Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The MYTH of Private Faith

In one of my favorite movies, “The Matrix”, the character Morpheus
says to Neo, “there is a difference between knowing the path and
the path…” With that line in my head (I just watched
“The Matrix” again the other night), I was struck this morning as
I read in James 2 that “faith without deeds is dead”.

Like other mysteries of the faith (e.g., the precise nature of the Trinity)
which are often hotly debated, discussions of “Faith and Works” tend to
stir up our emotions and spur us to take sides… Here’s my own take
on the symbiosis between these two priorities, given in the form of
2 Statements and a Response to both:

“My relationship with God comes first”

While my personal, private relationship with God is certainly “Square One”
in my faith, there is a subtle, dangerous tendency, I believe (given the evil
human heart) to detach that relationship from any outward actions which
should stem from that relationship. The Bible is very clear when it tells us
that “deeds” (“works”) MUST accompany faith, and indeed, that our “faith”
is stone-cold DEAD without them.

Mathew 5:23,24 tell us that if we are making our offering to God
(private faith) and there recall that our brother has something against us,
WE are to take the initiative, get up, and go be reconciled to our brother
(“deeds”), before coming back to the altar.

James 2:14-17 makes it clear that wishing someone well (we might even
add “praying for them” – private faith) while failing to meet their physical
needs, is “dead” faith.

1 John 4 is even more direct, noting that whoever “says he loves God”
(private faith) but then hates (or fails to love) his brother is a liar; the
glaring theme of this passage is that a true love for God results in a
genuine love for those around us.

So the idea that we can think of our private relationship with God in one
context, and the way we treat other people, or how well we control our
tongues and our passions, in some other context, is profoundly mistaken.

“I can do nothing in and of myself; it has to be God”

The book of James is sometimes used to support the idea that real
Justification is a combination of what God has done and what WE do
(“good works”). Side-stepping that debate for now, the point I want to
make here is that there is, perhaps, a subtle “passivity” that can creep
into the heart of a Christian, as we “wait” for God to act through us.

Scripture overwhelmingly portrays those whom God calls “righteous” as
people who take action, who don’t wait around for additional
“spiritual growth” (private faith) before they engage the Disciplines and
before they reach out to those around them.

As an (admittedly rather silly) analogy, picture this: If my backhoe is
nice and clean, the tracks are solid, clean, and in good repair, and
the gears and hydraulics are all greased up and ready, but I never
actually DIG anything with it, what good is it? I may marvel to myself
at what great shape my backhoe is in, but if I never take action and
USE it for the work it was designed to do, the whole reason for having
it to begin with is meaningless.

Hebrews 11 talks about “faith” and immediately frames the discussion
in terms of great saints who went out and DID something about their
faith; Paul writes about running a race, rejecting evil, exercising
self-control, praying and sacrificing and arguing for the faith, and much
more, all of which are concrete actions which should typify our approach
to what we say we believe. James even notes that a prostitute was
considered “righteous” by God for her actions (hiding the spies)…

Do our actions play a part in our salvation? I’ll let the theologians and
biblical scholars hash that out; but the idea that “we can do nothing” is
perhaps little more than a veiled excuse to sit back comfortably and
merely “talk the talk”… As I read the Scriptures, the charge to those
who believe, it seems to me, is to get busy; Love is a VERB, and when
we are busy loving and serving those closest to us, we ARE doing
something about our faith (and God changes us in the process).

There is an expression that says, “People don’t care how much
you know until they know how much you care”. In the same way, genuine,
biblical Christianity exists precisely at the juncture of our devotional
approach to God (through Jesus) and our serving relationships to
those around us. Anything else is “dead” faith.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Fighting for "Christmas"

Well, it's Christmas time again, and the same old hubaloo over
how to greet one another during this season of "peace on Earth"
has cranked up all over again.

This year's headlines bring a bit of a new twist: Apparently some
conservatives are so put out by what they view as "political correctness"
that they are calling upon their lawyers to mandate the "proper" greeting
in the streets... Some of the details appeared this week on CNN.com:


What could be more ludicrous than an attempt to use the LAW to force
others to say the words YOU want to hear... Sadly, such efforts do FAR
more to allienate people than they do to generate any kind of
"good cheer"... Yet another example of the "Us versus Them" mentality...

A brief study on the history of what has come to be known as "Christmas"
quickly weakens the rather more conservative position on the holiday:
This particular time of year has, for hundreds (perhaps thousands) of
years been more about themes surrounding Festivals, Sun worship,
the Solstice, and other myths, legends, and customs than it has about the
birth of Jesus. Even the abbreviated "Xmas", far from "taking Christ out
of Christmas", is merely Greek language "shorthand" for the exact same
thing, used often among 16th century Christians (or "Xians" !)...

Here are some sites to look at, when considering the REAL story of
Christmas (there are many, many more):


So why all the fuss? Why are some in our society so "offended" by the
expression "Happy Holidays" instead of the more traditional
"Merry Christmas"?

Lots of reasons: People love their traditions, and are saddened to see
them being eroded, particularly religious ones and particularly if the
reason has to do (at least in their minds) with "political correctness".
Christmas is perhaps the one most near and dear to the hearts of many
"traditionalists", and self-defeating as it might be, a law suit is perhaps,
at its root, really a process of mourning the death of something held dear
and even considered sacred.

I think, though, that there is a valuable lesson to be gleaned from this:
Since the history of this holiday has relatively little to do with the Western
idea of "Christmas", and since the early Church was actually the party who
originally appropriated the date of December 25th from the pagans (along
with many of the pagan mythologies and traditions), and since there is so
LITTLE to be gained from legal action, or even the relentless clashes on
televsion and radio... I think the REAL reason for these "culture wars" has
more to do with Pride than anything else.

What is the problem with greeting someone with "Happy Holidays!"
instead of "Merry Christmas"?? Do we understand that to the ears of
someone (say, the grocery store clerk, the bus driver, the bank teller, etc.)
who may not believe that Jesus was (is) the Savior, this greeting may be
offensive? And if we ask ourselves WHY we don't want to modify our
greeting so as not to offend, what is our answer? What do we GAIN by
digging in our heels and putting up our fists while proclaiming,
"Christmas is about CHRIST!" ???

As an example, if somone wants to be called "African American", as
opposed to "black" or "colored" or "negro", they may not, in fact, be
asking for a factual recognition of their personal heritage: A (white)
person, of British heritage, having come from a long line of Brits who lived
in, say, South Africa, may come to the USA for a job, and find themselves
working next to a (black) person whose family has remained in, say,
Atlanta, for the last 160 years... Tell me, of the two, which one should be
called "African American"??

Either one! If either of these persons wishes to be called
"African American", tell me, what is the problem with that?? Keeping in
mind consideration for other people, and genuine humility and
compassion and a desire to SERVE other people, what is the issue
with deferring to their wishes?

The same goes for "Merry Christmas" versus "Happy Holidays".
If America is anything, she is a country where Pluralism is welcomed and
encouraged, and if the waitress replies, "yes, Happy Holidays!" to my
"Merry Christmas", well then, that's just fine with me. Jesus was born to
trash the "culture wars" and to condemn the Snobs
while restoring the Snubbed.

For those who claim the true Gospel as their own,
THAT is the reason for the season.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The language of Polarization

Not long ago, televangelist Pat Robertson made public statements
to the people of Dover, PA, warning them of possible "disasters"
in their "area" and that "God might not be there" for them when
(if) those disasters strike...

The issue at hand was the fact that the local school board had
been summarily voted out of office in a recent election for having
supported the teaching of Intelligent Design in the local public
school system.

Read the details here:

Robertson has made provocative statements before, including
calling for the assasination of the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez
not long ago... While it may be easy to write off Robertson as
something of a nut-case, it's not hard to see that he has a lot of
company in the "Us versus Them" space...

Conservative Christians have, for years now, been pounding the drums
over social issues such as prayer in public schools, the teaching
of evolution, abortion, gay marriage, etc., and their general solidarity
in politics has weighted the Right so heavily that even those who share
one or two fundamental beliefs of theirs get lumped together in the
category of "radical religious Right"...

The net result is that many modern "Christian soldiers" look and sound
far more like soldiers than they do Christians. The true Gospel of
Jesus has been exchanged for Bibles-Bullets-and-Biggotry, and the
love of human beings is not only left behind but even made fun of
in some circles of those who say they are followers of Christ...

The battle cry for "victory" on social and political issues (and we could
add economic, environmental, military, and others) -- associated loosely
(and illegitimately) with the Faith -- has evolved into an entire language
of Polarization that condemns all who disagree to the "fires of hell"...
Looking at their faces and listening to the not-so-subtle hatred in the
voices of theses types, it's not at all hard to see why "the world"
(and the more moderate among us) want nothing whatsoever to do
with anything even remotely associated with Angry White Conservatives,
or with this whole "Christianity" business...

Contrast this approach to the modus operandi of Jesus, who purposely
sought out the liars, the adulterers, the cheaters, outcasts, murderers,
etc., and who had a special love for children because of their innocence
(not because "ya need to get 'em started young...")... HIS approach
was to love these people, to build personal relationships with them, to
speak to their hurt and confusion and hopelessness -- as well as their
need for repentence -- with an attitude of lifting up not pushing down...

And He violently reacted against those of His time who were "clean"
on the outside yet filthy on the inside, who held the "right" political views,
and who were more interested in the "issues" of the day than in the
people around them...

It's WAY past time to refocus on beating swords into plow shares...
We need to mimic Jesus by looking at people -- ALL people -- as Souls
whom God loves passionately... People need to see and hear that same
love for them in us, regardless of their beliefs, values, socio-economic
status, politics, sexual orientation, spiritual/physical condition, or
anything else that puts them in a different box than "us"...

There is nothing "Christian" whatsoever about the "Us vs. Them" view
of any other human being or group of human beings.
We are to love them ALL.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

2000 Dead in Iraq

In the movie, "The Last Samuri", the Emperor -- referring to
one of his warriors who had died in the heat of battle --
said, "it was a good death." He meant, of course, that this
warrior had died honorably, the way a warrior would want
to die, fighting for a cause he and his brothers-in-arms
believed in and would gladly give their lives for...

Today's news is splattered with the sad toll that 2,000
US military members have been killed in Iraq, inspiring
many of us to ask the obvious questions:

WHY? For what PURPOSE? And what have those tragic
deaths GAINED for us and for the world?

Die-hard Conservatives will say, "It's all a part of the
(so-called) 'War On Terror' ", and, "War is ugly; if these
people were going to wail and moan about dying while
on duty, they shouldn't have signed up..."

Well, side-stepping the lack of Compassion in those
types of comments, consider these two thoughts:

1) The Bush administration did NOT, originally, go
into Iraq under the banner of "the War on Terror"...
The "cause" was, instead, "WMD", which is
now a "dark humor" joke in just about every comedy
outlet we have, and on tv, and in the papers, and at
many coffee machines in offices around the country.

Bush did a classic bait-and-switch with Americans,
changing the "mission" mid-stream and going back to
his que-cards: "War on Terror...", "noble cause...",
"defending our freedoms...", etc.

US service men and women are now over there dying
for that little shell game...

2) Even IF Bush had continued his success in Afghanistan
(post-9/11) by then turning to Iraq and saying, "you're
next", and had presented to the American public credible
DATA demonstrating that Iraq is some kind of way-station
for terrorists and their deadly tools and processes, he
would STILL, at this point, have to give an accounting:

What have we GAINED by the deaths of these 2,000
military personnel? That figure does not even include
the many hundreds, perhaps thousands more who are
maimed, injured, or traumatized by the war in Iraq...

Whatever else she might be or might have said (or be
saying), and whoever else she might be associating with,
Cindy Sheehan raises an excellent and poignant concern:

What "noble cause"??

WHY did her son - and the sons and daughters of 1,999
other parents - have to go and die in Iraq?? Are these
2,000 deaths "good deaths"???

It's just a question, Mr. President. I dare you to look those
parents square in the eye and honestly respond to the questions
they're all asking as they grieve over their losses...

Friday, September 30, 2005

Racism in the Party

Today's news brings to us yet another indication
that SOME in the Republican Party, and its
Conservative figure-heads, just do not GET IT
when it comes to Racism:

A prominent figure in the Party, Bill Bennett, had
this to say on his weekly radio program recently:

"If you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that
were your sole purpose -- you could abort every
black baby in this country and your crime rate
would go down... That would be an impossibly
ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do,
but your crime rate would go down," he said.
-- quoted from a piece on today's CNN.com

OK, if anybody actually needs to EXPLAIN to
Mr. Bennett why this kind of comment is profoundly
and deeply Racist, then he is nowhere near as
smart as I used to think he was...

The fact that he's right now trying to spin it as "taken
out of context" further undermines his credibility.
A public apology from Bennett, and a quick termination
by the radio station of this person, needs to happen
immediately, to make a statement to African-Americans
everywhere that this kind of obvious Racism simply
will not be tolerated.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Bush: The Good, The Bad... and Iraq

I feel the need to come right out and make something clear:

I do not now, nor have I ever, supported the war in Iraq.

President Bush missed a prime opportunity to "spin" the
invasion of Iraq in its only positive light: That the US
(and some of its allies) were going to go into Iraq and kick
down any damn door it chose to, to FORCE compliance with
the UN Resolutions on Weapons of Mass Destruction; once
that mission was complete, we should have gotten the h---
out of there...

Instead, Bush made two fatal errors:
1. Insisting (or having Colin Powell wear the egg on his
face on behalf of the president) before the UN that
there was credible "evidence" for WMD in Iraq...
2. Changing the mission, once WMD were not found, to
some "noble cause" that has now cost the US nearly
two THOUSAND lives and BILLIONS of dollars,
with no end in sight...

He could have easily chosen FAR better:
1. "We have no idea for sure if there really are WMD
in Iraq, but I tell you what, we're going in with guns
blazing to find out; when WE are satisfied, we'll leave..."
2. "Our mission is complete; no WMD, and we'll continue
to keep Hussein in our cross-hairs, taking covert action
against him when our interests are threatened".

Since when did America become the "chosen people",
carrying out some crusade to plant Democracy in every
nation on earth?? So we don't agree with Theocracies,
and we think Freedom is to be prized above all else;
Fine, but a Foreign Policy guided by an approach that
says "free elections or it's Bunker Busters for YOU!"
is nothing short of Imperialism.

I voted for Bush, and I still like everything I know
about him in terms of his character as a man and his
faith in Jesus Christ; but the flag waving and the
Sousa marches and the party allegiance have steadily
faded in me as the stream of news stories of carnage
and futility in Iraq continue...

And my estimation of Bush's leadership abilities has
taken a nose-dive in the wake of Katrina, which
demonstrated how pathetically lacking this Administration
has been in overseeing the agencies which exist to
respond to these types of catastrophies...

No president is perfect, and I'll take a Bush over
a Kerry any day... But past ALL the labels, accusations,
suspicions about "liberal media bias", etc., Leadership
means (among other things) keeping those you lead
up to date on what's going on and what your PLAN is
to accomplish the objectives. It also means having
CONTROL over what your government is doing...

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Finding BLAME over Katrina

The devestation in the Gulf Coast states over the past week
or so continues to dominate media headlines; the images of
destruction, death, violence, and suffering are both captivating
and heart-breaking...

And the anger over all of it has, not surprisingly, inspired
passionate outbursts from every angle, from the mayor of
New Orleans to journalists on the scene to rappers participating
in fund raising events...

Where should BLAME fall in this terrible situation? If you'll
permit the opinions of one lone voice out in the void of this
online community, here are my own thoughts on that subject:

I wrote a respsonse to the Tsunami, in Asia, a short while back,
so I won't cover the issue about Natural Disasters again; the
Universe was cracked and broken by Original Sin, and will
never be healed until the New Heaven and New Earth are
brought into existence (this, along with literally SEEING God,
is the Great Hope of the believers...)

I will say one thing loosely related to this, however:
If a person chooses to live in a city that is half a dozen feet
below sea level, and if that area of the country is subject
to hurricanes on a routine basis, I don't see how GOD can be
blamed when "nature" does its thing and lives and property
are destroyed...

George W. Bush
Here's the hot one: Blame the "GUB-ment" when national
tragedy strikes... It's a "25-meter target" scenario (you military
types know what I'm talking about) that doesn't take a whole
lot of thought or analysis, and provides a great hook on which
to hang all the pain, suffering, and anguish; it makes us all "feel"
better to vent, and Bush is an easy mark for those emotions...

HOWEVER, I am compelled to generally agree with those who
say Bush should have done more, sooner:

1. The meteorologists were predicting devestation for DAYS
before landfall... PLENTY of time for the Administration to
craft a Response plan and be at the ready the moment it was
possible to a) mobilize the military to restore order and stem
(the highly predictable) looting that ensued, b) release the
emergency supply pods stationed around the country, as
part of the Homeland Security infrastructure, for precisely
these kinds of events, c) air-drop MRE's and other food, water,
blankets, toiletries, etc., to any place needed, and d) to commandeer
local and state Public Safety resources, under some kind of
emergency federal mandate, to get help to precisely where
any help might be needed...

2. Instead, what we saw was the same sort of mass confusion
and slowness to respond in the past week that we saw when 9/11
happened... So despite the creation of a cabinet-level office
to protect the country, and despite the failures from 9/11 that
should have taught this Administration how to RESPOND to
national emergencies, we have -- 4 years later -- the same
inability to ACT, quickly and efficiently, as we had then...

3. At a minimum, the President should have gotten on a helicopter
and been on the scene the very moment it was possible for him
to do so; he's got people everywhere to protect him and to pull him
away if a military emergency seemed attached to the situation in
the Gulf states... short of that, his mere presence down there, nearly
as soon as the hurricane died down, would have been huge...

It has come to light in the past week that the "perfect storm"
of a levee break combined with a severe hurricane, which would
inflict devastation to the magnitude we've seen this week, is
something that had been studied and reported on numerous times
in the years leading up to Katrina... but NOBODY did anything
about it, not the Army Corps of Engineers, not the state of LA,
not FEMA, not Homeland Security (FEMA is part of HS), not
ANYBODY who might have been able to implement a plan to
build up the levee... And to say that this type of scenario was
"never envisioned", as Homeland Security's Michael Chertoff
is saying on the news, is ludicrous: The reason you HAVE
this type of department in the government is specifically so that
it WILL "envision" any and all possible scenarios! Even a
junior high school student can think along the lines of, "gee,
what would we do if X happened..." !!

It seems like every time large-scale tragedies
strike this country, the powers-that-be are shown to have been
totally unprepared for those events....

Read more along these lines here:

The Mayor and the LA Governor
But the federal government is a giant, 800-pound elephant that
moves incredibly slowly; state and local authorities should ALSO
have had their OWN Emergency Response plan. They should
ALREADY have had answer to questions like, "how would we
maintain law and order in the event of massive flooding" and
"how would we evacuate 200,000 people" and "how can we work
in conjunction with neighboring states to set up evacuation
centers", etc. etc.

But more specifically, I hold Ray Nagin and Kathleen Blanco
(mayor and governor, respectively) the MOST responsible for
their inadequate response to the disaster (and if the governor did not go
on record, prior to the disaster, screaming to the Feds to strengthen
the levees, then she should be ashamed...). Neither Nagin or
Blanco demonstrated ANY kind of Preparedness, and worse,
BOTH of them had RESOURCES that could have been utilized
immediately after the initial impact to save lives by getting people
out... The picture of HUNDREDS of school buses in a New Orleans
parking lot -- unused, and now flooded -- is an amazing sight,
especially given the story of one courageous young man who
"stole" one of them, on his own, and drove about 75 people
300 miles to safety...

The NYPD also offered to come to N.O. to help maintain law
and order; Nagin declined. Instead, he went to the media and
let loose a profanity-laden tirade against the Federal government,
while some his citizens looted, others remained trapped in their homes,
and many died in those first critical few days...

AGAIN, given the fact that the severity of the disaster was predicted
several days in advance, the do-nothing response of these two
Louisiana elected officials is utterly disgraceful and inexcusable.

Churches, Charitable Groups, and Citizens
Tell me this: Why do the secular Entertainment groups, right now,
have (or have had) no less than THREE (at my last count) fund-raising
events scheduled, to be televised nationally, while the Christian
communities and organizations -- while responding through their own
Giving campaigns -- are largely silent? Surely one of the Christian
record labels can muster enough resources to televise a fund-raising
event that say to the world, "Hey, Jesus cares about what is going on
in New Orleans"??

Now, I already have read about roughly 6 distinct, organized efforts
from the Church to reach out with all kinds of help, and I'm FAR more
interested in one-to-one assistance ("here, sir, take this water... take
this box of MRE's... please, sir, you and your family follow me over here
to this area where there are cots and you can all sit and rest...")...
I'm just wishing, along the way, that we could see more of a PUBLIC
response to these types of things...

And if every single CHURCH that was NOT in the affected areas would
EACH take in as many victims (and their families) as they could,
a dozen in some cases to possibly *hundreds* at larger churches with
more resources, and if the PEOPLE in those churches converged on
the church to SERVE those victims, the burden on the "gub-ment"
would be far less severe... MORE IMPORTANTLY, though, it would
send the message that Love is, indeed, the center of the
True Gospel...

The victims themselves
(some of them)
If you chose to stay in harm's way when you could have gotten out
(i.e., had somewhere to go and the means to get there), then your
suffering is your own fault (though no less pitiable). And if you
take advantage of the Chaos to LOOT or SHOOT or ABUSE,
then you are a CRIMINAL and nobody has any sympathy for you
(except insofar as your debauched Soul needs Salvation, as we all do...)


Our nation has once again shown its Weaknesses to a watching world.
While we pray for the victims as they suffer through this (and as we
send our financial assistance, supplies, and even volunteers) to that
part of the country, we are ALL coping with the thoughts that our
vaunted reputation as "the greatest nation on earth" has, once again,
been a bit tarnished by such events...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A "relationship" with God??

Some fellow readers-of-Lewis and I have been discussing
what the concept of having a "relationship" with God might mean...
My position is that if there IS such a thing, it is *profoundly* different
from any other "relationship" we have, so much so that it needs
its own word!

Check it out: HIGHLIGHT, and then COPY this Link...
and then PASTE it into your Browser "address" (or "location") field...
Hit ENTER and read the thread...

Feel free to post your Responses here, or there in the Forum
(you can submit your comments as "Anonymous", or use your Name)...

Monday, August 08, 2005

An American Icon Dies

Today we have the news that Peter Jennings,
longtime anchor and newsman with ABC,
has succumbed to cancer and has died.

Like many Americans, the news caught me
by surprise this morning as I sit here drinking
my morning coffee. Peter Jennings was the
ultimate newsman, setting the standard for
delivering an entertaining package that
included not just "the news", but a great deal
of style, thoughtfulness, and wit.

As I read today's news story, however (on CNN),
I was struck by a quote that Dianne Sawyer
attributed to Jennings:

"There is no absolute truth in the world
for every group of people.

This shouldn't surprise me, really; I had no
reason to believe that Jennings was a conservative,
much less a Christian, but the glaring declaration
of a concise Metaphysic like that sort of gripped me.

Picture things from his perspective: He was a
world traveler, by profession, and found himself
(over the decades of his career) in just about every
human context possible, from wars and famine to
abundance and celebration, and from religious and
political extremes to unbelievable wealth and
abject poverty. He interviewed proponents of
just about every World View on the planet, and
(from what little I know about him) he was an
avid reader, and a "stickler for details".

If *anyone* had a front-row seat on the idealogical
landscape of Humanity, it was Peter Jennings.

No Absolute Truth??
But here is the thing to keep in mind:
IF all he meant by that comment was that people
cannot AGREE on what is Absolute Truth -- that
sect "A" passionately holds belief "X" while
sect "B" (just as) passionately holds the exact
opposite belief "Y", then he is right; but there
are a vast number of reasons (some important,
some just plain silly) for that disagreement.

But IF, on the other hand, he was making a
metaphysical pronouncement on the nature of
Truth -- that there IS no Absolute for All people
in All places at All times -- then he either never
really thought that World View all the way out
or he clearly identified himself as a Humanist,
fundamentally believing that one can cobble
together one's own "truth" and then live out
our lives by it without fear that we might be WRONG
(because who's to say what "wrong" means??).

Because of his broad Viewer base, Peter Jennings
probably had (and will continue, to some degree, to have)
a big influence on the minds of those who watched him.
These kinds of comments, by someone like him, just
might help to cement that "sense" or "feeling" in the
general American population that there really IS no
"absolute Truth" and that we indeed ARE free to
"make it up as we go along"...

One of the problems, though, with that World View
is that NOBODY really believes it! The homosexual
who passionately chooses that side will then turn and
utterly REVILE the person who believes that homosex
is an Abomination to God; the so-called "abortion rights"
people will turn around and lend their efforts to "right
to die" campaigns; and many people who discount any
absolute sense of Morality will turn right around and
call this or that act "immoral" or will make some kind of
vague appeal to "moral duty".

And one other point: NOBODY -- nobody! -- holds any
position to be "The Truth" (e.g., "there is no absolute
truth...") without firmly believing that that position is TRUE,
and that its exact opposite (e.g., "there IS at least one
Absolute Truth...") is FALSE. In other words, if you
passionately believe that proposition "X" is the truth,
you ALSO necessarily believe that proposition "NOT X"
is NOT the truth (or, is False).

A Call to American Christians
The reason Mr. Jennings could get away with such
blatant declarations of RELATIVISM is that he lived
in a country where Relativism is the reigning Metaphysic,
AND where those who have the Courage to declare
that there ARE Absolute Truths are branded as "Extremists".

This is one of the luxuries of Freedom, especially of Speech.
Public declarations of that type in other countries could
result in public disgrace and perhaps even torture and death;
but in America, comments like this indicate -- to me, anyway --
that the Church must continue the Battle for the Mind,
especially the minds of our younger generations.

"...Speaking the Truth in Love..." we are admonished; and so
it ought to be: Our LOVE for those around us ought to awaken
the desire in them to know more; then the REASONS for the Faith
must be well-grounded and defensible.

We may not be able to change popular beliefs in the broader sense,
but perhaps we can influence Minds to consider Christ, one at a time...

Friday, January 07, 2005

Tsunami : Where was GOD?

The recent Tsunami in Indonesia – killing more than 150,000
people (and still counting) and causing massive destruction in
that region – again brings to the attention of the world
the age-old question:

If there is a “God”, and if He is Just as well as Almighty,
how could this have happened? Where is GOD???

This Blog entry won't presume to offer an answer.
I would, though, like to offer up some thoughts and musings:

Did GOD cause this to happen?
Either God ACTIVELY caused this terrible disaster, or He
PASSIVELY allowed it to happen (assuming, of course, that
you believe God exists at all, and that He could have
prevented it if He chose to...).

If He did cause the disaster (that is to say, He did it),
it would not be too hard to conclude He is an evil, vindictive,
and horrible Power. If He did not directly cause it to happen,
then He obviously did allow it to happen.

Why? How COULD He? How could He allow the senseless
and random mass destruction of human life, and the
subsequent horror of the disease-ravaged aftermath?

Are those lives MEANINGLESS? A person is born, grows
to be a teenager, and then, one day while walking down the
sidewalk in a coastal town in Thailand, a great wall of water
crashes down on him and destroys him? Was that Life
– that PERSON – created only to be destroyed in some
twisted, "Great Cosmic Drama" of God’s design??

For that matter, is it FAIR that every single person born is
– according to the creeds of Christianity – “born into sin”, and
“a sinner from birth”? I’m “guilty” before I’ve ever even
DONE anything, subject to God's eternal Wrath for rejecting
a Person I've never met, who paid a Debt (of Sin) I didn't
know I had?? This is FAIR??

Comparative Possibilities
The following sentence combinations are offered just as
a way of sparking Thinking along these lines...

A. God MAKES every event in this world happen, directly
CAUSING all events
B. God only ALLOWS every event in this world to happen

A. God INTERVENES in the physical world, altering the
outcomes of given events
B. God does NOT intervene in the physical world; He lets it
“run its course”

A. Man has, to a great degree, the FREEDOM to CHOOSE
how events will go
B. Man does NOT have true Freedom; God, or “the gods”
determine everything that happens; Men are merely pieces
on some "Great Cosmic Chessboard"

A. God gives Men the “dignity of Causality” (Pascal) in the
events of this world
B. God works toward INFLUENCING the CHOICES of Men

A. Natural Disasters happen because SIN “broke” the Universe
and set it on a crash course for inevitable destruction
B. Natural Disasters happen randomly, without purpose
or meaning, and are just cold, impersonal Facts about the
nature of the physical Universe that must be accepted

A. God works to “woo” humans to CHOOSE Him while they can
B. Satan works to convince humans that they can make their
OWN Destiny (and that all this “religion” talk is nonsense,
espoused only by the weak-minded among us)

One Possible Answer: The Crashing Bus
Imagine a bus full of people going over the edge of a cliff, a
burning mass of twisted metal, plunging toward the inevitable
CRASH in the ravine far below…

That is the post-Original-Sin Creation we live in, and
God works to rescue as many from the bus as He can… as will
accept His offer of Salvation of their own free will… tragically,
most of the passengers are in complete DENIAL of the
condition and fate of the bus…

Death, disease, murders, rapes, natural disasters…
These things are all part of the destruction-in-progress
condition of the Crashing Bus, and while God obviously
“allows” it, He did not CAUSE it to be that way, and is working
feverishly to save as many passengers as He can who
– again – respond to His call with their Free Will…

His objective is NOT to save the BUS, but the people inside it…

The Big Question: FAIRNESS
For me, the PROBLEM OF PAIN comes down to
a question of FAIRNESS:

Is it FAIR to, say, a 1-yr-old Girl that her filthy uncle
rapes her? Is it FAIR to a 4-yr-old Boy in Sri Lanka that his
life ends by being crushed by a wall of water? Aren’t THOSE
souls – far too young to have committed any “sins” and
not at all justifiably culpable for anyone else’s – of any WORTH
to God? Were THOSE Souls brought into existence merely
to play “bit” parts in God’s tragic "Great Cosmic Drama"???

Perhaps part of the ANSWER comes down to a limitation
on our understanding of “FAIR”. GOD understands things
and perfectly. GOD is, in the last analysis,
ALL-Powerful and ALL-Wise and ALL-Knowing; we do not
know what He knows, nor can we see what He can see.

SURE, it seems UNFAIR to us in the here-and-now; but part
of what makes God God is that He is SO far above us in His
understanding and SO much more broad in His perspective...

TRUST IN THIS: In the END (the REAL end, the
End of All Things), GOD Himself will have set everything right;
EVERYTHING will – in the end – be precisely as it “ought” to be…
will be made “Fair”… and/or, our concept of “Fairness” will
have been made perfect, and we will SEE things much
the same way God does (though not completely, of course)...

Is this really so hard to understand?

Picture this: My two kids come into the living room and see
dozens of Christmas presents. After all are handed out,
one child notices that the other not only received “MORE”
presents, but that the other’s presents were “BIGGER”.

The child begins to make complaints along the lines of
“FAIRNESS”. But only the parents understand “Value”;
only THEY know that the child complaining about “Fairness”
actually received not only the very thing they so desperately
wished for, but also the presents of far greater VALUE, while
the child with the “most” presents actually received less,
in terms of “Value” (and perhaps not exactly what they wanted…
maybe Wal-Mart had no more left…).

The complaining child has only a child’s perspective on
“Value”, and the invocation of “Fairness” was made imperfectly
and without all the necessary Data… the parents patiently try
to explain things from the more mature perspective…

Perhaps it’s that way with God: IF we begin with a bedrock
of His immutable character – All-Wise, All-Knowing, All-Powerful,
and Everywhere-Present – it is not too difficult to stop
demanding “Fairness” and to simply, with His grace,
do TWO things in response to horrible Tragedies:

Fall on our knees and worship the Almighty
Reach out in Love and suffer with/serve the Needy