Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Letter Kills


We had the television tuned to "The News Hour" on PBS last night, and we were puttering around while the story about the Pope's visit to Turkey was airing. I happened to catch a glimpse of this placard held up by the protesting crowds, and it really struck me.

You'll note that the Pope is looking in a mirror, and what he sees there is Death. I'd guess the Muslims are ostensibly making a statement about the fact that the Pope oppresses them with his remarks and so forth. But could they know more than even they know?

Simply by being out there reveals how much they dislike their papa telling them what to do. Oh yes, the Pope is their papa, even if they're Muslim. If he wasn't, what are they complaining about? The fact that they show up to protest his power says volumes about the power he has over them.

But the thing that I thought about the most is the essense of this statement, essentially, "Pope equals Death." If we presume that the Bible is accurate in portraying the Pope is the chief visible law enforcement officer, an anti-Christ doing his duty on behalf of Cain to prosecute the evildoing of the World's inhabitants, and we furthermore accept the Bible's breadth of exposition about the difference between the nature of the law against that of truth and grace, then the placard is nothing less than a graphic depiction of the sixth verse in the third chapter of Paul's second letter to the Corinthians.

Again, the placard: "The Pope is death."

2 Corinthians 3:6: "The letter kills."

What is the letter? It is none other than the law. And Scripture is unequivocal about it: The law is for lawbreakers to expose their sinfulness. This is a body of death, and the only way one can be free from it is by Jesus Christ and trusting in Him and His work of salvation.

As the Pope said himself long ago, he is legitimately there to crack the heads of all those in need of salvation. Followers of Christ have nothing to do with the Pope, for they are already saved. But look. All those Muslims who need him. No wonder they're so enraged at everything.

They know the Pope is doing his job of peeling open their soul and they see their sinfulness-- and they hate it. So they yell at him a lot. Lots of people yell at him a lot.

The law is a brutal thing, particularly when it is in the hands of the Agents of Cain.

Who is the One who would actually liberate you from this horror?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

That Phony Death -- Second Addendum

Shortly after I wrote my last blog post, we left for my sister-in-law's for Thanksgiving. Driving our van on the way there, I had a thought that I'd had before in some form, one I'm certain that others have also had.

Here's Thanksgiving, the time when we are supposed to give thanks. The question is, to whom are you giving thanks? I mean, really, what do atheists do when they give thanks? What do Eastern mysticists or even devout Catholicists do? Who exactly do they give thanks to?

Atheists may say that they are "thankful." I'm sorry but that is completely meaningless. Thankfulness implies that you are feeling good about something and you are appreciative in some sense for that. But why would you have anything good to begin with? From where did it come?!

The Eastern mysticist is what many today would call a "New Ager." Convinced all is illusion, or that we are all just part of the Great Cosmic Oneness, who exactly does one address when saying thank you? Do you thank your God-self for, say, your ability to repair automobiles for a living? Ahem, how can that be when you yourself had absolutely nothing to do with getting you even a breath in your lungs to begin with in order to turn a socket wrench?

The devout Catholicist has his straw-man Jesus he thanks. What is it exactly is he thanking him for? That could be whatever it is he conceives, after all, an idol is really a projection of whatever it is the worshipper forms in his mind. How pointless is that.

I only introduce this because after speaking about the heartwrenching situation with my stepbrother Randy, I read a front-page story in the Thanksgiving day edition of the Los Angeles Times titled "Hope is the one antidote."

It was written by a Times staff writer about his struggles with Parkinson's. It was just a personal testimony containing narrative about his ordeal, and scattered about were all the predictable considerations about life, its meaning, and coping through it all.

But the thing I wanted to point out here was the writer's definition of hope:

"Hope, for me, is a state of mind, not focused on a particular prospect but rather attached to something more amorphous, less definable. [He quotes his neurologist here:] Hope gets us out of bed in the morning: hope that we'll accomplish something great at work, hope that we'll see our kids do something cute or clever, hope that we won't get into a car crash."

At the risk of being a bit insensitive, this is utter nonsense. And yet, I can bet the farm that millions of people read this and think, "Wow, what strength." They believe, "Wow, how profound."

Such is the Catholicist Nation.

Think about it if you dare. Hope is a state of mind? So then the best thing to do when hoping is to lie to yourself. Even when you have nothing at all, really, in which to trust to save your from your looming excruciating death, just pretend. Something amorphous, less definable? When you're drowning in the farthest reaches of the ocean, you want a very definable non-amorphous helicopter with dropped rescue basket to pluck you from the consuming swells.

Hope we'll accomplish something great? Says who? What could possibly be more futile than working your butt off, and then expiring and sent six feet under to be eaten by worms? Seeing our kids do something cute or clever? What exactly is something that is "cute" or "clever"? Couldn't I just as easily hear them eagerly tell me a splendid knock-knock joke and then cruelly punch them in the teeth? After all, isn't it all just a state of mind?

And finally there's this gem, hope that we won't get into a car crash. So what?! Here this guy laments the agony of Parkinson's but then favors a definition of hope that condemns him to a lifetime of agony. I'm not for a second making a case for terminal patient suicide. The point should be easy to see:

What difference does any of it make without the One Who Loves? Yes yes yes the fact that this guy is writing about things that matter, that are meaningful, that do bring great abundant enchantment, means that things in life matter.

But how do you have LIFE?

It just doesn't come from your state of mind or something amorphous and undefinable!

It comes from the very real and very defined Son of God.

Some familiar with the Times piece may say that later the guy writes of prayer and its power. Hey, I have here spoken of praying for Randy. There is a critical difference, however, in praying for prayer's sake and praying to speak with the One who has the power to heal. This guy's approach to prayer is completely along the lines of "Hey, praying helps because it convinces you there is something that can help you when there really isn't." This is not prayer at all, but a psychosomatically effective deceit. Quite a way to spit in the face of a God who would do miracles if we'd just let Him.

Yes, I've written a note to Randy. Yes, I tell him in no uncertain terms about Jesus, and that He is life. That He is his one true-- and very real hope. My hope is that I've done it with the greatest of grace. That I've at least opened the cage for the Lion just a bit. We'll see what happens.

I can't help but still be sad when I see foolishness like that I read about in this newspaper story. And that I see all over the place. It breaks my heart.

I just pray Randy sees Him. In whatever way that is, that'd be awesome.

But that he sees Him.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

That Phony Death -- Addendum

After my last blog post, I felt I had to write a bit more about what I'd written.

First, one may wonder why I don't know the spiritual condition of my stepbrother. The reason is that I'm not really close to him. Physically he lives near Seattle, and I've never had the opportunity to really interact with him. Last summer (2005) we did get more acquainted at my father's 70th birthday party. Shortly after that he discovered his medical condition. We have communicated a bit since then, sending a card, exchanging emails, those sorts of things.

Second, I have only referred to him as "my stepbrother," because I have this nervousness about throwing names around on the web. I think I'm invading the privacy of others in doing so, however, in many ways that too is a Catholicist-based fear. People reading this may want to genuinely pray for him. With that in mind, his name is Randy. In fact, his fine blog is here.

I can make a pretty good guess about what his spiritual condition is, though. He was brought up with a lot of New Age inculcation, that nebulous idea that we're all just beloved children of the Great Cosmic Oneness, that sort of thing. He's a computer engineer by trade, and at the risk of stereotyping, many with such a mindset have put a great deal of faith in science and at the same time dismissed considerations of God. Does Randy do this? The one thing I can reference is his blog, and nowhere in it is any mention of God or a spiritual dimension to his plight. At times he'll make mention of a pithy saying or concern, but to some degree this tells me that his trust is just not in The Person but rather the philosophy of whatever it is that gets him through.

This relates to another key point to clarify from the last blog, that of the News Corp. promotion of O.J. Simpson. The reason this is so profound is that Randy has surely been blasted by the same "public relations" campaign that gets so many to buy into the rejection of God. How much power does News Corp. and Rupert Murdoch have to get millions of people to censure an utterly reprobate endeavor! How much power they have to get everyone to idolize O.J. to begin with-- even if that worship is a sort of an incessant visceral loathing.

So what to do? Yes, as I said, pray. Pray that God would blast Randy with Him. Thing is, He does that with those who are His.

And that could be me.

I could be the one who says "Jesus" to him.

Yesterday I lamented the concern that I'd mess it up. I wanted to address this for a minute.

It does indeed seem very self-serving. No question. To be so concerned about what I'll say and how that will affect me is reprehensible indeed. But that's part of precisely what I said yesterday--

That Catholicist stuff is still in there messing with me-- thus, the need to pray like nothing else about that. It is simple. I do want to love Randy, and the way to love him is to tell him about the One who will give him what it is he truly wants. Life, unending life, unending life with his loved ones, unending life with his loved ones in a place where no one can ever hurt anyone ever again.

It's what we all want.

But me, aagh, I'm just being honest-- the way I've been taught to tell others about Him is so damn Catholicized.

Me: "Ask Jesus to come into your heart."

Him: "Ah, yeah, a very scary dead guy hanging on a cross, in my heart. Riiight..."

Me: "Be born-again."

Him: "Sure, like I want to be with a bunch of crazy shaking arm-waving 'born-again' Christians. Nah, not for me."

Me: "You'll go to hell without Jesus."

Him: "So if I don't believe the way you believe, thennnn I suffer unending agony, and you'rrre eating ambrosia by the pool. How arrogant."

Strike three.

So, yeah, really...

I just want to let the Lion loose.

That's really all it takes. Just let Him be Him. He kicks the pants off of any of the World's idiocy. Why can't I just let Him loose?

Read a story today about how there is a gene in our bodies that causes us to age by destroying cells. Thing is, this actually prevents cancer. It prevents it because it keeps those healthy cells from getting so eager as to start becoming tumors. I thought about that, and about how the Darwinists will say things like this particular gene has an "evolutionary purpose."

Huh?

I only make note of this because here's Randy, probably has faith in the evolution thing, and he'll so readily buy into the idea that there is some "purpose" in something that by definition has no purpose.

If it were any more ridiculous it'd be tragic.

Well, wait a minute, it is.

So what to do. Pray, pray, pray, certainly. But what are the other patently non-Catholicist things to do? First, just ask him where he's at. How presumptuous for me to think he's so intractable that he wouldn't want the one thing that would be his life. If he is so disinclined, then maybe I will have still planted that seed. That's all Jesus wants us to do. He's the gardener.

Secondly, be willing to keep the conversation going. I'm already saddened that I can't tell him to gather with the elders of his church to anoint him with oil and pray for him. With all churches mere 501c3 God clubs, where would he find such a group? I am hampered a bit by having to communicate merely through email, but I should be thanking God that we have that!

Finally, again, just be His truth-- let the Lion loose. He meant what He said: "I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will never die." Whoa. That's so major. And so easy to say! And at the same time, just be His grace. I don't have to pound anything over his head the way many Catholicized evangelicals do. I just want to be his friend.

Thanks for reading. Just by doing that, I've been moved to do the wonderful, simple things that are precisely what God wants from us more than anything else.

To love another with His love.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

That Phony Death

My stepbrother has resigned himself to his death in six months.

This is abjectly flooring news, just how brazenly mortality whacks one upside the head. And for him, literally. He's been fighting a brain tumor for about a year. He had chemo, and it was thought that he'd beaten it. But his eyesight was still failing terribly, and at his latest testing they found that his tumor had been as insidious as they had thought all along. It was growing back.

The guy's got a wife and two bright young near-teenage boys. He's got everything to live for and he knows it. He's even blogged quite eloquently about the ordeal, being open and honest in the most visceral terms while displaying that resolved grace you like to see in one with whom you're acquainted. Still...

Death is death.

Not like the more widely marketed media death. Recently O.J. Simpson was going to exploit his notoriety by writing a book "How I Would've Killed My Wife," something like that, and doing a nationally televised interview to sell it. The idea was so repulsive that it was pulled.

But I thought, here's just another way to make death phony. Furthermore, I think of all the people who so stridently protested it, as if they needed to plead with Fox not show it to keep them from being seduced into watching it.

So here's my stepbrother's real death staring him in the face. Thing is, there is that one thing that would turn a very real death into a very real joy. But I don't know that he knows Christ. If he knew Christ, then I'd know he was in the right hands-- that he'd have what it is he genuinely wants, the deep abiding intimacy with the One Who Is Intimacy Always. As it is, he laments not having it with his wife and growing boys. We all would feel that way surely.

But I want him to know Christ.

All I've thought about since I learned about his situation is what I can do to introduce him to Him. I'm not sure, but I think he's pretty dismissive of the whole "Jesus" thing, only because he's been introduced to so many straw-man Jesuses. If I were to say, "Hey! Jesus!" he'd just think

"Oh no, not that church character."

"Oh no, not that fairy tale."

"Thank you, but that religious thing is not for me."

"Um, really, who can know? So if God is there, he'll be a nice guy. I'll be okay."

"Really, I have nothing to do with it anyway. I'm just a part of the Great Cosmic Oneness."

"We're food for worms."

I don't know. Maybe I'm too resigned. I do know how much people, so many people, perhaps even my stepbrother, have been Jesuitically taught to think the most ridiculous things about God. That can be discouraging in light of their expertise at it all.

On the other hand, I do indeed think that if I did say something to him now, he might just be responsive. He is certainly in a state in which, as steeled as he may be, he is facing a real reality that no media concoction or religious jury rig can make any more phony. Maybe that's exactly what's needed for one to see it.

I'm not giving up. It is just my own Catholicist stirrings from the past have me thinking all kinds of fearful things. Aagh. I hate that.

So at that point I do just one thing. What I've been doing all along.

Pray.

That's really what I've got in the face of the World's weapons. Thing is, His weapons are more powerful. Just gotta use 'em. He did say we are to be His flesh and bones.

And then, all I have to do is what I will do, however that is.

Tell him about Hope.

Friday, November 10, 2006

So All the Republicans Needed To Do Was...

In Chaucer's story "The Pardoner's Tale," the principle character goes about convincing people to give to the church by constantly telling them "Radix malorum est cupiditas," or "Greed is the root of all evil." The obvious irony is that the church is getting wealthy by exploiting others' guilt.

After the election last Tuesday, James Dobson of Focus on the Family said that Republicans lost control of Congress because they simply did not behave like they really understood and supported conservative Christian values. The idea is that if those candidates really stood on limited government, low taxes, protecting unborn lives, holding to traditional marriage, then they would have won.

There are a couple of problems with this I want to share before I mention what this says about our country. First, the switch from Republican to Democrat in the House was only 30 seats. There were 435 seats up for grabs. Every single seat in the House. Hmm. 30 seats changed party from a total of 435. Not really much of a shake-up.

Now certainly when one party has "control," even if their majority is a mere one vote, they do have far more power than the minority party.

The reason we all believe it was such a slaughter has a lot to do with the second problem: the media coverage. Before the election the media pulled out all the stops to persuade Americans that the Republicans were responsible for every horrible thing in life. So pronounced was their slant that enough votes went Democrat. The Republicans could have been angels from heaven and it wouldn't have made a difference.

This is why I mention "The Pardoner's Tale." It is just not that difficult to manipulate the sentiments of people who just don't have real strength of will to resist brilliant propaganda. I'm not saying this to offer a polemic for Republicans, by any means. I am saying that all those striving valiantly in the Culture War use the same tools of deceit, including James Dobson, someone for whom I do have some measure of respect.

The main reason Dobson's concerns are meaningless is that they are all condemners. For instance, the Republicans instinctively know that if they really cut taxes and reduced federal regulation, they are condemning all those exploited by powerful business interests. Don't get me wrong, I do believe in low taxes-- to the point that one should stand on the law as it is to see how "low" their taxes could actually be.

The problem is that the Democrats, by raising taxes and increasing federal regulation, are condemning all those who work hard and earn the rewards of their industry.

Wow. All of them can't help but be condemners.

The issue then is how one frames his condemnation. That's how you get into office. The Democrats are just as good at condemning as anyone else, but they made their case by pounding down the idea, "We're on your side." Of course people seemed to forget that being on one interest's side necessarily means condemnation of the other guys.'

What Dobson and virtually every committed conservative evangelical just doesn't get is that if they really stood on their principles-- that God told us clearly that homosexuality is bad and abortion is bad and abusive government is bad-- then they'd have to support the death penalty for any active homosexual, aborting doctor, and bad king. Hey, those are indeed pretty bad things, God doesn't particularly like them.

And He doesn't particularly like a lot of other bad things too. Meaning... there's enough wrath for everyone, really.

Ouch.

What Dobson et al end up doing is hemming and hawwing and basically dissembling to hide what they know to be true. To have what they really want you'd need a genuine theocracy to crack heads, and the liberals are scared to death of that. How many times do I hear them speak in the most venomous tone about the "Religious Right." This is why they cheer every time the Dobson/Republican designs are given a stomping as they were on Tuesday.

Fact is, the liberal designs are, as pointed out, just as condemnatory. With Democrats in power you'll surely have many more innocent babies slaughtered, more spiritual violence committed against one another in the name of sexual freedom, more individual God-given abilities to innovate and produce squashed-- those things are just as painful.

Why can't Dobson get the Republicans to do anything about that? It has nothing to do with them being tuned out.

It has everything to do with being grafted the World he so reviles. The Dobson people hold on hard to their incorporations, and as such they're just a loud, argumentative member of the Club. Dobson yells, and then some major progressive guy like Noam Chomsky yells right back. Lots of yelling and arguing and, of course, lots and lots and lots of condemning.

Radix malorum est cupiditas. Now, give us what you've got so you'll be happy again.

The Republicans have taken as much money as the Democrats ever did to build its cathedral of condemnation.

This is why Jesus Christ is so miles out of this. The phenomenal thing is that He loved us so much that He literally took all of this upon Himself, and died on the most profound symbol of condemnation there ever was to take it out so it wouldn't be there any more.

Miles and miles and miles away. As far as the east is from the west, the Bible says.

Do you want to be there, with Him, in bountiful joy being reconciled with that One who loves you that much, or with a major political party in that body of death called condemnation?

You are with one of them.

(And don't come off with some baloney about being in some minor "principled" party. If it's in the World, it condemns too. "You are in one of them" is not talking about on which side of the Culture War Room you are situated. It's all about whether you're in it or out of it altogether.)

For more on the Culture War, go here.

Here are some thoughts on the Jesus who is not one of the straw-man ones the Republicans and Democrats like to say is on their side.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Voting For...

Tomorrow is voting day. The day when we can all vote for the individuals who'll use their power to force what we want on others. It seems like most Americans anticipate this with great excitement. Why shouldn't they? They've got to make sure they've got the right people in office to crack heads. Even though many will decry the lack of voter turnout, there could be as many as 100 million visiting polling places to vote for their leaders.

That’s a lot of people. How great is that, you get to pick. Are you into fighting wars against those who hate the American way? You can vote for the guy who will keep doing that. Are you into fighting against those fighting wars against those who hate the American way (but don’t really know it, of course)? Then you may vote for the guy who will do that.

In the Government class I teach, we always take some time to talk about the history of suffrage, or how a group has struggled in history to secure their right to vote. The interesting thing is that most people think that women, for instance, got the right to vote in 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Nah.

Women have always had the right to vote.

It just wasn’t guaranteed before that time. In other words, a woman could go up to the polling place, declare her intention to vote, and be turned away without contention. Did she have the right to vote? Of course she did. Was she able to actually vote over the protests of more powerful societal forces? Of course not.

Some may say, “Oh but if she couldn’t actually vote in practice then what difference does it make?”

The problem is that not only does every individual have the right to vote, but he or she can’t help but vote. Any time you take any action at any time, you’re voting.

“Oh, but that’s misusing the definition of voting,” you may retort. “The term refers to something very specific, namely casting a ballot in an election for a political officer or public issue. Just choosing something doesn’t make it a vote."

The problem there is one that has many people confused, or at least misinformed about the nature of political reality. The unequivocal fact is that you are a political being, subject to the dictates of the potentate whoever that may be. Whatever it is that you do, you are indeed influencing what the governing authority itself does. That’s a vote.

If you decide not to vote in a given particular official election, you are voting for not deciding to vote in that particular official election. The potentate sees that, and will act accordingly. The issue in this instance is not who or what your voting for but which election are voting to vote in to begin with. People of the World can't get this because they can only conceive of one election.

Many evangelicals will screech that it is our God-given right to vote. Yes, that's true! God not only wants us to vote, but we can't help but. The question is, which are you voting for? Are you voting for the Kingdom, or are you going into a polling booth tomorrow to cast a ballot for Caesar's administrative staff?

If you vote for the Kingdom, you will necessarily abandon the World System and its selection of vetted political operatives. You will forego all the benefits and privileges it offers, which entails nothing less than terminating your incorporated obligations, standing on your true tax liability, and as such manifesting the bountiful gifts God has given you to provide phenomenal abundance in your family and community. Are you indeed voting in the “election” in which you’ve made Jesus Christ your authority in all matters?

Or, are you voting in the election for rulers of evil, in which any vote you formally cast is for a preeminent evildoer assigned the task of whacking other evildoers? Don't get me wrong, God said this is not necessarily a bad thing, this the legion of condemnation.

But if you vote for the Kingdom you’re doing something very different. You are engaging in reconciliation— a far better thing to God.

The latest Newsweek magazine features a story about an identity crisis in the evangelical movement. Über-minister Ted Haggard had just been summarily defrocked over sexual improprieties, and this only adds fire to the question on the newsweekly’s cover: “Sexual Morality or Social Justice?” No wonder everyone thinks the church is obsessed with sex and doesn’t give a rip about social justice.

They see it is extraordinarily hypocritical. Too many evangelicals fail to see this. When you hock gobs of spiritual violence as an adjunct division of the Roman Catholic World System out of one side of your mouth, but then insist you’re following Jesus out of the other, then there is only one possible truth here:

You are following another Jesus. (I think I remember His word saying something about two kinds of water cannot come out of the same fountain-- anybody else remember that?...)

When you actively cast ballots in Caesar’s elections, you are behaving as someone who wants to stay enveloped in the law as the manager of your sinfulness. You are immersing yourself in a wickedly perverted whirlwind of sinning-condemnation-deceit-absolution-catharsis-sinning yet again-more condemnation-more deceit-more absolution… Just look at the Ted Haggard situation! What a body of death!

Look at Proposition 85 on the California ballot. Every evangelical says “Vote for it!” I have to say that I want to shake them! Don’t they know that voting for this means you are making the state the administrator of your daughter’s reproductive faculties! In other words, they’ll pray, “Jesus, be Lord over my daughter,” but when they step into that voting booth they mean “I award the state lordship over my daughter.”

This is insane. I can’t say it any differently. It is just insane.

But, yeah. What do I have to say? If you don't have Christ, making the state the lord over yourself and your family is what you must do. That's cool. God put Caesar there for a purpose. So, yeah.

I will be praying tomorrow. That’s all I can do.

Oh, I know I can say a lot too. I am doing that, right here in this blog.

The sad thing about that is that when anyone says to the one who says he follows Christ, “Hey, do you know what voting in Caesar’s elections really means?” he just doesn't seem to want to listen.

I imagine I’ll be weeping a bit tomorrow too.

That’s how it is, though.

A bit more on the Culture War is here.