Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Myth and Truth

In case you’ve stumbled across this post from a query for obscure song lyrics, I will explain that I am not an English major (you might figure that out by the end of the paragraph). I have never been a Professor of Black History, Wymyns’ Issues, or Queer Studies. I am a mostly white male, heterosexual, Christian, software engineer. Therefore, as should be obvious, I have nothing valid to say on any subject except possibly NASCAR or shotgun loads or how to Texas rig a plastic worm.

When someone says, in response to a story or statement, “That’s a myth,” what they mean is that it isn’t true. It is not “a fact”. I think that’s a misuse of the word “myth”. Nothing can be a myth that isn’t true. The myth may be fiction, but it’s true. The greatest literary works of the 20th Century were mythologies. A fictional example is, of course, The Lord of the Rings. A non-fiction mythology is T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom. True myths abound in history. I mentioned some battles a couple of posts back – Agincourt, Trafalgar, Rorke’s Drift, and the Alamo – as these really happened but they are mythical in their significance. There are many others from Thermopylae to Valley Forge to Little Round Top to Iwo Jima. The story of El Cid is a true myth, as is the story of Sergeant York and Audie Murphy, Too Tall and Old Snake in the Ia Drang Valley, and the firefighters who ran up the stairs of the twin towers.

Myth tells us something powerful about ourselves in a way that transcends the mere words and images used to convey them. The difference, perhaps, between myth and Scripture is that Scripture is revelation in the sense of an unveiling. Myth reveals as well, but it is not logos -- the truth it conveys remains veiled in some ways, yet is the more enlightening for it. I would classify much of the Old Testament as myth by this definition. In that way myth is somewhat similar to allegory, except that allegory is more intentional. Bunyan knew what each of his characters stood for in Pilgrim’s Progess or The Holy War, and I benefit from his work to the extent that I understand how he viewed them. Tolkien cannot be approached in the same way. Sometimes, indeed, Frodo seems a Christ-like figure, but so do Aragorn and Gandalf. No one exactly fits the mold because they are true and the story is a myth. You can find Christ in The Lord of the Rings but not in a single character.

There are negative elements to myths as well. I cannot stand Jane Fonda. I hated the Braves when she was married to Ted Turner – not that I was that crazy about Ted before anyway. I hate On Golden Pond because Jane Fonda is in it. It’s really nothing personal. I mean, I might even like the woman if I ever met her. Maybe Obama could arrange a beer summit for Jane and me – I’ll need at least a case. The trouble is Ms. Fonda created a myth that completely transcends her personality when she sat on the damn commie anti-aircraft gun. A few years ago she kinda-sorta apologized for some of the things she did. If she had renounced that picture, perhaps gone on some talk show and ripped up a copy of it publicly while proclaiming that what she did was treasonous and evil, we would have been willing to forgive her. But Jane Fonda is a leftist and is simply not bright enough to understand that. As it is, she will go to her grave hated by every true American who was alive at the time and old enough to understand the implications of her act.

I may continue this for a couple of days, and I want to start with a Biblical event before considering some historical events, and perhaps talk about some fictional works of literature or film that contain mythical elements.

The Bible contains much that is consistent with what we know of history; some have been more or less confirmed by archeology. I think it is quite likely that the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17) is a reasonably reliable treatment of an episode of single champion combat between the military forces of the Philistines and those of Israel. A bold young man, not particularly well-schooled regarding the military equipment and tactics of the day, volunteered to face a much larger, better trained and equipped champion. He used the weapon with which he had become an expert during lonely, boring days following his family’s herd of sheep. There’s nothing outlandishly improbable about a lucky shot bringing down a much more experienced and accomplished fighter.

What is mythical about this encounter is that David’s courage comes from his understanding of God’s covenant and plan for Israel. The young man saw himself as an instrument of the Divine will in liberating the Lord’s chosen people from oppression. We see what I’ll call mythic principles in play here – ideas like the “the just cause”, “right makes might”, “God is on our side”, “the underdog”, “against the odds”, “amateurs versus professionals”. It is concepts such as these that we think of whenever we speak of a “David versus Goliath” situation. Mythical stories require big ideas and relevant ideas.

Another mark of the myth is that something great has to be at stake. In this case, it was not merely David’s life on the line. There was an understanding between the two sides that the whole nation of Israel would agree to serve the Philistines. Conversely, if the nearly unthinkable happened and their champion lost, the Philistines had agreed to serve the Israelites. This need for something important to be at issue, by the way, is the basis for Orson Scott Card’s argument (can’t find the link) that The Lord of the Rings is the greatest novel of the 1900’s rather than Joyce’s Ulysses. Obviously, Joyce is a genius and the better writer, but nothing in Ulysses is really that big a deal. The world will go on as usual – for everyone else – no matter what happens to Dedalus or the Blooms. I’m not sure I agree with that view, but Mr. Card is the one with degrees in literature.

This story of David’s defeat of the giant has been recapitulated in the history of Israel, particularly since 1948. In that year, as again in 1967 and 1973, Israel was an underdog in wars that should have wiped it out, yet the nation emerged victorious. I think that may be another mark of myth – that it somehow shapes the soul, in this case, of a nation. The cultural myths of a people define what they are capable of overcoming and accomplishing.

We have national myths and personal myths. The myths we embrace and incorporate define who we are. Man is not the tool-maker or the laughing animal nearly as much as he is the myth-maker.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

You Are Here ╬

…For they will see what has not been told them, and they will understand what they have not heard. – Isaiah 52:15

The old joke is that some folks from the city were driving through our part of the country. They became lost and stopped at a farmhouse to ask directions. The travelers explained that they are trying to reach a particular destination. The farmer scratched his head and replied, “You can’t get there from here. You’ll have to go some place else and start over.”

Reason is a lot like that. Where you can get to depends on where you start. Reason cannot validate itself. It can only be used to validate based on some assumptions. Both Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries are based on axioms – certain assumptions that form the foundations on which proofs can be built. That there is more than one geometry is the evidence that proofs are dependent upon the initial axioms.

I have a point of view, a starting place. I believe that God is and is good. I believe that God does not merely exist in the sense that the material world exists, but that He is Real, and, that He is real Good.

Because I start from that point my destination will not be the same as the atheist or the pantheist or the animist. I really have some empathy for those groups because there is a certain appeal to a god who is not real. It is quite convenient to float up science or dryads or fairies when one is in a certain frame of mind – especially when one wants someone else to “play by the rules”. It is equally convenient to be able to ignore the unreal god when one finds it to be a hindrance to one’s own desires. Notice I’m not claiming science doesn’t exist. I’m not even claiming nymphs, fauns, and satyrs don’t exist. I am saying that none of those things are real in the way God is real.

The last few verses in Isaiah 52 begin to speak of the Messiah as the Suffering Servant. Here it is, in verse 14, that we read of Christ’s disfigurement. It is said that He does not even look like a human. If you watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion, you can see this depicted in that painful scourging scene. However, I don’t believe it is sufficient to interpret Isaiah’s statements in terms of the Lord’s physical appearance. When Jesus hung on the cross, the Father hid His face from His Son. He did so, not because the flesh of Jesus was torn, but because Christ was spiritually disfigured by bearing all of our sin. As horribly as the Lord’s body was ripped and battered by Roman whips, it is only a metaphor for the maiming of His spirit by the relentless tooth and claw of sin.

Yet from this rending came redemption -- so He will sprinkle many nations. Kings will shut their mouths because of Him, for they will see what had not been told them, and they will understand what they had not heard.

If we want to get where we need to be, we have to start at the right place. Go to the Cross. We can get home from there.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Stumbling in a Peaceful Land

The righteous one perishes, and no one takes it to heart; faithful men are swept away, with no one realizing that the righteous one is swept away from the presence of evil.

He will enter into peace – they will rest upon their beds – everyone who lives uprightly. – Isaiah 57:1-2

Last Wednesday, in a small community west of Jefferson City, Missouri, a nine-year old girl left a friend’s house to walk a quarter mile back to her own home. She had made the trip before. The area is rural and quiet and safe. She never made it home. When I heard the story, I started making assumptions. I assumed the nine-year-old had been abducted. I assumed she had been snatched by a child molester, or possibly a non-custodial parent – I certainly hoped the latter.

Then we heard that this little child whose picture we had seen on the newscasts was dead. The police were said to have in custody a “person of interest” – a juvenile, older than the victim. I assumed it was a boy. The police said they had been led to the person of interest by notes. I assumed they probably meant text messages on the little girl’s cell phone. I assumed sex was involved.

It turns out all my assumptions were wrong – except possibly the last one – I’m not sure. There seems to be no official statement about the identity of the murderer, but a reliable law enforcement source said that the perpetrator was a fifteen-year-old girl. The notes were actually notes written on paper that the victim had received from her killer. When the fifteen-year-old was confronted with the evidence, she confessed to the crime and led authorities to the body of the nine-year-old. The source claimed that the killer stated her motive as wanting to know what it felt like to kill someone. In other words, it was a thrill killing.

This didn’t happen in downtown Chicago, the South Bronx, Detroit, or South Central LA. The roads are two-lane blacktops or dirt. The name of the town is St. Martins. It’s named, like many of the villages that dot the map as one backtracks the Missouri River west from St. Louis, for the Catholic Church that centers the community. The people have predominately Rhineland surnames that still strike the ear of a Scotch-Irish hillbilly like an out-of-time flathead Ford.

I never thought of myself as having lived a sheltered life. As I’ve said before, at least in childhood, it was somewhat idyllic -- but not sheltered. I’ve never lived in a bubble. Perhaps, though, I’ve lived too long. I understand the statistics of it – that every so often something goes wrong in somebody’s head, and they become psychopaths. It is more likely to happen where there are higher concentrations of people if for no other reason than more people mean more bad people – even if the rate of the failure to be human is the same.

I have known wicked people. Some would say I was pretty wicked myself at one time, maybe still at times. I’ve been around the insane, the criminally insane, and the worst kinds of criminals, and that’s just at the family reunion. Still, this baffles me. All I could think of was the line from “Folsom Prison Blues”: I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. But instead of the bass voice of Johnny Cash channeling that awful sentiment, it is the voice of a girl -- barely more than a child herself -- a girl who should be giggling about school and boys and her plans for life. And she’s not talking about gunning down a stranger and something of an equal, but a helpless child whom she knew, with whom she must have cultivated some kind of relationship, built some trust, an innocent child who might have looked up to and admired the older girl, been flattered by her attention.

We have, like the ancient kingdom of Israel, not merely ignored the sin in our midst, not just tolerated it, but celebrated it. We have come to the place where we call right wrong and wrong right. God does not send judgment on a nation like ours – He doesn’t have to. We draw it to us, pull it down on our own heads, all the while thinking it will never happen to us. But in His mercy, God places His hands on those few righteous among us – there are always a few who do not need the fire’s purging. There are always a few who are not called to the battle, whose eyes are fixed always and only on the King. Those He gathers quickly to His side, to rest and peace and glory. They will not be with us in the fight, but their passing on in peace to their place is a sign that we are under siege and the battle is at hand.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Maybe They Should Try Sippy Cups

I read tragic news of my ancient brethren on the Isle of Kipling, of Cromwell and the Cavaliers. Having a common Scottish last name, I would gloat if the people of my fathers were any better. The flag of once great Britain was the standard of courage around the world – from Quebec to Cape Town to Calcutta, the Battle of Trafalgar to the Battle of Britain, from Henry V with longbows at Agincourt to Churchill with the RAF on the bombed out streets of London. Those were not only Americans who ran into the mouths of German guns on D-Day, a bare sixty-five years ago.

From page 99 of the November 2009 American Rifleman magazine comes a brief article entitled “Now Will Britain Draw the Line?”. It seems that back in 2005, the British Medical Journal called for a ban on pointed kitchen knives throughout the nation lest while carving the Winter Festival tofu goose or, perhaps, cutting the cheese, a poor, repressed bloke would be overcome by the urge to perforate a family member in a Freudian way. This led some to ask if cricket bats, axes, and butter knives might be added to the list at some point. Alas, satire now hangs as a historical relic in the British Museum. The British Home Office has a new campaign called, “Safe. Sensible. Social.” It has commissioned a new, safer design to replace the traditional pint glass in pubs. The classic glass pint can be used (gasp) as a weapon.

Americans should not laugh too hard at the Super Nanny state’s requirement for shatterproof plastic pints. If the do-gooders can subdue the land that produced the defenders of Rorke’s Drift, can the land of Crockett, Bowie, and Travis be far behind?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This is the Way the World Ends

The world was constituted first in Adam, well pleasing to God and obedient to Him. It was man’s world, and in man it was summed up. In man the world fell into the darkness of selfish pursuits. Man became materialized in spirit and dragged down so as to become worldly and sensual. The world is man’s world in his fall from God. – from Alford’s Commentary as quoted by E. M. Bounds in Winning the Invisible War, emphasis added.

The master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted astutely. For the sons of this age are more astute than the sons of light in dealing with their own people. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of the unrighteous money so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings. Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much. So if you have not been faithful with the unrighteous money, who will trust you with what is genuine? And if you have been unfaithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you what is your own? No household slave can be the slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves to both God and money. – Luke 16:8-13

The world exists in and through man. The planet and its nonhuman inhabitants preceded man physically, but, as Gagdad Bob might say, man preceded the world. As stated in his sidebar, Robin’s CREDO is a quote from St. Francis, “Don’t change the world; change worlds” – which also wraps it up without using tape.

Man was meant to serve as a steward under the Lord and rule over His cosmos. The parable Jesus relates in the first seven verses of Luke 16 tells of an unrighteous manager who had not been doing right by his employer. The manager learns that he is about to be dismissed from the master’s service. Not being that enamored of begging or physical labor, the conniving steward decides to use the employer’s resources to create a golden parachute. He calls those together who owe the master a portion of their production – either because they were tenant farmers or because they borrowed to put in their crops. Whatever the debtors owe, the manager significantly reduces the amount. The debtors are naturally grateful, and the deceptive manager can probably now depend on getting some help from at least a few of them once he is turned out. The gratitude of the debtors is understandable, but what seems odd is that the unrighteous man’s employer actually congratulates him on his astute maneuverings, though the employer has suffered a considerable reduction in his potential income. I wondered if maybe the boss didn’t figure it was worth it just to be rid of him.

Adam ruled his world until his fall. At that point, the world of man came under the dominion of Satan. Man became, not a king, but a slave. When Christ came into the world, He did what neither the devil nor the prophets could have guessed. He didn’t take the Adamic world out of Satan’s control. He created a new one in Himself. And, actually, this new world existed prior to the Cross. As soon as Jesus began to gather disciples, the new world – which He called the kingdom – was open for business.

The problem remained that man was enslaved to the old world and to Satan. Try as they might, the followers of Jesus in His earthly ministry could not really enter the kingdom. They could see it in Christ. They could believe it, just as the Old Testament saints had by faith. But they remained in chains, married, in effect, to the devil in Adam. In fact, if you go a little further in Luke 16, you will read that the Pharisees were listening as Jesus said, “You can’t serve God and money”. Luke says that hearing this, the Pharisees scoffed because they thought wealth was not just good to have but a sign of God’s blessing for their supposed righteousness. The Lord responds to them in verses 15-18:
And He told them: “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly admired by people is revolting in God’s sight.

“The Law and the Prophets were until John [the Baptist]; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed, and everyone is strongly urged to enter it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter in the law to drop out.

“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and everyone who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

Okay, so Jesus slaps down the mocking religious elites by telling them that the things they value make God sick. Then He talks about the change that has come and how people are trying to enter the kingdom, though they are hindered by the unyielding requirements of righteousness under the law. At the end, we get what looks like a non sequitur. Does Jesus just gratuitously throw in a bit of teaching about divorce and adultery? Where did that come from?

Paul helps us out in Romans 7:1-3: Since I am speaking to those who understand the law, brothers, are you unaware that the law has authority over someone as long as he lives? For example, a married woman is legally bound to her husband while he lives. But if her husband dies, she is released from the law regarding the husband. So then, if she gives herself to another man while her husband is living, she will be called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is free from the law. Then, if she gives herself to another man, she is not an adulteress. The Lord is no adulterer.

Again, man is meant, or was meant to rule his cosmos as a steward under God. It was never intended that man should rule apart from God or be ruled by the world. To release the world is one thing. Man has tried that. All the great religions have striven to renounce the world to some degree and live in peace. Yet as long as man is in Adam, united in a covenant with the devil, the world can legally maintain its hold.

So, what to do? Should the devil be killed? Should the world be destroyed? That would break the hold, right? I suppose, but, first, the Lord is no more a murderer than an adulterer. Second, to destroy the world and/or Satan, God would have to destroy man. Remember, the world with Satan as its necessary antipode (lest it be merely a plane), is derived through man. Adam is tied to Satan. If Satan goes down, we all go down with him, in Adam. We’re stuck – but for Christ.

This is the unique and exclusive power of Jesus. Jesus is Man, the Second Man to be exact. He’s in the world, sinless, not under the curse, untainted by Adam’s fall. If He is willing to go to the Cross and die, though death has no legal power over Him, then the world ends. By identifying Himself with Adam’s race, the Incarnate Christ can take all into the grave. When He is raised, He can bring all with Him as well. Death has severed the marriage bond to the world and its prince. The Law no longer stands in the gate keeping the new man from the kingdom.

Man is transformed. His world is thus transformed. The kingdom has indeed come and is accessible to all in Christ, the Last Adam. The remnants of the old world remain, still deceiving, still enthralling, still empty and unsatisfying. At some point the last of worldly will be gone – the world will pass away and the kingdom will be all.

Not with a bang,
But a whispered,
“It is finished.”

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Best Offense

He said to His disciples, “Offences will certainly come, but woe to the one they come through! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” – Luke 17:1-2

He went away from there and came to His hometown, and His disciples followed Him. When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astonished. “Where did this man get these things?” they said. “What is this wisdom given to him, and how are these miracles performed by his hands? Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And aren’t his sisters here with us?”

So they were offended by Him. – Mark 6:1-3

Have you ever been offended by something? I was talking the other day about how I took offense at the way people treated me and subsequently made my own life more difficult by becoming bitter and doing my best to further alienate people. We will often do things that are detrimental to ourselves just to hurt or get back at those who have offended us. We say sometimes that a person will do something just for spite. A spiteful person is one who has been offended, and not necessarily by the one suffering their spite.

There are things that ought to offend us. I remember as I was crossing a parking lot one day, minding my own business, I saw a man slapping his girlfriend. This offended me. We should be offended by bullying and intimidation, by injustice and ingratitude, not when we suffer – in which case our first response should be forgiveness -- but when someone else suffers under it. The weaker and more helpless need us to become offended enough to step in on their behalf.

The world is full of people who have a grievance against God. Scratch a militant atheist and you’ll likely find a little Catholic or fundamentalist kid who got offended by an over-simplified, childish depiction of God in His Nature and Person. The arguments presented by these great intellects are generally unsophisticated. The best of them is probably something along the lines of how the universe would be different if there really was a God – as if anyone could know that – and even that one mostly comes down to “there would not be any suffering”. Essentially the atheist is reduced to arguing that God, as He can be understood, is no different than no god at all – hardly a convincing proof for the non-non-believer.

People get offended toward God for many reasons, but the source is too often found in their relationships to other humans. Jesus warns us that as believers we need to be careful how we live and what we say. I am aware of a situation where some people who call themselves Christians are not representing the Lord at all well to those on the fringe of belief. Based on the behavior and attitude of these church-goers, a non-believer might deduce that Christians are vengeful, vindictive, envious, greedy, and deceitful. The church-goers excuse their behavior on the grounds that the unbelievers should suffer because of their unrighteousness and that the “sinners” need to learn whose side God is on.


But there is another kind of offense that is unavoidable. One Sunday afternoon, I ran across a group of young men sitting on tailgates drinking whiskey and telling bawdy stories. They were parked beside a cemetery not far from a church. I pulled in beside them, since I was well-acquainted with them, and we began to talk about one thing and another, but mostly about the nature of God and the work of Christ. You might say we were having a Bible study. Some religious folk passed by on their way to the church’s Sunday evening service. Several months later, I happened to be in a conversation with one of those passers-by, and she said, somewhat nastily, that she had seen me out there. “You should have been in church,” she pronounced triumphantly.

“With you?” I replied, and I confess to saying it with more than a hint of sarcasm. I had offended this good church-lady by doing exactly what Jesus would do, and does. I had been a friend to sinners. Now if I confirm a sinner in his sin, ease his mind about his actions and attitudes, and work to quiet his uneasy conscience (which is the voice of God), I do him no favors. On the other hand, if I can genuinely befriend him and encourage him to good then I am fulfilling my purpose as an ambassador of Christ and an agent of the Holy Spirit. There is a time to speak of holiness and judgment, but there is also a time to speak of the Holy One as the Good Shepherd who lovingly searches for His lost sheep.

Let us be careful never to offend the little ones. Let us never hesitate to turn on the light for fear of offending self-righteous cockroaches.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mor-on American Idols

This is what the LORD says: Do not learn the way of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, although the nations are terrified by them, for the customs of the people are worthless. Someone cuts down a tree from the forest; it is worked by the hands of a craftsman with a chisel. He decorates it with silver and gold. It is fastened with hammer and nails, so it won’t totter. Like scarecrows in a cucumber patch, their idols cannot speak. They must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them for they can do no harm – and they cannot do any good. – Jeremiah 10:2-5

As I was saying yesterday, everything man builds is systemically top heavy. Man’s creations, if done apart from a recognition of the Absolute, lack a solid foundation. For example, at the moment, I think the stock market P&E ratio is somewhere around 140:1. If you take the smoothed out PE10, it’s still about 19:1 or 20:1. The average on the PE10 is 16.3:1, I think. This means that the market is somewhere between 20% to 700% overvalued. It is out of balance. One reason earnings are holding up as well as they are is because companies have been cutting costs – largely by laying off employees. The massive infusions of government funny money may be helping, too. At some point either real earnings will pick up or the market will collapse, possibly into a PE10 in the single digits – as has happened historically.

With unemployment approaching 10%, I just don’t see how a boost in earnings is possible any time soon. Of course, I am no economist, and I don’t have an MBA, so what do I know. Do not do any investing based on my view of things.

I look back at those idolaters in Jeremiah’s day, and I think how silly they were. Surely no one could take a god seriously that somebody built themselves. Then I look around today at people trying to derive meaning from inanimate objects, from man-made institutions, opinions, substances, people, sports, status symbols, etc. I see it in myself, especially when I look at the things that scare me, the things that I find myself worrying over. It’s really easy to get caught up in the zeitgeist, in the fads and fears that run like a contagion throughout society.

When I see those who appear to be intelligent people talking nonsense, it makes me wonder if I’m the one who doesn’t get it. If I see people clinging to things, how do I know I should not? If lots of people value something, how do I know if they are wrong? How do I know if something is an idol? They must be carried because they cannot walk. An idol is a burden. The real God, of course, is the One who not only is not a burden, He carries us. In True Grit, Rooster speaks of the cat, General Sterling Price, and says that cats really don’t belong to anybody. “’Course,” he adds, “I depend on him.” So, too, with God – He’s my Father, but He can’t belong to me, and thus burden me, in the sense that an idol can. Rather, I belong to Him. And I do depend on Him.

We must be crazy. Why would we fill our lives with dumb things that cannot speak, cannot love us, cannot help us? Why do we allow ourselves to be loaded down like mules with things that a mule, if he were free to choose, would leave behind as worthless? Now, I’m not going to go out and sell everything I’ve got down to my boots and a couple of pairs of jeans, but I am going to work on not letting the empty, the meaningless, and the impotent weary me, intimidate me, or dominate me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


"My king, as you were watching, a colossal statue appeared. That statue, tall and dazzling, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was terrifying. The head of the statue was pure gold, its chest and arms were silver, its stomach and thighs were bronze, its legs were iron, and its feet were partly iron and partly fired clay. As you were watching, a stone broke off without a hand touching it, struck the statue on its feet of iron and fired clay, and crushed them. Then the iron, the fired clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were shattered and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors. The wind carried them away, and not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. – Daniel 2:31-35

The king has a dream which he could not remember. He called for his counselors to come and tell him both the dream and the interpretation. Only one man, Daniel, was found who could do this. Daniel begins by describing the image and the events of the dream. He goes on to explain that Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom is the golden head of the dream statue. Other kingdoms will follow Babylon in history, not evolving, but becoming weaker and baser over time. In the end, a relatively worthless empire represented by clay will dominate.

The kingdoms of this world are not getting better but worse. There may be temporary spikes – as America was for the first 150 years or so – but the trend is downward. The statue, for one thing, is upside down. The heaviest element, gold, should be the foundation. As it is, it is top-heavy and inherently unstable. I noticed this while watching The Dark Knight. At one point, as the Joker is giving his speech to Dent in the hospital, my wife turned to me and said, “You know, a lot of the stuff he says is right.” The world is full of the false, of things that make no real sense, of the upside down. We’ve gotten used to looking at it this way. We have come, to a great extent, to accept that this is way things are. Thus we sometimes cannot figure God out. We don’t understand what He is doing or why because it runs so counter to the ways and means we have come to accept as reality.

In the dream a stone is cut from a mountain without hands. A stone? Not only is it nondescript, it is worthless even compared to the fired clay. It is not, by the world’s estimation a precious stone – just a piece of rock. Yet it comes rolling toward the statue, strikes the image in its feet of clay. The whole structure falls and is completely shattered to pieces small enough to be blown away on the wind.

That rock is Christ and the wind is the Holy Spirit. The rock began to grow, to fill and overwhelm the vision. That’s the Church, the Bride of Christ.

God reminds us that what the world disregards and counts as inconsequential are the real and the true and the eternal. It will outlast gold; it is worth more than silver. It is more resilient than brass and stronger than iron. Unlike clay, it is a firm foundation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Devil's Heaven

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life? – Matthew 16:24-26

Far be it from me to judge anyone else’s soul or relationship to God, because, after all, Jesus said, “Judge not.” So if a person says they believe in “God and all that” and wants to kill babies, molest children, commit adultery, marry someone of the same sex – as long as they also believe that they should be able to take my property from me at the point of the government’s guns and give it to some ACORN-registered crack whore – I really am not allowed to question their Christianity. Or their patriotism. Or any corrupt unconstitutional plan they come up with if it’s accompanied by the words "for the greater good", "it’s for the children", "to fight global warming", or "to provide healthcare for the disadvantaged".

I probably also can’t remind them that the same Man who said, “Judge not,” said, “By their fruits shall ye know them.”

Apparently the Lord has been to San Francisco.

A sign of the times is that I am beginning to look back fondly upon the ‘90’s. As I was reminiscing about pagers and Windows 3.11, I recalled someone talking about the good ol’ Groper-in-Chief, Bill Clinton. After admitting that Clinton’s personal morals were somewhat lacking, the defender stated that Clinton was probably the most “publically moral” president in history. This is a valid point to the leftists who believe that “doing good” trumps being good. They can make Edward Kennedy one of their saints if they like, but I’m not riding with anybody who has a statue of him dangling from the rearview mirror.

Collectivists – including Christian collectivists – are always concerned about “the world”. They want to save the world. The Christian variety wants to make the church compatible and accepting of the world. They all want reform, education, and material prosperity. Their answer is to dress up the old man in new clothes.

Jesus says the answer is a new man. The goal of Christianity is not a better world but better people. The only righteousness that counts is personal righteousness. The group is never holy, only the individual. Weighed against a single human soul, the world is as nothing.

Yes, I used to want to change the world, too. I wanted abortion outlawed. I wanted abstinence taught in schools. I wanted kids to be able to pray at football games and graduations. Then one day it dawned on me that abortion didn’t need to be outlawed, it needed to be unnecessary – not because we were teaching kindergarteners about condom use, but because children were growing up in godly homes with their own two biological parents. Abstinence wouldn’t need to be taught in schools if the right understanding of God’s principles were instilled in children by their parents and their church. And one thing anyone can always do anywhere is pray.

We don’t need Christians to take over the government, necessarily. I’m not saying Christians shouldn’t vote, participate in the public square, or serve in public office. But government is never going to be the vehicle for fixing the world’s problems. The function of government is solely to allow us to peaceably pursue the will of God for our own individual lives – to both practice and preach the Gospel without interference.

The state is the god of the left. Obedience to man’s law or even to the rule of the despot is more appealing to the flesh than obedience to the Divine law. The great fear of the left is the establishment of a theocracy. Admittedly, there are probably a few people on the right like the late Jerry Falwell who would not be altogether opposed to doing some legislating of morals. Most of us, though, would be quite content with simply a truly neutral government and also a minimal government. We know that a utopia of the unregenerate is just another name for hell.

Friday, October 9, 2009

How to Get Out of a Haunted House

There is a saying that the military is always fighting the previous war. I don’t know how true that is; certainly previous experience tends to effect our perceptions of current situations. In the case of the American military, the experiences on which to draw run pretty deep, and the saying cannot be applied indiscriminately. It would not be applicable, for example, to someone like Patton.

For those of us engaged in spiritual warfare, fighting on the basis of old battles and, especially, old losses, is an ambush of which we must beware.

Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house.”

But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” --Luke 9:61-62

This statement by Jesus has long been one that troubles me. There were, in Luke’s version, three situations Jesus addressed regarding those who would consider following Him. First was the man who offered to follow Jesus anywhere, and the Lord said, “If you’re following me for earthly gain, don’t bother. I don’t even have a bed I can call My own in this world.” The call came to a second man, and he said, “I need to bury my father first.” Some say that the man’s father was not yet dead, so he was really more focused on traditions and possibly his inheritance than being part of the kingdom. Jesus replied that there were plenty of spiritually dead people available who will respectfully turn a corpse under to the benefit of the worms rather than the buzzards.

As for this third man we have quoted, his house is his life. What he is really saying is that he has to break away from some pleasures and joys and preferences as well as some bondages, to “say good-bye” to his old ways before he can be free to follow. I think of the three, this unnamed person is the one most likely to have actually broken away and become, if not one of the Twelve, at least a disciple among the 120 on the Day of Pentecost. I take this from the Lord’s response, which is similar to what Paul says in Philippians: Forgetting what is behind, I reach forward to what is ahead.

In some ways, I had an idyllic childhood, but there are things that marred it. I was something of an outcast for various reasons – not the least of which was a viciously vengeful attitude toward anyone who crossed me. I resented being unpopular, and my response made me more unpopular. I carried all that around for quite a while. Some people saw it as me having a chip on my shoulder. I thought if I moved away and got a fresh start with people who did not know me, I’d do better. But anyone who has ever watched a Hallmark Channel movie knows how that turned out. It’s a cliché because it’s so true, and because most of us never give up on it.

I continued to fight the last war. Every event and relationship was interpreted in light of what had gone before. I kept trying to put the past back together in the present, but that meant dragging the past into the present. If you saw a man with a ball and chain on his ankle getting ready to race in a 440 against unfettered runners, what would your anticipation of his finishing position be? Only when I gave up on redeeming my past by my own efforts and began to simply follow Christ did the cycle of antagonism and conflict end.

I worked with some people when I was immediately out of college for a couple of years. Ten years after I left, I returned to work with them for a few months before we moved to Texas. At the end of a job interview prior to my being rehired, the interviewer said emphatically, “You’ve changed!” And I had. Yet, in certain circumstances, especially around “old” people, to this day, I find myself fighting, and occasionally falling into the old response of defensive arrogance. Family, in particular, is a challenge in this regard. All real friends – even if they happen to be kin – will allow you to change and grow.

We cannot plow a straight furrow looking over our shoulder. We cannot enter the Kingdom if we will not enter the Kingdom. Being a disciple is not a matter of fixing all the broken pieces of the past, getting everything in order, and then running to catch up with Jesus. It will never happen. Leave the past to Jesus. He will redeem it in His own way, in His own time. Meanwhile, center that old Rock at the end of the row between the mule’s ears, stick the plow in the ground, and holler, “Hup!”

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Think It Θ-over

LORD, reveal to me the end of my life and the number of my days. Let me know how transitory I am. You, indeed, have made my days short in length, and my life span as nothing in Your sight. Yes, every mortal man is only a vapor. Selah. – Psalm 39:4-5

I have read and been told that no one really knows what Selah means. It may be a musical rest or some other notation. It’s rather like the old song “Diddy-Wa-Diddy” that I first heard Ry Cooder sing. As evidenced yesterday, my memory of stuff thirty or forty years ago may get colored, but here’s a rough approximation of it:

I went down to church
Put my hat on the seat,
A woman sat down next to me,
Said, “Daddy, you shore is sweet.”

It’s the diddy-wa-diddy,
The diddy-wa-diddy.
Won’t somebody tell me
What diddy-wa-diddy means.

I said, “Sister, I’ll soon be gone,
Just give that thing that you’re sittin’ on.
It’s my diddy-wa-diddy,
my diddy-wa-diddy.”
Won’t somebody tell me
What diddy-wa-diddy means.

I got myself throwed out of church
For talkin’ ‘bout the diddy-wa-diddy too much.
It’s the diddy-wa-diddy,
The diddy-wa-diddy.
Won’t somebody tell me
What diddy-wa-diddy means.

Selah may be like that, but, at least in the quoted passage, I think I know what it means: Think about it.

The last week has forced me to take a lot of actions and say a lot of things that I really did not want to do or say. I believe for the most part I was standing up for and doing the right thing, but it was more or less instinctive. Today, as I wait for further news, it is a good time to consider that all I see and all I appear to be is but a vapor compared to the reality of God. The world is always passing away, and we are only passing through. Before we get fired up over something and latch onto it like a pitbull, it would probably be wise to have a Selah moment.

There are things for which we must fight. Those critical things are likely far fewer and different than the host of things that tend to upset me. The culture isn’t much help. If a person were to watch television and listen to popular music, he might come to the conclusion that the source of all conflict, angst, and trouble is pretty much the diddy-wa-diddy. There is an amazing amount of drama and melodrama over the inane, misunderstood, and inconsequential.

Meditating on the end of our lives may seem morbid in way, but as Harry Callahan said, “A good man has to know his limitations”, the ultimate limit being, naturally, the end of this mortal existence. Materialism – the original vaporware.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Through the Looking Glass

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We all, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

I think Catholics have an advantage if they are willing to use it. The confessional always seemed to me to be an inspired concept. If you have a priest who knows his job on one side and a genuinely repentant sinner on the other side, you have the recipe for real deliverance and spiritual growth. How often the experience is less than that, I do not know anymore than I know how often confession is abused and misused. In theory, though, a person can unburden his soul and receive immediate feedback from the Father, via the priest, assuring him that he is a forgiven child of God and is still loved. If it devolves into empty ritual, it’s not the fault of the concept.

As a naïve believer, I read “confess your faults one to another”. Thinking this would help me to overcome temptations, I tried it out. The results were less than helpful. I do think, if I am having trouble with another believer, “confessing my faults” to that person with regard to our disagreement or conflict is beneficial and appropriate. It’s a way of letting down my guard, unilaterally disarming, so to speak, to attempt to defuse the situation (note: this only applies to verbal conflicts in a figurative sense). Otherwise, I keep my confession between my Father and me.

I know some men have accountability partners to help them deal with bad habits, usually of a sexual nature. If that works, it’s good. For me, though, I think it would simply foster an enhanced sin consciousness that would serve to keep me tied to the habit as much as succumbing to the habit itself. I believe that the key to deliverance from any temptation is Second Corinthians 3:17-18. The more we look upon the Lord, the more like Him we become. The more we expose ourselves to His Spirit through His word, prayer and meditation, the more we are transformed into His image. I don’t think of this as discipline so much as attitude.

All that we read or hear, see or experience -- with unveiled faces -- can be seen as a reflection of the glory of the Lord. Everything we encounter can be transformative. Paul did without food and shelter, was beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked. I’m sure he sought out and desired none of these obstacles, attacks, or sufferings. Yet, in the end he would “boast” of them for they had the effect of making him more Christ-like. It isn’t just doing religious stuff. Not to be vulgar, but Moses’ face glowed with the glory of God down at the latrine. Holy ____.

What usually happens is that we do something we should not do, and we become trapped in a downward, negative spiral rather than an upward, positive one. Tears and remorse don’t do a whole lot to help me get off the sin-cycle. Say I get locked into watching the marriage ceremony in Zulu repeatedly. Every time I watch those native girls, I end up saying that I’m never going to watch it again. But then the devil tells me that I’m really a horrible person for watching all that jiggling. I feel condemned. I know I am a failure. Because I feel so bad it begins to occupy my mind. It begins to seem like a really big thing. There’s pressure to avoid it. Now, instead of just hitting the skip to the next scene because you really don’t miss anything, it becomes an obsession. By making such a big deal out of it, I’ve trapped myself into saying, hey, just one more time.

If, instead of focusing on the “not”, I focus on the “I AM”, I soon see the lure of sin for what it is, something external to the real me. Yes, maybe it is tangled up in the old man, but the old man is dead. Paul expounded on this at length in three consecutive chapters of the Book of Romans. Chapter Seven in particular looks at how trying not to think about Zulu babes means thinking about nothing but Zulu babes. Once, however, we have an understanding of who is actually doing the sinning, the temptation itself becomes a flag showing us the line beyond which the non-true self lies. I am delivered – not by the strength of my own will – but by realizing who I am.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I’m In the Pen But I’m Not A Pig

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. – James 4:4

By the way, the reason James uses the feminine version of adulterer is that he is speaking to those of us who should constitute the Bride of Christ.

What do we mean by the world? The Bullet Notes in the back of my Holman Christian Standard Bible give about as good a definition as I can find. The world is [t]he organized Satanic system that is opposed to God and hostile to Jesus and His followers. The non-Christian culture including governments, educational systems, and businesses. I’d say that pretty well covers it, although I might add that much we call “church” or religious can be classified as of the world. And, though it is included under government, I would specifically list the legal system as being of the world. Separation of church and state didn’t originate with Jefferson’s letter – more like James’ Letter.

As a Christian, I don’t owe the world anything. I do pay my taxes and pay my own way primarily so the world will leave me alone. I am, by necessity, in the world, but there is no need to be of the world. There is no salvation in the world, in its ideas, plans or institutions. Proverbs says there is a way that seems right to a man, but it ends only in death. That’s the way of the world, the observable way, rather than the hidden way of the Tao. So, too, the Lord says the Kingdom of God does not come by observation – the Way, the Kingdom – same thing.

I know even as I am trying to put this into words that I am going to sound like some sort of desert hermit, anti-government survivalist flake, whacked-out malcontent, or somebody sitting on a rooftop in a bed sheet waiting for the Rapture. Well, whatever. What I know is that the world system works against godliness and for materialism. It favors carnality over spirituality and form over substance. It rewards clever conniving and rejects truth. The only way for a righteous person to win within the system is to become a part of it, to get down purely on the horizontal and see things as the worldling sees them.

The world will read a statement like the one above and laugh at it. Of course, the system will work against the “spiritual” and for the pragmatic. The non-conforming person should have no expectation of success in the real world. You can believe what you like, the world says, but you have to play by our rules.


I’m tired of trying to appease the world, of trying to get along, of playing a rigged game. The righteous will, by their very nature, have to operate at a disadvantage. I am called to be pure in heart, a peacemaker, one who turns the other cheek, goes the extra mile – one who hungers and thirsts after righteousness. I am called to seek first the Kingdom, not fame, acclaim, or someone to blame. I do not believe that ultimately I have to be of the world to be in it. Either God is in control or no one is. Either Jesus is Truth, or there is no truth.

Every institution and process that is of the world is simply an attempt to usurp the place of Christ, to build a tower of Babel, to achieve by human effort what is mine by faith. To the extent that I believe in the system, I do not believe in Christ.

It sounds radically radical. It sounds scandalous to my own ears. Surely I don’t really believe what I am saying. I do believe it. I may struggle to live it, to synchronize my confession with my conversation, but I believe it. Too many times, God has slapped me with the reality of the system’s antagonism. I have been depressed enough to die over the fact that, although I knew I was in the right, the system turned against me. Why? I cried to the Lord. And He said, because it’s not My system, not My Kingdom, not My Way. When I abandoned the world and stepped back into the Way, miraculously, one might say, the problem was resolved. Peace came into my life, and I walked again in light.

Weeping endures for the night – for the world is in darkness, even unto this hour. But joy comes in the morning.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Heart of Darkness

For ground that drinks the rain which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned. – Hebrews 6:7-8

The land we own was part of an old farm. It was more lucrative for the owners to sell it off in four pieces than to sell it all together. I certainly didn’t want the old house, or the forty that is mostly a sinkhole – though I’ll admit that where the neighbor set his house gives him a nice view. I ended up with an oddly shaped portion that is mostly level or very gently sloping out front. Behind the house, it drops off. Then I have a piece that runs up behind the acreage the original farmhouse is on. It’s only perhaps two acres or so and virtually all hillside. Come to think of it, I guess it’s kind of like a bootheel – the state of Missouri in miniature.

Anyway, my bootheel is where all the deer go to hang out. If it will grow around here, it’s growing there. Oak and hickory mast from a few, mature, scattered trees, rank fescue, sumac, blackberries, buckbrush, and various native grasses – aka, weeds are available. We have had an abundance of rain the last couple of years and the growth in the bootheel has been extravagant. I kept meaning to get to it with my tractor and bushhog, but it’s a bit of trouble, and I just haven’t had time. In fact, I had not even taken the dog for a run back there for months. It’s one of her favorite haunts because of all the smells and the fact that she gets to splash in the tiny spring-fed brook that we have to cross at the bottom of the hill.

The dog was looking a little mournful yesterday, so, in spite of knowing both she and my jeans would come back covered in beggar lice, I took her that direction when it was time to play. Even going down the slope to the brook before we entered the bootheel, I could see the consequences of neglect. Where I could ride through on my ATV just last fall had closed in until it was something of a struggle to get through on foot. Beginning the climb up into the bootheel, it was even worse. The last really bad ice storm we had resulted in lots of downed limbs and split tree trunks. One tall, twenty year old hickory had bent about ten feet above the ground. It never straightened, but it never split either. It’s still all alive, growing horizontally instead of vertically. I hadn’t cut it because it wasn’t in the way that much, and I’m just a little uncertain about what might happen as the weight comes off. Now I see I’m going to have to do something because the other brush is growing up around it. And the problem is the same all over the bootheel. I’m sure the deer like it right now, but if I don’t intervene, the spouts and briers will reclaim all of it and their luxurious accommodations will become just another hiding place.

Rain is almost always a positive thing for people who live on hills. The clay base isn’t that far down, and it tends to drain off and dry out fairly quickly. Cool, rainy years like this one mean prosperity for agriculture in this part of the country. But the same rain that gives good hay and corn crops and keeps the pastures thick and green can cause other, less desirable growth.

I think my bootheel is a picture of some areas of my life. A certain amount of wildness is good, but I can’t completely ignore it and let it go, any more than I can the more visible, manicured front. I need to do some sawing, chopping, trimming and pruning in order to continue to keep things going in the right direction. The first thing to do is face up to it. As the Daredevils say in Black Sky, “It’s the grass in the back that you never did mow.” Folks just driving by think we look pretty good, but those closer to us may be aware that all is not as it should be. The blessings we have received, filling us with joy and contentment, feed the dark, wild, and unseen parts as well.

Friday, October 2, 2009

When Illusions Collide

… God … Who gives life to the dead and speaks of nonexistent things as if they already existed – Romans 4:17

I am getting around late today, and I have had way, way too much fun the last couple of days. I’m finishing up my paid labor and waiting somewhat patiently for eighteen tons of aggregate to be delivered. I will fill in the low spots in my expanded driveway and turn my wife’s flowerbeds white for winter. It’s kind of crazy to pay for rocks when I live on land that seems to be nearly as much rock as soil most of time, even in the uppermost layers. But it’s not sparkly white and uniform in size and appearance.

Rock is, or so it seemed to me growing up as a hillbilly, not only ubiquitous but about as real a thing as one encounters in life. Scramble up a bluff and take a seat on an outcropping of solid granite, or try to put a post in too close to a glade and it is easy to appreciate the relative immutability of rock. You can understand why the Holy Spirit would describe the Lord over and over as the Rock. Those old boys over there in Judea and points north were kind of like hillbillies themselves. When you said build on the rock to them, they knew what you meant.

There are people who read Romans 4:17 quoted above and understand it to mean that God operates by faith Himself. They say that God believes things into existence, and then they extrapolate to say that humans have the same capacity. From this understanding arise those Christians who call themselves “word of faith”, people who believe in books like The Secret, and various new age and positive thinking types.

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with thinking positively. It’s much better than thinking negatively. I do think that people can set themselves up for guilt and self-condemnation through flaky teaching about faith. One of the raccoon geniuses, Magnus Itland, provided me with some food for thought about the new agey types that think they can believe for all green lights as they drive. I wonder what would happen if two of them arrived at an intersection simultaneously? Would they both get yellows? But more importantly, if you don’t get green lights, does that mean you don’t have enough faith? When bad things happen in life, is it because you weren’t “speaking faith” sufficiently? Faith can become really problematic if we get things turned the wrong way. We have the right part, and we are trying to put it in the right location, but we have it going on backwards.

My understanding of Romans 4:17 looks at the larger context. Paul is not trying to tell us that God operates on faith just as we must. The point is that God can call things into being that at the moment do not exist in the natural world. Faith is trusting in the God who can do that. God doesn’t use faith anymore than He stops to “figure out” how He is going to accomplish something. Though He may, for our benefit, reason with us, He doesn’t have to reason to reach a conclusion or to solve a problem. Prior to the Incarnation, I don’t think God ever had a problem. He never needed a solution.

I always loved watching Ozzie Smith play shortstop, not even counting the backflips. Smith had no more idea where the ball was going when it came off the bat than anyone else, but if it came anywhere near him, he caught it. Sure, experience taught him to play in on some guys and back on others, crowd third a little on someone else, but there was no conscious calculation on a rocketing liner. God’s a lot like Ozzie – except that He can cover the entire infield and outfield from the pitcher’s mound -- not that anybody can get so much a loud foul if He doesn’t want them to. He doesn’t need to know where the ball is going. He can get there. Nothing is going to get down or get out of the park unless it’s part of the plan. I have free will to bunt or swing away, take a called strike or try to slap one through the gap. God can handle it.

The beauty of faith is not that I’m in control and can have or do whatever I want. It is that I’m resting on the Rock, on the solid, eternal, immutable goodness of God.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Whine Flu

Did I purify my heart and wash my hands in innocence for nothing?
For I am afflicted all day long, and punished every morning.
If I had decided to say these things aloud,
I would have betrayed Your people.

When I tried to understand all this,
it seemed hopeless until I entered God’s sanctuary.
Then I understood their destiny.
Indeed You put them in slippery places;
You make them fall into ruin.
How suddenly they become a desolation!
They come to an end, swept away by terrors. – Psalm 75:13-19

This is one of those days when I want to say things out loud about the futility of doing good. Some months back, I think it was the lovely QP who put up one of those tests that you can take, in that case it was something like “which card in the tarot deck are you”? I was the Tower, not too surprising after I thought about it, given my avatar. I am rather susceptible to getting indignant over injustice. I don’t worry much about injustice in the American legal system where a lot that is right is illegal, and a lot that is legal is not right. If Congress wants to reform a system, let health care alone and do some work on “justice”.

My indignation is much more likely to be stirred by bullies, liars, and those who are willfully obtuse toward the true and the righteous. Sometimes I feel like the kid in The Sixth Sense, except, “I see stupid people”. In fact, I think I said that yesterday, but no one got the reference. I’m not talking about that small percentage of the population who are, to use the poetic term, simple. The genuinely simple are righteous more often than not. My quarrel is with those who are stupid by choice.

Why would anyone choose to be stupid? Stupidity relieves a person of a degree of moral responsibility. Their immoral behavior is no longer immoral, just stupid. They can distance themselves from the consequences of their actions with the claim that they “had no idea” such a thing would happen. They can become politicians and work for the government. They can drop non sequiturs, change the subject, and make baseless personal attacks.

Stupid people can compartmentalize their lives, enabling them to disregard contradictions and irony. They can claim the moral high ground on a moot point then make the sweeping statement that their opponent “isn’t perfect either”, or claim that he has no standing to judge them. They can think that they have won a debate when, in the view of any non-stupid, objective observer, they had not even shown up.

But a tirade against the Stupid By Choice was not my intent. It is easy for indignation, however righteous, to turn into bitterness and cynicism. See the paragraphs above. Stupidity is contagious and raging cynicism is a form of it. I haven’t yet figured out how to completely immunize myself against cynicism, but I do know the cure.

I have needed to be humbled, and the Lord knows how to do that. The difference between me and the Stupid By Choice is (I hope always) that I am willing to see my getting taken down a notch as the grace of God. The SBC see only the secondary agent, the tool in the hand of God, and no tool is perfect. When I have been SBC myself, I have even questioned God’s power and/or goodness. I assume others do the same. If I say it is God’s fault or if I say it is the fault of another, I am being stupid. If I say the wicked prosper, I am being stupid.

Oh, yeah, the cure – God is on call all day, every day. He neither sleeps nor slumbers. He makes house calls. It's a kneel-in clinic.