Sometimes I want to believe that you read past comments on posts and consequently are in the loop. Naturally, this would be asking entirely too much, so here I’ll share a bit of the back and forth I had with another blogger named Pete. And this sharing may help ease your fears after yesterday’s post.
The moment was way back on March 28th. The March For Our Lives had just accomplished nothing. Yet there was another Pete out there who wanted to chat. After exchanging a few clarifying comments, I read a post that he had written after Sandy Hook and I replied,
ME: “Again, my point is not to persuade–not yet–but to see if we each can paraphrase what we each are saying. After reading your piece, I think the fundamental difference between your and my thoughts is best illustrated by the ‘time to show the world…violence is not in our DNA.'”
See, I believe violence is in our DNA. Anyhow. I then tried to paraphrase our two sides to the debate and so wrote,
ME: “As I see it: I believe the issue is whether arms are a protected right anymore. You believe the issue is determining how non-violent people can keep gun violence to a minimum. Am I close? I don’t think you’ll like what I said about you, but that’s the softest way I could come up with quickly.”
In my attempt to paraphrase his side, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the oxymoron which I couldn’t help but include in the phrase “non-violent people can keep gun violence to a minimum.” I chuckled because how in the hell does a non-violent person commit violence?
And yet, unlike all of you save one yesterday, he furthered the conversation and this other Pete wrote,
Other Pete: “‘You believe the issue is determining how non-violent people can keep gun violence to a minimum. Am I close?’
Yes… sort of. I’m convinced that the U.S. can reduce gun violence by serious federal legislation, which we have never really had (just minor dribs and drabs, mainly at the state level). Gun deaths and their frequencies (and styles) are increasing. The NRA option of ‘more guns’ is shameful and a total joke. We can reduce gun violence if we would only elect responsible politicians, who do not sleep with the NRA, to pass significant legislation. While I personally have no problem with repealing the 2nd Amendment, we can still keep that wretchedly worded thing, without ‘violating’ it, with the common-sense proposals espoused by organizations like the Brady Foundation and other gun control groups. And I’m behind ‘March for Our Lives’ all the way.”
Now, the only way I can make sense of his “Yes… sort of” is that this other Pete thought I meant that fellas like me and him (don’t forget to include yourself and your friends and family) are actually benevolent non-violent types capable of coming together to keep the gun violence to a minimum.
And in that moment, I again lost all hope for written conversation making any headway. Pete read what he wanted to read. And Pete read what he wanted to read.
So now I write what I want. Again. Still. Because Pete cannot be wrong.
No different than the school shootings, we all have opinions on liberal education. Oh, you may disagree in this moment, but watch this: What do you think? Are all entitled to receive a liberal education or only the wealthy and powerful?
See what I mean?
Endearing Backstory: My school’s library had apparently been amassing donations of book sets for a few years and last Monday morning there was a long awaited sale. Each book cost a mere $2, but the catch was you had to purchase the entire set. I had heard rumor (cuz im sooo street) that they had a set of the famed Great Books of the Western World (hereafter GBWW). $126 poorer, and I am the proud owner of that 54 volume set. (They had 53 volumes=$106. I had to track down the missing volume on Amazon for $20. It’s best not to dwell on such things.)
Volume One explains and defends the project. There is no better title for it than The Great Conversation. I would know, because, as you know, I love conversation. According to Hutchins et al. however, what I actually love is the freedom to converse. No argument here. And inherent to our beloved way of life–as presented in GBWW–is the belief in liberal education for all. Put another way, we believe everyone gets a say and no one has the last word.
The one critique I have of the project is that Hutchins writes that the editorial board believes the–now 118 year–lack of teaching great books will be viewed by future historians as an aberration. I am happy to read such clear writing, but where I distinguish myself from Hutchins is that I believe that the lack of teaching the great books, whether someday viewed as an aberration or not, manifests something much worse. It is the evidence that in some very meaningful, though elusive, sense we are no longer the Western World.
Western Civilization, the great conversation it has had, ends with silence.
So speak up, I say! For Christ’s sake, speak up!
H- asked me if I’ve ever been bullied. This was at dinner. I’m sure it was after she’d shared that her second grade class is, yet again, learning about weather patterns (iz literasee evin uh konsern enymor?). But I cannot remember for certain whether it was after, that is, caused by the scene we witnessed at the restaurant or not. It must have been after.
We were eating at Freddy’s, which has turned into one of our favorite spots. While there, we were privy to some man walking back into the establishment with his recently purchased brown bag of burgers. He proceeded to theatrically unpack the bag and open the boxes in front of the watching staff, notably one unassuming teenage girl. Then, I recall him angrily adding the rejoinder, “…and now you’re wasting my time!”
Despite joining me on my other two trips, first to fill the sauce cups, second, the drink cups, and after displaying excitement upon our number being called, when I stood up to head to the counter where the man was, H- looked at me sincerely and announced, “I’m staying here.”
Uneventfully enjoying our food, in response to her bullying question, I finally said, “Do you know what war is?”
She replied, “Yes.”
“What is it?”
She answered, “It’s when you kill people.”
“Is that worse than bullying, do you think?”
She said, “Yes.”
“Do you think bullying occurs before killing or after killing?”
Not needing too much time to consider the question, she soon responded, “Before.”
“And you know I fought in war, right?”
Ever resilient, H-‘s eyes rounded out the word “Yes” with the innate understanding that her father couldn’t do wrong.
As I began again she interrupted, “But I don’t understand why people would kill each other?”
“Do you remember the video I tried to show you where the planes flew into the buildings?”
“Look at this napkin, H-. Pretend that the napkin is the United States. Everyone in the United States is an American. There are people off of the napkin, people from different parts of the world who want to hurt us and kill us. The only way to stop them is to cause them to fear us. They must believe if they ever try to harm us again they will immediately be killed.”
“It’s okay now, H-,” I reassured her.
“How do you know he’s not mad anymore, daddy?”
“Well, he saw me approach to get our food and he backed away.”
Her eyes blankly looked out the window, as if searching for something.
“Plus I heard another employee defend the girl and say, ‘I’m sorry, sir. It was my fault. I’m new and still learning the job.'”
“Oh,” she said.
I then whispered, “But I don’t think he was new. I think he just said that to calm the man down.”
“You don’t think he was new?”
“I think he was trying to calm the man down, H-. That’s the bigger goal. Do you see how in this case the lie was okay?”
Her vertical nod showed me only that I was leading the witness.
“What about if it was not just a restaurant? What if someone was depending on you to tell the truth, should you lie then?”
“Right. But here, it isn’t wrong that the employee lied. It would have been worse if something worse would have happened. Do you understand?”
Last night, I taught my daughter that, not only have I not been bullied, but that I have done more than bully to others. And that lying can be okay. What do you think? (As you answer, keep in mind that this was after we prayed over our dinner in the name of Jesus.)
I am nearing a fairly big transition in life. I’ll be finished taking courses and moving on to whatever comes next. But I must confess, besides conversation, I do love thinking. As most of you witnessed, these shootings and our apparently resultant inability to calmly discuss them have set my mind ablaze. One conclusion I have drawn is that perhaps books are the way forward. If we need time to calm down, perhaps we can put our thoughts on paper, and then share them with each other and let each other digest them at our own pace. Perhaps.
My book will be called, “In Time of Peace: How Splitting the Atom Erased the Founder’s Words.” Or some such thing which explores whether my hunch is right that those men lived in a world with a different sense of up and down.
But I have other ideas too. What I don’t have is time to research them all. So, I want to share them with you and see if I get any bites. Of the following topics which intrigue me, do you any find intriguing?
First up – I do not believe the Hebrew or Greek texts of the Bible use any symbols whatsoever. It is generally accepted that they do not have punctuation. It is accepted that they do not contain arabic numerals–that’s seven hundred years later. But they also do not contain Hebrew or Greek numerals either when they mention numbers (IE – they always spell out the word o-n-e, and never put 1 or I or the equivalent). But in the Greek, there is a subscript iota on some omegas, which most scholars do not care to suggest was vocalized. I propose that the omega with the subscript iota was, in fact, uniquely vocalized, and not just in the Bible of course, but in all the written Greek texts of that era–but I need to do more research. (My overall point is that I believe the entire Bible was spoken out loud and that we can confirm this fact by demonstrating that the way the written languages worked back then–different from English today–was to try to capture the sounds with ink. (IE – We don’t vocalize punctuation–well Victor Borge does.) Maybe this one is just me. But I’ve long wondered, as I’ve heard many of you wonder, why everything happened back when it happened and I think I’ve stumbled upon one way to satisfactorily answer that curiosity.)
Next – I have a research comedy in me. I want to admit that I know nothing about women and that this bothers me. So, instead of getting to know you all in person, I devise a plan to use all my newfound library skills to research what “women” are by analyzing how they are represented in the best sellers of the years 2012-2016. I’m thinking I’ll determine which are the 25 best selling books of those five years–regardless the genre–and then analyze the female characters’ speech, actions, and descriptions of them in order to see if I can figure you all out.
Next – I want to philosophically explore the effect of literacy on community. The more I’ve read, the more I’ve withdrawn. I am not the only one who’s been affected in a such a way by the written word. The disjoint comes when I admit that the Bible is really in favor of listening to those in my community as well as observing nature, so I feel like my reading is limiting what the LORD has to say to me. This is troubling.
One more – I have observed at my black church that they use the word “survive” a lot. At first I didn’t think anything of it, but as H- gets older, I kind of squirm in my seat when I hear the adults teach, “You’ve got to survive.” No one ever taught me to merely survive. They taught me to thrive. And to be frank, I’ve always loved the Air Force’s simple slogan, “Aim High.” So I think there is merit to using my cross-cultural experiences to draw out that cultures are different down to their core teachings. And I think that we whites need to listen better, because we do do some things better than other cultures, and yet, YET, the way forward is not simple, not by a long shot. (The answer I’ve received upon stating this difference is, “Well, you’re not black. It’s different for you than us.”) Even suggesting that I think whites do something better makes me sound bigoted–which I am not. But I do mean that teaching children to thrive is about something different than setting up false expectations. Ultimately, however, the only way to get there is together.
Saints, ministers of the Gospel, I can imagine some of you are a bit disturbed by my attitude when it comes to the Marchers. Or maybe not. In any case, do not think that I have not considered it. To keep it brief, here is my defense.
Picking up in the middle of Elijah’s speech found in first Kings chapter eighteen we find:
“‘…Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.’
And all the people said, ‘That is good idea.’
So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.’
Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, ‘O Baal, answer us.’
But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made.
It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, ‘Call out with loud voice, for he is god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.’
So they cried with loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.”
I’m Pete, not Elijah. But I do know how to read.
Sidebar: See the rest of the story if you think the LORD plays games when it comes to his name.
Logan was the first movie I saw in the theater after one year away, over one year ago. Hoping to love it, I instead almost left the theater. Children being violently wounded on-screen? Shouldn’t there be a line?
Now with mother!, I feel like a bit of a hypocrite. It is a terrific film–but it puts the graphic, on-screen adult-on-child violence in Logan to shame in a way that I cannot yet reconcile.
Bluntly, Mr. Aronofsky’s motion picture is not for kids. But it is for adults, especially Christians.
Many of you know that I study ancient languages. In brief, you may be intrigued to learn that the naming conventions become tricky quickly. For example, you’ve likely heard of the Hebrew language. Maybe you’ve even heard that distinct from Modern Hebrew is Biblical Hebrew.
If you’re uncommonly interested in such things, you may be aware that within Biblical Hebrew there are designations for both Early and Late Biblical Hebrew–the difference being mostly related to vocabulary as opposed to grammar. Not surprisingly, Late Biblical Hebrew’s vocabulary shows influences from the surrounding culture’s languages. C’est la vie.
Most of you, however, will not know that there is something before Early Biblical Hebrew, that is clearly related to it, but which dates before it. The scholars who discuss this more ancient Hebrew variant call it Paleo-Hebrew.
See what’s going on?
This language is not exactly Hebrew, but it’s also not exactly a different language, nor dialect for that matter. It probably sounded like Early Biblical Hebrew, but the letters looked different. So to try and capture this complicated relationship, the prefix “paleo” is applied. (Sometimes it is also more simply labeled Old Hebrew.)
mother!, then, is likewise Mr. Aronofsky’s telling of, not the Bible’s story, but the Paleo-Bible’s story–except that there is no such thing, until now. And that is what makes the movie so phenomenal.
It has many of the elements of the Bible; for example, Father is the name of the creative storytelling poet who longs to be loved, and his newborn son is unintentionally killed by Father’s fanatical fans–who then eat the dead baby in some kind of cultic memorial ritual.
I’m telling you too much. You’re not going to watch it.
By most accounts, I am not even “old,” and yet I feel old enough to say it is time to take the gloves off. I want to maintain what grammarians might call a syntax of gentleness, but truth is important too. This might be more true than gentle. We’ll see.
First: You’re a sucker, or what Jesus called a sheep, if you think the Bible has anything to say one way or the other about gun control. Just sayin.’ It is not pro-gun anymore than it is anti-gun. In fact, in all my reading of the Bible, in the words of three different languages and many more different dialects of English, I have never come across the word gun. Let this first point, then, be a lesson from a friend: don’t play the fool.
Second: The Bible is most certainly pro-death and it is most certainly anti-death. We die. All of us. If any written words have ever been indubitably aware of this fact, they are found in the Bible. This is a good thing. Only upon understanding this situation can we begin to see the invisible, to see the spiritual.
Third: One way– *one*–that I, the-looking-through-the-dim-mirror-sheep-that-I-am, view the school shootings is through the story in the end of the book of Judges wherein some Israelite’s concubine was raped and abused through the night by men from another tribe of Israelites with whom they were staying, presumably for safety. She ends up dead, lying at the threshold of the man’s door in the morning. He then chops her up into twelve pieces and sends a piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel and the recipients say, “Nothing like this has ever happened or been seen from the day when the sons of Israel came up from the land of Egypt to this day. Consider it, take counsel and speak up!” At this, civil war was the determination. The LORD did not spare his own people.
The reason that comes to mind is because of the emphasis it has on that the atrocity was committed by their own people–their own family, as it were. While our culture isn’t as segmented by bloodlines as those ancient cultures, I am comfortable with saying that when some current or former student murders his own classmates, in his own town etc. that it is similar enough to be meaningfully the same.
A lot of you like to say, “History repeats itself.” Or, “Those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.” Bullocks, I say. History does not repeat itself, nor are any two situations ever the same. But the LORD is righteous and he will not tolerate sin for forever. Accordingly, from today forward we can give future historians the data they need to record how these shootings turned out to be the preamble to civil war (or the less extreme, more simple crumbling of Western civilization), or we can give future historians the data they need to record how these shootings turned out to be the warnings we heeded to return to the LORD. The future has never been done before. I say let’s return to the LORD. (The Bible does talk about this being welcomed by him–every time.)
Don’t worry. This one is approved for all audiences.
Over my winter break (yes, I’m thirty-six and still have such things–though I do work full-time during them) I have been renewing my Certified Flight Instructor license via online testing. Truth be told, I haven’t flown in six years, but as I watch H- get older I am pretty sure that she will be my next student. So I keep my license in the event that, as ol’ Leo noted, “For once you have tasted flight…there you will long to return.” Plus, what kind of schmuck would I be for not teaching my daughter how to fly? Anyhow, that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is to demonstrate how to use a current and trending event as the launching point for spreading the Gospel.
Current Event: Oprah seems to have reached a tipping point in her life. Will she run for president of the United States of America?
Launching point: Critics of Oprah have already pointed out that she is just a greedy celebrity, categorically the same as President Trump. One piece of evidence the critics cite is her recommendation and belief in the tactics of the best-seller The Secret, those tactics being positive thinking–often in opposition to medical science and other fruits of western civilization. Positive thinking, of course, is to the gracious non-believer exactly and only all that Christianity ever could be.
Spread the Gospel: Explore this Christianity-is-just-positive-thinking-like-The-Secret-and-therefore-unbelievable-too notion with the non-believer using James’ words. Here’s an example discussion.
Christian: So you don’t think positive thinking is the end-all-be-all, then?
Non-believer: Of course it isn’t. Go to the doctor if you’re sick for crying out loud.
Christian: You do know that Christianity does not believe in merely positive thinking, right?
Non-believer: Well, I know that there isn’t a god–no offense–and so all your praying and hoping is just helping you stay positive in this sometimes depressing life.
Christian: None taken. Here’s where I would like to have a moment to clarify something. Can I clarify something?
Christian: I don’t know your thoughts. And neither does the Bible tell me that I do. And vice-versa. We can’t read minds-
Christian: -but we can hear what each other says.
(Here’s the key move)
Christian: So this discussion isn’t really about positive thinking, is it?
Non-believer: I guess not.
Christian: To further evidence this, it was you, not me, who actually mentioned prayer first.
Non-believer: Ya got me. So what?
Christian: The question, then, at least in your mind–I know what I believe–is whether or not prayer is real. I’m not suggesting that I believe you or anyone else lies awake at night wondering this or even actively thinks about it often at all, but, at this moment, what appeared to be a question of positive thinking was actually a question of talking, a question of our tongue’s power. Agree?
Non-believer: I’m a bit lost and am not sure how to feel about how Oprah’s speech took us here, but yes, this is where we are.
Christian: We don’t have to keep talking about this. It’s heady and a bit deep, and I know you’re busy. Do you want to switch subjects?
Non-believer: No, I’ll hear you out.
Christian: Okay. You know and I know, basically everyone knows that human history includes this notion of praying, of talking, to beings that are not necessarily immediately in our presence or even claimed to be visible at all.
Non-believer: Sure. People used to believe and do a lot of other silly things too.
Christian: Some still do–like me–though I wouldn’t call it silly.
Christian: What I want to ask is, “Why don’t you think the tongue is powerful?”
Non-believer: I never said the tongue isn’t powerful?
Christian: You didn’t?
Christian: It’s okay. We’re talking about powerful things right now.
Non-believer: I didn’t say the tongue isn’t powerful.
Christian: Two thousand years ago Jesus’ brother James’ audience–if we can use James’ words to evidence his audience’s struggle–James’ audience seemed to think that since the tongue is so small it surely couldn’t be powerful. Unlike those primitive people, two thousand years later folks like you and me commonly say, “Ant’s are able to lift many, many times their own body weight,” alongside many other claims which scientific study has validated over time. So to us, it’s not even a question if small things are powerful. But then to James–not his audience–it wasn’t either. His claim was that the tongue was powerful, not that small things were powerful. He had no more trouble persuading his audience that small things were powerful than we have today. He simply said, “Look at the rudder on a ship if you’re unconvinced.” (Sidebar: If you’re waiting for the connection to the opening flying talk, planes have rudders. 🙂 )
Christian: Maybe now you can see why Jesus doesn’t seem to have written anything down.
Christian: Christianity is a big boys game. It couldn’t be any other way. Our tongues matter. You know this, I know this. What we say matters. So now, and you don’t have to answer me this instant, I want to ask you another question.
Non-believer: What’s that?
Christian: It’s the same question Jesus asked long ago. Before his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus was teaching about the so-called “Son of Man” and his listeners were offering various names as to who the different and competing groups of the time suspected this person to be. As the answers came in, none of the answers were “Jesus” or “you.” Then Jesus narrows his question and says, ‘Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” To which Jesus answered, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” So I’m asking you, out loud, with my tongue, “Who do you say Jesus was?”
Non-believer: (Go. Find out for yourself what he or she says. Their answer may surprise you.)
And she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of Yahweh.”
Cain’s shoulders rose and fell. The deed done, his fight for air was not over. Eve had watched him come to her from the field. He ran at first. He walked the last length before stopping with his face before hers.
The moment was no different than any other for Eve. As long as she could remember she had known precisely how she felt and what she wanted to say, but often, and again on this day, she did not have the words.
Cain slowly regained his breath while he watched Eve walk from tent stake to tent stake. Her course never wavered. She simply would look at Cain then bend down and pull the stake out of the ground. In response, the animal skin previously held taut would slacken. Cain stood still as he watched his mother. When she pulled from the ground the fourth stake, the tent no longer held its shape. But when she grasped the fifth stake, the earth did not release it so easily. She calmly tried again. The land still held tight. Standing up, she looked once more at Cain. Then she pushed her sleeves back and reached down again.
“Stay!” she cried out as Cain began to move towards her.
He obeyed as the wood sliced through her palms, her own blood now adding to the difficulty. Unable to be still any longer he walked towards her. The noise she made was so loud it stopped him. She seemed to break her voice with it. But what he did not expect was the speed and force with which she pushed him back. He looked down and saw two dark hand-prints on his skin. He watched his right thumb raise and slowly smear through her blood. Her rapid, wild strikes against his shoulders then his chest awoke him from contemplation. He did not resist. Only when she wildly began to beat his head did he cover her fists with his own and restrain her.
Then he caught his mother as she collapsed before him in exhaustion. Watery tears fell from her eyes and guttural moans escaped from her mouth. Then she lifted her head towards his. She grasped onto his hair and pulled his ear to her mouth.
“You are Cain. My son.”
If Handel’s Messiah is playing near you, go. H- and I went tonight and it is amazing. Every word is from Scripture. The most striking and awe-inspiring songs included For Unto Us a Child is Born, and All We Like Sheep (whose last part was unexpectedly dramatic), and, also unexpectedly, the new-to-me song Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs.
Most of you know I am a member of a black church. I mention this because the first song that the chorus sang made me tear up and I thought about how I would react to the Hallelujah Chorus and whether I would stand by myself or not. For those who do not know, it is a tradition to stand for that one, and so we did. It was sublime beyond compare. Praise Yahweh. Praise the LORD. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.