To recap the last couple years: After the Pulse Nightclub shooting in June of 2016, I read the Koran. I was attending a Christian Seminary, and enrolled in a Master’s of Divinity degree. After that shooting I needed to read for myself just what the heck that book said about violence.
Instead of merely seeing the passages which call for violence, I saw something worse. Lies. Lie after lie after lie. But all the lies centered upon one big lie: the lie that Jesus of Nazareth was not the resurrected Jesus the Christ–the very Son of God.
So I blogged about the experience. Several of you were reading along, and one of you even asked, “Well, how should I address these issues with my Muslim friends?” I offered suggestions. But I also admitted that I had yet to know any Muslims myself, so I didn’t have first-hand experience.
Fast forward two years now and I randomly (or not) ended up working at a job with a lot of African immigrants, many who are Muslim.
One man in particular has engaged me in discussion about such things, but the conversations were always brief. Then, one day as we sat down on break, he said, “So you believe in Jesus Christ?” I got ready to finally chat on topic for a few minutes, only to be disappointed when another co-worker appeared and killed that conversation. But I invited my co-worker over after work. He accepted and a few days later he came over.
A- is his name.
The following is a highlight reel. It is intended to show you one example of how conversations can go. Keep in mind that we are co-workers. Not that I would do it much different if we were strangers, but this situation added pressure, I felt, to ensure that I didn’t say anything that would make the next day weird. And the next and the next and the next.
Pete: Oh, man. Thank you so much for coming over. It’s after midnight, and you came. I wasn’t sure you’d make it. Thank you.
A-: I said I’d come. I just had to finish up a few things.
Pete: No worries. Come in, come in. Don’t worry about your shoes. Can I get you some ice cream? I had a dinner party recently and one woman brought the best desserts ever and left them with me, and I was thinking you could help me finish them.
A-: Sure. It would be my pleasure.
Pete: Actually, do you eat ice cream? I had lunch with E- and his wife recently (another Ethiopian couple from work–Christians) and they went with H- and me to ice cream after, but they didn’t really like it. I don’t know if that’s all Ethiopians or just those two.
A-: I would like ice cream. I will eat it.
Pete: Cool. Oh, by the way. Answer me this. Sorry, I’m just so curious. How many white people’s homes have you been in since living here?
A-: (Smiling) Why you ask this?
Pete: I just am curious. I feel like everyone comes to America and then never mingles. How many?
A-: You’re my third.
Pete: Wow. Three? Crazy. We’ve got to do this again. Only three, huh? That’s no good. We’re not all the white devil, you know?
(Skipping ahead to good stuff).
A-: (Pointing at my white board with Ugaritic cuneiform alphabet, Hebrew alef-bet, and Greek alphabet written on it) Why do you study all this stuff?
Pete: Because it’s important to know about the people who wrote the Bible and what kind of life they lived and such.
A-: Well, I want to tell you I really appreciate that you study all this. You know, one of the five pillars is to believe in Holy Bible.
Pete: Hmm. That’s confusing to me. How can you believe in “Holy Bible” if it says that Jesus is the Son of God? And that Yahweh is the name of God? I was under the impression that these were not things that Muhammad wrote.
A-: You know, that is big confusion. We don’t really believe in Muhammad. He is not that important to us.
Pete: (Raised eyebrows in shock)
A-: You know, allah–or god–is so big and mysterious that we cannot know much about him. (Picking up a crumb from the brownie) It’s like we are this teeny-tiny thing. (Dropping it on the kitchen table) And god is everything else. How could the tiny crumb possibly know about everything else?
Pete: That’s what the Bible is. That’s what revelation is. Yahweh, the LORD, has been revealing himself to us through those prophets in the Bible and eventually in Jesus himself. It’s not like we know everything there is to know, but we know enough to know his name.
(Skipping a bit)
A-: I was raised in Adventist missionary school in Ethiopia.
Pete: I remember. You told me.
A-: But I came back to Islam. Have you heard of (some name I can’t remember or pronounce)?
Pete: No. What does he do?
A-: I could show you YouTube video. He used to be Christian, but as he learned more and more he converted to Islam. Can I show you video?
Pete: A-, here’s the thing. Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you I hate watching YouTube videos. They send them to me all the time. “Pete- watch this.” I refuse. Ha. But if you want me to watch something, I will. But I’ll tell you this. I’ll make this prediction. I’ll try my hand at being a prophet here. The guy in the video is going to set up a straw-man and knock him down, but he is not going to talk about what the Bible says. Your man, these men, will not touch the Gospel. He is going to destroy the straw man, and then say Islam is the truth. It’s his only play. But he will not be destroying what the Bible says. He will not be talking about how Jesus got up on the third day. He will not be talking about how the war is over, how sin is defeated. He will not say anything about Jesus being the son of god.
A-: Holy Bible doesn’t say Jesus is the son of god.
Pete: (Eyebrows raised even higher this time) ((And here, reader, I ask you, what would you say? Keep in mind, I’ve never seen a conversion in my entire life. Never ever. Not once. But I believe I’m prepared to preach the Gospel and to finally get in the game.)) Tell me, what happens next if I go get a Bible and show you that it does?
A-: (Looking at his watch) Ah. It’s getting late. I should be going.
Pete: It’s okay. You don’t have to go. No worries. We’re just talking.
(Some half-hour later)
A-: Well, what about Mary?
Pete: (Simple confused look that grows to frustration) The Bible- Ahhhh, see I’m telling you. You have to read the Bible. You cannot go off of Christians. It doesn’t work like that. The Bible never says to worship Mary or that she is worthy of worship. That’s just a traditional thing that has no biblical foundation. Of course she is special because there is only one mother of Jesus and she was it, but she is not a god. Okay. It’s late. I’m kicking you out. A-, it’s almost two in the morning! Jeez. I have to get some sleep.
A-: Please let me help you clean up. When I am guest I help clean the dishes.
Pete: You really don’t have to. I have a dishwasher here. I can do it.
A-: Please, let me do this.
Pete: Okay, man. If you must. I won’t stop you.
Alright. There you have it. Biggest takeaways for me were:
- He’s been here for years. And only three white people (presumably “regular joe Americans”, whether Christian or not) have invited him into their homes? How’s the Word going to get into his ears if no one talks to him? Where’s the love?
- How many times do you think he’s told someone that “the Bible doesn’t say Jesus is the son of god” and that person has subsequently called him on his baloney? Will you be bold enough when the time comes? Did you notice how I did it without being arrogant? And did you notice that he didn’t get weird. At no time did it get weird or awkward. I was me. He was him. It’s called a conversation. You don’t like fake people. Muslims don’t either. Our job is not to be fake, it is to get the Holy Spirit in the game via the Word.
- Mary?! Mary?! MARY?! Shame on you, Catholics. Shame, shame, shame. Read your Bible. You are feeding evil.
- Did you notice that he used a defense of god that Christians teach each other, that Christians use to answer their children’s questions? I’ve never seen the “crumb defense” but I have heard it as, “Well, we’re 2D and God is 3D…” Did you notice that? Stop it. The Bible says no such thing. At best, you’re wasting time. At worst, you’re participating in evil. Instead of making foolish analogies that ultimately help no one, Preach. The. Word. Speak the Bible into people’s ears. They do not need an argument, they need the Word of God.
As a child I remember hearing and repeating one disparaging joke about Ethiopians. That was the breadth of my awareness of that people. As an adult I find myself working alongside them. Just before taking this job, for a different reason, a white South African friend shared with me that what he knows of Ethiopians is that they fight, meaning they still have backbones–regardless of which side they’re fighting for.
A seemingly unrelated second memory from when I was a child is that my dad owned his small business. One day he came home from work and shared with my mom that his secretary essentially gave him the what-for about how he didn’t know how to do anything right. I can’t remember all the details but I remember how angry my mom was that my dad didn’t stick up for himself. My dad would tell you to this day that he does not like or believe in confrontation, and that he intentionally searches for the way forward that includes everyone being happy.
So, here’s the memory merge. Just over one year ago I began this new job. Shortly after beginning in one department I was moved to another. The man that trained me in this new department, on day one, lambasted the workers in our department on the earlier shifts. (It’s a 24-hr factory.) I remember thinking, “If he’s saying that to me about them on day one, then what’s going to stop him from saying that about me if I’m ever on another shift than him?”
Suffice it to say my suspicion was correct. The minute another worker quit, I switched shifts and subsequently discovered that my former-trainer was talking shyat about me during the pass-down every morning.
Dread, in any form, is no fun. Over the course of time I shared the situation with my Ethiopian co-worker and friend, and at first he thought I was probably not assessing things accurately. After a bit of contemplation he changed his mind and said, “You know what? If you’re complaining about him, something is off.”
To my sheer delight, my Ethiopian friend later initiated the following conversation. He said, “You know what, Pete? K- and I used to argue and get into it with each other every day. Then one day I said to him, ‘K-, if you have a question, something work related, you can ask me. Other than that, do not ever, ever, ever, ever, ever talk to me again.’ After that he stopped talking to me. These days we talk, sure. But it was only after a long time had passed.”
The funny thing about the entire thing is that when it comes to watching someone else be attacked, I won’t stand for it for one second, and I will shed any and all concern for myself and my circumstances as I move in to defend. But when I’m the recipient, I just absorb it.
Other advice includes the following gems. My mom says, “Be happy there is only one.” One of the Reverends from church says, “A lady once told me she had a similar situation at work. She prayed that the LORD would bless the co-worker. In three days they were promoted to supervise another department and peace was restored.” A friend from school, also randomly South African, said the biblical course of action would be address the dude one-on-one, then escalate to supervisors and HR when he doesn’t change. He also exhorted that I ask the LORD to change both our hearts.
Here’s what I did. Well, first, you need to know this. One night at the club, one of the girls told me that some guy was getting a little too handsy during the lap dance and so she stopped and then he stiffed her on the money. She came to me because I was the manager at the time. I asked her what she wanted and she wanted both her money and him to be thrown out. After entirely too much talking with the dude, I got her the money, but decided that he could have another chance. When I reported this news to the woman, well, let’s just say that the look this woman gave me was something I would not wish on anyone. I said to her, “Okay. You’re right. He’s leaving now. I’m probably gonna get slugged though.”
Sure enough, I told him I changed my mind and his friend and him had to leave. While looking at his friend, I felt the dude’s knuckles against the back of my skull. After slight and inconsequential chaos he was then escorted out. (It never ceased to amaze me how the party never hesitated, no matter if fights were happening, or where–including on stage between girls. Customers just wanted to get wasted around women, girls just wanted money. But everyone expected these things to happen and the company to have staff that was able to handle them surely and painlessly.)
The lessons were many, but most notable for my current predicament was that I went alone. I should’ve had another guy with me. And I did from then on.
So I didn’t have the one-on-one chat with my co-worker last week. I prepared to head to HR and get the third person involved from the get-go, especially because the problem is exactly that this guy is a hot-head and totally unapproachable. Upon resolving to get HR, I decided I wanted one more instance before I went, and as these things go, the week went off without much drama, especially considering there’s a new trainee that keeps him occupied.
What’s so funny to me about it is that I know myself so well that I know I won’t refrain from answering his BS responses in words and tones that must-needs compel him to action during the consequently never-gonna-happen one-on-one chat.
Is this self-awareness what my dad felt? Is he a all-or-nothing guy that just chooses nothing? Who knows. Pretty sure we’ll chat about it after he reads this.
Okay. Not to be picky, but I’m really only looking for stories about how you got the person fired. We’re fooling ourselves if we think these people change. I can only think of one sure way, but I don’t feel like getting hit. Whatcha got?
This Sunday, the church I have been a member of for three years now will recognize any/all graduates. It’s a fairly depressing ceremony as the congregation has lost so many members over the years that there are only a few remaining “youth” or “grandkids” that can be mustered out for display. For my part, I will be recognized for my post-undergraduate certificate thingy.
This calls to mind two things. First, I am sure I know more about the Bible, text-criticism of it especially, than my pastor and I’m not sure what to do about that. Second, I am sure someone will suggest I finish the master’s degree proper at some point when they realize I didn’t get one.
Here’s the thing. I will never attempt to do this. My reasons are not difficult to understand to me, but to all you encouragers I feel like my reasoning requires moving a mountain.
This is my final attempt. I stumbled upon this little gem in my Great Books of the Western World, Vol. 2. On the topic of “being” the following is included.
“It has seldom been supposed that reality exhausts the objects of our thought or knowledge. We can conceive possibilities not realized in this world. We can imagine things which do not exist in nature.“
Every professor at the school I attended for three years, including those who sit on the NIV translation committee, believe that reality does exhaust knowledge. For example, they believe numbers are not imagination, but real. (As are triangles, nouns in the genitive case, and the like.)
Folks can believe what they want. But coupling this belief about the world with the one painted by the Bible makes it flatly a lie. They are wrong at a level which touches evil. Worse, in all my discussions with them, they never even acknowledged that they knew there was another option. Well I’m it. And I won’t fight them. I won’t. It’s foolishness.
There is huge trouble brewing–like you should be afraid–when men-of-god do not discern the difference between a circle or noun and the Exodus. One is only in our mind, the other happened. In that moment, the instant separation fades, the moment the circle “happens,” pride envelopes them and the meaningful distinction between creature and creator blurs. Aside: One thing I haven’t yet had time to research is just when precisely the academic types stopped declaring themselves divine. We know the infamous and hell-bound Greeks used to, and we know that they don’t anymore. But I’m curious when they stopped actually asserting it. By my thinking, the folks who think the LORD is in some way involved with grammar etc. are just closet-deity-declarers. Here’s the test question for you laymen. Can the all-powerful LORD make Frodo not throw the ring into Mordor? If you think the LORD can stop Frodo, how would He? And if you think the LORD cannot stop Frodo, what is preventing Him?
Do not mis-read me. Men-of-god can have as deep of imaginations as Anne Shirley. But they have to admit when they’re using them.
For example, I have reached far enough back into Ancient Near Eastern history to believe that the reason the adversary in the Garden is “the serpent” (versus some other predator) is because of how serpents bind their prey. Sin–disobedience to our Heavenly Father–binds us up just like the serpent binds its food. Serpents don’t use fingers, they don’t use arms and legs, they use everything that they are. That’s precisely how the adversary works. He doesn’t mess around and he desires us. And a really neat part of this is that no matter how much we struggle, we cannot get free. It takes someone outside of us to save us. Just like the Gospel recorded happened some two thousand years ago.
But that is all part of my imagination. The Word of God says no such thing. It draws no connection, and it never seeks to answer my question of, “Why the serpent?…besides the fact that it was the serpent.”
So that is my imagination. You don’t have to believe it. It probably isn’t true. But it satisfies me.
Finally, you may ask, “Why not track down some seminary that is in line with your understanding?” Ah, but there couldn’t be one. The LORD holds all power. Christ holds all power. It is His to give. Understand?
In retrospect, I should’ve went to Law School. Or Engineering.
Oh well. I can translate some cuneiform. That’s something.
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.
“My lord duke,” said one of his attendants, “Is your grace not weary of exposing his dear life unneedfully? Why tarry we here?”
“Catesby,” returned the duke, “Here is the battle, not elsewhere. The rest are but feigned onslaughts. Here must we vanquish.”
The burning thighs that moguls create. The incomparable views of unending snow-covered ranges. The smell of chilled mountain air. The ticklish feel of snow flakes as they land on the back of my exposed neck. These memories sustained me while I was deployed in Iraq, now some ten years ago.
I hit the slopes once a year these days. I find more time to answer the Rocky Mountain’s call during the summer months.
“Anything to make sure these MOTHERFUCKERS don’t ruin OUR mountains!” I’d console myself, during the more searching moments of combat.
You civilians will never understand. You won’t. You’ll try and you’ll claim you’ve tried, but you won’t. The best you can do to show you’re listening is get over yourself. You didn’t fight, you didn’t sacrifice, so your words will never be as powerful. Deal with it.
We veterans, we made an investment when we raised our hand. That’s the best way I can try to explain to you why this whole gun control debate has me so fired up; why everything has me so fired up. Third bathroom, women on top, godless churches, only-teleprompter-reading presidents followed by incapable-of-reading presidents, Mohammedanism in the West, and every other thing making headlines these days.
I invested eight years of my life in the Constitution of the United States of America. I didn’t invest in my family. I didn’t invest in my country. I didn’t invest in my friends. I didn’t invest in my government. I certainly didn’t invest in some mortal leader. I invested in the highest principles of law, short of divine law, we occupants of earth have ever created. (To be clear, if you disagree with my lofty assessment of the document, it doesn’t mean your lesser assessment stands a chance of being right–it means you’re not listening. SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LISTEN!)
If you want to picture a crying baby in the midst of selfish temper-tantrum upon discovering someone took his ball, you probably wouldn’t be that far off from how I feel. Except there is no baby. There is no missing ball. And there are no tears.
Instead, there is one man–perhaps standing among millions–and the reality that baby boomers are so tough and so full of righteous indignation that they are backing scared high school students against the Constitution of the United States of America, giving these mourning teenagers the microphone and encouraging them to piss on everything that I fought for, everything–in fact the only thing–for which I invested eight years of my life.
And now you stop, you stop the conversation? When you run into someone who disagrees? Give me a break. You’re on the way out. At least you could admit that you left your trash.
“My lord duke,” said one of his attendants, “Is your grace not weary of exposing his dear life unneedfully? Why tarry we here?”
“Catesby,” returned the duke, “Here is the battle, not elsewhere. The rest are but feigned onslaughts. Here must we vanquish.”
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.)
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.)
The difference between two and seventeen is either fifteen, if counting items, or two and three-quarters, if counting hours. And because it is now seventeen, I am even angrier at you than before.
I’m angry because today, I, like many of you, am asking the LORD why he isn’t granting his mercy to our children while they are in school. Nearly every day I pray, “LORD have mercy on us and protect our children while they’re at school.” Once again, the LORD has not responded in kind. About this, I’ll have a talk with him later.
But there’s more. I’m angry at you, fellow parents, because you are obviously not teaching your children forgiveness. What is your problem? Why don’t you teach this to the little ones? Do you not know about forgiveness? Do you not believe in it? Do you think forgiveness is some kind of joke? Do you think forgiveness is intuitive, natural, or some logical deduction? Well, you are wrong. The price of forgiveness is blood. It cost the LORD his only son’s blood, it is costing us our children’s blood.
So help me God, if your negligence in teaching your child forgiveness ends up costing me my child in some future shooting, I will be more than angry. But I go too far. Do you see? To receive forgiveness from our heavenly father, we must–that means it’s not optional–forgive each other. I’m calmer now. Contemplating forgiveness will do that. And the old rugged cross carries incomprehensible peace, too.
But now you have a Son-of-God-given mission: By all means, take a moment to teach your child forgiveness. Do this soon. I’m begging you.
Now, back to talking to the LORD.
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.)