Stephen Covey famously wrote, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” In the case of Flat Earth Lunatics, this sagacious suggestion falls flat on its face. In other words, I’m ashamed to admit that I cannot seem to win one single debate with FELs, despite putting the best success advice into practice.
If up until now you have avoided the pleasure of engaging an FEL, count your blessings. If not, then you will surely know my pain. I feel like I’m a fairly sharp cookie and yet I have always left the encounter a failure. So after much thought, and an even greater desire to not lose the day to these fellas, the following is the best I have come up with when it comes to silencing the recently mad.
Believe me when I say that, like you, I would have thought that, “Does your basement have a bathroom, or do you always have to use one of the one’s upstairs?” or, “A lifetime lived and still no friends?” or, “Okay, then where’s the end of the Earth?” would have had a much stronger affect on these folks. Unfortunately, experience proves that these approaches simply do not work. Regarding debate skills, it seems FEL’s might be the most potent group of lonely men in America.
(Before I pronounce the surefire strategy to silence them, I want to say one thing. When talking with one of these guys, my aim is no longer to win the argument. Instead, my desire is to simply bring them back from the edge. They have clearly been hurt, and I believe it is my duty–I believe it is our duty–to love on them until they release their stranglehold on sanity.)
The strategy is simple. It came to me while fabricating circuit boards at the A&D manufacturing factory where I work.
Step 1: ASK, “Can I ask you a question?” (Most FEL’s love to answer questions about their theory, so this will work flawlessly.)
Step 2: ASK, “Have you ever manufactured something, and then sold it for a profit?” (The outcome of uttering this question will be new and unexpected each and every time. Think ahead. It wouldn’t hurt to position yourself out of arm’s length beforehand.)
Step 3: ASK, “So what you’re asking me to believe is that the thousands upon thousands of people who manufacture and fabricate and test and assemble–not just the individual components of space-bound vehicles and satellites–but the materials of the buildings that shelter those people from the elements as they work, plus the materials that house the final products and their necessary rockets and all their parts and pieces, not to mention the specially designed railways, runways, and launchpads, and all their associated construction materials–including manpower–you’re asking me to believe that all of them operate apart from the otherwise observable influence of value?”
Step 4: SAY, “Noooo, I don’t have to answer your questions or explain anything to you. I have heard you and I have seen your animations. Now it is your turn. You said you would answer a question, so I asked one. Now answer it. Or don’t. But know that I love you and unlike people from your past, I am not giving up on you. I just don’t think you’ve thought through what you’re suggesting, and so I’ve now given you a very precise weak link to your theory that you need to answer in order for me to agree that I’ve been lied to my whole life.”
By my thinking, that should do the trick. They’ll have come across a question they can’t answer, and as they YouTube it, they should be able to imagine putting it into play against other FEL’s, which of course they’ll desire to do when they feel the joy of no longer disagreeing with everyone on the globe.
I wish I was kidding. Actually, I wish I didn’t notice things like the following anymore. They drive me crazy. In any case, when I was back in KC a few weekends ago, I noticed that an entire section of the Kansas City Star was devoted to the upcoming 2017 solar eclipse. Apparently it’s a unique one. And apparently somewhere in nearby Missouri the duration and totality of the eclipse is going to be singular, so folks are already planning on how to best view it.
I am at a loss for how to explain to all the ultra-educated science nerds who take behavioral cues from the sun that their (and my) primitive ancestors used to do this. The thing is primitive people used to do it while also worshiping wood and stone–which nearly all today see as backwards in every sense of the word. Yet, it is forever in the history books that early man used to worship wood and stone.
Not all of them of course–the patriarchs of my faith didn’t. Moses–who actually spoke with the LORD–talked about this nonsense all those years ago when he warned his people, The LORD will bring you and your king, whom you set over you, to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone.
There’s more. These self-same contemporary leaders of knowledge insist that because of their calculations (new AND improved wood and stone) they can be certain that Jesus Christ did not resurrect from the dead and that my prayers are meaningless and unheard etc., and yet they have no trouble joining the masses of humanity–past, present, and certainly future–who have denied the Living God His due Glory even as they wonder at His creation.
But I’m not finished. Here’s the kicker. In one such article about the upcoming August 21st eclipse, the writer commented that even the animal kingdom is affected by the event. You read that right. Many members of the human race are already making travel plans (two months out!) to see the eclipse and it’s news that the animals change their behavior? Is anyone else’s head spinning? It’s probably a good idea to hold onto to your child’s hand a little tighter at this point. You never know when the sun god will require a child in exchange for rain. Sheesh!
By all means, enjoy the eclipse. Just let it be an arrow in your brain that points to the LORD; let the temporary darkness bring to light a response like David’s, whom the LORD sought because he was a man after His own heart.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him?
And the son of man that You care for him?
…O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
“I know the Bible is God’s word because it says so.”
It’s a silly notion, no? It also rightfully causes a certain anger to develop, assuming you haven’t hardened your heart against God so much that you can’t feel anymore. Well, know that I’m with you. It’s illogical. The particular fallacy is named “Begging the Question,” if you care.
Now for the fun part. I need you to take all your willpower and see that I get to be just as righteously angry when you say, “God (or anything supernatural) doesn’t exist because science says so.” That’s also begging the question. We’re talking about the almighty triune God. Measurable? For your sake and mine, appreciate that He isn’t and wouldn’t be.
Speaking of books that contain prophecy, check this out. At work the other day a 17 year old man asks me, “Isn’t Sam Smith (the singer) dating some hot chick?” I said, “I don’t think Sam Smith is heterosexual.” He said, “What’s a heterosexual?” I said, “I’m not telling you that one. Google it if you care.” He googled it, then said, “So, they like multiple people?” I said, “What?” He read, “A person who is attracted to persons of the opposite sex.” Luckily, his online highschooling surfaced and he realized that persons wasn’t indicative of many before I lost my mind.
This little scene led to me randomly considering that George Orwell got it wrong when predicted the message “Big Brother is watching” would accompany the future all-encompassing government surveillance. The metaphor no longer works. American kids don’t even know what that means. Big brothers aren’t overseers anymore. Like everyone else, they don’t have a clue or a care about anyone but themselves, if big brothers even exist. (I indict myself as a parent of an only child here too.) All you parents/grandparents who made the book a “classic” have failed. How does that feel? You’ve ignored your children in favor of yourself, in favor of work, in favor of the dollar so much that all brothers and sisters care about is themselves, let alone you, me, or God. Taken with the fact that kids think government is their lord and savior–the righter of all wrongs–the only choice this arrogant, selfish godlessness leaves us is Trump or Clinton. No thank you. If you want to find me, I’m taking my Bible–the very revelation of the one true God to humanity–to the streets. There is only one Hope, there is only one Lord, and there is only one Savior. Pray that He has mercy on us.
As I was delivering pizza tonight, I looked out of my window to see a partly cloudy blue sky. Against a setting sun, it was particularly striking. I was moved to think, “Of course there is a God. Why else would that look so beautiful?” Then I reprimanded myself and said, “That’s so stupid, Pete. It’s just clouds and the appearance of the color blue caused by the light of one star out of billions.”
Remember I wrote that a professor said Christianity is just glasses? Glasses with which to view the world? Well, let me use my hero-ness to twist that metaphor a bit. I offer that Christianity is night vision goggles.
Night vision goggles have to be focused by pilots before every flight. The best they can guarantee a pilot is 20/40. Obviously this isn’t the 20/20 of daytime, but we’re talking about seeing at night. Well, one part of NVG focusing is that they have to be focused upon either a fixed distance or an indeterminate distance. The way we flew with them, we’d focus them on an indeterminate distance in order to see outside, and then we’d look under them to see the flight instruments with our naked eye.
Well, as the NVG-focusing lore goes, back in the day there was a pilot who thought he’d be real smart and focus one tube of the NVGs to see the dimly lit flight instruments, and the other tube to see the outside world. Suffice it to say that the next day he wore sunglasses to work because he jacked his eyes up so much that he didn’t want anyone to see them.
The point is, just like pilots adjusting their NVGs before a night flight, all of us are adjusting our vision every day. This activity is inescapable. Yet if we get it wrong one day from the next, God spares us and we live on.
Christianity is the only adjustment that gives 20/20. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do to prevent you from zooming in closer than 20/20 (Buddhism/Quantum-ness) or not close enough (atheism/agnosticism/the belief that I am merely an observer, not a participant). Reality is no different than how there was nothing that poor pilot’s friends could do to get him to not experiment with the NVGs. The beauty of Christianity is that it never disputes the experienced reality that I do not possess the ability to focus your NVGs for you.
In other words, I concluded that the partly cloudy sunset was beautiful because God created it to be so. And so are you. Believe it.
Ever since working at the strip club, I’ve been really struggling with the idea of freedom. For countless reasons related to the nature of the adult industry I began employment there assuming that it exemplified freedom. As a concrete example of this supposed freedom I’ll share with you the following conversation I had with various other men after I became a manager.
“Wait, say that again, you cut out.”
“Sorry. Okay. I was saying that as a manager you’re the one who auditions the strippers. I had never considered that that would be a part of the job.”
“So how do you audition them?”
“Well, they just get up on stage and do their thing and then you tell them yes or no.”
“That doesn’t sound bad.”
“It’s actually just bizarre. The way the whole society is so litigation happy actually affects the way I have to turn them down. I can’t just say “no”. I have to give a reason.”
“Yeah. Like I have to say, ‘No, because you’re too soft in the middle, not attractive in the face’ or some other true but horrible thing.”
“You’re telling me besides getting to be around naked women all day, you get to tell people the truth? I have to work with people I don’t like and am pretty much unable to tell them the truth all day long if I want to keep my job.”
“Ha. I never thought of it like that. But yeah, I guess it’s nice to not have to lie.”
The question you must ask yourself, the question I had to ask myself after time, is, “Who is more free?” Was it me as the truth-telling strip club manager or my buddies in their seemingly deceit-requiring jobs?
Fast forward to now. I’m finishing up my second semester at an Evangelical Christian seminary that is being funded by the marvelous privilege known as the post 9/11 GI Bill. Over the last seven months I have read enough and experienced enough to pronounce to you here that the Christian claims and beliefs are more real than even the feel of these keys on my fingers. I proclaim this reality with the understanding that it is precisely through honestly admitting the facts of life as being real (that I’m typing this into the internet, or that H- really is in another city with her grandparents because her school has a ridiculously long two-week spring break, or that I feel longing for H-) that allows me to give assent to there being an actual transcendent, though personal, God of the time-space universe.
On the other hand, an acquaintance of mine (possibly many of you) won’t convert because he says modern science has confirmed through quantum entanglement that the laptop isn’t there. We’re not here. The conversation isn’t happening. Words are the scissors that cut through the oneness (nothingness) that is God, he says.
Who is more free? This acquaintance of mine or me?
As I began to reengage Christianity aggressively a little over a year ago, I had the question, “What are we even talking about? What would it mean for me to be a Christian or live a Christian life?” Here’s an example and then I’ll stop for today.
I served as a pilot in the Air Force for eight years. (Hence my Captain-ness.) During that service, I actively took part in combat operations in Iraq (Babylon). I took part in these operations in Iraq because that’s where you sent me. What should I think of this? Should I take pride in my service as most of you think I should? Or maybe I should give in to the remorse I feel over the fact that it is now without a doubt that the men over there who are plotting to attack the West daily, are doing so not because they are freely choosing to, but because I kidnapped or killed one of their buddies or brothers (or at this point dads, really).
And where is God in my war-fighting past? Since I did in fact serve and since part of orthodox Christian doctrine believes God is sovereign, does that mean God wanted me to serve and continue the bloodshed?
Here’s where I come down on freedom. Instead of believing that I have no choice in the matter (which is what those of you who think that modern science tests and approves worldviews categorically believe), I am going to admit that I choose what to believe. Further, I submit that my choice, the option I have chosen, demonstrates the nature of freedom itself. My choice is Christianity. My choice is to repent, to turn, from my inadequate beliefs and their resultant actions. My choice is to submit to the will of God as revealed in the sixty-six books of the Bible. My choice is to relentlessly insist that you–the reader–are a special being created in God’s image and likeness and crowned with glory and honor. My choice is to keep God in all my thoughts as I forge through the journey ahead. My choice is share my life, highs and lows, with you peacefully and truthfully because I want you to consider precisely what it means to exercise freedom and whether it’s true that Christianity, through the resurrection of the god-man Jesus Christ, is the only worldview that offers mankind the ability to be free.
In the end, it seems God won’t allow me to stop fighting for your freedom. From now on, however, I won’t force you to submit at gunpoint. You’ll have to choose to accept freedom as the gift that it is. For your sake and for mine, choose wisely.