Month: February 2016

Equal?

Our founding documents clearly define one of our greatest attributes: that every person is equal under the law. That being the case, we can be assured at a high level all will be treated fairly and the process will be equitable. It goes without saying that process is still administered by humans, and is thus subject to imperfection.

Yet, those who operate with the idea that we should all be equal do so with a misunderstanding of the human condition. We are not created as uniform creatures with the same abilities and desires. Those who aspire to be corporate CEO’s (often considered “evil” by the envious ones) are also aware of the increased responsibility that comes with the position. Not all have such aspirations, and are perfectly happy being where they are in society. This is natural and should be considered a blessing instead of a problem to be solved, using force if necessary, by a government entity. Scripture, in speaking about the church,  describes different gift endowed, with one purpose: to work together. I believe the same applies in society in general.

If we could recognize that each has a part to play, we can bypass the confusion created by the “equality police” and allow each to his own. Handing every person whatever they desire always comes with strings attached. Those resources are not free. Such meddling creates a flat humanity that will be subject to those who attempt to fix something not broken. Also, who will make the decision as to what level of achievement we are allowed to attain? Something tells me it would not work out the way anyone wants. Plus, such an approach has been attempted, and has never worked.

 

Truth

When Jesus was arrested and brought before the Roman governor Pilate, the governor asked Jesus whether he was a king. He was attempting to get Jesus to make the claim so formal charges could be brought against him. Jesus did not make the claim, but stated his purpose in being born was to proclaim the truth. Pilate then asked the rhetorical question, “What is truth”?

Pilate didn’t expect an answer, but went on to inform the Jews he had no reason to charge Jesus. The debate then ensued as to Jesus’ guilt or innocence. Pilate’s retort went unanswered. In another place Jesus stated he was the way, the truth and the life. This is the ultimate need of humans, and he was present in the flesh.

Truth is present, though we may not recognize it, or like it when we find it. Even if we claim a conclusion or idea is not true, that assumes something is true. If we can allow truth to come out without our own slant or adjustment, it will nearly always surprise us. It will also enlighten us, and put us more in touch with the Creator, and with the very source of our salvation. What a refreshing and badly needed concept! It’s worth our every every effort to continue to seek truth, and hold on when we find it.

Science and Faith

John Henry Newman, an English cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church had this to say regarding how science has value, but only to begin our journey. It cannot bring us where we need to be. “Persons influence us, voices melt us, looks subdue us, deeds inflame us. Many a man will live and die upon a dogma: no man will be a martyr for a conclusion.” Newman was (and still is) one of the clearest voices of the power of faith or belief in the last few centuries. He died in 1890.

Science brings us knowledge, but no one will give his life for knowledge alone. He goes on to say that even literary knowledge of scripture is not enough to bring us to living that faith as a reality. We can come to some conclusions about scripture, but unless we recognize the realities it conveys, we will not be willing to give our lives, and will not be convincing to others. I have argued the correct interpretation of a passage of scripture; but winning that debate won no one to the faith I claimed to represent. Until our reading and research results in realizing that which is, it is only an intellectual exercise. Scripture is not meant to be simply forensics.

This is the weakness of atheism. It will not motivate a person to any kind of passionate action. It simply claims what is not, but not that which is. No one will give his life and his all for what is not. Atheism cannot excite the spirit and cannot motivate action. It does not engage the imagination is ways that surpass knowledge. It lacks the ability to reach the very thing that makes us different from animals. Our souls would be left dry if we do not have faith.

Gaps

Humans do not like gaps. This include gaps in our knowledge, our understanding, our attention and even in our admitting that we have gaps. In many cases, these gaps motivate us to seek bridges to those gaps, thus we research and find answers where we had none. Those result in much good in our world. The other side of the gaps problem is that we still try to fill them, even if what we use does not fit the gap.

An illustration of this is how we have a question, and are convinced scripture must have the answer. Mind you, we do not just want a principle by which to guide our search, but we want a specific answer. So, we look for a spot to plug in our question, and if we try long enough we find one that seems to provide the answer. Never mind the context, we have done a cross-reference in the back of the book and this word or phrase fits. So, this must be the answer to our question. Then we will debate for years anyone who maintains otherwise. (If you preach this way, stop it! It is not biblical.) It will be much better for us spiritually, emotionally and socially if we admit many questions do not have answers. We must also admit that a great number of our questions are trivial, and are asked to test scripture rather than to find guidance.

Another problem with gaps is that we believe we have to fill all of them. If we view silence as a gap in the noise, we have plenty ways to solve that problem. If we view gaps in knowledge as a shortfall in our humanity, we will do our best to fill those as well. Don’t forget, it was a perceived gap in knowledge that got humanity into trouble in the first place. The first couple did not like the idea that they did not know what God knew. They gave in to the temptation that they could solve that problem as well. It not only did not solve the problem, but began all the rest of our problems.

We need to think about what we need to know, and what we can be okay not knowing. This will lessen our overall stress and put us back in our place of trusting He who does know all, and can handle it all.

Preserving the Permanent Things.

The Universal Church is today, it seems to me, more definitely set against the World than at any time since Pagan Rome. I do not mean that our times are particularly corrupt; all times are corrupt. I mean that Christianity, in spite of certain local appearances, is not, and cannot be within measurable time, ‘official.’ The World is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail; but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time: so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and save the World from suicide. —T.S. Eliot, “Thoughts after Lambeth” (1931)

Patience is difficult for us, yet it is the only thing we have that will see us through the times in which we live. It takes consistent, durable faith in God who transends all. If we think things are bad today, Eliot saw much the same thing in 1931, as did others centuries, even millenia before. There is nothing new under the sun. Let us keep on keeping on.

We Are Better Than This

When we see the continued decline of our political process, we have to ask if we are asking for it. As I’ve said before, politics is and has been a dirty business, full of arguments masquerading as debates. Yet, this seems different.

When we (as the polls currently show) are actually considering supporting a person who we would not like as a neighbor, we have crossed some sort of line. If our co-worker was rude, bullying and manipulative, we would steer clear. If our children were seen playing to the crowd in order to get their way, we would intervene and explain why we do not act that way. Who do we really want representing us in the oval office and across the globe?

We are an angry people, and not without reason. We may disagree over what makes us angry, but we need to think before we react. That is, we need to respond. The masses will follow a populist who excites them. Those who consider longer and deeper will look for the closest thing to a statesman we can find. As far as is possible, we need to be heard, and that hearing should include an insistence that our candidate act in a way that would command respect, rather than demand it. I propose we look for someone we could trust to live next door, or at least in the neighborhood.

What’s on your Mind?

Our minds tend to absorb whatever we throw into it. This can be a wonderful thing, as we can rise to any occasion by a mind full of possibilities; or it can be disastrous when we take in the shallow solutions others force upon us.

Our minds should be our own. The only exception to that concept is when the apostle Paul tells the Philippian church to have the “mind of Christ”, which teaches us about servanthood in its ultimate sense. Maybe this is why we stray from that foundation. Others would have us think about a thousand other things. They shout to us their solutions to our problems, promising they will fix us as if they were mechanics and we were machines.

Our minds should be a place we guard, and reserve for only the best things. We can refuse to become trash receptacles for the advertisers, marketers, sloganeers and 30-second sound bytes. We can turn off what they would turn us on, and ignore what they want us to see and hear. We select the ground on which we stand and wonder. We select the literature to gather to ourselves. We take the time necessary to think on one idea, and not to attempt to skim over thirty surface phrases that are useless to us. Whatever is on your mind, own it.

Passwords

Have you thought about how many passwords you employ in your life? It seems everywhere we turn access to our devices and bank accounts requires a password. Trying to be original is a challenge. I have found that knowing another language, though rusty, helps greatly. I use one in another language, but realized I mispelled it, so it’s actually easier to remember that way.

Is there a password to life itself? If there is, and we can remember it, what an amazing key to our daily encounters with others! I believe there is, and I happened to read it this morning. It always protects, always hopes, always trusts, always perserveres. It’s not hard to remember, but difficult to put into action. If it can sink into our habits and thoughts, our stress can be lessened, if not relieved altogether. It is almost too simple to believe, yet it is the source of all we know that is good. It motivates our best moments, and motivated the ultimate salvation message. I plan to integrate it further than I ever have before. I know I will need help beyond myself to do so. If I can stay out of the way enough, it will rule everything I do.

Love.

If I Only Had….

The classic “Wizard of Oz” is for me never old. The more often I watch it, the more I see and understand why it withstands time as it has. The wishes if Dorothy, the scarecrow, the tin man and the cowardly lion are excellent examples of desires we all have.

A home is one of the most basic needs of us all. Whether it involves a physical dwelling, a piece of property, or the presence of certain people, we all want to be there. Ultimately this world is not our home, and we are just passing through. Our longing will be finally fulfilled in ways we can’t imagine when we are with God.

The need for the ability to think puts us in good company with the scarecrow. When asked by Dorothy how he is able to talk without a brain, we get his classic line, “Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking”. During campaign season, this even more applicable. We do not want to be robots, but people who can listen, contemplate and make decisions for ourselves. Our growing-up years are where we develop this ability.

What about a heart? it goes without saying that absence of a heart (in the emotional and moral sense) has been the source of most of the world’s brutality and negligence. If we can develop hearts for each other, we will be the image of our Father and Creator.

If we are to aspire to all the above, it will take courage, the lion’s goal. It will take courage to seek a home. It will take courage to exercise and develop our brains. It will take courage to follow our hearts and use that ability to better the world around us. It will take courage to be available and open to having our hearts broken. These desires are worth the effort and will fulfill all our needs. I pray to God we can gain these, both in our dreams and in reality.

The Old, Better Game

Not really being impressed with the Super Bowl L (50)  hoopla, I did something this evening I have not done in 50 years: I watched Super Bowl I. The Packers and Chiefs played the first championship game between the NFL and the old AFL. I hate to spoil if for you, but the Packers won 35-10.

I thoroughly enjoyed the old broadcast on YouTube, which was actually a radio broadcast with the plays shown on video. Some of the footage had been missing, but have been recovered. This was the game I grew up with, and respected. When a player scored a touchdown, he actually tossed or handed the ball to the referee. No dancing, no spiking, no dunking over the goalpost and no throwing oneself into the stands. It was about the game. Only a few players today see it that way.

Each player received $15,000 for getting to the championship game and the winners got an extra $7,500. For 1967, that was good, but still the game was about the game. Allowing for those players and fans who still regard professional football as the respectful, though brutal, game it once was, it is still sad that the show and showmen spend so much time playing to the crowd and media and too little time respecting their sport. The players played, the fans cheered, and none of them went to jail that night.