Life In General

The Irrationality of Hatred… and the Need to Let It Speak (Statues, pt 2)

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No, this blog post is not another one about the Boll Weevil Monument, but it does effectively tie this post to my previous one.

Turns out, that one post has generated more comments than I have ever had subscribed readers! Granted, most of those comments were negative, but in a round about way, they do prove a point I was making in that post, and serve as the basis for this one.

As an aside, I’d like to point out that this blog is not intended to be some bastion of wisdom. Quite honestly, it’s something that languished for a long time, but I started back doing for my kids’ sake, to save my “thoughts of the day” (or week, or whatever) for them, should anything ever happen to me, a possibility that became very real to me when I had my open heart surgery last year. I spend so much time at work, or writing, or gaming, or lost in my own “grown up” world that my kids don’t get a chance to see the totality of who I am. Right now, I’m just Daddy — a fat curmudgeon that should probably refuse that overtime day and take them kayaking instead.

ANYWAY… regarding that blog post, I got a lot of grief for trying to build a “false equivalency” between the hardships Enterprise suffered under the boll weevil blight and the hardships that many people (not just blacks) suffered under the institution of slavery. The fact is, that was intentional. I wasn’t trying to downplay the suffering of blacks. Rather, I was trying to make a point about a contentious issue by illustrating it with a NON-contentious issue. Jesus used this tactic all the time in His parables. Every time He would speak on a topic that His disciples presumably were not equipped to grasp, He first addressed the topic using illustrations that they could grasp — not to say that His Saviorhood actually made Him a Door or a Vine, but to show the characteristics that were the same even though the metaphor was simply a metaphor.

In any case, the majority of the commenters on that post either failed to grasp my meaning regardless of my efforts, or they were dissatisfied with my approach. But rather than engage me and ask for clarification, or discuss the topic at hand, they made assumptions about my meaning — many of which were inaccurate — and proceeded to personally attack me, as have many who were dissatisfied with Trump’s response to Charlottesville (not a huge Trump fan myself, but that’s neither here nor there).

As this happens to be my blog, my personal corner of the internet, I could just as easily have turned off their comments — still could, in fact. But I chose not to, and will likely leave the comments open on this one as well, because however much I might disagree with some of the comments, and however hurtful I might find them, I think it actually serves the conversation to allow them to remain. In allowing them to continue to have a voice, they are ultimately proving my point about integrity and hypocrisy. They are demonstrating, better than I myself ever could, that although people in America cry out to “stop the hatred”, many have no problem with hatred itself, so long as they feel it’s justified.

I don’t share that view. As much as I might hate a thought or an ideal, and as much as I’m moved to fight certain thoughts or ideals, I still feel compelled to respect the person who holds that thought or ideal — maybe not their use of it, but certainly their right to have it.

If you’ll permit me to use another non-contentious yet applicable illustration (at the risk of being accused of false equivalency hehe), take Westboro Baptist for example. I absolutely despise the rhetoric that they spew. I think it is a total insult to both Christ Himself and me as a Christian. And yet, until one of them takes their picket sign and pops someone over the head with it, I believe that they deserve the right to make themselves look as repulsive as they want to. I find their rhetoric hateful and hurtful, but they have as much right to say it as I have to refuse to listen to it.

But here’s the thing. When Westboro spews their hatred, and run Christ’s name in the dirt, what they are also doing is setting an indelible, immutable example — like an unchanging landmark that, when compared to actual Christianity, shows the stark contrast between Christian love and anti-Christian hatred. To some people, Westboro’s hatred illustrates BEAUTIFULLY what’s so genuinely attractive about people who shrug off hypocrisy and genuinely follow Christ.

Do I want Westboro to shut their pie holes? Every second of every protest. But I would never “make” them shut up, never censor them until they become a physical danger to somebody, because what they intend for evil, God can turn around and use for good.

Ya know… kinda like what I was telling my daughter about something “bad” not having to BE “bad”.

Now, I have no doubt that there will be precious few negative commenters from that post reading this one — I kinda doubt that they cared enough about my blog to subscribe to it — but if any of them are, let me just say that everybody has a point of view. Some treat their views as subject to revision (I do my best to treat mine that way). Some treat their views as unassailable. But one there is one truth that transcends every one of these views — if you already know everything, you can’t learn anything new.

This is why you can talk to someone who talks with you but you can’t talk to someone who talks at you. Even if you don’t agree on a single thing — before the conversation or after — when you are willing to engage, and the other party is willing to engage, you are both better for having had the conversation. Whether or not an opinion was changed, it was exposed to something that could potentially change it, if not today, maybe tomorrow. And that’s true on both sides of the conversation, not just one.

But that’s a miracle that’s only possible when hatred is set aside, and the conversants allow humility — not “rightness” — to do its work. This is what it means to be rational in conversation, and sadly the single most conspicuous element lacking in today’s culture, whether we’re talking about race relations or politics or what have you. Don’t believe me? Have a single Facebook conversation with somebody you think is “wrong”, and watch how hard it is to keep that puppy from devolving into personal attacks.

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The Importance Of Monuments That Hurt

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Last week, my wife and I went to Enterprise, Alabama to pick up a chicken coop that someone was giving away. As we were driving back home, my daughter (who chose to ride in Daddy’s truck rather than the air conditioned Sequoia hehe) and I were talking about history, and about how just because something “bad” happens doesn’t necessarily mean that it HAS to be bad. It’s all in how you take it. Since we were in Enterprise, I referenced the local monument to the Boll Weevil.

Yes, the Boll Weevil. A monument to a bug.

Story goes, Enterprise — like the rest of the Wiregrass area, and the South at large — depended upon cotton crops for its economy. But in 1915, Alabama suffered an influx of boll weevils, which are native to Mexico, and the beetle devastated the local cotton crops. The next year, one enterprising man (LOL see what I did there?) had the idea to change his crops from cotton to peanut. As the boll weevil plague went on, local farmers watched their cotton crops suffer while this farmer’s peanuts flourished. This taught the local farmers the value of diversifying their crops, a lesson that was so valuable to the farmers of Coffee County that in 1919 they erected a monument to the boll weevil in appreciation.

Did they appreciate the bug itself? Not hardly. It proved to be the near ruin of many a farm. But had it not been for the boll weevil and the hard times it brought with it, the farmers of Enterprise would never have learned the value of diversification. They would never have prospered without the hardship that they had suffered.

I thought it was a good lesson for my daughter to learn, but about halfway through it, her eyes started to glaze over and her attention wandered. Such is the life of a thirteen-year-old — this one in particular, anyway. I finished the lesson though, if only to remind myself of its value.

As I watched the news over the past couple days, as more and more Confederate monuments are torn down, the value of monuments like the Boll Weevil is made even clearer to me. See, the local museums have all this same information… and I never cared enough to track it down. Had it not been for the monument, out in plain sight where I couldn’t help but encounter it, I would never have known what the monument meant. Had it not been for the sheer oddity of a monument to an insect, I would never have understood the adversity that these farmers had overcome, and how such a “bad” thing could have made them better.

That’s what I find so sad — and so infuriating — about the current crop of Social Justice Warriors tearing down Civil War monuments. They think they’re fighting injustice when, in fact, they’re creating it. Their desire to wipe our evils from our history — or to pack them away in museums where we can conveniently forget about them — only hurts us because, as George Santayana is famous for saying, “Those that cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

In their righteous indignation, these SJWs don’t realize that they are becoming the very things that they claim to loathe. They decry chattel slavery, but have no problem enslaving the taxpayer. They denounce racism against blacks, while at the same time encourage it against whites by their denouncement of “privilege”. They lambast gender inequality, while feeling no shame in accusing someone of “mansplaining”.

The tearing down of these monuments is but one example of a cultural cancer that, I fear, will eventually kill this country. Civilization is not something that you can inherit. You have to learn it and relearn it with each successive generation, else you revert to your inner beasts, as we see happening today. Without the monument, out there in the open — obnoxiously so, sometimes — we’re tempted to let the past stay in the past. It can’t hurt us there, sure, but neither can it prompt us to take care that we don’t repeat it.

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This Libertarian’s Take on Independence Day

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Let me preface this with a clarification — I’m not “just” a libertarian. I am a devotely Christian, staunchly pro-life, uber-patriotic libertarian.

I can just imagine the heads exploding at that. Conservatives see “libertarian” and presume that I must be a progressive. Liberals, and a good many of my fellow libertarians, see all the stuff that comes BEFORE “libertarian” and presume that I must be a Republican just lying to myself. I mean, to reconcile all the above would make a good number of “liberty loving” people bleed from the eyes at the presumed inconsistency, but to be honest, I can’t imagine it getting MORE consistent than that. After all, the first part of that description deals with what I think the world should look like. The latter — the “libertarian” — only describes what I think government’s role in that worldview should be!

So how does Independence Day mean to a guy like me? Really, it’s affirmation of everything that I believe, all at once.

For the devote Christian in me, it holds true to the notion that the relationship I have with Christ is a relationship that He VOLUNTARILY entered into with me, and that I voluntarily received. I submit to Christ’s authority NOT because I “have” to (while that may be the case in eternity, while I’m in the flesh, He still gives me the ability to refuse Him) but because I WANT to. I’m in relationship with Christ because I love Him, and He has proven time and again — not just in scripture but in my own life — that He is WORTHY of all that love and more. That’s a notion that perfectly encapsulates the American dream, whether someone is a believer or not.

For the pro-lifer in me, Independence Day affirms to me that all of us, regardless of merit or status or race or gender or belief, are of equal value. This means that I am no better than someone else, and they are no better than me. My rights are not superior to theirs, and theirs are not superior to mine. This is entirely consistent with the pro-life stance, as this same argument for equality necessarily means that the rights of the unborn are neither greater nor less than that of the mother. Rather, their rights are equal, and independent one from the other.

Which brings me to the libertarian part of my worldview — and a big part it is! For me, Independence Day spells out everything that it means to be libertarian. It is a recognition that we are all created equal, and that the rights we have been endowed with by our Creator are equally inalienable. Independence Day declares that those rights do not originate from the government (as the US government was not formed until well AFTER the signing of this Declaration of Independence) but that government was formed for the express purpose of ensuring that those rights are not violated by ANYBODY, be they neighbor or stranger… or our own government.

When fifty-six of our forefathers affixed their signatures to the Declaration of Independence, they affixed their NAME to it — their reputations, their wealth, their ideals, their lives, and potentially the lives of their children. EVERYTHING THEY WERE AND EVER WOULD BE, they affixed to the truth that all men are created equal, from the lowest pauper to the highest king. They said with one voice, “You are not the boss of me”, and meant that “you” for anybody that might consider themselves the exception.

In the stroke of a pen, they told the king of England that there would be no more kings in America — which, incidentally, was a notion entirely HOSTILE to the ideas of slavery and gender inequality, and led to their end in the following years.

Mostly, though, Independence Day reminds me that when we declared there would be no more kings in America, that declaration did not have an expiration date. It is still just as true today as it ever was — truer, perhaps. In this, we are reminded that every man and woman in power — the President, the Congress, our respective Governors, all of them — are the EQUALS of those they represent, and the power they wield is BORROWED from their constituency. Independence Day reminds us that even in this day where people feel justified in “ruling” over one another, our government was formed for the express purpose of guaranteeing that this would never happen, that there would never be another king in America, whether they feel justified in declaring their kingship or not.

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Random D-Day Thoughts…

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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…

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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…

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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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Hacksaw Ridge: My Thoughts

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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

Separation

I remember doing VIP (Volunteers In Preschool) when I was at my previous church, and these parents dropped their kid off with us. Sweet child but incredibly clingy (yeah, I know — insensitive; I’m a guy, deal with it hehe), so when the parents went on to the worship service, the kid started to scream bloody murder. Of course, he could only go full throttle for so long, so as soon as I found an opportunity, I distracted him. Worked for a while, but if he ever got a chance to think “Mommy and Daddy ain’t here”, he’d start back up again.

This, of course, was in stark contrast to the other preschoolers that were with us, instead of in Little Kid Church, Big Kid Church, or Grown-up Church. Yeah, some of them were kinda sniffly when Mommy and Daddy dropped them off — and maybe even a little ticked off that they would dare leave them alone — but they knew they’d come back.

I can’t say that I couldn’t relate. I remember when my Dad was in the Navy, and he’d go off on his ship and be gone for months on end. I hated to see him leave, but after the initial shock, I found myself just biding time until his first phone call from port or his first letter, when my missing him would kinda hiccup — go away for a moment, only to come back worse as soon as the phone call or the letter were concluded, followed by recover and then more waiting.

My kids still do this, particularly my son. They’re always wanting to go to the store with me… and not because Daddy buys them stuff. Far more often than not, the only thing they get at the store is a big fat NO. But they ask to go anyway.

See, the important thing isn’t that they get some special privilege, but because they got to go someplace with Daddy, la tee da, and that makes all the difference in the world.

What’s striking to me, though, is that so many people look at death as being so different from what those kids in VIP experienced, even though they grieve in very similar ways. As we lay my wife’s grandfather to rest today, I expect to see many of the same stages taking place, from overwhelming grief to grudging acceptance to bittersweet patience. I might even see some anger, but I kinda doubt it. Bill Harding Sr didn’t foster a whole lot of that in his kids and their kids.

And just like those kids — who, to varying degrees, were able to look past the fact that Mommy and Daddy ain’t here “now” but they will be here later — many of Grandpa’s loved ones will find a bittersweet peace, knowing that while the separation is painful, it has nowhere NEAR the permanence that some people would ascribe to it. As they grieve, they will grieve in the knowledge that they’re not grieving their lost loved one, but themselves, who now find themselves patiently biding their time until they can be reunited.

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

How “compassion” is destroying America, or “Why I’m a libertarian”

Yes, there is a reason why that word is in quotes. First, though, a definition…

Compassion is actually a compound word, joining “com” (meaning “with” or “together”) and “passion” (meaning “suffering”). So, quite literally, the word means “to suffer with” or “to suffer together”.

Now, most people believe they know what compassion is. When they see someone hurting, they hurt. The most basic of them stop there and call that compassion. Not so much. Compassion moves us to action — to not just hurt from the sidelines, but to get involved in those who are hurting.

Those who “do something about it”… yeah, THEY’RE the ones who are compassionate!

Not so much. And that’s the part that’s destroying America. See, we’re johnny-on-the-spot in pointing out somebody else’s hypocrisy, but we’re kinda slow at recognizing our own, and nowhere is this as evident (to those who are looking for it) than in our politics.

See, I was discussing with some friends the concept of mandated vaccines. My position is that the government has no place to force people to get vaccinated, because that individual’s body is sovereign territory. Though the government does have the authority to protect an unwilling third party from this person’s “stupidity”, it does NOT have the authority to tell this person that they cannot be “stupid”. The subject of public schooling came up, and how unvaccinated students endanger the rest of the population, and that the only way that they could both protect the right of a student to be unvaccinated and the right of the other students is to deny unvaccinated students access to the public school system.

Yep. I totally agree.

I can just imagine the guy I was talking with turning blue and swallowing his tongue. “You’d deny a child an education? Don’t you care?”

My thinking, of course, is that while your body and your property are sovereign territories, as soon as you step out into public, you are in shared territories — places where your sovereign rights end where another person’s sovereign rights begin (thank you, Oliver Wendell Holmes). This is how I can stand against seat belt laws but support drunk driving laws, and support both the denial of vaccination and the denial of access to public education.

“Where’s your compassion? Those seat belts keep people safe. Those vaccines protect innocent children. That homeless person has no food. X person needs Y help. Don’t you care?”

Well, yes. I care deeply. But I don’t care so much that I’m going to deny your rights while I am fighting for theirs. And that’s precisely what’s wrong with America today — far too many people are unwilling to say that when it becomes inconvenient. It’s absolutely hypocritical.

Progressives see the suffering of the homeless, or the indigent, or the oppressed, and the hurt in their heart. Their response is to dig into public funds supplied by mandated taxes and seek to relieve that suffering — to mitigate the consequences of happenstance and poor judgment by forcibly rolling those consequences onto somebody who didn’t sign up for them. They just can’t watch the suffering of someone who is disabled (or simply didn’t maintain their health), or someone who walks into a desert to cross a border illegally, so rather than letting them deal with the consequences of life, and rather than getting personally involved, they bail these people out of those consequences… by rolling those consequences onto shoulders that they presume are strong enough to bear it. Compassionate as heck to the person receiving the aid — not so compassionate to the taxpayer being forced to provide it. Their justification? “They don’t need/deserve compassion as much as X”.

Conservatives are much the same. They see the suffering that drugs and alcohol represent, that prostitution and gambling brings, and institute prohibitions. They see people struggling all over the world, abused by tyrannical regimes, and they send in the military to rescue them. Though their “compassions” are different, their response is similar — to mitigate the consequences of happenstance and poor judgment by legislating against the actions that cause such pain and suffering. They just can’t bear to watch marriages fall apart due to Daddy taking time with a hooker, or babies being raised by drug addicted Mommies, so they make these things illegal. They can’t bear to see a people struggling under the weight of an oppressive government, so they “intervene”. Just like progressives, they cannot bear to witness people unjustly suffering the consequences of life, so they look for ways to prevent those consequences or mitigate them… not by getting involved personally, but by rolling those consequences onto shoulders that they presume are strong enough to bear it. Their justification? “It’s for their own good.”

The heart of this problem is that we as a nation do not understand the fundamental concept of compassion — again, which means to suffer with the suffering. That’s a natural side effect of compassion, a necessary CONSEQUENCE of it. But we don’t like consequences. We love to shift blame, to shirk responsibility, all while claiming credit for a job well done.

Oh, make no mistake about it, none of us want to see somebody else suffering… but we’re rather reluctant to share that suffering ourselves. So our response is either one of two things — to spread the consequences over the taxpayer base, or to prevent the actions that lead to those consequences. That way, no matter who we want to help with whatever suffering, we don’t have to suffer with them.

Makes perfect sense… as long as you don’t dig deep enough to find the hypocrisy. Because when we put this logic into practice, we find that we can’t forcibly spread our compassions to others without denying compassion to those we force our compassions upon. In other words, we can’t relieve suffering without causing suffering to others because we don’t want ourselves to suffer. Ultimately, we’re hypocrites.

That’s not to say that there aren’t bastions of true compassion left in America, of course. Churches. Soup kitchens (often church-funded). Foreign missions. Pro-bono clinics. GoFundMe and the like (for the most part). Charities, true charities, that operate NOT on taxpayer monies but strictly on donation. These are the people that are truly suffering with those who suffer. They get out their and they feel the pain that others feel. They provide food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and job placement, seeking to relieve burdens without themselves becoming a burden.

And how do we respond to such glowing examples of humanity? We regulate their gifts of food through the Health Department, or permits and business models to (pre-emptively) protect the rights of for-profit industries. We dig into these charities and issue mandates on how they do what they voluntarily do… at the taxpayer’s expense. Rather than us physically share in the suffering of others — to actually work a soup kitchen or personally pick somebody up for a ride to a job interview or take missions trips ourselves to foreign lands to help liberate an oppressed people — we roll it over onto the taxpayer who has no choice but to shoulder part of our “suffering”.

America is DYING of a false sense of compassion, its liberties being sold cheaply because although we know how to “feel” compassionate, we refuse to ACT with compassion.

The single greatest example of true compassion, of course, is the sacrifice of Christ, but I dare say that this example is incomplete without the reality of Hell. See, without Hell, the sacrifice of Christ really has no meaning. “The Cross saves us!” Absolutely… but from what? Unless there are consequences to sin, and unless God is willing to allow us to suffer those consequences, then the Cross means nothing.

Of course, our progressive example would be “God is compassionate, so He will forgive whether we repent or not” — bailing us out of the consequences. Similarly, our conservative example is “God is compassionate, so He will make us to repent” — pre-empting the consequences. Truth is, though, God IS compassionate because He shared in our suffering… and allows us the opportunity to make that choice ourselves, KNOWING the consequences of our rejection and dreading them, but allowing them anyway. Out of love.

See, God hates the consequences of sin, just like we in America hate the consequences of life. But God demonstrates compassion by feeling pain with those who feel pain, and rolling up His sleeves and personally getting involved. We, unfortunately, are reluctant to love the way God loves. We steal liberty for the sake of granting liberty, stealing rights for the sake of granting rights, stealing compassion for the sake of granting compassion. We’re quick to point this out in others, but we turn a blind eye to it in ourselves.

So, plugging this into how “compassion” is destroying America, how do we fix compassion? Quite simply, to do it like God does it — to love like God loves. We get involved. We give of our own time, our own resources, and never expect or demand that somebody does our job for us. Our military is for national defense only — not for sending into a conflict that is not inherently ours. We stop regulating “help”, recognizing that our charities aren’t required to help in the first place. We allow people to make their own choices… and live with the consequences of them. Make no mistake, I’m NOT suggesting that we throw people to the wolves, but when we exercise compassion, we exercise honest compassion, suffering with those who are suffering — never creating suffering so that we don’t have to suffer as much.

Loving how God loves, in our politics just as in our everyday lives.

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

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