Tagged: truth

HashtagYouToo?

Late last year when actresses began revealing that the situation in Hollywood was exactly as most of Middle America had always known it to be, I made a small non-monetary wager with one male relative of mine who shall remain unnamed. Pride was the only thing worth winning or losing. I said, “This whole thing will blow over by summer. Quit acting like trending hashtags have power.”

Well, you can imagine that he has been quick to point out that summer is here and the #MeToo movement still moves.

My angle has always been H-. What do you want me to tell H-? I believe that the only thing to teach her on this topic is what the Bible teaches. Its words have at least two elements which women need to be raised hearing repeatedly. The first element is that men rape women. As many skeptics point out, this behavior is recorded as occurring more than once and sometimes even by the so-called hero of the story. No argument here. Thousands of years later, however, we should not be shocked to discover we have not evolved or some shit.

The second element is the teaching that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. How many victims believe that about their body? Maybe all, maybe none. No women mention it in their accusations is all I know.

As a divorced man, I can tell you that I will never understand the “stay” aspect of #MeToo. The “safe word” notion seems reasonable if you’re into some kink. If he doesn’t agree to it, well, at least you know where he’s at. But to be frank, well no. Frankly I just “can’t get there from here” as they say. (LEAVE.)

You know what one of you once told me? She said, “On dates I never think about how I am being treated. I think about how mad my dad would be if I let myself be treated bad.” Obviously I haven’t forgotten that. And not so obviously, after three years of ancient language study, I think that is a near perfect word-for-word translation into English of the Apostle Paul’s Greek, “your body is the temple of the holy spirit.”

Lastly, if the I’m-only-sharing-this-now-because-I-want-to-prevent-further-victims sentiment that falls under the #MeToo umbrella, if not is the umbrella, continues past the summer, I cannot see how anyone still associating with #MeToo is not a fool in the sandy biblical sense. Unlike, say, the American Revolution or the Civil Rights movement, in this case, the longer you last, the weaker you become. You set it up that way.

Then again, reading “20 Years Strong: #MeToo Movement Denies Allegations of Impotence As It Considers New Gender-Neutral Logo” on some future day does not seem unlikely.

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Review of The Great Conversation: Volume One of the Great Books of the Western World, By Robert Maynard Hutchins

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!

Response To Pew Research Center Study On Why We’re Giving Up On God.

As you’re no doubt aware, we’re giving up on God. Why? The research group “Pew” knows.

If you’re a redeemed sinner, washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ, and it pains you to see so many other sinners harden their hearts, close their eyes, and cover their ears, please keep reading. In response to Pew’s findings, I’m going to do my best to give you some tips on how to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with folks similar to those Pew surveyed.

(RFL is ‘reason for leaving’ and GR is ‘Gospel Response’.)

RFL 1: Learning about evolution when I went away to college.

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ literally has nothing to say about evolution. Not in an “evolution is wrong” sense, but in a “the Gospel of Jesus Christ also has nothing to say about Harry Potter’s prowess in a quidditch match” sense. 

RFL 2: Too many Christians doing un-Christian things.

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is literally the good news that un-Christian things can be forgiven. 

RFL 3: Religion is the opiate of the people.

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news. Good news is not a substance or thing that I put into my body.

RFL 4: Rational thought makes religion go out the window.

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ literally has nothing to say about rational thought. Not in a “rational thought is wrong” sense, but in a “the Gospel of Jesus Christ also has nothing to say about the fact that Batman’s costume switched colors from blue and grey to black over the years” sense.

RFL 5: Lack of any sort of scientific evidence of a creator.

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ literally has nothing to say about science. Not in a “science is wrong” sense, but in a “the Gospel of Jesus Christ also has nothing to say about Christian Grey’s preference for BDSM” sense.

RFL 6: I just realized somewhere along the line that I really didn’t believe it.

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ literally is the good news that there is hope–even if we don’t believe it.

RFL 7: I’m doing a lot more learning, studying, and kind of making decisions myself rather than listening to someone else.

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ literally has nothing to say about learning, studying, and making decisions by yourself. Not in a “learning, studying, and making decisions yourself is wrong” sense, but in a “the Gospel of Jesus Christ also has nothing to say about Rocky Balboa’s decision to train Apollo Creed’s illegitimate son” sense.

RFL 8: I just believe that religion is a very personal conversation with me and my creator.

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news. The ability to have a personal conversation with your creator is not good news. Muhammad had a very personal conversation with Allah. 

RFL 9: I don’t have a particular religion because I am open-minded and I don’t think there is one particular religion that is right or wrong. 

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news. The fact that you can have an open mind and/or choose to not condemn a certain religion as “wrong” is not good news. Muhammad didn’t condemn a certain religion as wrong; he just agreed that other religions were on to something. Being “on to something” is not good news, either.

RFL 10: I don’t have time to go to church.

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a calendar event that you find time for in the same sense that bad news is not a calendar event that you find time for.

Get Behind Me, Satan

Heavenly Father, in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, I beg for mercy, for I am a sinner.

The context of this homily’s title is below.

Matthew 16:20-23 reads, “From that time on Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. “Far be it from You, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to You!” But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me. For you do not have in mind the things of God (Yahweh), but the things of men.”

Let’s talk about Peter. He was the disciple from whom Jesus rebuked Satan. Then the resurrection happens and Peter changes (repents) his tune. Here’s account recorded in Acts.

Acts 2:1-14 reads, “When the day of Pentecost came, they (the believers who came to be called Christians over time) were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like a mighty rushing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw tongues like flames of a fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem God (Yahweh)-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.  And when this sound rang out, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking his own language. In wonder and amazement, they asked, ‘Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? How is it then that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,a Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism; Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the mighty works of God (Yahweh) in our own tongues!’

Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’

But others mocked them and said, ‘They are drunk on new wine!’

Then Peter stood up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and addressed the crowd: ‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen carefully to my words. These men are not drunk as you suppose. It is only the third hour of the day!‘”

Christians, like the Apostle Peter, we need to stand up, lift our voice, and address the mocking crowd.

Have you seen that Islam hasn’t violently attacked the West yet today? Do you feel safer?

I don’t. And because I don’t I’ve been trying to figure out why not. My investigation has led to the development of a litmus test regarding the recent terrorist attacks and Islam. Ask your friends and family members if they are interested in defeating Islam/Terrorism through non-violence. If they respond, “Non-violence will never defeat Islam/Terrorism,” then you know whose side they’re on and need to preach the Gospel. If they respond, “It isn’t Islam/Terrorism that’s the problem,” then you know whose side they’re on and need to preach the Gospel. If they respond, “Yes,” then preach the Gospel.

As a refresher, the Gospel is the history of the Jews as recorded in the Old Testament culminating in Peter’s explanation to the Israelites who heard “Yahweh”–their god, and only their god–when Peter says God in Acts 2,

“Men of Israel, listen to this message: Jesus of Nazareth was a man certified by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. He was handed over by God’s set plan and foreknowledge, and you, by the hands of the lawless, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, releasing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for Him to be held in its clutches.

David says about Him:

‘I saw the Lord always before me;

because He is at my right hand,

I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad

and my tongue rejoices,

my body also will live in hope,

because You will not abandon my soul to Hades,

nor will You let Your Holy One see decay.

You have made known to me the paths of life,

You will fill me with joy in Your presence.’

Brothers, I can tell you with confidence that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that He would place one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did His body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, to which we are all witnesses.

Exalted, then, to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend into heaven, but he himself says:

‘The Lord said to my Lord,

Sit at My right hand,

until I make Your enemies

a footstool for Your feet.’”

Peter then concludes,

“Therefore let all Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ!”

Hallelujah and Amen!

Let’s keep talking about truth. To do this, I want to ask a question. This question should be simple, but I’ve come to realize that we’re inclined to make it difficult. Resist the inclination. When I announce that I love pizza, as I have done many times, does that mean that I love food? In other words, when I say, “I love pizza,” can you declare, “Pete loves food.” Please resist complicating this. When I declare that I love pizza, does that mean that I love food? The answer is no. That I love pizza does not mean you can tell me (or any others) that I love food. The reason you cannot, is you do not have enough information, at least not yet. All you know so far is that I love pizza.

The truth is, Muhammad, via the Qur’an, lied when he told the world that Moses and Peter loved god (Allah) because he (Muhammad) knew that they worshiped their god (Yahweh/Trinity respectively). Muhammad lied. Muhammad invented Allah, the same way someone invented 0 and another person invented the airplane. 0 and the airplane and Allah do not exist in nature. The Trinity does exist. All glory be to the Blessed Trinity.

As a sidebar, all this talk of that cheesy, bready delight has me wondering, did you know that, “Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’ (John 6:35)?”

Christians, I’m teaching you about the truth because I’m worried about you. I have heard you say, “Well, religion is a personal matter,” when asked about Islam.

Religion is not a personal matter. Religion is the most public matter there is. Moreover, I believe the Triune god of Christianity calls me to tell you religion is the most public matter there is. “What makes you believe the Triune god called you to tell us this?” you ask. That’s a fair question. Consider that the historical record indicates that the Holy Bible was written over the course of at least 1300 years and has around 40 unique men. Then consider that the Qur’an was written within only one lifetime, by only one man. Do you see?

Unlike Christianity’s claim that religion is the most public matter there is, Islam began after Muhammad demonstrated that he thought religion was a personal matter. But Muhammad is dead and buried. And Christianity claims that the entire Holy Bible is the story of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected (marvelous to relate). Yet, We’re still living. While you’re alive are you siding with Muhammad or with Truth? Is religion a public matter like Christianity suggests? Or is religion a private matter for folks to tinker with in their free time like Muhammad suggested?

Your words matter. So be careful what you say, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12).”

Finally, if you’re with Truth, if Jesus is your Lord and Savior, it’s clearly time to defeat Islam. How do we do it? Paul tells us how in Ephesians 6:17, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of (the Triune) God.”

To my mind, this command, taken together the public nature of religion, entails reading the Holy Bible out loud.

Do you belong to a church? START a ministry called “Ephesians 6:17”. CREATE a sign-up sheet (the internet should make this part easy), and EXHORT Christians to sign up for 30 minute blocks of time to read the Holy Bible from Genesis through Revelation (then repeat), around the clock. INVOLVE the kids. They can’t read well as it is–this will be good practice for them. DO NOT let Satan bog you down in the details of which version. Whichever version the believer can easily read is the one to use (I think you’ll like the NIV, but, again, just READ.) For children, consider the New International Readers Version or New Century Version if you haven’t heard of them. They’re both the complete Holy Bible (unlike some Bible-based storybooks that are out there), they just employ, der, use an easier vocabulary.

I haven’t enacted this at my church yet (the ideas are coming fast and aplenty these days), but I’ll let you know the logistics which we work out as we work them out. The goal is 24/7, eternal flame style, reading. I believe the goal is worthy and practical, but I am not sure that is how it will begin with 24/7 application. And I’m not talking loud speakers. Just someone reading at normal reading volume all the time.

Lastly, never and I mean, never forget, “But thanks be to (the Triune) God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:57-58).”

Heavenly Father, ANOINT us with Your Holy Spirit. GIVE us strength and wisdom–not the idea of strength and the idea of wisdom–but real strength and real wisdom. We ask that you Give them to us for use right now! Father Almighty, not tomorrow. In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, we ask that You SOFTEN our hearts so that we can understand that with Islam, like lust, our minds (our imagination), not our bodies, are the home of the abhorrent sin. MAKE the very earth beneath our feet and the very unstoppable bullets we formed from that earth with our own hands, in order to kill each other, REMIND us that the world You created is more real than any of the worlds we can imagine. REMIND us of this as we, like Peter before us, stand and lift our voice against both Islam and the false idea of an Allah in whatever form it manifests itself. LET the Truth of Jesus Christ shine from us like Light upon darkness as we endeavor to accomplish Your will. Amen.

Setback

Church-going Christians: Probably want to skip this one. Or maybe you are my target audience. It’s difficult to say.

Because the topic is endlessly fascinating to me, I have read John P. Meier’s A Marginal Jew series–the first four volumes–and I am anxiously awaiting the concluding fifth volume. I am also one book in to N.T. Wright’s New Testament and the People of God five volume series. These books center themselves on the question “What does the historical record say about Jesus of Nazareth?” I believe them to be intellectually honest, and I have found great comfort and value in them. As an added bonus, I am fairly confident that I understand who Jesus of Nazareth was and thought he was much better than before. So much so that I have recently begun to hunt for a church which I think I could stomach attending week to week.

You should see the looks on the generally elder crowd’s faces when I tell them I’ve been away for a decade. They are so thankful that I’ve returned. It’s a little hokey but feels good nonetheless. My biggest complaint about modern churches is their music selection. It’s horrible, just horrible. I have never sat next to a person who didn’t agree, either. Because I’m older and can only attempt this adventure with authenticity, I let a guy know that I missed the Baptist Hymnal of my youth. He tells me, “You’re in luck!” It seems there is a Sunday School type class that sings the old hymns because there are others like me. Another vote for opening my big mouth, I think.

Yesterday, however, I discovered I should just sit quiet from now on. While the packed room did sing one (1) traditional hymn, I was sure that before the hour’s end I would be the only one not grasping St. Peter’s welcoming hand at the pearly gates.

Social decorum demanding obedience as it does, I remained in the room.

Skipping to the end, what did the well-meaning old timers want to debate for the hour we had together? Whether there is such a thing as unpardonable sin–a sin which is so awful that even Jesus’ saving power can’t redeem the perpetrator’s soul. (Consensus – There might be one, but don’t worry you can’t commit it inadvertently.)

The only thought that occupied my mind for that hour was, “Who gives a shit?”

The sermon was pretty good at least.

“To Forgive Divine”

“But you know that there’s more to the quote than ‘to err is human’, right?” his friend pressed.

“Certainly.  That’s the whole point.  The full translation is “To err is human, to forgive divine.’  But it seems like forgiveness is a lost art.  One mistake, one err, and you’re done.  As the random soldier in Last of the Mohicans says, ‘And I will not live under that yoke.'”

“What am I?  Chopped liver?  Shit man, I’m still here.”

“I know you are.  That’s because you’re my friend.  You know how to forgive.  You’re dee-vi-ine.”

“Whatever.  You know what I meant.  Are you done?  I have stuff to do.”

The Last Time He

The last time he unquestionably believed something because of the proponent’s position in society he was a child.  This is not because he thought position, rank and/or authority were easily gained, but because he wanted to keep ever sharp his ability to think for himself.

And because there is that point, increasingly difficult to identify over time, when trust becomes foolishness–itself only a few steps away from danger.

Memory’s Blessed Burden

Some pilots in Top Gun wore polo shirts under their flight suits.  “Majesty” was number 33 in his 3rd grade Sunday school chorus book.  MC Hammer appeared on Saturday Night Live on the opening weekend of The Addams Family movie.  His dad put up a giant cardboard “Guess Who’s 30?” sign in the front yard on July 16, 1986.  When playing catch with Jerry, it was easier to catch a raquet ball in the ol’ timey baseball mitt than a baseball.  His 3rd grade friend slept during class in the Janet Jackson concert t-shirt he obtained at the concert the night before.  Two loser sophomores attempted to intimidate him on the first day of highschool.   His name was on the scoreboard at the Toledo Mud Hens game on his birthday.  The vomit formed the shape of a baseball diamond in the corner of the stairwell at that same game.  (Icks-nay on blue kool-aid.)  Pastor Craig teared up at the end of some sermons.  Jerry buried fool’s gold so that he could find treasure.

He could remember all these random things and more.  Remembering so much was not without a burden.  That burden was knowing where the gaps were.  The burden was that he knew precisely what he could not remember.

Listening to the sermon, he was uncomfortable.  Unable to ward off comparison and criticism, he longed for the memory of just a single sermon Pastor Craig gave.  Was it the delivery?  The rhythm?  The message?  He needed something to help him make sense of why today’s sermon sounded so backwards.  Hmmmm…errrrrr.  Nothing.  Ugh!

Then a new thought occurred.  Surrounding the gaps in his memory were Pastor Craig’s actions, which by definition were memorable.  He remembered them to be authentic and full of integrity.  He remembered feeling that the pastor loved him.  What exactly did the pastor do to make him feel loved?  The pastor aimed an intense focus on him.  The kind of focus that is only made possible by living in the moment.  Pastor Craig exemplified living in the moment.

At least, that’s how he remembered it.

Sermon Serious

I don’t mind admitting that I was one of the suckers who left the church after I cracked The DaVinci Code.  A decade has passed since then, along with a lot of livin’ and learnin’.  Since I was young, my mantra has been, “Life is funny, I’m serious.”  The older I get, the more I find it to be true.

While it was reading that caused my faith to falter, it has also been reading that has guided me back to faith.  I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that in the couple of times that I have been back in a church, I have felt the prodigal son’s father’s arms around me.  I am unable to dive back in devoid of all skepticism, but I’ve seen enough over the years to recognize the simple truth that good people are good people.  And good people are rare.

I can’t help but feel like something is amiss though.  In the time I was away, a shift has taken place.

As I write this, I feel like an old timer longing for a past that probably never existed.  We’re all more than familiar with the rather cliche critique of modern churches, “they are too feel good.”  Maybe, maybe not.  Either way, I’m not interested in joining that chorus.  Instead, what I am interested in musing about is the amount of comedy that has been interjected into sermons.

Comedy in sermons interests me because of the subject matter.  For all communication, save sermons, I believe the speaker’s first step is to recognize his or her audience.  Sermons dealing with ‘the Truth’ are different.  By definition, if one person is going to communicate that they really know the nature of human existence, the audience has the responsibility to adapt to the speaker. The Truth is fixed, it doesn’t bend or change.  It is universal.  On top of that, it simply becomes too difficult to discern why someone is listening and/or why the speaker is popular if the sermon is built around the audience.

Did Jesus of Nazareth ever purposefully try to keep his listener’s attention?  What do you think?  Can you picture Him ever caring about whether the audience felt entertained?  Would Jesus have ever removed some Truth from his message in order for it to meet expectations, or to gain a follower?

I know life was fundamentally different back then.  I get it.  But they killed Him via public execution.  Whoever “they” actually were is irrelevant to this point.  An organized ‘they’ killed Him.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and I’ve concluded that it would be very difficult to give a sermon today that would incite some group of people to that amount of passion; enough to call for a capital punishment proceeding.

(This is where my respect for Him grows tremendously.)

Let’s say I did develop this sermon.  Could I give it?  Perhaps.

I guess I would have to believe it was the Truth.