This one is long overdue–not for the reading, but for the writing of it.
I have a step-son now. He was not born in America. He does not know much about the West.
A few days ago he asked me, “Why does everyone talk about World War Two so much?”
I said, “Huh?”
“You just said, ‘World War Two.’ The other day at school my teacher said, ‘World War Two.’ Why is everyone saying ‘World War Two’ so much?”
Yesterday we were in the car for long enough that I finally took the time to answer him.
“Well, what do you know about how many people are in our town?” I began. I quickly and subsequently learned that the boy is not quite a census expert. So I remedied this as best I could. Then I let Siri do the persuading.
“Hey Siri!” I began, to his delight. “How many people died in World War II?”
“Do you see now?” I asked the boy.
He says he does, but he probably doesn’t. That’s the way these things go.
But there’s something I haven’t taught this young man. Well, it’s more accurate to say that there’s something that I haven’t spoken aloud to this young man. In truth, I’ve been teaching him this thing, and nothing but this thing, since he moved in. I breathe this thing. I eat and drink this thing.
This thing: there’s a deeper, more hidden reason everyone talks about World War II. The reason is because we were the Nazis. Humans were the Nazis. Not corporations. Not aliens. Not AI. Not the poor. Not the rich. Not those with guns. Not those without guns. Not the Muslims. Not the Christians. Not the Blacks. Not the Whites. Not the immigrants. Not the healthy. Not the sick. Not Trump. Not Obama. Not the LGBTQ+. Not the Non-Binary. Not Antifa. Not #IMWITHKAP. Not Greta. Not Climate Deniers. Humans were the Nazis.
The reason everyone talks about World War II is because we were the Nazis. And we cannot forgive ourselves.
But worse, we believe that if we teach what happened, if we just talk about what happened, then we believe it will not happen again.
That, of course, is simply not true. To be crystal clear here, George Santayana’s eloquent sounding sentiment, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” is dead wrong. He was perniciously wrong.
So I’m raising my step-son (and H-) with this in mind–constantly. I do nearly everything with one singular goal in mind: teach him to be a man. That is, I teach him to think for himself.
We were the Nazis. But I was not a Nazi. And LORD help me, I will never be a Nazi. Instead, I am a man.
Moreover, I will not let the voices of doubt win when it comes to raising a boy to become a man.
I’m talking now to all of you who think it is cruel to make a child work on handwriting. Cruel to make a child read aloud until they get it right. Cruel to punish a child for disobedience. Cruel to create a standard and hold a child to it. Cruel to keep a child from TV and YouTube. Cruel to teach a child that children do not boss adults. Cruel to have a bedtime schedule. Cruel to make them eat the same meal everyone else at the table is eating. Cruel to make them finish their food entirely–and their milk. Cruel to make them do chores. Cruel to say “no” to a child–every single time they ask for something stupid like more dessert, more time, or any and everything they ever see at the store.
I’m raising a man. I’m not trying to have a friend. And I’m not trying to please you and your gay sensibilities. We were the Nazis! Do you get it? “We” were the Nazis. The only thing that can defeat “We” is “Me.” I won’t join you. And I promise you that my adult children will surely feel a shame second only to the one which comes from awareness of having sinned against their maker, if they find themselves joining the “we” on some distant day.
Enough about me. What about you? What about your sons and daughters? Are they going to come after my children some day?
For an Indian Guides event, when I was around five years old, my dad helped me build a pinewood derby-esque car with which to race other children’s entries. When we arrived at the “Y” we learned that our car was far outside of the weight limit. Next thing I knew, some man with a drill was using a very large drill bit to hollow out the bottom of the car.
My mom once took the silverware right out of my hands when I proved incapable of accomplishing the feat of cutting my chicken at dinner.
During a basketball game–B-League–my opponent turned around and handed me the ball, mistakenly. I said, “Thank you,” and proceeded to head toward our basket as fast as I could run.
The local go-kart track and arcade in my childhood town was called, “Malibu Grand Prix.” One time I pronounced “prix” “priks” as I begged my mom to take me there. She laughed at me for what seemed like forever and only when my tears ran dry did she tell me why. (Or that’s how I remember it.) Years later she still brings up the phonetic faux pas when her mood turns fiendish.
H- was attempting to mix the cookie dough ingredients together, standing on a chair. She was probably three years old. The butter was still pretty hard and that led to some of the dry ingredients flying out of the bowl and onto the counter. I decided to take over for a bit.
When on a childhood vacation on a working sheep ranch in Wyoming, I accompanied the man on an early morning hunt. As we summited the hill from which he hoped to achieve and maintain the advantage over costly coyotes and foxes, I did not stoop low with him. He turned and very quickly motioned for me to join him down low.
Same man, same vacation. We were shooting a bow-and-arrow. My younger brother was having his turn with the instrument. With the arrow half-cocked, he turned toward the man to better hear the instruction and the man ducked out of the path of the would-be projectile faster than I had previously suspected he could move.
I don’t remember the exact details or even the precise date of the event, but there, at least once, was a time when I watched someone do something very slowly. Rather than wait on their laziness and incompetence, I told them they could take a break and that I’d finish up.
There was a pizza party. Most people had had their fill. I asked everyone if they had any problem with me finishing the remaining slices as I raised the lid of the already half-open box.
I wrecked my car during a snowstorm. The tow company had it in their lot. I told them that I didn’t need it anymore and was just going to donate it to Colorado Public Radio as they were always advertising that unwanted cars were a great way to donate. The man beyond the glass promptly informed me that he took donations, too. That seemed easier and I really wasn’t that philanthropic. So I assented. Then, as my friend and I drove away, an opportunity for promptness presented itself to me and I vowed to think before acting from that moment forward.
In my dying breath, that is, if my time with you had been animated with breath of my own and not simply with your imagination, in other words, if I had had a dying breath, then I like to think I would’ve thanked-
What? No! Not the acorn, never! Not that lifeless lump. Why do people always focus on the nut? I’ve always said: The nut is not the meat!
No, no, no. But where was I?
Ah, yes. I remember.
If I could have thanked anyone–call to mind that I am a character of fiction and it is quite impossible for me to offer gratitude in its proper sense–but I’m saying, if I could have, you know, hypothetically, thanked anyone, then I would thank Henny-penny.
She was a rare bird. And without her-
Well, without her, I guess I just wouldn’t have anyone to thank.
It isn’t polite to speak aloud what we privately think. So we write.
Greta Thunberg accused, “How dare you!” in her latest tantrum. For what else can her speeches be called? I can think of many places passion is welcome. The bedroom, the sports field, the battlefield, the Russian novel, the frontier, the pulpit, the wave, and the peak–just to name a few.
But the World Stage? Nope. It’s not appropriate. It’s uncivil. It’s disrespectful. It’s childish. Instead, simply deliver your message and sit down. If I adduce that your words have merit, I’ll take my time to consider your opinion. But when you bring passion to scientific discourse it makes me doubt that you have taken the appropriate amount of time to gather the data. Abstract truths are awful boring.
Greta then said, “We will never forgive you.”
Here Greta reveals her only disability. She is nearsighted. Normally this imperfection is not fatal, but considered in the light of that old sinner, Cain, and his near-sightedness, the problem is fatal indeed.
Greta’s disability would be ironic if she spoke only one time and only to her peers in speech class. But she’s on the world stage advocating the most hateful philosophy mankind has yet developed. And to applause. Have we no shame?
One thing Greta said that shows hints of her available redemption is that “humans” may not be able to fix the problem. Amen, Sister. Humans? No. Jesus? The risen lord? Yes. It’s going to be okay, child.
We able-bodied folks need to decide how to handle the Greta’s of the world. I see two ends to the continuum of response. We can debate what “1.5 degrees” means. Or we can win the long game by forgiving each other as Jesus commanded.
What Greta is doing is forgivable. She’s just a child after all. But, like Cain pleading with the LORD after blood-soaked dirt found its voice, she probably won’t feel the need for forgiveness until after blood has been shed. Until then, we wait.
Today I went to the funeral of a man whom I wish I had known.
He appeared to have been perpetually tickled while on this side of terra firma, which is to relate that the images presented on screen and the tales told by friends and family alike were not only composed of smiles, but passed on smiles, promoted smiles, and made me smile.
Up until today my main thought about this pilot pertained to the crash and, “Why’d he die?”
Death, however, is so final that after today’s service my main thought is, “The shining sun sure seems brighter today.” Followed by, “I’d sure love to be able to hug H- right now–with a little extra squeeze to boot. Does she know, really know, that she is loved?”
My mind floods, races, rages. It swarms, billows, fills. I imagine, invent, infer. Thoughts appear, linger, fade, and grow. Then the coolness of the last drops of my morning coffee passing over my tongue reminds me that it was all most likely the caffeine and I am merely one mortal making his way along his path.
But, but! For those glorious and intoxicating moments of fullness, I do dream. Here is my dream for today.
I want you to be confident in your belief that Jesus is Lord. And that Scripture, the Bible, is coherent, true, and worth daily study–daily.
Today’s tip is inspired by my own morning study of Isaiah’s words and oracles.
We join Isaiah as he has finished asserting “bad things man, bad things.”
“Give ear and hear my voice, listen and hear my words.
“Does the farmer plow continually to plant seed? Does he continually turn and harrow the ground?
“Does he not level its surface and sow dill and scatter cumin and plant wheat in rows, barely in its place and rye within its area?
“For his god instructs and teaches him properly.
“For dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is the cartwheel driven over cummin; but dill is beaten out with a rod, and cummin with a club.
“Grain for bread is crushed, but he does not continue to thresh it forever.
“Because the wheel of his cart and his horses eventually damage it, he does not thresh it longer.
“This also comes from Yahweh of hosts, who gives wonderful counsel and great wisdom.”
Isaiah uses obvious farming techniques to clarify the fact that Yahweh is doing nothing abnormal, nothing unpredictable, nothing incomprehensible when he relents in time for there to be a remnant after judging his people.
Jesus, likewise, (not to mention all other inspired biblical speakers) uses obvious aspects of life on planet earth to clarify his points. I’m thinking specifically of the “rain falling on the righteous and unrighteous” moment of the Sermon on the Mount.
Finally we have Paul clarifying that if there’s no resurrection of Jesus, there is nothing into which to put our faith. Do you see why he says this? Why he must say it?
This is how the truth works.
But not everyone agrees. Some folks want you to believe in them or their words before the event happens. That is fine, but it is no longer truth. It is speculation. It is unbiblical and unchristian. And it is usually depressing (I’m thinking irreversible climate change) and expensive (here I’m thinking of the many of you who financially support all the motivational speakers whose promise involves the future being better).
Here me clearly this day, Christian: You’re right to trust in the god who makes “righteousness the level”.
I don’t want to motivate you. I want to remind you. Jesus is Lord and Judge. “Cease to do evil. Learn to do good.”
(And read your Bible everyday.)
“Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and in the presence of all the people who were standing in the house of Yahweh, and the prophet Jeremiah said, ‘Amen! May Yahweh do so; may Yahweh confirm your words which you have prophesied to bring back the vessels of Yahweh’s house and all the exiles from Babylon to this place.
‘Yet hear now this word which I am about to speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people!
‘The prophets who were before me and before you from ancient times prophesied against many lands and against kingdoms, of war and of calamity and of pestilence.
‘The prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, then that prophet will be known as one whom Yahweh has truly sent.'” (My italics.)
A few posts ago, I shared that I was on my third reading of Jeremiah. One of the intriguing parts of Jeremiah is its candid accounts of prophet battles. The above is taken from the middle of one such scene. I used to think that Israel’s prophetic history was clean. But reading it for myself has revealed that it was anything but clean. This Hananiah claimed to be speaking the Word of Yahweh, no different than Jeremiah. Moreover, the account has Jeremiah acknowledging this fact.
So how does Jeremiah suggest, in front of all the people, that their dispute be resolved? He says to wait. But in his suggestion is the subtle claim that Hananiah should be able to see that when involved in prophesying, one sides with true prophets when one prophesies against earthly powers. Instead of this, Hananiah had just prophesied earthly peace, you see?
But here’s the tricky part. Jeremiah wasn’t suggesting that earthly powers needed to be exchanged by other earthly powers that would do better, no. He was declaring, like the true prophets of Yahweh who came before him, that the people of Israel had disobeyed Yahweh for so long that Yahweh would not stop the oncoming judgement. (War, calamity, pestilence.)
Implied in this entire scene, and Jeremiah’s claim, is the fact that Yahweh is running the show and that Yahweh expects obedience.
On this Independence Day I am thinking of this passage because it is so very different from what we hear and say today. Our prophets, the 20, all claim to be speaking against the man, capital T. But not one of them measures up to the prophet bar Jeremiah set. This, of course, is no surprise. The 20 would hardly announce themselves as prophets of Yahweh. And yet half, and perhaps more than half, of the voting public in our country is behaving like the Israelites who apparently ate up and drank up Hananiah (as indicated by their lack of repentance) and his declarations that peace was on the way.
The next president will not bring peace or liberty. You’re a fool if you believe he or she will. And Jeremiah knew this. That’s why his words are worth reading on this day.
The question that remains is do you know who has the power to bring peace and liberty?
It was the fall of two years ago, putting me shortly after my thirty-sixth birthday. I was in the midst of some men who were mostly fifty plus years old.
The particular interrogator I faced carried his ninety-seven years venerably. He was respected by all, by which I mean all jumped at the opportunity to serve him–even the seventy year olds who were twenty years his junior. Most often, if the short time I spent with him indicated anything, the service rendered was simply bringing a blanket to keep away the cold.
His topic of inquiry: Origins. Beginnings. Genesis.
He asked me because he had heard me say that I studied such things.
I didn’t know what to say.
Reader, don’t misunderstand me. I had my answer at the ready. Yet I was quieted by the emotional aspect of the stated query. This elder is about to meet his maker. Possibly that weekend. And he’s not only respecting me enough to see what I’ll say (though I have always suspected he’d cast a fool’s line), he’s maintaining his tight grip on the joy of investigation.
The content of his question eludes my memory, but it was something to do with the peoples of earth that the Bible characters met and from where they spawned. I told him, “I don’t know.” But I went on to tell him, “No one knows. Moses didn’t tell us. And we should be very careful when listening to someone who makes a claim otherwise.”
Today I will add that this, as with Paul’s comments on another profound topic within Beginnings talk, “This mystery is great.”
I couldn’t tell if he approved–of either my answer or me.
My reason for sharing this experience here is to give a glimpse into what I think is one of life’s pleasures which is unique to Christianity.
This is more for me than anyone else. It’s just a musing that I am working out. But I felt like sharing.
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” – Ben Franklin
Liberty lives in the heart of veterans like me. Like me, some of my war buddies have an as of yet unaccounted for revulsion to all this talk about equality that is everywhere these days. Girls are equal to boys. Children are equal to adults. All religions are equal. All cultures are equal. All countries are equal. It’s all hogwash–at least according to me and my pals.
Why? Because we didn’t fight for equality. Men don’t fight for equality, certainly not with their flesh. Lawyers and judges and statesmen might consider their fight to be for equality. But the fighting man? The warrior? (And, no, not the metaphorical warrior, folks). No, sir. He fights for freedom. And when he is finished with his fight, then he desires it. He needs it. Why? Because if he can’t have it, then he must fight again.
I want to offer for your consideration something new. I offer the idea that equality is synonymous with security, synonymous with safety.
How would you distinguish them? I no longer see the distinction that might have once been in my mind.
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.