Religious

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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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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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!

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Casting a “wasted” vote…

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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.

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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.

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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

How Fiction Can Bolster Faith

It’s amazing how the minds works, where performing some task or thinking along a certain line can open up your understanding to new and unexpected things.

See, I’m working on the sequel to my book, Gemworld. I have a minor character from the first book who must serve as liaison between the humans of the Cause and the Flight, a society of intelligent dragons that entered the story at the end of the first book. The draconian species is divided into five races, each representative of one of the five magical soulgems — Wyrms (Ruby, the soulgem of Fire), Serpents (Sapphire, Water), Caduceans (Emerald, Life), Galvanics (Amethyst, Energy), and Basilisks (Granite, Matter).

Now, as dragons are magical creatures, the draconian genetic structure (as well as its effect on the reproductive process) is rather complex. They are able to magically take on a humanoid form, though even in this form it is obvious that they are not “human”.

If they, as humanoid, mate with a human, their super-dominant draconian DNA will most likely produce a dragon or a stillborn human, though there are rare occasions when a human baby is strong enough to survive and be born of this union.

If, on the other hand, a dragon mates with another dragon, the super-dominance of draconian DNA will most likely produce a feral dragon or a “drake”, semi-intelligent and animalistic. Though the dragons have tried for eons to incorporate their drake kin into their society, the severe intelligence gap precludes any relationship closer than that of a master and a pet, which the dragons find so distasteful that they prefer to count their drake offspring as dead, and love then from afar as the drakes grow up wild in nature.

My main antagonist, the Highest, finds great value in capturing drakes and domesticating them. The dragons hate him for this, because while they cannot being themselves to “tame” their wild offspring, neither can they accept the Highest using them as beasts of burden.

Now then, having said all that, do you know how much of that will make it into my story? Virtually none. But that’s entirely beside the point. See, the vast majority of a writer’s worldbuilding is never directly used in his story. Rather, it serves as a driver for the story BEHIND the scenes. It provides the WHY to the “what” of all that happens. So even though all of this history regarding my dragons has no place in my story proper, it is nevertheless vital to my characters being as realistic as possible.

In a very strange way, this bolsters my faith in the validity of scripture, particularly my adherence to the Young Earth Creation theory of Genesis. See, even if God did create the universe from nothing some 6000 years ago, I would still expect to see ALL of the same evidence we see that supports an Old Earth, because there must be a why that drives the what — even when that what is a self-sustaining universe.

Think of it like God writing our story for the past 6000 years. Even if this 6000 years is all that there ever “really” was, there are parts of our story that are necessarily implied behind the scenes, that serve as driving effects for our story, just as surely as my draconian history drives my dragons even if it is never actually mentioned in my books.

Just some writerly food for thought…

Categories: Religious, Writing | Leave a comment

Has God Abandoned Our Nation…?

I’ve heard this question asked, and while I think the answer is pretty obvious — God is in the hearts of individuals, not in nations — the question is a valid one. Still, whether or not God has abandoned us, in my opinion, really isn’t the issue. Rather, the issue is whether or not WE have abandoned HIM.

We’re told in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that if God’s people, who are called by God’s name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways, He will hear from heaven, forgive their sins, and heal their land. We’ve heard that a million times, but I don’t think enough people actually take the time to pick this verse apart and actually READ what it says. God promises to heal the land of the people who do this, but who are these people?

1) They’re people who turn from their wicked ways — sure, we understand this. They’re people who forsake their sin, and choose obedience to God.

2) They’re people who seek His face. They don’t just assume God is there, but actively LOOK for God in their situation.

3) They’re people who pray — not just sending God their Christmas lists, but spending TIME with Him, CONVERSING with Him, doing their due diligence to find out what PLEASES God.

4) They’re people who humble themselves. They don’t assume that they’re in the right — even when they are. They’d sooner find their ERROR so they can CORRECT their error, because they know they HAVE errors that can’t be addressed until they FIND them.

Most importantly though…

5) These people are “My people, who are called by My name”. ALL of these things, all the prerequisites for God’s promises, are promised TO GOD’S PEOPLE. For God to heal a nation, He does not require that the nation humble itself, pray, seek His face — He only requires that HIS PEOPLE AMONG that nation do this.

If God isn’t healing a nation, if God has ABANDONED a nation, it’s not because of the conduct of that nation — it’s because of conduct of HIS PEOPLE WITHIN that nation. If we want to see God back in this nation, it won’t happen because we witnessed to the lost — it’ll happen because we straightened out the redeemed.8545373

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

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