context is everything.

If you’ve read all the negative press from steadfast Christians and all the positive spin from the neo-Universalist crowd, you already have the gist of the storyline — a man who’s angry at God has an otherworldly experience that changes his entire view of God. Of course, some people get stuck on the representation of the Trinity as two women and a man, or about the notion that someone can get saved after dying as an unbeliever, but if you’ll bear with me repeating myself…

Context is everything.

As I said, I’d bought into the presumptions about the Shack, but I know my wife to be a wise and Godly woman — one who ABSOLUTELY AFFIRMS the holiness of God, such that He cannot suffer sin, nor submit His sovereignty to forgive the unrepentant — and she reminded me that a wise man LISTENS to the wisdom of others but does not DEPEND upon it. So if I were to form any rock-solid opinions about the Shack, I owed it to everybody — including myself — to actually watch it and see what was what. Which is what I did.

So… my thoughts…

The Shack, first and foremost, is NOT an evangelistic movie, and it never tries to be. Quite the opposite, I take the Shack to be a commentary on the Problem of Evil/Suffering — a philosophical argument that many atheists use to undermine religion in general and Christianity in particular.

As the movie progresses, you come to realize that the main character, Mack, is not an unbeliever per se — not the way many would understand the term. To the contrary, Mack believes that there is a God, and he nominally tries to please Him, but because of life experiences with his Dad, and of course the murder of his daughter, Mack has a very broken view of God. He “obeys” (in loose terms) God in order to avoid punishment, or to “do the right thing”, but none of it comes out of any actual “love” for God. He recognizes God as the Omnipotent, Omniscient Judge and Ruler of the Universe… but that’s ALL he sees God as. He can’t look at our world, with all its suffering, and equate an all-powerful God with a GOOD God.

This, ultimately, is where the main body of the movie takes place.

When Mack first meets God (called “Papa” in the movie, because that’s how his dead daughter always referred to God), he meets God as three distinct and separate people. Of course, some theologians will cry “modalism” at this, and there “might” be an argument to be made about that, but I find it an incredibly weak one.

See, the character of Papa is played, as you already know, by a little black woman. The thing is, the woman who Papa appears as in the Shack is the very same black woman who comforted Mack once as a child, after Mack’s father beat him. Given that Mack has a broken view of God, it makes perfect sense that if God were to CHANGE Mack’s view, He would meet Mack with that view in mind. So when God first appears to Mack, He appears as perhaps the only genuinely loving face that Mack has ever known — someone who Mack did not know, and who did not know him, but nevertheless showed him unconditional love. The fact that this “face of unconditional love” was a little black woman was entirely beside the point — it was a face that would put Mack at ease, and allow him to accept God as entirely DIFFERENT from the God that Mack expected.

As the movie progresses, we run into this theme several times — Mack presumes, God corrects. In many ways, the movie is NOT about revealing who God is, but about revealing that Mack is WRONG about who God is. It does this in a variety of ways — by challenging Mack’s notion that God is (directly or indirectly) the source of evil, that God is impotent to punish the “right” people, etc.

One particularly powerful scene is where Mack, who has deemed himself worthy to sit in judgment of God, meets the manifestation of Wisdom (who is arguably another manifestation of God, one that Mack might perceive as neutral) and is asked to decide which of his children will go to Heaven, and which he must send to Hell. When Mack balks, she tells him, “I’m only asking you to do something you believe God does.” She shows him his remaining daughter, who shuts him out, says hurtful things, etc, and contrasts her with Mack’s son, who she reveals is being disobedient, sneaking out, lying, etc.

The point of the scene is to ask, “If God’s intent is to judge, then who should get a pass, and who should be condemned?” It never questions that God judges, but rather, who are we to say that God is not judging RIGHTLY?

Mack, of course, does not want to judge EITHER worthy of Hell, and tries to refuse. But Wisdom tells him that he MUST choose, that he cannot step down from the responsibility. And so Mack speaks out in love — “Take me. I’ll go instead of them.”

The message of the Cross… and he doesn’t even realize it at the time.

The movie (and presumably, the book) is riddled with scenes like that, where God deftly maneuvers Mack through his presumptions to show him that he does NOT have a complete picture of God, so that when God’s nature IS revealed to him, he is able to accept it.

Now then, there is one scene in the movie that gives me pause — the scene where Mack meets his abusive father, who Mack poisoned as a child. In the scene, Mack (who has already seen how his grandfather had abused his father the same way that his father abused him) confronts the spirit of his father. His father breaks down and begs his forgiveness, and Mack gives it. They embrace, and it appears that the spirit starts to glow a little differently, possibly in healing of some sort.

Because we know so little about the circumstances of Mack’s father’s death (whether he repented, whether he even knew Christ or was broken and backslidden, etc), we have no way of knowing whether or not God had forgiven Mack’s father before his death. Because of this, it’s “possible” to see this scene as an argument for receiving salvation AFTER an unbeliever’s death, but after a bit of thought, I think that would be a mistaken assumption. See, the entire movie is about coming to know GOD — knowing Him as He is as opposed to how we expect Him to be, and coming to relationship with Him. If that is the CONTEXT of the movie, then Mack’s father receiving salvation at this point does not jibe with the rest of the movie, because the entire exchange was limited to Mack and his father — God was only there in the background. There is no message of restored relationship between Mack’s father and God, a theme which is otherwise CENTRAL to the movie. That being the case, and without any CLUE what happened regarding the father’s own redemption, the only SAFE assumption about this scene is that it’s all about Mack’s ability to forgive the unforgivable. To assume more than that is to possibly get it all wrong.

Now then… is this movie (or book) what I would call evangelistic? No, I don’t think so. It’s tailored for a specific mindset — that of one that believes in God, but can only see Him as judge, jury, and executioner. It won’t speak to people who don’t believe in God, nor will it necessarily speak to people who go into the movie with presumptions about what it is or what it should be (ironic, that LOL). What I WILL say is that the movie has the heart of a parable — it gives an incomplete picture of the truth because the truth is so much bigger than the parable can reveal. The purpose of this film is NOT to share the Gospel (though it could possibly do that), but to show how God can be both infinitely sovereign and infinitely merciful, without sacrificing either to satisfy the other.

Of course, I’m sure there are PLENTY of my friends who think that I’ve just gone heretic, blaspheming God in disagreeing with X theologian or Y preacher in their condemnation of the movie. I accept that. It wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve made my friends look at me sideways, and it probably won’t be the last. But those who know me know that I am anything BUT a heretic, that I have ZERO inclination to belittle the sovereignty of God.

To those who are open to it — I think the Shack has gotten a bum rap. To those who just feel the urge to pray for my correction, please do — I’d sooner be wrong about the Shack, AGAIN, than to get sideways with the Lord and not be given the opportunity to get right. But in EITHER case, I ask that before you pass judgment, see the movie first so that you are able to pass a KNOWLEDGEABLE judgment. Don’t rely on somebody else to form your opinion for you. Do your own legwork.

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Evolution As An Explanation, or “Even if I weren’t a Christian…”

With all the recent stuff about Bill Nye the ScieNazi Guy and NdGT talking about how religious people are ruining science, I felt obliged to weigh in. And as the title suggests, even if I were NOT a Christian (which I am) who takes the Bible literally (which I do), I would still have a big problem with accepting evolution as an explanation for the origins of life — or particularly, the origin of the human race. This is why.

As far back as Darwin’s “Origin of Species”, the scientific community has taken it as Gospel (pardon the pun, but they literally do have that level of devotion to it!) that all life on Earth originated from less evolved versions of themselves, which in turn evolved from lesser versions, going all the way back to a non-living puddle of primordial slime. Most directly relating to us humans, they are faithfully devoted to the notion that we evolved from ape-like primates, and that the only thing separating us and monkeys are a few missing links. Graphically, the argument looks like this…

evo1

Pardon the oversimplification, but it doesn’t get THAT much more coherent the more complex you make it, so I’m good with simple.

The issue, of course, is that according to the theory of evolution, there should not be just a “few” intermediate species. Rather, there should be a MULTITUDE of them. Graphically, it should look a heckuva lot more like this…

evo2

Again, sorry for the oversimplification, but I think you get the picture. According to the theory of evolution, there should be MANY more intermediate species represented in the fossil record or, heck, even alive today. And yet, when you look at the varied living things on this planet, the things that look similar look very similar, and the things that look different look dramatically different. Evolution (the origins of life theory, NOT the scientifically proven and observable process) is presented as a rather straight line from previous life form to modern life form, but in actuality, each new “species” is the result of numerous mutations, such that each species is almost identical to it’s “next door neighbor”, such as how the varied human races are identical except for cosmetic differences.

Now maybe it’s just me, but given the diversity of life on Earth, I’d expect MANY more “next door neighbor” species to still exist, as survivability only depends on a small group of males and females. When life evolves, the previous form doesn’t necessarily die out unless circumstances demand it (eg. an animal with greater lung capacity is able to hide in a lake long enough for a predator to leave, unlike its cousin that comes up for air and gets eaten). So ultimately BOTH life forms — the original and the mutant — pass their genes down unless one dies, ending its bloodline… something that is less likely, the larger the family is.

As such, I’d expect FAR more diversity, and far more blurring of the lines between species. Using my expanded graphic as an example (featuring man and our “closest animal cousin”), I’d expect AT LEAST the last bracket to be more filled in, and certainly SOME of the previous brackets.

I’m not denying that there is great diversity of life on Earth, but I’m saying that if evolution — and not God’s intentional hand — is responsible for it, I’d expect evolution to play by its own rules, mutating without necessarily “killing off”. I’d expect much GREATER diversity than we have, specifically, a greater blurring of lines between species.

…and that’s my thoughts on the subject. And it being 0140, they might be a little muddled, but that’s the best you’re gonna get from me tonight 😉

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My Reasoning For Believing in God — A to Z

The-Thinker

So the thought occurs to me that while I’ve touched on this argument before, I can’t remember ever having saved it in full.

Well now… it’s night shift, and I’m night shifting at home on my off night. Seems like the perfect opportunity to remedy that little oversight 😉

1) A prime mover. This is the very first step in my consideration of God’s existence. There’s only two ways that the universe comes into being — either it (for lack of a better term) “creates” itself, or something/someone/Someone created it. I consider this a good starting point for God because, however you approach the idea, you’re left with either an intelligence behind creation, or creation ultimately being its own parent and offspring. It can be argued that the universe comes from another universe, but that would be kicking the can down the road, necessitating ANOTHER universe to create that one, and another beyond that, ad infinitum. Ultimately, the argument boils down to the universe creating itself. To me, that makes no sense whatsoever, and so I feel compelled to approach from the other direction — an intentional creator.

2) If the universe has an intentional creator, we have to assume that the creator is self-existing. If he’s not, then he himself has a creator, which means that THAT creator is either self-existing or has a creator above him. Again, you have something creating itself, which is a logical impossibility, so we’re left with someone uncreated that is free to create.

3) If this creator is self-existing, then he is by definition supreme. To suggest that there is something superior to this creator is to suggest that his existence depends upon something else, which necessarily means that something other than him is God.

4) If this creator is supreme, then it necessarily follows that his values are supreme. Consider existence before he creates anything — his values are still definitive of him. Thus, his values remain definitive after he creates lesser creatures with values.

5) If his values are supreme, then any deviation from those values would necessarily be a challenge to his supremacy. Logically, God cannot be God if He allows somebody else to be God. For God to permit that would be for Him to bend to the authority of His creation — in essence, making His creation the God of God.

6) If God’s values are supreme, and deviation from those values are a challenge to God’s authority, God must necessarily exercise authority over that challenge. For God to allow the challenge to stand is, again, Him bending to the authority of His creation, declaring said creation to be the God of God.

7) If God must exercise authority over a given challenge, He cannot simply “forgive and forget”, as if the challenge never happened, for the same reasons as #5 and #6. So if God is to REMEDY the challenge, there’s only two ways He can do so — by forcing the challenger to recognize God’s authority, or by allowing the challenger to VOLUNTARILY recognize God’s authority. Note: this does NOT remedy that God’s authority HAS been challenged — it only remedies future challenges.

So… what do to with a challenge already presented? Enter Christ.

When God exercises righteous judgment against those who challenge His authority as God — people who, by their thoughts and actions, declare THEMSELVES God — there are only two ways He can respond to this. He can agree with their declaration (and effectively declaring, in His submission to His challenger, that His challenger is supreme over Him), or DISagree with their declaration — and these two options necessitate action in kind.

Of course, as God is infinitely holy, there is no way that He can allow even the slightest challenge to stand. But God is not just infinitely holy — He’s also infinitely loving. BOTH of these perfect, infinite attributes have to be perfectly and infinitely satisfied, or else God is conceding, in some form or fashion, to the authority of His challenger.

This presents quite the paradox. To simply wipe out the sinner is to deny His love, but to simply forgive the sinner is (as stated already) to deny His holiness.

And that is precisely what is so BRILLIANT about His solution in the Cross of Christ. In Christ, God exercises a perfect judgment, in perfect keeping with His holiness… but takes that judgment upon HIMSELF, in perfect keeping with His love.

As with Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, God required a lamb… and then God provided Himself AS the Lamb. In Calvary, God is not brutally killing a part of Himself. Quite the opposite, God is undeservedly taking upon Himself a brutal killing that WE deserve.

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In The Shadow Of The Manor

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“A village living in the shadow of a castle. Once a year one villager receives an invitation to the castle and a spectral carriage pulled by nothing comes to collect them a day later. They are never seen or heard from again. If someone declines the invitation they are found dead in their bed. The protagonist has received their invitation.”

The above is a writing prompt that was offered this past Friday on one of the writer’s boards that I’m a member of. The following is my response to it. Hope you enjoy 🙂

****

Ciaran sat, hunched over his knees as he waited by the curb of Aughnahilla’s cobbled main street. He could feel the gaze of the passersby, looking on in a palpable sympathy but saying nothing. Let them look. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t done the same innumerable times himself, to whatever sorry sack had received that year’s invitation.

This year, it was him. He stared at the card in his hand and sighed. He’d done that a lot over the last twenty four hours — staring, sighing.

There was nothing particularly noteworthy about the card. By itself, anyway. It was simple, little more than a square of rough paper sporting his name, written in red so deep that it approached black. Fitting, that. He read aloud from the card, as if hoping that the words in his ears would be a different name than his own.

But they weren’t. He sighed again. No, the card itself was simple, plain, unassuming. And yet, it meant the end of the world to him.

He lifted his eyes and cast them northward. There a mountain rose, providing something of a windbreak from the autumn cold fronts moving in. At the summit sat the castle, Dunamase.

Ciaran looked away, and his eyes fell upon a familiar face. Old Lady Murphy, the owner of the curio shop. She was out and about, running her errands, doing so on the far side of the street so as to not disturb Ciaran as he awaited Coiste Bodhar. Or perhaps, so she wouldn’t receive a card of her own. In either case, he would’ve welcomed the company — even hers — as it might help him to forget that tonight was his last.

Once a year, every year, since before his grandfather’s grandfather was born, an invitation was sent out from Dunamase, bearing the name of that year’s guest. They had but a day to get their affairs in order. The next evening, as the sun set, the banshee would wail her dreadful song from the parapets of Dunamase, and Coiste Bodhar would begin its trek from the castle walls to the home of the invited.

Ciaran had actually watched the approach of Coiste Bodhar with his brother Donal one year — two stupid lads with nothing better to do than to peek through the hedges at some luckless soul as they went to their fate. No horse pulled the black coach, nor did any driver steer it. Nevertheless, the monstrous conveyance found its guest — Seamus O’Malley, that year — and the coach door swung open of its own accord.

No rider had ever come back from their invitation. None had ever returned from their ride in Coiste Bodhar. None were ever heard from again. So some, like poor Seamus, simply refused to ride.

He, like any who refused, was found dead the next morning.

A low cry echoed down the mountainside from Dunamase, jerking Ciaran from his thoughts. The banshee. He cast his eyes across the street, and for a moment, Old Lady Murphy’s gaze met his. Her lips formed a tight line, and her eyes twinkled as the dying day reflected against her unshed tears. She lifted her right hand, as if to wave. Instead she crossed herself, warding against evil, and turned toward home with nary a word.

As soon as it had started, the wailing stopped, replaced by the distinct rumble of old wood and rusty metal. Coiste Bodhar had begun its run.

Ciaran watched the highroad leading to Dunamase for a long time before the coach came into view, its black mass rolling with no steed to pull it. His stomach churned as the black carriage disappeared behind a copse of trees, only to reappear a moment later. Barn, building, haystack — the approach of Coiste Bodhar was broken in his view, vanishing and reappearing, as if to taunt him.

Finally, it reached the bottom of the hill and entered the long stretch of road that led from the base of the mountain straight into Aughnahilla. Straight to Ciaran.

Swallowing hard, Ciaran stood and brushed the dust from his trousers. The black coach seemed deafening in his ears as it drew near, and yet, it was muted, far away, as if it were coming for somebody else. It wasn’t until Coiste Bodhar stopped in front of him, its door creaking open without the touch of any human hand, that it became real for him. The time had come.

“Ciaran O’Neill,” came a dry whisper from within. “Submit ye to the summons?”

“Aye,” Ciaran rasped, not sure until that very moment that he actually would. Numbly, he shuffled forward, climbing into the velvet lined interior. The smell of mildew filled his nostrils as he settled upon the dusty cushions. There was no sensation of movement as the door swung shut behind him and the coach rumbled forward. Coiste Bodhar could’ve been standing still for all that Ciaran felt.

In fact, Ciaran felt nothing at all — no movement, no cushions, no heat or cold. His shirt and trousers didn’t touch his skin. The wind of their passage didn’t lick his cheek. A soft lethargy stole over Ciaran as his body went totally numb. Was this what death felt like? Was he…?

“Retrieval successful, Captain,” a voice said at the very edge of Ciaran’s awareness. An angel, perhaps? A demon? The world around him faded from view, going as black as the coach itself.

…only to be replaced by a sterile, white light. Ciaran opened his eyes blearily to a cold, metallic room filled with blinking lights and mechanical sounds.

“He’s awake,” came the voice again. “Ciaran? Ciaran, can you hear me?”

Ciaran turned his head — he was laying down — he turned his head toward the voice. He blinked a few times, hard, and his vision sharpened. “Moira?”

The tall brunette — how did he know her name? — beamed at him. “Hey, sleepy head. Welcome back to the land of the living.”

“Living?” he asked, confused. “Sure’n I thought meself a goner, when I saw Coiste Bodhar…”

“Sure’n? Coach de Bauer? What in the… Ahhh,” she said as realization dawned. “The program.”

“Program?”

Moira straightened, adopting a business stance at his bedside. “Your name is Ciaran O’Neill. You’ve been in suspended animation for a hundred and forty three years. You’re on board the Colony Ship Dunamase, named aft–”

“After a ruined castle in Ireland,” Ciaran finished for her. It was all coming back to him — the ship, the mission to colonize the Trappist 1 star system. “I dreamt that I was there, in a village at its base,” he said, noting absently that his Irish accent had already faded.

“That was the sleep program, occupying your mind while we travelled. It was designed to make your mind think it was awake, and the world you were experiencing was real. Unfortunately…” She pursed her lips and nodded across the room. Ciaran followed her eyes, and found cadres of medical staff at various beds in the bay, pumping airbags and doing compressions on their respective patients.

One of them was Seamus O’Malley. Even from this distance, Ciaran could see the skin bluing, against his doctors’ best efforts.

“Unfortunately,” Moira continued, “the program was a little too effective.”

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Hacksaw Ridge: My Thoughts

hacksawridge

So I finally watched Hacksaw Ridge, and it was everything I’d hoped it would be

…and something else that I was not expecting. See, I know that Desmond Doss was a Seventh Day Adventist, and I do not agree with many of the doctrines — even CORE doctrines — of the church. So while I was certain the movie WOULD honor God, I didn’t go in expecting to see anything of a Gospel message in the movie.

But then the movie — the history — cut to the Maeda Escarpment, the area of Okinawa nicknamed “Hacksaw Ridge”, and I watched Doss go into the thick of battle time and again, dragging people out.

It struck me that Doss didn’t just drag out fellow soldiers. He dragged out men who had beaten him bloody in boot camp for being a conscientious objector. He dragged out men who mocked his faith. He even dragged out enemy combatants. And I was reminded of a passage of scripture…

Romans 5:7-8 — For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

When Christ died for us, we weren’t just bloodied on the battlefield, needing rescue. We were those who had rejected God, and actively opposed Him. We were God’s enemies. And Christ died for us anyway.

Doss’ relationship with God may be different from mine, but I’m no fool — I’m CERTAIN that when I stand before Him, He’ll have a list a MILE LONG of all the things that I believed wrongly. But in the end, none of those things will matter. All that will matter is, did I accept Jesus as Savior? Did I bow to Him as Lord? When He said, “Follow Me,” did I follow? Wherever Doss places in God’s standards for believing the right things, his actions on the Maeda Escarpment are, without a doubt, one of the truest representations of Christ that I’ve ever seen in anybody that has ever claimed to follow Him.

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The Prodigal Son, and Christmas

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In the Bible, there’s an account of a man whose son wanted to go out and see the world, to live life to its fullest, to live according to his own rules rather than the rules that others made for him. So he asked his father for his portion of his inheritance — now, rather than waiting on his father to die.

Of course, the father didn’t “have” to give his son his inheritance early. He was under no such obligation. And I’m sure he didn’t want his son to go. He very likely knew the ends of those pursuits, and that they’d lead to a lot of pain for his son. But he loved his son enough to let him make his own choices — his own mistakes.

Sure enough, when the son’s pursuits bore fruit, he found himself at rock bottom, working as a swineherd — an unclean job by Jewish standards, managing unclean animals that would be made into unclean food. Worse, he (born a rich kid) was so poor that he envied the food that the swine ate.

So he goes home. He didn’t have any presumptions that his father would treat him like a son. After all, he’d squandered his entire inheritance — the money that he would otherwise have gotten only when his father had DIED. In a very real way, the son had treated his father as if he HAD died, and his father similarly had nothing left of his son but memories. Their relationship was utterly broken.

So it was an utter SHOCK when the prodigal son comes home, and the father not only welcomes him onto the property — he welcomes him back into his life! He lavishes his riches on his son — a robe (signifying acceptance), a ring (signifying his authority, granted to his son), good food, a bed, the works. Far from the unclean heathen that he had become, his father treated him like the son that he had always been… even when the son didn’t think he was.

Now, we all know this story, and it does teach a lot about gratitude and love — particularly, the love of God for His rebellious creation — but rarely does this come across as a Christmas story. And yet, that’s exactly what I think this is. I know — when we think Christmas, we think of the virgin birth, the angels, the wise men, and of Linus Van Pelt reciting Luke 2 for Charlie Brown. But when you get right down to it, that’s all about how Christmas HAPPENED. The parable of the prodigal son is about WHY Christmas happened.

Through the parable, we see ourselves, coveting what rightly belongs to our Father, but brutishly rejecting His Will for us. Rather than abide by His rules, we go out and live by our own rules… to our detriment. He didn’t “have” to allow us the opportunity to rebel. He could’ve denied us the freedom to disobey Him, just as the father of the prodigal son could’ve denied him his inheritance. But God chose to allow us the room to mess up, not because He wants us to experience the pain that He KNOWS will result of our decisions, but because He loves us enough to allow us to make them. The result? We willfully squander what He has entrusted to us — as if it were OURS all along rather than His — and break our relationship with Him, becoming unclean before Him.

But though we deserve the ends that we bring upon ourselves, our Father is not content to leave us to them. Far from it, He has left the door open for us — sacrificed of HIMSELF in ways that He did not deserve in order to offer us a redemption that we did not deserve. In the Christmas account, God became flesh. He took the door that we slammed shut with our sin, and opened it again with a virgin birth. Not only is Jesus the answer to about a hundred prophecies in the Old Testament, but He answers a number of them merely by the circumstances of His birth — something that a mere man could never do.

When we say that Jesus is the ultimate Christmas present, it doesn’t do justice to the sheer miracle that is Christmas — where a sinless God took upon Himself the form of sinful man in an act that HE KNEW would end with His physical pain and death and, worse, REJECTION at the hands of the very creation He loved.

He knew the hatred of a king would drive Herod to murder a generation of babies in an attempt to kill the King of Kings. And yet Jesus came anyway, for God so loved the whole world… including Herod.

He knew that the scribes and Pharisees would proclaim Him a heretic — Him, God In The Flesh, a heretic!!! — but He came anyway, for God so loved the world… including those scribes and Pharisees.

He knew that Judas — His disciple, His friend, His bro — would betray Him to those who would have Him killed, but He came anyway, for God so loved the world… including Judas.

See, that really is the miracle of Christmas — not just that God would become a man so that He could save us, but that He would do so for a world that DID NOT WANT SAVING. Just like the father of the prodigal son, He didn’t “force” His love upon us, or make us make the first step. Rather, He did His part WITHOUT waiting on us to do ours, loving us while we still hated Him. And then He stood in the road, watching, waiting to see us come around the bend, so that He could lavish upon us a redemption that He had already paid for in full.

Christmas isn’t just about God loving us. It’s about God loving us while we were still unlovable. Remember that, the next time you sing about “God and sinners reconciled”, and about “peace on Earth, good will to men”.

Merry Christmas, and may God bless!

Categories: Blogroll, Life In General, Religious, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

T Minus Three Days and Counting…

election

So. Election Day is Tuesday. And I’ve got to make a decision because, quite frankly, I haven’t done so yet, and time’s running out.

But before I even start my rant, a few definitions.

Libertarian — the philosophy that government’s power to intrude upon the lives of private citizens should be as limited as possible. This is the view that government’s legitimate purpose is merely to serve as a buffer, a barrier between my life and your life, between the individual’s life and the majority’s lives, and between our collective lives and the lives of foreign nations. It’s the philosophy of “I am the boss of me”. In this philosophy, the role of an elected representative is that of a steward, someone who sees himself as the EQUAL of the person he represents, and who exercises authority on their behalf, benefit — not unlike a stock broker, who may be smarter with money than you are, but nonetheless is bound to invest as YOU see fit.

Authoritarianism — the philosophy that government’s power to intrude upon the lives of private citizens is, to a greater or lesser degree, legitimate so long as you have enough support. This view belies equality, in my view, as it necessitates that otherwise-equal citizens gain superiority by being elected to public office. It’s the philosophy of “I am the boss of me AND you.” When an authoritarian gets elected, they are (in their mind) given the power to dictate terms to private lives, mandate an external morality, mandate redistribution of wealth, that sort of thing. In essence, an authoritarian sees government as a tool to legitimately RULE people.

Having covered that…

First decision is… do I even vote at all? If I decline to vote, I help and hurt all campaigns equally — which is to say, not at all. I’m held harmless for endorsing a candidate and permitting the harm that I’m convinced they will do. But I believe in being active in the political process — not a duty per se, but a right to have my voice heard. I always have the option of not voting, if I can’t come to consider any option viable, but if at all possible I’d prefer to politically say my piece.

But, if I’m voting, who do I vote for?

Clinton is a nonstarter from jump. Rare is the day that I vote Democrat — not because of the party, but because of the person — but I have been known to vote for the Democrat if I think they’re worthy of my support. My former sheriff in Arkansas can attest to that. That said, Clinton has never demonstrated herself worthy of my support, not even remotely. She’s an authoritarian, first and foremost. Beyond that, she’s a redistributionist, a social justice warrior, a liar, a thief, a hypocrite. She’s negligent of her responsibilities, and she thinks the law doesn’t apply to her. She’s an elitist who has completely forgotten that she is not entitled to ANYTHING from the American people, but rather that every stitch of political power she has EVER wielded is on LOAN to her from the American people, both those who voted for her and those who did not.

So… no 🙂

Jill Green’s another that’s a no from jump. Some libertarians would like you to believe that she’s got libertarian qualities, and maybe she advocates some libertarian POLICIES, but when it comes to core PRINCIPLES that inform those policies, she’s so authoritarian as to practically be totalitarian.

This segues to Gary Johnson — the Libertarian Party’s candidate. Not so much. While LP had a good shot at legitimacy with Austin Petersen (my run-away favorite from this election cycle), they sacrificed libertarian principles to go with name recognition. The further the election has gone, the more Johnson has proven himself to be a principle authoritarian that flirts with libertarian policy when it suits him.

So… Darrell Castle? Not so much. I LOVE what he has to say morally, but in policy — again, authoritarian. It seems to be a running theme this cycle. While Castle would likely be very libertarian in a number of his policies, he does advocate for legislating morality, which God made a very voluntary, relational thing. As far back as the Garden of Eden, He commanded not to eat of a particular Tree… but then left it up to us to choose to obey or NOT obey, and to accept the consequences of our choice. Morality has ALWAYS been about relationship — between us and God, between us and our friends and loved ones, between us and total strangers. It’s necessarily BIASED, so it’s a serious problem when you try to enforce biased morality with a legal system that’s fundamentally UNbiased. Besides which, Castle is a write-in for my state — with access to enough electoral votes to win the election, but not officially on the ballot in Alabama. This presents a bit of a problem for me, as it makes him both a viable candidate AND non-viable. I already have issues with him being president, so to cast a decidedly losing vote for somebody that I can’t even guarantee my support for — that, in my mind, would be WORSE than not voting at all.

And that brings me to Trump. Heh.

If you’ve followed my Facebook AT ALL, you’ve seen all my commentary already, but to sum it up… Trump is an authoritarian. He’s never held public office before, but he HAS been in the public eye for his entire career in business. And in all that time, he’s never demonstrated even the SLIGHTEST tendency toward stewardship. He handles investor money in such a way that it benefits him… and hopefully, his investors. Ya know, as a bonus. If it DOESN’T benefit his investors, well, he can live with that. He’s still huge. He’s still tremendous. His investors will get over it, because he’ll make them great again.

Yeah.

See, I couldn’t care less that he’s arrogant — that has no bearing on his ability to perform the task at hand (although it does speak to his lack of stewardship, which requires a bit of humility). I couldn’t care less that he’s not well-spoken — many brilliant people aren’t, and yes, Trump is brilliant. I couldn’t care less about the media’s crucifixion of him — the vast majority of the stories are, well, trumped up. What I care about is, will this man represent ME — whether I support him or REFUSE to support him, as is the foundation of representative government — or will he represent himself in my name?

So in case you’re keeping score, I’ve got nobody that I can vote for for president.

But what about VICE president?

Well, you got Tim Kaine who, if it were possible, is even WORSE than Clinton, both in principle and in policy. Same with Bill Weld, who’s even more authoritarian than Johnson, and very anti-gun to boot — very scary combination. The VPs for Castle and Green? I ain’t got a clue, really.

But Mike Pence?

Finally, there’s somebody on the list that I can actually get behind. Granted, he does have his authoritarian ways, but he demonstrates a libertarian streak in two key areas — immigration, and taxation.

In 2006, Pence forwarded a radical immigration plan that would curtail illegal immigration by streamlining it… but requiring the process to be started in the immigrant’s country of origin. In other words, the illegal COULD LEGALIZE, but he would have to self-deport BEFORE he could become legal. I thought that plan was BRILLIANT, as it addresses the real problem of illegal immigration while offering redemption to illegals WITHOUT it being amnesty, and also taking a libertarian stance regarding those who legitimately want to immigrate. It put the power to make amends squarely in the hands of the one who broke the law in the first place. HUGE points for me.

Then there’s taxation. Pence is one of the few politicians at his level of government who favors the FAIRtax, a consumption-side tax that replaces the mandated income tax with a national sales tax, leaving control over taxation in the hands of taxpayers. Now, the typical libertarian stance on taxes is that “taxation is theft”. I would kinda disagree. Taxation ITSELF is not theft, but HOW you tax — i.e. do you take it without consent, or do you allow the taxpayer the decision of how, or IF, they want to pay. FAIRtax makes high marks here. Don’t wanna pay tax at the grocery store? Grow a garden. You make your own food, you keep money that would otherwise go to tax, AND you remove yourself as a potential welfare burden. It’s man’s nature to try and scam the system, and under the current system such tendencies hurt the country, but the FAIRtax actually BENEFITS from that tendency. It’s wins, all around.

Now, these aren’t marijuana stances — policies where, like Johnson, you can have authoritarian principles but like the policy. No, with both immigration and taxation, your policy HAS to reflect your principle, because they both go to the core of how you as a politician see your constituent (current or potential), and how you see yourself in that light. Current immigration sees the politician as the host and the immigrant as the guest. Current taxation sees the politician as the employer and the taxpayer as the employee. Both of Pence’s revisions necessitate a view of politician and constituent being EQUAL, neither superior to the other. They don’t work — they don’t even make SENSE — with any other dynamic.

So while I can’t support any of the current presidential crop, my choice for vice president is VERY confident — Mike Pence. What this means for Tuesday? That’s what I’ve got to figure out. Do I want Pence enough that I can justify a vote for Trump? Or does Trump, as frontman on the ticket, trump Pence? I dunno. But I’ve only got a few days to get it together.

Categories: Government, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Casting a “wasted” vote…

hillary-clinton-donald-trump

Okay, I’m real tired of fellow Christians trying to shoehorn me into casting a “lesser of the evils” vote for Trump, because Hillary will X or Johnson can’t Y or Who in the world is Z? So let me bring this question front and center with the following illustration…

The Body of Christ has become incredibly Laodecian. Sure, there are a few hold-outs that truly honor the God they claim to love, but for the most part, the church is overrun with pseudo-Christians that simply wear a title but don’t actually live the life.

Now, your respective collective is electing new leadership. The Catholic Pope is retiring. The Orthodox Patriarch has died. The President of the Southern Baptist Convention is stepping down. Whatever the church, whatever the reason, you find yourself having to elect new leadership… and your choices are all bad ones.

There are two extremely popular frontrunners. The first is one who’s very likely a closet atheist, whose only intent is to bring the church to ruin, but he is popular because he tickles the ears of many Laodecian believers. The second is a televangelist who claims to love God but shows very little interest in actually obeying Him. This guy preaches strongly against all the popular sins, but lives life as if his doctrinal positions are matters of convenience, not born out of any true submission to Christ. He tickles a completely different set of ears.

There are also a handful of also-rans who fall in a range roughly between these two front runners, and you can’t stomach ANY of them… but then there’s this one guy. Few people know his name, and he’s not even on all the ballots, but of everybody in the race, he’s the only one, the ONLY one, that visibly honors God with his life, even when that honor brings him inconvenience or even pain. You’re convinced that the guy doesn’t stand a chance — not with the Laodecian voters, and not with a God that has pretty much left the church to go the way of the Pharisees.

Time comes for you to vote. Everybody in your cliche tries to push you toward the televangelist or the closet atheist, but you want to honor God with your vote. Do you vote for the televangelist because it’s less likely that he’ll bring the church to ruin? Or do you vote for the one that you’re convinced would honor God with his position, even if you’re sure he’s not going to get the vote?

This is where I am with the whole Trump/Clinton/Also-rans thing. Feel free to vote your candidate. Feel free to vote the lesser of the evils, if you feel it wise. But never, for a second, think that my vote for X is a vote for Hillary, just because it’s not for Trump. Don’t think you can shoehorn me with strawman arguments or fear tactics. I have only one aim — to honor the principles that this nation was founded upon. If I don’t believe your candidate of choice will do that, your candidate will not get my vote. Period. You wouldn’t ask me to betray my faith for the more popular church leader. Don’t ask me to betray my patriotism for the more popular presidential candidate.

Categories: Government, Religious, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fifteen Years

History is made of a lot of different things — trends, cultures, people, events. Some of them have little bit parts, only locally significant of themselves, but strung together to give significance to the picture overall. But other things are monumental, things that are so individually significant that they define a generation and rock the world.

The Boston Tea Party was one such event, as was signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Bombing of Pearl Harbor and D-Day, the Assassination of Kennedy and Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, Woodstock and tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

Today, we recognize another such event — the 9/11 Attacks. There are so many emotions packed into that day and the days that followed that I could write a tribute every year for the rest of my life and still not hit all of the high points. But today, what strikes me is not so much the memory of 9/11 itself, but of the country that we became because of it, and the stark difference I see between that country and the one we currently live in.

In the days following 9/11, there was a sense of unity that I’d never seen up until that point. I did a lot of my growing up in Alabama in the 70s and 80s, and had seen first hand the benefit of a neighborly culture, “where they know you by name and they treat you like family”, as the song goes. And yet, for all that I knew to expect that from the South, I was shocked — in a good way — to see that culture permeate mainstream America. For a time, at least, people prayed for strangers, gave blood, volunteered, donated, did whatever they could to support and uplift their fellow American. Eventually, sadly, that unity wore off, and we settled back into our native cultures and assigned roles. I kind of expected it, but it made it no less sad.

Nowadays, I’m almost nostalgic for those days of indifference.

Turn on the news today, and you’ll find stories of athletes sitting down for the national anthem. You see instances of people standing, burning, or even defecating on the flag. Anti-religious sentiment is getting more prevalent as freedoms are stripped from people of faith in order to service people who reject their faith. Racial division is at a modern high, and racist hypocrisy is even encouraged by leaders and the media.

Here we are, fifteen years after a horrific event that brought the BEST out in the American people… and I’ve never seen America WORSE than it is today. My kids were all born after 9/11, so the world that I’m lamenting, they’ve never even seen. Thankfully, they’re still kids, and the South is still largely the South, “where they know you by name and treat you like family”, but I gotta wonder just how long that will last. As 9/11 fades more into the past, so does that brief day of unity, like the calm before the storm. It almost makes me thankful for the evils that bin Laden perpetrated — certainly not for the suffering that they caused, but for the brief moment that America was, once more, one nation under God.

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