Believe in Something

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Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just do it. Seldom have I heard a sillier string of sentences. I don’t even care whose face it’s plastered across. Nor do I care which half-witted, left-winged company lurks behind it. It is the statement itself that needs scrutiny – that and our predilection for short, dramatic, schmaltzy concepts.

 The first three words sound like a noble command, like we should all square our shoulders, lift our chins, and bravely BELIEVE – like it’s the believing itself – regardless of what we believe – that is the challenge. 

Well, believing is a challenge if what we believe is baloney. What is it that Colin Kaepernick believes? Does he actually believe that cops are just running amuck all over the country shooting down sweet little black kids? Is that true? Not according to actual crime statistics, it’s not. Not according to court decisions it’s not. But, that doesn’t matter; it’s the believing that counts as if believing is hard to do.

Human beings have three ways we learn: we hear; we experience; we think. Our mothers told us the stove was hot. If we were smart, we believed her and learned that lesson. The more curious and recalcitrant among us also touched the stove and learned the hard way. Those of us who could think ruminated on those events – the telling and the doing – and came to a rational conclusion that giving stoves a wide berth is a good idea. 

Believing, which we usually relegate to religious and philosophical realms, is really the most basic and useful of our brains’ operations. Most of what we learn, we learn by faith. So having faith is no great accomplishment – it just means accepting as truth what someone tells us.

But how do we validate that what we learn is true? By the other two methods. We observe and we do. We try it out. We think logically about it. Our faith, our believing is no more valuable than that in which we believe. Yet, Nike wants us to just randomly have faith – in any old thing, as far as I can tell, AND to believe it to the extent that we’re willing to sacrifice everything. So I guess I’ll believe in the Great Pumpkin. I’m going to wear a pumpkin costume to work every day even if I get fired. Is that a reasonable policy?

No. If I’m going to give up everything, I’d want to know that what I’m standing behind is real. I believe in the resurrection of Christ because the people who walked and talked and ate with Him afterward were so sure that they were willing to die terrible, torturous deaths defending the idea. They didn’t just believe; they knew.

A lot of people believe in socialism in spite of the mountains of economic, historic, and psychological evidence to the contrary. We can give them no credit for believing because their faith is rooted in ignorance and guilt, not in fact. Some sociology professor told them it would work and they just bought it with no more questioning than they did when their mothers told them that the hairy thing on the couch was a cat. Colleges used to teach their students to do that follow-up thinking, but they don’t anymore and now we’re faced with a couple of generations of people who just have faith. Period. No knowledge. No logic. Just grab the slogan and go. 

If we’re going to be a culture of aphorisms, if we must take our wisdom in nanosecond bursts, let us at least get it from somewhere more accredited than Nike and a second-string quarterback. 

Let’s try G. K. Chesterton, for starters. He’s the king of the bon mot. How about this one, “Comparisons are odious.” We’d do well to have this tattooed on our forearms. Maybe then we’d quit whining, “They’ve got more than we have,” whimper, whimper, whimper. Chesterton is so right; we can’t profitably compare our lot to others’ because we can never really know what anyone else’s lot is. And yet we have an entire political party that is based on fact-less, baseless, self-pitying comparisons. 

Or maybe C. S. Lewis – “We are all fallen creatures and all very hard to live with.” The Apostle Paul said it this way, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Now that’s an aphorism we can all get behind. Even young children have lived long enough to know how true that is. If we all said that to ourselves once a day we’d stop expecting too much of our friends and family. We’d know that no one, not parents, not teachers, not government officials, not even grandchildren are perfect. This will make us disappointment-proof and far less cranky. 

What about Socrates’s famous line? -- “An unexamined life is not worth living.” That would be a productive mantra that would urge us on to more thoughtful living. It may not be zingy enough to sell running shoes, but it is true. Life is too much trouble to not have a reason or a purpose. Such a line would push us to figure it out.

Since we live in a competitive and driven society maybe Woody Allen’s line, “Eighty percent of success is showing up,” would be worth memorizing. That thought would help us face Monday mornings, push us to get the dishes done, or to mow the lawn. 

Or we could emblazon on our foreheads Booker T. Washington’s completely race-less advice, “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” That might go further toward ending our national tensions than calling up the specter of men on a football field kneeling to whatever god they kneel to.  Quit whining and just do it. 

Or on an even more powerful note, Mahatma Gandhi’s statement, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”  This is far more direct than “Believe in something” and yet it gives the reader as wide a selection. It is a little more daunting because if we want the world to be better, then we must change as well – it’s not all about the other guy. Making a spectacle of oneself doesn’t quite get there. A professional athlete could open a sports center for young men in one of our deadly cities. He could pay for a lawyer for a person he thought had been wrongly accused. A person with fame and money could actually make improvements and not just throw temper tantrums.

Of course, if you want to stick with sports we could have as one of our core beliefs Wayne Gresky’s rousing injunction, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” That would get people into their gear and out onto the ice.  Logically speaking, it’s always going to be a true statement, and all it asks of you is to go play whatever game you’re in. Give it a go. It doesn’t require you to make a fool of yourself. It doesn’t require you to sacrifice something you don’t really even have. 

Lastly, we could even go with an Oprah quote – “You become what you believe,” though I see that as more of a cautionary concept than an inspirational one. In the first place, I’m not at all sure that it’s true. I’ve had students who believed they were A pupils, but were very wrong about that assessment. Besides which, what if, like our starting quarterback wannabe, the thing you believe is just nonsense? According to the Oprah, you too would become nonsense. 

I believe in something. I believe in the Trinity and in the founding concepts of this country. The evidence for the reality, logic and power of these is overwhelming. For these I’d sacrifice it all. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legalizing the Constitution  

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 I once had a bumper sticker that read “Legalize the Constitution,” and occasionally I would find myself having to explain it, and often to defend it. Really? Not only is the Bill of Rights no longer understood or venerated, but confusion reigns. The most important, the First Amendment seems most prone to misuse. It reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Seems simple, yet we find ourselves at a point in our history where its import is ignored, repudiated, or twisted all out of proportion. 

 

The First Amendment starts with the phrase “Congress shall make no law…” So this limits the activities of Congress – not of states, or individuals, or schools, or any other group.  Just Congress. A community can pass a law against obscene language in public if it wants to. A teacher can limit the amount of speech and its contents in her class – she isn’t Congress. A pastor should be able to say anything from the pulpit that his congregation will tolerate.

 

Secondly, it keeps Congress out of the business of setting up a national religion – common at the time of writing. It keeps Congress – not anyone else – out of regulating religious practice. Nothing in this statute prohibits states, or cities,  from doing so. I suspect that, if Michigan continues its march toward Islam, that at least some of its cities will take advantage of that freedom. 

 

Thirdly, Congress is forbidden to make any law that abridges freedom of speech. This is where we are up against a hard wall. There can be, in this country, no national law enforcing political correctness. Which means that federal law enforcement cannot arrest, incarcerate, try, or convict anyone for an utterance just because it is offensive to someone. If I fail to utilize the correct non-gendered pronoun, I could be imprisoned in Canada, but the First Amendment prohibits that here.

 

So, does that mean that a company can’t fire a person because he was overheard bad-mouthing the boss? Or propositioning a female employee? Or calling someone the n-word? No. The business belongs to those who own it and since private ownership of property is another of our cherished rights, the business can hire and fire whom it will. There are social and financial consequences and the Bill of Rights doesn’t protect us from those. If Facebook and Twitter keep offending conservatives, we’ll just leave – life without them is possible – but the government has to stay out of it.

 

Does it mean that the president can’t remove the top secret security clearance from some ex-bureaucrat? No. A security clearance gives a person the right to know, not the right to speak about what he knows – that’s why the word “secret” is involved. 

 

Fourthly, “freedom of speech” just means that no federal legal action can be taken against you for something you say. That is not an absolute – threatening to kill or harm someone is illegal, inciting to riot is as well. Shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater will land you in some trouble. Lying under oath can cost you. Common sense prevails. 

 

“Freedom of speech” does not protect you from the negative social consequences of being linguistically obnoxious. It does not abrogate laws against slander and libel. It merely means that the federal government can’t grab you out of your bed in the middle of the night and throw you in a dungeon for complaining about the powers that be. 

 

I like a Jordan Peterson quote I recently ran across: “Free speech isn’t merely the right to criticize those in power, and it’s also not only the right to say what you think. It’s actually the right to think.”  And I would add that is also the responsibility to think – before you speak. Every right has a concurrent duty, and the more important the right, the more onerous the obligation. It is horrifying to hear elected officials and other limelight individuals saying in public that our president should be killed. If they don’t like Trump’s policies, then argue against them, but don’t advocate his death.

 

It is embarrassing to hear our fellow Americans screaming obscenities, which are neither thought nor speech.  Taboo words and phrases are linguistically interesting in that they don’t originate in the language center of the brain, but rather in the limbic system – they come boiling up out of the brain stem without a single cogent thought behind them. https://harvardsciencereview.com/2014/01/23/the-science-of-swearing/

 

 

What’s more, actions are not the same as speech, though courts have disagreed with me. Burning flags, throwing rocks through windows, burning effigies are not discourse – they are temper tantrums. If a person can’t articulate his grievances in actual language, then he hasn’t thought, hasn’t convinced anyone in power of the rightness of his cause, and it’s likely he doesn’t even know what his cause is. 

 

The First Amendment keeps the government from denying us the right to gather in groups, carry placards, chant slogans, sing songs – yes, but the key word in the amendment is “peaceably.” Demonstrations we are seeing in the streets these days are not peaceable. Nor are those assembling speaking in any coherent sense. In fact, lately, many of such protests have been attempts to deny others their rights to freely assemble and to speak.  

 

The First Amendment does not protect us from hearing things we find objectionable. We have no right to go through life without being offended. We have no right to be shielded from those with whom we disagree. We have no right to coerce others to agree with us. I am a Christian and as such, I have an obligation to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with my fellow man. That is the “practice” of my religion. Yet many today think that the expression of my gratitude for my free salvation is an effort to “force” my religion on them. “Force” involves violence, not speech. 

 

Speaking of which, does “freedom of religion” apply to jihadi activity? Is Islam even a religion? One of these days SCOTUS will have to figure that out. The First Amendment really doesn’t protect us from anything but the federal government, however the federal government does have the responsibility of protecting its citizens from “all enemies, foreign and domestic.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oath_of_Allegiance_(United_States) We’ll have to wait and see.

 

How does the First Amendment affect education? It should not have limited what I as a teacher could say in my public school classroom – my atheist colleagues could say what they thought, but these days Christian teachers must be very careful. Those who think there is any such thing as neutrality, are mistaken. If we limit our children’s view of the world by excluding God from the classroom, we have taught them, by default, that God isn’t. Schools have hidden behind that sloppy thinking for generations. 

 

Look, we cannot protect the Constitution if we don’t take the time to think it through, if we don’t even know what it says. It is not a bludgeon with which to accost or silence our opponents. It is not an invitation to lie or manipulate. It is meant to defend honorable citizens from a government’s tendency to become dishonorable. Our Constitution – the most astounding covenant outside of the Bible – deserves not only “legalization,” but reverence, care, and protection. 

 

 

 

 

 

If They Haven’t Learned…                

              

 

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Picture 10-year-old Johnny, his masculinity threatened on every level, his mental and physical energy denied expression, his home life hectic and unsupportive, his continued inability to read becoming more debilitating every year, and his boredom level has climbed off any available chart. Imagine being him. And yet, we know that his disadvantages will not be met in 5th grade any more than they were in 1st. We know – looking at the recent educational studies – that in seven years, he will graduate, in much the same condition -- if he graduates at all. Given the odd assumption that graduation proves effective education, and the pressure schools are under to up graduation numbers, he probably will walk away with a diploma, but it will be a meaningless one.

We know that the graduation rate and the proficiency levels no longer correlate at all.  Over 80% of our high school seniors “earn” diplomas, but only 37% of them can read at grade level. Only 25% of them can do math at grade level. And yet our schools are more concerned about programming young people for sexual deviancy and multicultural hatred of their own country than they are in turning out thinking, informed, skilled adults. 

So why can’t our schools fix this problem? There are many answers – teachers’ unions, left-leaning educational institutions, leftist textbooks, etc. But our schools are filled with wonderful teachers working appalling hours and wanting desperately to see their students learn. So what is in their way? How is it these kids can get all the way through 13 years of schooling and know nothing? 

Look back at Johnny. In first grade he didn’t learn to read, but what happened to him? He went on to 2nd grade where he had even less opportunity to figure it out. But did he stay in 2nd grade or a remedial class until he caught on? No. On to 3rd where his dismal scores on standardized tests demonstrate clearly his inabilities, but still nothing will be done.

One year during my tenure as a high school English teacher we were required to attend evening classes instructing us in how to teach our students to read – in addition to everything else we were supposed to be inculcating. The lessons in these classes were all geared to 3rd grade, which bothered us all – if this approach didn’t work when these kids were 8-year-olds, why would it work when they’re 17? I asked about the viability of this approach for high school and the instructor admitted that they had no idea how to rescue a teenager who had never mastered reading. 

Fifty years ago schools quit holding Johnny back a grade when he didn’t reach the set standards. Administrators deemed it too rough on his ego to admit his problem and fix it. We would damage his self-esteem and we heard over and over again that the self-esteem deficit would render any increase in skill null and void. No one ever proved that, but say something often enough and it becomes gospel. No one considered what damage Johnny’s ego would sustain in high school when reading and writing and computing skills were both assumed and necessary. 

Once the schools cannot hold kids back because they haven’t mastered reading and math then subsequent teachers are under pressure – political, professional, and pragmatic – to keep the momentum going. 

Some dumbing down has to happen if a teacher has a classroom full of students who are below grade level. There is nothing to be gained by failing them all. And as teachers, we are taught to meet our students where they actually are. That is good pedagogy. 

However, if an instructor’s students don’t meet the standard, the teacher gets in trouble, the students become demoralized, and the parents get angry. Angry parents make for nervous and defensive administrators who, in turn, pressure the teachers into – what?  Passing the students whether they’ve cleared the hurdles, or not. 

This continues until high school when the problem just blows up. Unless the district chooses to do what my district did – we “raised the bar.” You’ve got to love educational jargon.  We did this by -- 1. Cutting out the “D” as a grade option – which, of course, merely inflated the grades. 

2. Demanding students turn in ALL assignments. I know, this doesn’t seem out of line, but most students miss an assignment now and then, and no one could see that a do-or-die turn-in policy only erased the ability to insist on due dates. We couldn’t legally fail a kid for being late on an assignment. One of my students said to me one day, “Ah due dates, schmoo dates.” Kids were turning in papers that were months late and we had to accept them. 

3. Forcing kids into honors level classes whether they were capable or not.  And then when too many began failing, the administration demanded that teachers dumb down the curricula. Then the following year, students were assigned to the next level up and they weren’t ready to do the work because the previous curricula had been so simplified.  That was “raising the bar.” 

Then these kids go off to college and the colleges face the same problems. I’d like very much to increase the rigor of the college classes I teach – in spite of the fact that transfer students find my classes much more rigorous than their state junior college classes have been. But if I really expected kids to actually function at what we used to call “college” level, they’d fail. It’s mind boggling, and frustrating, and knowing where it came from is not much help. 

It’s not like we don’t know what can be done about it. In the last couple of decades brain research has taught us quite a bit about how the brain learns. We know that that the more background knowledge a child has, the better reader he will be– yet we spend most of the school day drilling kids on “reading skills” rather than teaching them anything factual. We know that movement plays a big role in brain development, yet we cut back on recess. We know music and art improve brain function, but we cut art.

We must remember that the original purpose of John Dewey’s educational scheme never was to produce thinking, critical, knowledgeable human beings. It was to create drones. And we have succeeded in that. 

Plus, the society in general discourages facing ugly truths and makes pretending fairly easy for a long period of time, but here in 2018 it’s clear that the make-believe fairy tale is over. Millennials are finding that they are tens of thousands of dollars in debt and yet they know little that is actually true. They have learned attitudes, but not facts. We’ve hit that wall. 

So what does public education do? Nothing. I’ve been involved, either willingly or otherwise, in half a dozen educational reforms designed to fix our problems. They all fail. The solution lies outside the auspices of government and teachers unions. The responsibility for educating our young has to start with the family. It can easily blossom into private enterprise, charter schools, school vouchers. The homeschooling industry is thriving and so are the students educated at home. 

For the last nine years I’ve been involved in building a school, a Bible-based junior college. Accreditation took us that long, and raising money isn’t easy, but it can be done. We can crawl out from under the crushing weight of a system devoid of reality. We just have to begin. 

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/04/-american-students-reading/557915/

https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_g12_2015/#reading

https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_g12_2015/

 

 

Fragmentation and the Family   

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Time was when society was a fairly simple arrangement. There was Noah and his wife and the three sons and their wives.  That mini-society obviously worked well because in just a few hundred years human beings found the time to build giant monuments. Babble complicated things, but still, people split up and went their own ways and continued to populate the earth. But now there are close to 320 million of us in this country alone, the Internet has us all sitting in each other’s laps, and our ability to function intelligently and cohesively is getting lost in the shuffle.

And time was when most of us in this nation operated on very similar religious and moral standards. We believed in Truth. We all wanted to survive, to thrive, to build a free nation. Even with the awfulness of slavery and the question of how to handle the native tribes, the majority of us marched forward toward the shared goal of a free and noble nation. 

We did that by starting with the family as the main organizing factor. The family is one of the four divine institutions, and has always been a mainstay in human society, so we knew how to do it: you have a father and a mother and they produce children for whom they are responsible until those children marry and produce their own children and the original parents grow old and become the responsibility of the grown children.  It’s a pretty slick system. 

But that time is no more.  We’ve dismantled such a large percentage of our families through welfare, through same-sex marriage, through relaxed mores about adultery, that the family is no longer the foundation of many of our communities. 

Human beings seem programmed to work best in small groups; we self-divide into manageable clusters. Either society is separated into families as per the divine institutions, or it’s divided into groups of its own making: blacks vs. white, Jews vs. Gentiles, men vs. women, citizens vs. illegals, Muslims vs. everyone else, etc. Creating ad hoc identities wreaks havoc on a society. We can see this just looking around us.

Instead of a nation of cooperating adults working toward a common goal, we become a group of squabbling children fighting over the available toys. When society divides into traditional families, children are raised to get along, to work together to accomplish common objectives, to find a way to fit in with other families. When the groups are instead gathered by superficial commonalities that pit them against other groups, the result is a fragmenting of society – an us-against-them mentality that produces nothing but vitriol and complaint. We are not Americans anymore, but conservatives or liberals, Christians or atheists, pro-Trumpers or anti-everything leftists. 

Since groups organize merely by yelling the loudest or creating the most guilt, they multiply. It won’t be long before we’ll have, in addition to gay pride parades, adulterers’ pride parades, and then the shoplifters and the prostitutes will demand their due respect – oops, forgot Stormy Daniels, guess that’s already happening. Now, even pedophiles are claiming what they think is their due. There’s nowhere to stop, no group too objectionable to support, or too specialized to gain a hearing. 

And since groups are self-forming and there are no guidelines for determining their shape and no list of qualifications for membership, a person can claim group affiliation regardless of reality. Men can claim to be women; whites can claim to be Native American or black (remember Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who claimed to be black?) 

To further snarl things, many people find themselves in multiple special interest groups.  A person, we’ll call her “Jane,” can easily be black, gay, and female all at once. What sociology professors call “intersectionality” happens and poof! like rabbits the number of special groups increases exponentially.  Now Jane belongs, not only to her original 3 groups, but to the group that is both gay and black, the group that is both female and black, and the group that is lesbian. Each group has its own set of issues and grievances and each group is competing with the other for attention and money. Where does that leave Jane? More discontented than ever because she now has to face off against white lesbians, against Christian blacks, against white men more than black ones. Can she be friends then with a white, Baptist preacher? Or with a Muslim? No – her social life gets both complicated and limited. 

Which gets to the next point – issues and grievances. Families don’t have to gather around the drumbeat of shared miseries – they’re already connected by blood.  But these synthetic groups need to have a common cause, so victimology is inevitable. Groups tend to face off against one another, far more than families do, and this behavior increases when there are payoff funds to vie for and nothing helps more than a super-sad list of atrocities the group has suffered at the hands of what they imagine to be the rival group. “He wouldn’t bake my cake!” “I make less money than he does!” “My great-grandmother had to sit in the back of the bus!”

Groups just as often organize themselves around an issue that doesn’t necessarily directly affect its members. Very few of the angry demonstrating college kids have any real iron in any of the fires they set. They are aligned by ideology rather than by skin-color, ethnicity, or sexuality.  They are motivated more by hubris than by righteous indignation. They believe in socialism and so they fight the capitalist. They think the earth is being destroyed so they fight pipelines and plastic straws and beef.  They are lesbians in favor of abortion or men outraged over women’s issues or whites drowning in assumed, but unnecessary, guilt. Cross-reference this type of group with the racial/ethnic divides and the issue of intersectionality becomes acute. 

We see this all the time – feminists who are pro-Muslim immigration, or men who are anti-gun, but also pro-Hollywood shoot-em-ups, or pro-choice where abortion is the issue but anti-choice where religion is at stake.  It becomes impossible in a society like that to be a coherent thinker.  A groupist finds himself constantly having to swing several hoola-hoops at once, each spinning at a different speed, and often going opposite directions. 

We can no longer have intelligent conversations partly because we can no longer express a rational thought, but also because we are no longer talking as individuals, but as members of a soulless group – BLM, or AntiFa, or LGBT, or LaRaza, or NOW.  Thinking for ourselves is no longer an option, so adopting the latest talking points is all that is possible. No problems get solved that way because groups don’t think, individuals think, and because to focus on the problem, the supposed injustice, does not produce solutions.  Negativity never arrives at the positive. 

Speaking of which, what do we do about it? We’ve made a good start by electing Donald Trump – a man who strongly believes in family. We’ve made other good starts by going back to teaching our own children, another reinforcement for the family. Let’s go forward and undo the welfare restrictions that remove the male from the household. This policy has destroyed the black family.  Let every step we take going forward be a step to bolster the health of the family.  After all, the family was God’s idea and He generally knows what He’s doing. 

 

 

Starless, Starless Night

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                   Here we are, groping our way through the promised Age of Aquarius, constantly bombarded with images of kids snorting prophylactics or swallowing detergent, college professors gloating over the dead, and young people committing random, mass shootings. Ignorance and arrogance vie for first place in our national personality. We’re uprooting our past in the irrational belief that it will improve our future. We literally roll out the red carpet for those whose ideology is idolatrous, murderous, seriously abusive. Not a day goes by without us finding out some additional skullduggery committed by people high up in government. It’s just mind boggling – and I think I know one reason why this is happening. 

 

Yes – the education system is partially responsible. 

 

Yes – most churches do more to entertain us than they do to teach us.

 

Yes—we’ve removed God from the public square. All these are part of the problem, but there’s another underlying cause. Stars.

 

Or the lack thereof.  We have lost sight of the stars. 

 

Stars are useful.  We need to be able to see them – all of them spread out against a black velvet sky, trillions of little pin-pricks of light reminding us of who we are, of how little we are, how lucky we are to live on this tiny jewel of a planet, out on the edge of an ordinary galaxy where we have a magnificent view of places so far away that they no longer exist. We need constant reminders that we are not self-sufficient, that something is not only bigger than we are, but so good, so gorgeous, so dynamic that we can’t begin to wrap our brains around it. We need awe. We need wonder. We need humility. 

 

But today our cities vie with the stars, blocking them, drowning them in a light that we think is of our own making, homogenizing the night with neon signs and hydrogen street lights, with spotlights strafing the heavens, with flood lights on a football field, with millions of miles of headlights snaking through our cities. We’ve come to the subconscious conclusion that we make the light. 

 

We have, it’s true, found ways to transfer the light from the day into the cosmic darkness of night, and that is wonderful. We’ve all admired the lights of a city laid out before us, been grateful for the split second that it takes to flip a light switch and illuminate a room, a stage, a baseball field. Our ability to do that reminds me of God’s words as He watched Nimrod build the Tower– “…nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them,” (Genesis 11:6b). It’s true that the human mind and our opposable thumbs have done a cracker-jack job of subduing the Earth in spite of the linguistic barrier the Lord created at Babel. We live so much more comfortably than even kings were able to do just a couple hundred years ago.

 

But, we have forgotten the stars. 

 

According to Genesis 1:14-19, stars were created on the 4th day.  

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day. 

 

God created them for “signs and seasons.” Ancient people used them for just that – the heavenly bodies told them when to plant, told them when winter was coming, when the days would get longer again. The Zodiac, many scholars say, tells the story of the Gospel – from the Virgin, to the judgment of Libra, through the feeding of the 5,000 with a handful of Pisces, to the sacrifice of the Taurus. I’m not arguing that ancient man read it that way, but we do know from the book of Job, written c2500 B.C. that men had already named the signs of the Zodiac, the Mazzaroth, 

 

Job 9: 8 & 9 --He alone spreads out the heavens,

And treads on the waves of the sea;

He made the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades,

And the chambers of the south;

 

Job 38:32 -- Can you bring out Mazzaroth in its season?

Or can you guide the Great Bear with its cubs?

 

This is God telling Job the same thing – don’t get arrogant here, Job. I made all this; you didn’t. Look at the stars and re-align your thinking, fix your perspective. I am in control here. 

 

Job had forgotten that. We have too.

 

Recently I ran across an article about a newly developed map of the universe. The images were startling – as if the galaxies had just been flung outward like a woman tossing feed to her chickens. Another image was color-coded and looked like someone had just slung a handful of glitter and some of it had doubled back on itself, some arched, some curled, some still headed straight out from the center. It was gorgeous. And then when I realized that these specks of light were entire galaxies, and we live in a non-descript, ordinary galaxy, in a not very extravagant solar system on a small sphere in exactly the right place, with exactly the right minerals and gases and liquids, exactly the correct gravitational force, exactly the right temperature variation. Earth is unusual only in that we live here, that we can live here.. And who are we? Was all this for us? 

 

Then, “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” We are nothing in the face of the vastness of this universe, and yet, this universe seems to be for us. And if so, then our lives are about much more than getting the next promotion, or a date with the girl at the coffee shop. The stars tell us that – their vastness, their distance, their sheer multitude, their beauty, the messages in their arrangement, the clocklike order of their movement, their utter dependability. 

 

Stars, like all sparkling things, draw our attention. They pull our gaze away from contemplating our navels. They carry us out past this world and up into eternity. They take the lid off of our imaginations and raise our awareness of God. We need stars. 

 

Maybe we need to institute a holiday for the stars. Once a year we would shut down all the lights everywhere so we could all go outside, lie out on old blankets spread on the grass in our backyards, or stand with our neighbors in the middle of the street and look up. Just for an hour, once a year. Maybe that would help us keep our heads from swelling, keep us in touch with reality, keep us humble. 

 

We are in desperate need of humility – not humiliation – just the ability to realize our rightful place in the order of things, to realize that there is an order to things and that order is not of our making. He who made those stars and flung them across the heavens is in charge – whether we like it, or not. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Narrow Brick Road

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We hear often in the media disparaging remarks about Christians. It is the one group society is allowed to attack, the one religion that political correctness refuses to cover with its blanket of protection. But why? Isn’t one of Christianity’s most basic mandates to “love one another?” How is that obnoxious or objectionable? Doesn’t Jesus represent to all of us God’s perfect love? Two answers occur to me:

  1. 1.    The media (i.e. the left) knows so little about Christianity that it has made up its own straw man version to knock about. …and, more importantly,
  2. 2.    The negativity is the fault of the Church writ large – the Roman Catholics, the Anglicans, the mainstream Protestants, the Baptists, the Evangelicals – all of us. 

 

So, in what way has the Church failed Christ? 

  1. 1.    The Gospel is good news, but the Church rarely presents it that way. Christianity isn’t about sin, about who’s committing what sin where. Our sins were paid for on the cross – that’s not a catch phrase but an ontological truth. All humans know that perfection is beyond us. And most people – when we think of God at all – understand that He is perfection and demands perfection, can tolerate nothing less. That’s a nasty pickle to be in, but God solved the problem for us. The Gospel tells us that our imperfections have been permanently paid for and forgiven. This is called grace.  It is very good news, but…
  2. 2.    Grace is what most Christians get wrong. Oh, we can all repeat the phrase “unmerited favor,” but few think much beyond that and I know that because even our theologians, our Christian writers, our church leaders say the phrase and then start listing all the things Christians have to do earn God’s approval, all the things we have to avoid doing to keep His favor. It’s no wonder non-Christians are confused. Is Christianity about recognizing what Christ did for us, or is it just a club for the self-righteous and the do-gooders? And nobody much likes those folks.
  3. 3.    The Church has failed to make it clear that God is rational, clear, and wanting us to be so as well. It is not rational to say to someone, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,” and then turn around and present a list of must-do’s to keep that gift. We can’t say that God is good, that He’s just, that He’s loving and then insist that some of us have been predestined to go to heaven and some to hell. That does not make sense.  A God who would arbitrarily choose some to bless some to curse is a nasty being indeed. 

 

Christianity isn’t about following the Ten Commandments, though when a society, generally speaking, does limit behavior along those lines, the society benefits. Christians recognize the worth of those rules, but obeying them does not determine where we spend eternity.  It will make life here on earth easier, more pleasant, more fulfilling.  But no one can fulfill those mandates perfectly; Christ made that clear in the Sermon on the Mount; if we even think sin, we are guilty of it. If we break even one aspect of the law, we are guilty of all of it. Yet, no matter how obnoxious a sin is, it is not the mandate of the Christian to wipe it out. 

 

Christianity isn’t about earning “Boy Scout” badges, about doing good, about being generous and kind – though both make us feel good and can result in benefits for others.  Being generous and kind should be an effect, not a cause, not a requirement, not a way of keeping score. Christians far too often give that impression. It’s about grace, about UNmerited favor. 

 

Christianity isn’t even about praying. Not about memorized prayers, not about public prayer, not about ritualistic prayer. Christianity is about getting to know God and prayer results from that.  We communicate with those we know and the better we know them the more contact we want, but prayer without knowing is no better than Facebook. God has introduced Himself to us in nature, but the advanced course in knowing God is in the Bible, and yet many Christian churches downplay the Bible as if it were just an embellishment, another book with which to decorate a shelf.

 

Christianity isn’t about trying to “change the world,” or “make a difference” by expending our own energies and concentration, our own relationships and worldly goods. That just plumps our own egos.  It is man’s basic flaws that screwed up society in the first place – how can a broken part fix a broken car? Besides which, God’s clear communication to us lets us know that He has the solution for this broken world well in hand; we can’t fix it, but He can and He will. 

 

Oddly enough, Christianity done well does change the world. When Christians learn what God would have us do, and do it through the guidance and power of God, amazing things happen. It is Christians who brought into the world orphanages and hospitals, schools and charities of all kinds. It is Christians who insisted in stopping the practice of slavery. Christian countries are usually much more prosperous than their unbelieving counterparts. But the same activities outside of contact with God through Christ don’t fare as well. Look at what happened when a non-Christian foundation set out to help the people of Haiti after the hurricane. Tens of millions of dollars vanished and only six houses were built. Christianity, i.e. a personal connection with the God of the universe, creates almost automatically, an improvement in the world, but one cannot become a Christian by “changing the world.”

 

We hear people talk about “staying on the straight and narrow path,” and we assume they mean avoiding sin, but the narrow brick road is not the path of uptight, anti-fun, judgmental self-righteousness, though that’s certainly what non-Christians believe we mean and it is often what Christians themselves think it means. The narrow brick road is the path of grace, of acceptance of the fact that we need God to save us, to save our world, to fix all that is wrong. It means living our lives as a thanksgiving for what God has done for us. Our pathologies fight us on this. We want the gold star. We want to earn it ourselves. We want to lord over others. We want others to look to up to us. And we want to ignore the fact that, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” We actually think we can impress God. 

 

The atheist has every right to look on that silliness and want nothing to do with it. Of course, the atheist has his own silliness to contend with. It’s just as ridiculous to think that humans – whom the atheist often paints as the chief evil of the world – are capable of creating a utopian society that will be good for everyone. They, too, totally forget the garbage-in-garbage-out rule. 

 

As this age winds to an end, and it is doing so quickly, we must remember that history will play out just as God has planned it – whether we believe in Him or not, whether we obey Him or not, whether or not we follow and worship His Son. It’s truly pointless to travel down any other road than the narrow and humbling road of perfect, actual grace. It is only that road that leads to permanent joy. 

 

 

 

 

Not in Kansas Anymore

I have a 1956 Norman Rockwell print of a frumpy, sweet-faced teacher standing in front of a class of clean-scrubbed, straight-backed children. They had just written “Happy Birthday, Miss Jones! ” on the blackboard for her. It’s a scene light years away from a 21st century school massacre, and it may take some time for the more Pollyanna amongst us to readjust to what the 21st century school really is. This may explain the freak-out over the idea of arming teachers: Miss Jones with a Ruger tucked into her belt is just too hard to swallow.   

This worries me because we can’t fix a problem that we don’t have the courage to really acknowledge. Our schoolrooms are still full of great kids -- sweet-natured and teacher-loving, but these days every class has an ever-increasing number of students carrying major psychological damage. I’ll never forget a class of freshman I had one year – of the 27 students in that section, 9 were seriously mentally disturbed. I know a teacher who’s trying to deal with a student who has already thrown rocks through the principal’s office windows and is currently threatening to burn down the school with a flame-thrower. He’s 6 years old.  

It’s been 10 years since I’ve been in a public school classroom, but even back then the horrible parenting I was seeing had me worried. I’ll never forget the young man who chose to write his narrative essay about the night his father tried to strangle him.  He was nervous about testifying at his dad’s trial. Or the young woman whose father was willing to pay for the braces she needed as long as she would bring home friends for him to have sex with. And the young man, fatherless and very troubled, who brought a hatchet to school to use on me if I made him give a speech. His terrified mother’s warning saved both my life and his. 

Or the kid who stole my credit card and was going to hold it hostage until I changed his failing grade. Or the young lady I found sobbing her heart out in the hallway one morning. I hesitated to stop and talk to her – she was prone to frequent tearful meltdowns – but I did stop and I was glad I had. That morning her father had walked into a local park, doused himself with gasoline and lit a match. He was, of course, dead – and no one in that household thought to keep this poor girl at home that day. 

I’m sure most teachers have those stories, but such stories are anecdotal -- there have always been bad parents and damaged kids, but we’ve never had so many. We can trace some of this breakdown through stats – the counselors at my last high school estimated that at least 60% of our clientele came from highly dysfunctional homes. Look at the stats on drug overdoses – our kids, by the tens of thousands, are willing to risk their lives for the momentary faux-euphoria they can get from opioids. They are lonely enough and unsure enough to spend hours on social media, trying, I suppose, to build a facsimile family, a façade of a life. 

According to research done by the Barna Group, Generation Z finds professional achievement, hobbies, and sexual orientation more important in their lives than either family or religion. (Remember that Gen Z includes not only our high school students, but a great many of their teachers.)  Their grandparents’ values are just the opposite. In fact, the same study shows that only 9% of these young people are committed, active Christians. That’s what happens when we send our kids into a system where God is either ignored or mocked. We leave those kids there for 12 years and then they go to college where they are ridiculed and excluded because of their faith. We bought the lie that schools can be neutral and now we’re having to cope with the results. And what happens when the post-modern moral compass of students fails?  Some stats can give some insight. In the 1910’s there were only 2 reported incidences of violent attacks in U.S. schools, and one was actually an accident.  In the 2010’s there were 126 such attacks. Students all over the country are attacking (with both knives and guns) each other and their teachers at an ever-increasing rate. The correlation is unsettling; something has gone wrong. 

Let’s look at this from a teacher’s perspective. A study published in 2011 by CNS News concluded that 145,100 public school teachers had been physically attacked by their students and that 276,700 reported being threatened by students. And that was almost 10 years ago. Just recently (2017) a Huffington Post article mentions that 11% of the teachers in Wisconsin had been attacked by students. The article also discusses a union study that showed that 27% of the instructors interviewed had experienced threats, bullying, and harassment, and half of those incidents had been perpetrated by their students.  This is a long, long way from happy-birthday-Miss-Jones. 

We have developed an undercurrent of thought in this country that has created a mirage, a distant vision of a utopian society in which everyone will live effortlessly and harmoniously, placing no strain on dear Mother Earth, offending no one, and rarely taking responsibility for much of anything. We will puff our egos and pat ourselves on our collective, non-working backs about the Shangri-La we created without any help from that nasty, demanding God. After all, we are evolutionarily sure that people are basically good, so all we have to do is to sing Kumbaya and smoke a joint or two. 

It’s quite a shock therefore when things like the Parkland shooting happen. If people are basically good, then how do we account for the Wicked Witches flying around our cities? How do we explain the massive amount of irresponsibility that led up to the Parkland massacre? We can feel the philosophical panic building. To unravel the twisted, inconsistent, evil worldview that got us to the Austin bombings, the Los Vegas and Parkland shootings, to the shooting in Maryland will take some excruciating soul searching and human beings are not usually willing to go there.

We want to imagine that our schools still look like Miss Jones’ classroom, but that’s not what’s out there.  We want to picture Dorothy skipping merrily down the yellow brick road and we don’t want to think about the hordes of flying monkeys following her. We don’t want to be told about the sex, drugs, cheating, harassing, ugliness of a great many of our public schools – and not just the high schools. As we send our daughters off to the school dance, we don’t want to be told that kids on a dance floor don’t dance; they have sex, clustering around the engaged couples so tightly that the chaperones can’t get to them. I’ve seen that happen myself. We may be able to adjust to the teenage society pictured in Grease or American Graffiti, but not the actuality of today. There is no longer romance because they go directly to sex. There is no more thrill of pushing the speed limit or sneaking a cigarette out behind the barn. That’s no big deal anymore. 

I graduated from high school in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1963. The big, super-cool thing a kid could do then was to drive 75 miles south to Marysville, Kansas where you could buy 3.2% beer at the age of 18. Luckily that road was mostly straight and flat and few of the wild boys in my class got hurt driving it.  That was about it.  I had parties at my house once a month – dozens and dozens of kids – and we drank Pepsi and ate popcorn and danced – just danced – to my brother’s band.  

But we’re not in Kansas anymore. 

I pray that we snap out of the Emerald City fantasy we’ve been lounging in and face the fact that Miss Jones is going to have to strap on that Ruger at least until we’ve rescued the next generation and raised those kids in a Norman Rockwell way. 

 

1. https://www.barna.com/research/gen-z-questions-answered/

2.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_attacks_related_to_secondary_schools

3. https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/bullied-teachers-145100-public-school-teachers-physically-attacked-students-276700 

  4. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/amid-attacks-teachers-weigh-their-safety-against-student_us_5a1d784ee4b05df68936d064

 

 

 

Truth or Consequences                      

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What do humans do when they discover – albeit subconsciously – that everything they’ve believed in is wrong -- is, in fact, evil?  Are folks likely to do a face-palm, shake their heads and say, “Can’t believe I bought into such stupidity!” Sometimes the truly honest amongst us will do that, but it doesn’t happen often.  When the ground shakes under us, we are more likely to just mindlessly grab for the nearest support. 

If we grew up sure

that God is just a convenient fairytale, 

that the government’s purpose is to take the place of indulgent parents, 

that sexual desires, all sexual desires should be fulfilled ASAP, 

that people are just the evolutionary top of the food chain, 

and are merely animals and therefore expendable, 

that drugs are enlightening, 

that truth is nonexistent, 

and that, most important of all, utopia is within our reach because we know better than God how to organize a nation, -- then what do we do when we see even our most important leaders functioning as if there is no moral code? What do we think when the people we see as special turn out to be sexual predators? How are we to understand our misery when our children OD on opioids, kill themselves over Facebook bullying, or kill others just because they are angry or want to be famous? How do we handle it when we pray to the God we no longer believe in and get no response at all? 

What do we do? Most people look around desperately for someone else to blame, or, even better, some inanimate object to hold accountable. Ban guns! It takes no moral courage to blame a thing, but it takes massive internal fortitude to look in the mirror and blame the unsustainable ideas that we’ve held dear now for several generations.

It’s hard to look at the slaughter of our children in a schoolyard, but we are still willing to kill them by the thousands in an abortion clinic. It’s horrifying to see the damage wrought by social media, but we don’t have the stomach to face down our spoiled children and deny them access.  It makes us sick to see the sexualization of our young children, but we’re too spoiled ourselves to limit our own indulgence in nearly pornographic television. We don’t seem to have the national backbone to admit our part in the destruction of our offspring. 

So we demand the banning of guns.  We don’t fall on our knees and confess our faithlessness to the God who made us free and prosperous.  We don’t change our own behavior, vow to make a go of our marriages and raise our children with both love and discipline. We don’t look with a more critical eye at the policies that contributed to our fractured families, our failing schools, our angry, drug-addled youth. No. We scream, “Ban guns!” Maybe if we scream it loudly enough the guilt will go away.

And the screamers don’t follow up their hollering with careful thinking about what taking guns out of our society would look like. There are over 300 million privately owned firearms in this country. We understand – those of us who know anything about history – how important it is that we keep them.  We know that all our other rights rest on the right to defend ourselves against tyranny. I’m not giving up mine without a fight and I don’t think I’m alone in that. The confiscation of guns in America will be a blood bath that makes Parkland look insignificant. 

But the deep panic that the unwitting left feels at the blatant, obvious, horrifying evidence that all their most prideful beliefs are bogus is not going to allow any self-searching. Will there be curriculum meetings sprouting up all over the country to try to determine if we’re teaching only what’s truly wholesome and productive? I don’t see that happening. Will Congress take a fresh look at how welfare policies affect family structure? Not likely, and if they did, where would we find the strong, stalwart men to step up and become great fathers? We are training our young men to be women, so how is that going to work? Are we likely, as an entire culture, to realize that law and a godless moral code can’t protect us from evil? It’s easier to ban guns, or at least to vociferously demand that; I’m not sure the reality really matters to the screamers. 

I take heart in knowing that a society can be swayed by only a small percentage of us thinking clearly. I am reassured when I remember Abraham bargaining with God over Sodom; God agreed to save it if only 10% were good, God-fearing people. I take heart in our current administration; Trump seems to be thinking clearly and several steps ahead of his opponents. His cabinet appears to understand what is at stake here. 

It was Jesus Christ who said, “And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  The truth isn’t always comfortable, or flattering, and when ignored long enough, it can be excruciating when finally acknowledged. Therefore, truth is under attack today, but it is still readily available; if we want truth, we can still get it, though it wouldn’t be surprising to find that after they ban guns, the Bible will be next. 

Not a day goes by anymore that we don’t come face-to-face with the evidence that our progressive worldview stands on a weak and crumbling foundation. Science is dealing blow after blow to evolutionary, God-less theories. Our liberal educational ideas are proving counterproductive. Our laissez-faire child-rearing practices are evidently inadequate. The way we care for our poor causes more problems than it solves. We don’t want to control our own behavior, but we resent the police who then have to do it for us. The Parkland shooting proves that our culture is a disaster, not that our gun policies are. We need to be able to face that fact or there will be hell to pay. 

 

 

 

Flying Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One would think that enough has been said about Harvey the Hut, Kevin Spacey, and the general debauchery that is Hollywood and the halls of American power, but I find myself amazed that a couple of issues still remain unsaid, unexplored, and therefore unsettled.

I am, for one, amazed and horrified that we are amazed and horrified. This realization hit me a few evenings ago when we turned on the TV and decided to start watching a series we had recorded, but had never turned on.  It’s a series ironically called Good Behavior. Half way through the first episode we were hit with a sex scene between two total strangers. The main character, a young woman, knew only one thing about her partner – that he had been hired to kill a man’s wife – an interesting resumé bullet point. The sex scene was long and extremely athletic – almost violent. I’ve never thought of myself as a prude, but I had to turn away; I couldn’t watch it all. 

It was then I realized the irony. Most movies these days include a sex scene (and this show we were watching was only a TV series meant to be viewed in one’s living room, presumably while the children slept a few doors away). I wonder if these actors and actresses have to do specific auditions for those parts, and I wonder why we’re all exercised over the sexual demands of movie producers and directors when we, as an audience evidently demand the voyeur’s equivalent on the screen. 

Why are we all feigning surprise that those who produce a product that is only a hair’s breadth (pardon the comparison) from pornography, are busy being pornographic themselves? Why do we expect a producer to treat his leading “ladies” like ladies when these women are willing to let the whole world watch them writhe nakedly about a tangled bed, groaning and grimacing, faking orgasms while inventing new and astounding yoga poses?  

I’m not speaking out in defense of Weinstein or Spacey or any of these sex-obsessed people; what they have been doing is indefensible. Nor am I pointing accusing fingers at the actors and actresses – I’m not implying a direct correlation between the metoo’s and involvement in sexual screen moments. What I am saying is that the American public bears some of this guilt. We are willing to pay money at the theaters to watch such scenes – almost always played out between characters barely known to each other. Have you ever seen a rambunctious, passionate sex scene between married characters? Of course not – evidently the stranger-danger element is a pre-requisite. 

Back in the June 1967 issue of Esquire Magazine Tom Wolfe published an essay entitled Pornoviolence in which he decried the latest trend in the movie/TV business – an almost pornographic need for violent scenes. He was right even though his examples were shows like Gunsmoke (!). Now, we not only have the required expenditure of thousands of rounds of ammunition, we have full-on torture scenes. Back when Wolfe wrote this article, television shows couldn’t/wouldn’t have shown a man and woman in bed together, let alone engaged in anything openly sexual. The fact is that Hollywood has made a fortune feeding the American public in a manner similar to the way Roman Caesars fed their constituencies – with sex and blood.  How is it that we are nonplused by those, who produce such entertainment, choosing to partake themselves? And buried in our national psyche is the notion of the casting couch – it’s never been a secret that many a starlet became a star while in a horizontal position. 

Granted Weinstein is no romantic figure – repulsive even, so I can grasp the revulsion, but note that the complainants got what they were after. 

On the other hand, Kevin Spacey is an attractive man, but gees – 14-year-old boys?!  But then, who was feeding their children into the Hollywood maw? Where were the parents? It’s no wonder that child stars so often have tragic ends if this is what they’re exposed to. And yet we all love movies featuring attractive youth – at what cost to those kids? 

 

Secondly, I’m concerned about overkill. The Metoo campaign is understandable, but it’s blowing the abuse balloon up so tightly that is going to pop and the whole mess will just vanish. 

For one thing, we have defined down sexual harassment to mean any unwanted advances at all.  Now that’s a given when children are involved – any overture is out of line. But between two adults? Come on now. The level of harassment and outrage seems directly proportionate to the unattractiveness of the man making the advances. I get that – even a leering look from the likes of Harvey Weinstein would be offensive – but we women are making a big mistake if we make a mountain of even a giant molehill.  If everyone piles on, the hysteria serves as a smokescreen that obliterates the actual rape incidents and makes any kind of justice impossible.

Basically, women just want to be treated like ladies. Children should be treated like the precious future that they are. But that gets me back to my original point – that if women are willing to act otherwise, and do so for the whole world to watch, we shouldn’t be surprised at the result. If parents are willing to leave their children in the hands of rich, self-indulgent, powerful people, then we shouldn’t be surprised at that result, either. More importantly, we need to check our own appetite for sexual material on the screen.  We need to be less willing to see movies featuring child actors. That’s a tough prescription, but what do we value more – entertainment or decency, respect, and safety for our children? We’ve been enjoying flying over the cuckoo’s nest – we shouldn’t be so horrified to find that it’s being run by crazy, dangerous people. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holes in our Heads

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We’ve all noticed that our leftist fellow-Americans have ceased to make sense. We’ve figured out that they’ve descended into redundant, irrational name-calling because they’ve lost the thread of their argument – if there ever was one. But, lately, due to several articles I’ve run across, I’m beginning to suspect that some actual, physical brain anomalies may be in play here. I’m not being sarcastic.

In a recent study done in Great Britain, using a half million participants, scientists discovered that people who suffer from depression show changes in the white matter of the brain – that part that is key to communication. Since depression has reached epidemic proportions, this seems important. A study done by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance discovered that the hippocampi of the brains of depressive individuals appear to have shrunk. An article in Science Daily reported on a study of casual marijuana users that showed a noticeable difference in the shape, size, and density of the reward centers of the brain – affecting motivation – and of the amygdala – the emotional center of the brain. In fact, a study done at the University of Michigan showed that experience, psychoactive drugs, sex hormones, and dietary factors affected the shape of the brain. Not the mind, the brain.

I could go on and on. Recent technology is allowing us to see the brains of living people, to watch them work, so we can now start to ask some very important questions.  The questions that come to my mind center around the leftist brain. It seems the more obvious it is that collectivist ideas are all vacant and useless – whether we’re watching the Venezuelans forced to eat rabbits, looking at the abject failure of the War on Poverty and its dissolution of the nuclear family, or at the Muslim destruction of European culture – the more adamant and angry socialists become. They seem utterly unable to walk away from demonstrably false concepts. Why is that?

We can show them the climate change data and the numerous times that data has been falsified, and what do we get? A stare as blank as a petit-mal seizure. We can whip out the statistics on the starvation factor in North Korea and the same thing happens – no contact made. I’ve been amazed listening to the protestors in St. Louis. They appear to have no ability to question the presuppositions they had before the trial, nor do they have even a glimmer of the absurdity of their preference for justice-by-mob. Here are streets filled with black people demanding the right to lynch their fellow man, yet I see no flicker of irony on any of the faces. 

The same was true of the protestors in Berkeley. No grasp at all of the silliness of demanding the right to express their ideas by denying another person’s right to express his.  No inkling of the contradictory nature of their stance – i.e. that committing violence is free speech, but that free speech, when it is actually speech, is not. Not free, not allowed, not appreciated. These are supposedly intelligent, expensively educated people. 

How can a normal brain function like that? How did we get to the point where people, instead of arguing logically against policies and positions, prefer to promote the assassination of a sitting president, burn American flags, or think that tearing down statues will somehow fix society? That’s not just a difference of opinion; it’s medical pathology. 

There was a time when most of us saw mental disease as a disability of the mind, the immaterial self, but I’m beginning to believe that it may also be physical. Can one think untruth day after day, year after year and expect it to not affect one’s brain? We recognize that daily indulging in chocolate milkshakes will affect our waistlines; is it so far-fetched then to wonder what a constant intake of anger will do to the cerebral cortex? Will a steady diet of lies eat actual holes in the grey matter? Any attempt I make to converse with leftists always leaves me scratching my head – the wiring just seems to be off. 

Is it wise to assume that we can live in anger and bitterness for months and months and not have it twist our brain’s chemistry?  No affect the delicate cell structures? Can we routinely ingest drugs – prescribed or purchased on a street corner – and expect the synapses to go off when they should? I mean, if I put water in the gas tank will the engine run? 

And if we have actually changed our brains, can we change them back? Is the plasticity of the brain that flexible? 

I think of the stanza from Frost’s The Road Not Taken

“And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day,

Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back.  “ 

Can we come back? Have we “educated” the last two generations into serious, permanent, mental disabilities? Have people developed eating habits, pharmaceutical practices, thinking propensities that have distorted their brains to point where they really can’t see the logic, can’t process any factual information that doesn’t already fit the rigid shape their brains are locked into? 

I believe it is possible to reshape a crooked brain. I believe that’s what the Bible means when it says that those who believe are “new creatures in Christ.” It takes time for an abused brain to recover, time and a steady, hefty diet of biblical thinking, but I’m living proof it can happen and I’ve seen it happen to many, many others. But, I’ve also seen many who keep on keeping on with those things that are ruining whatever brains they have left. 

You know those scenes in old movies where the heroine has thrown herself into a hysterical hissy-fit and a more level-headed character has to slap her across the face to bring her back to sanity? That’s a good metaphor for America today. Too many American brains have gotten warped, misshapen, and hysterical for the nation to function. I suspect that these Western wildfires, the two hurricanes, and whatever disasters happen next are Providence giving us a collective slap across our arrogant faces in hopes that we’ll snap out of it long enough to start rebuilding whatever remains of our national psyche, of the American soul. There is much work to do, much healing to happen, much prayer needed. God help us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newsflash!

Recent news makes it clear that not all that needs to be said is being said. Most reports, reports rife with sly innuendo, fail to understand or admit what is really happening. I’d like to rectify that ----

Newflash #1: History sucks. It’s merely a record of how screwed up mankind is, was, and, I’m afraid, will be in the foreseeable future. It’s a list of wars and rumors of wars, of pestilence and drought and hunger. In fact, other than the First Advent, the founding of this country may well be the only bright spot in human history. But even the birth of this nation was heavy with death and misery. And yet we need history – how else can we make decisions about the future? 

This recent spate of statue-hatred stems itself from a lack of historical knowledge. It is ignorance promoting more ignorance, and placing further national policy choices in even more jeopardy. Has there ever been a nation that has improved itself by erasing or altering its history? Every country that has gone that route has ended up with a tyrannical government and violence is always a part of the process.  Visit Cuba.

You can understand the disaster of the loss of history simply by imagining what your life would be like if you woke up tomorrow and had no memory – no knowledge of who you had been. There might be the benefit of not remembering your sins and embarrassments – but that would be tempered by the suspicion that they had happened nevertheless, only you don’t know what they were and therefore can’t atone. You wouldn’t know who your friends were, where you came from, or where you belonged. You wouldn’t know what you had believed or why. You would always be only half a person. 

Our history may suck, may be a scary, cringe-worthy litany of things gone wrong and only now-and-then right, but it is our history, our life as a nation, and it cannot be erased without erasing our future as well. The movers and shakers on the left know that. A few years from now we may look just like Venezuela.

Newsflash #2: There is no shortcut to moral rectitude. And to make things worse, there are a million ways to be wrong and only one way to be right. It is never right, for instance, to mindlessly adopt a few slogans, have occasional self-righteous tantrums, and repeat anything, no matter how senseless, that airs on NPR or CNN. I suspect that there must be a list somewhere of mandatory opinions one must espouse in order to remain a person in good standing with the more-progressive-than-thou crowd – perhaps a kit we must buy that contains a few pat phrases, a flag to wave, some posters, and a stick for hitting those with whom we don’t agree. Anyone who’s made the mistake of purchasing such an item, has been robbed. Anyone who got his as a door prize for matriculating at a leftist college, has been doubly robbed. 

Goodness only comes when we care more about individuals and their well being than we do about the faceless “masses” and the “oppressed.”  To be good means to see each person as a masterpiece of God’s making, a person with a unique purpose in God’s plan, a person with worth and special talents and potential, a person in need of freedom to become what he can become. We can’t be good and hate any group or any individual. We can’t hate the rich, or people with white skin, or people who just don’t suit us. We have no moral right to hate people with whom we don’t agree. We can’t hate our way to love. 

It’s a lot harder than marching around with flags and torches, a lot harder than calling people names to show how angry we are, a lot harder than pretending we can change the world. It requires that we change ourselves, from the inside out. In fact, it requires that we let God change us – give up the reins completely. 

Newsflash #3: The mainstream media can splinter opinions into a thousand differing factions, but I know a lot of people and none of them belong to any of these micro-sects. America functions fine with two parties – I learned that the hard way from Ross Perot. When we get more than that, everything falls apart; note how well Europe is doing these days. I’m sure, as are all thinking people, that this fragmentation is part of the leftwing agenda – the divide and conquer approach. If you look closely enough you can see that all these groups -- Antifa, BLM, alt-left, alt-right, white supremacist, white nationalist (there will be 6 more by tomorrow) are all tentacles off the same giant squid. They have one credo – knock people around and make a mess. Distract. Confuse. Accuse. Defuse.

I talked to one person this last week who was sure the BLM were in the right in Charlottesville because they were against the anti-Semitic, torch-bearing radicals. However, to do so ignores the fact that the leftist Antifa/BLM is anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian – so how does that work? How do you hate one group for hating a group that your group also hates? When logical, careful thought is no longer occurring on a regular basis, the society will cease to function. 

Newsflash #4: America is ceasing to function.  Congress is frozen solid. The presidency has taken more incoming fire than any other administration in history. The judiciary hangs on one vote. And the fourth estate has utterly abdicated its responsibilities.  Our education system is churning out dimwits so fast that we can’t keep up with it, and our medical infrstructure has been damaged beyond repair.  

America has survived and thrived long enough to prove that freedom without righteousness doesn’t work, that limited government doesn’t stay limited, and law doesn’t protect. Only God does that.  Israel – ancient Israel – proved over and over again that her Law didn’t make for a perfect nation. It would have, had the Hebrew tribes actually followed it. Like the United States, Israel was now-and-then successful in what she set out to be – during the reigns of David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Josiah – but those regimes were short-lived and the rest of the time the Israelites were joining their neighbors in worshipping demonic idols. America was successful until we, too, walked away from God. 

Our forefathers set out to build a righteous nation, but she can only be as good as the righteousness of her citizens and if those citizens think they can fake integrity and moral virtue by being destructive loudmouths then America is over. When asked what kind of government the Constitutional Convention had given the people, Ben Franklin answered, “A republic – if you can keep it.” It’s becoming more and more evident that we have failed at that, and destroying the history that proves my point will not stop our downfall.

 

 

America's Deadly Sins

         

 

Most Americans are sick of self-righteous, breast-beating leftists moaning about the shame they bear for being American. They claim we have become wealthy “on the backs” of the “oppressed” – as if no American ever worked for anything himself. They whine that America has treated its women badly, its natives even worse, and that the poor are still poor, and the rich, heaven forbid, are still rich. Shame on us. Really? Let’s take score.

 

In our brief history from the early European colonization efforts until now, Western society in North America has only existed a little over 500 years, and as a nation we’ve only been in business for 241 years – about which the average college student knows very little. However, said students seem certain that we do not measure up to some unstated scale they have set for national behavior, and, in spite of their lack of historical expertise, they seem sure that our sins were mostly buried in our deep, dark past. 

 

Slavery, of course, comes to mind. Though the average liberal seems unaware that only 1.4% of Americans ever owned slaves, that only about 250,000 ever arrived in North America. In fact, in 1860 when the slave population was at its highest there were under 4 million slaves – 20,000 of whom were owned by other blacks. None of which mitigates the fact of slavery, but to hear a leftist tell the story you’d think our entire economy was built on the forced labor of a quarter of a million blacks. And the left ignores the fact that 620,000 Union soldiers were either killed, wounded, or imprisoned trying to stop slavery. That number tops the total number of casualties in all our other wars combined. The number is also over twice the number slaves brought here to begin with; one could say reparations have been paid.

 

But even before slavery we were awful. When Columbus and subsequent explorers landed in the New World, they brought with them small pox and other diseases for which the natives had no immunity. That they didn’t do this on purpose seems not to alleviate our white, privileged, European guilt. 

 

Some historical events do sully our history – the Salem Witch Trials, the Trail of Tears, the massacre at Wounded Knee, and the desecration the Great Plains bison herds. There was both carelessness and evil in those events, but most were perpetrated as isolated incidents and none were stated policy of the majority of the people of the United States. 

 

It is true that in our free enterprise economic system some people become very rich and others remain poor. Which, to a conservative, seems better than everyone being poor, but to a leftist it is a situation most dire. That our poor have hot and cold running water, electricity, heat and air conditioning, TVs, phones, cars, and access to food from all over the world doesn’t seem to matter. That we all have an opportunity of climb out of poverty is also of little importance.

 

All of these indictments are: 

1. So far in the past that we can do nothing to change them; 

2. No worse than the general muddle human beings have been making of history since the dawn of time; and 

3. Mostly the result of a cherry-picking, Marxist twisting of history. But what is really disturbing is that the things this country is guilty of right now – things that land squarely in the leftwing lap – are what we should be concerned about. 

 

You see, we are alive now and can do something about our current national sins, but instead, half of this country seems just fine about it all. 

 

It doesn’t bother liberals that cities like Detroit, and Baltimore, and New Orleans – once powerful, prosperous cities – are now, after decades of Democrat rule, fiscal and moral disasters, mere ruins of their former selves. 

 

No one seems particularly worried about what has happened to the black family. Fuss and moan and complain about what happened over 200 years ago, but not a word about today. Over 70% of black babies are born out of wedlock. That’s over two-thirds of black males growing up without fathers, who no longer need to be there for their families because the government has taken over their responsibility for supporting their children. Black youth are gunning each other down in their own neighborhoods because they have never been taught not to. America did this to these people when Johnson’s War on Poverty swooped in to make dependents out of a vital portion of America. Therefore, the inner-city blacks are still slaves but we’ve taken from them the dignity of work. That we should feel guilty about; it happened on our watch.

 

We’ve further trapped the poor in this nation by forcing them into failing schools. It’s hard these days for the average middle-class white kid to get a really good education, but these inner-city kids don’t have a chance, and yet liberals fight tooth and nail to keep at bay efforts to free them with school vouchers and charter schools. Teachers in their unions care more about their jobs than they do about educating children. There’s some remorse to chew on. 

 

We have promoted, both with governmental policy and by cultural rot, a broad-spectrum of sexual immoralities, which have further destroyed the family and the stability and prosperity that strong families bring to a society.

 

During the Obama administration –with his sanction and involvement – we left the Iraqis high and dry for Iran and ISIS to set up shop in. We destroyed civilization in Libya, and aided and abetted Syrian rebels, who turned out to be ISIS. Twenty million people in the Middle East have been displaced and 500,000 Christians, Jews and Yazidis have been brutally murdered. Rape and the taking of sex slaves is endemic, and the world has not seen the current level of brutality in a thousand years. Crucifixion is back, as are beheadings and immolation.  In turn Europe has been inundated with these Middle Eastern refugees and will never again be Europe as we have known it.  All this on our watch. 

 

In the name of Mother Earth, our new goddess, and a demi-god called the snail darter, we have destroyed the economy and the hard work of generations of Americans by cutting off the water supply to family farms. Drive through the dead orchards of the San Joaquin Valley in California and see the devastation. We can be blamed for letting this happen. 

 

But none of those national sins come even close to the lives we’ve taken (using taxpayer money) before they even got started. Most estimates put the number of aborted babies since the Roe v. Wade took effect in 1973 at some 60,000,000 children. Sixty million.  Who would those tiny people have become? What gifts would they have brought with them? What effect has this had on the black community, which has been hit especially hard by the presence of Planned Parenthood in black neighborhoods.  I have been complicit in this, coming late into the realization of the demographic devastation. The hard-hearted selling of baby parts and the cruelty of the methods used makes my stomach turn. We allowed this to happen. 

 

We have driven God out of our schools, allowed drugs to be brought across our borders, and sexualized our children. We have much to atone for and much that can be fixed, that can be stopped. But before we do that we have to stop wallowing in a pit of pointless guilt that can help no one, and get on with undoing the damage we ourselves have done and making things as right as we can for those who have suffered under our stupidity. 

 

 

 

 

Absolutely Nuts

That phrase – absolutely nuts – pops into my head often when I read or hear the opinions of my leftist friends and acquaintances. Then, I think about that word absolutely, and I realize that’s the problem – the left denounces absolutes, but leftist thought is thoroughly sodden with them.

I am conservative and Christian – a real pre-modernist. I believe in absolute truth, in the absolute existence of God, and that the Bible is unquestionably the Word of that God. I believe the basic concept of morality as absolute – the liberal situation ethics is nonsensical and the Ten Commandments are just as relevant now as they were 3500 years ago. I am sure that Christ’s mandate to love each other is an absolute. When Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the light. No man comes to the Father but through me,” He was speaking in absolutes.

The left-wing post-modernists mock all the above. I have my truth; they have theirs. God is whatever a person wants him to be. The Bible is just an old book written by a bunch of ancient, dead men. Morality needs to keep up with the times. Love should be dependent on one’s race and political point of view. Ones’ sex is not tied to biological reality.

But leftists are not nearly as “open minded” as they claim. For all their trumpeting of liberal tolerance, they actually lean heavily on their own version of fundamentals.

They are absolutely dug in on their ideas – even the ones that obviously need softening and mitigating. Let’s look at tolerance. That’s at the top of their must-do list; must be open and accepting of everyone’s post-modern beliefs. Now, tolerance is a noble virtue – to an extent. If my neighbor is an atheist, it is a virtue to be polite to him, to love and care for him, to get to know him. But what if my neighbor is a pedophile? What if he lures young boys to his house and I know what he’s up to? Should my tolerance continue? The left would say yes. Tolerance is an absolute in their world. Should I tolerate Muslim men harassing young women in my community? Plotting to blow up my church? Mutilating their own daughters? Is there no line to be drawn here?

Diversity, another leftist absolute, is the other side of the tolerance coin. Everyone else’s culture is absolutely better than anything American -- even though it’s not. It is true that America is an amazing amalgam of dozens of cultures, partially because of assimilation, and partly because of intermarriage. I am Danish-Czech-Swiss-Dutch-English, etc. I am married to an English Luxembourgian. We have Irish grandchildren. Most of us are mongrels of one kind or another. And we eat Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Mongolian, and Thai food. Our language is a polyglot affair filled with bits and pieces from hundreds of languages. We are richer for it.

But the liberal doesn’t want us to appreciate our multifaceted culture; we are to denigrate it and prefer the cultures of those who come here illegally. We are to spend a large portion of our children’s education teaching them about other cultures and doing so without any censure of the behaviors of those other societies. If the Netsilik Eskimos want to put their elderly out on ice floes to drift off into a cold, lonely death, then that’s okay. If the Maasai want to yank out the canine teeth of their toddlers then we shouldn’t judge. If it’s part of Sharia law that a man can beat his wife, then what’s wrong with that? The left has sacrificed all moral judgment at the feet of the god of diversity.

They see their right to speak their minds as absolute, never mind how incendiary or untrue. They see their right to believe what they want as such an absolute that it extends to an imagined right of protection from any facts or ideas that go against their beliefs. Even the most diehard conservative Constitutionalist knows that all of our rights have limitations. I can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater; I can’t practice a religion that requires human sacrifice; I can’t set up a loaded Gatling gun in my front yard, and I understand that under certain circumstances the government has to be able to tap phones and read emails. The liberal, however, sees his own rights as absolutes and one of those rights is to demand that government cushion his entire earthly existence regardless of how that affects the rights of others.

Now, I admitted that my beliefs are also unqualified, so where do I get off lambasting the leftists? That’s not hard to explain.

Unlike the left, I have no outward quarrel with absolutes. In fact, the things I see as irrefutable and eternal, are, in fact, irrefutable and eternal.
o    God, the Judeo-Christian, triune God, being outside of both time and space, is an absolute.  All we know of science and history underscores that as fact. God is the uncaused, immutable Cause who pre-existed all of both human and angelic existence. The left sees godness as merely a misguided human construct, but the evidence makes that nonsense. Extra-biblical verification shows that man has been aware of the Godhead from the earliest times – ancient Chinese pictographs, universal flood stories in over 250 cultures, etc.
o    Because God is perfect righteousness and perfect justice, His law is perfect and therefore does not need readjusting to 21st century human standards. Good and evil have not changed. Human nature has not changed. History bears witness to this -- Darwinism notwithstanding, mankind is still a mess.
o    We have not outgrown our inherited original sin – the 20th century was the bloodiest in all of human history and the 21st is shaping up to be even worse. The best mankind can do on his own is to fake uprightness (this goes for all of us – Christians included) or to declare that our sins aren’t sins, which changes their status not at all, mitigates their devastating effect on human society not one iota.
o    And lastly, truth is true or it isn’t truth. Now, it’s correct that given a half-dozen witnesses to an event you’ll end up with a half-dozen versions of the same event, but that doesn’t mean that an actual event didn’t take place. In short, I believe in reality. Can we always find the absolute truth, be totally aware of the truth. No, partly because, as Jack Nicholson’s character said in A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth!”  Reality is often a bitter pill.

Reality demands that we face our own imperfections and also face God’s perfections and our ultimate incompatibility with Him. It requires that we accept the fact that the problem has been solved for us. That’s pretty hard on our over-developed egos, but it is true in the most absolute sense. “No man comes to the Father but by me.” Jesus Christ absolutely allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross in order to build a bridge from us to God Almighty.  There was nothing wishy-washy there.

The left’s failure to understand that avoiding these uncomfortable absolutes divorces us from reality, leaves us trying to stand and move forward with our feet stuck in the quicksand of fuzzy, nonsensical assumptions. It can make us absolutely nuts.

 

 

To Serve my Turn Upon Him

Does anyone else have the strange feeling that we’re caught up in some Shakespearian tragedy, some skullduggery creeping through the entourage of Henry VIII? I sense spies hiding in the curtains and hear whispers behind the potted palms. I’ve always thought of American politics as functioning in a fairly straightforward way, without the baroque, twisted nature of the old European courts. But here we are. Last week, watching Comey testify I kept hearing in my head the words of Iago in the opening act of Othello,

I follow him to serve my turn upon him: /We cannot all be masters, nor all masters /Cannot be truly follow'd.

Iago is the evilest character in all of fictional literature. Throughout the play, he is referred to as “Honest Iago.” He’s really good at being bad. He looked good, competent, confident. Weren’t we told how honest Comey is? What a fine, upstanding person he is? Doesn’t he give that appearance? Tall, handsome, impeccably dressed, buttoning his suit jacket in the appropriate lawyerly manner, looking straight into the eyes of those he lies to. Iago is also fond of breaking the fourth wall – he comes right down to the footlights, looks the audience right in the eye and tells us what he’s going to do to Othello. And there we sit, stuck in our seats, unable to do anything to warn him. I felt like that listening to Comey as he told us that he leaked his memos in order to get a special counsel set up to investigate Trump (This he did right after Trump fired him.), yet no one rushed out and arrested him. No audible gasps, no rolling eyes – nothing. It was like he’d just announced that he’d had lunch.

Last July Jim Comey shocked us all with his weird testimony about Hillary and her errant emails. Yes, she’s guilty. No, we won’t indict her. Huh? The whole nation walked around with wrinkled brows for weeks. What kind of a Janus act was this guy performing? Iago liked to swear, “By Janus!” I heard him again: Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,/ But seeming so, for my peculiar end:..

His “end” is peculiar indeed. Is he motivated by hatred for Trump? Or by fear of Hillary? Or fear of Obama? Obama was still in office during these first two forays. Both of them are dangerous people, so fear of them is not as irrational as hatred of Trump.

Or – more likely yet – is he motivated by his own ambitions, his own greed? That motivates many a villain. Comey once worked at Lockheed Martin where in one year he earned $6 million as vice president and general counsel(It is interesting to note that Lockheed is a major donor to the Clinton Foundation.) His questionable connections to a London bank and to his brother’s real estate dealings also raise character questions. We never do know Iago’s motivations; he tells us, but he keeps changing his mind, and his wife, speaking of his jealousies, says:
They are never jealous for the cause./They are jealous for they are jealous.

It’s hard to tell what Comey is up to; it’s like trying to stay ahead of Thomas Cromwell.  On July 5th he announces his Hillary-guilty-but decision (which was not his to make). On October 28th, he announces he’s reopening the investigation into her emails, then turns around, less than a month later and just 48 hours before the election, and says, basically, “Never mind.”  What maneuver is this? What palace intrigue?

Never mind! On Hillary’s watch, and under her supervision classified information was left to wander the streets alone, at night, in fact, ended up on the laptop of Anthony Weiner, well-known pervert and husband to Hillary’s right-hand woman, Huma Abedin who has well-known close family ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. And the perfect, “honest” Comey is willing to look the other way. Never mind. Nothing to see here; move right along.

This man was the head of the FBI, but we cannot tell whether he’s at all interested in the well-being of the people of the United States, or just intense about the well-being of James Comey. He certainly was interested in expressing his feelings about things but had no factual, useful information for us. He felt strange; he was very concerned; he was even nauseous on occasion. Do any of us care how he felt? I had always thought of the FBI as a just-the-facts-ma’am kind of organization.

To make matters even more unsettling, now that the Russia conspiracy has fizzled like cotton candy on a hot day, he’s drummed up some real serious reservations about Trump’s General Flynn comment – which only Comey heard and which Comey only brought up after Trump had fired him. Curiouser and curiouser.

And why is Comey’s BFF the special prosecutor trying to prove The Donald obstructed justice? How can you obstruct justice if no crime has been committed? Trump, could, if he needed to, just pardon Flynn, but the General doesn’t seem to have done anything illegal; talking to the Russians was his job. And if Comey thought Trump’s remarks were an order to circumvent prosecuting Flynn, why didn’t Comey do what he thought he was told? But he didn’t do anything until he lost his job.

I am glad to see the President no longer trusts this man. It was good that he waited until Comey was not around to fire him – no chance for this Judas to hide anything. I do wonder what Trump has on him and I do hope it’s good, for Comey appears to be doing the same thing Iago did to Othello –
…practising upon his peace and quiet Even to madness.

Later in the play, Iago, attempting to convince Othello of Desdemona’s infidelity, says,
I speak not yet of proof.  

There wasn’t any because she was innocent. Then later he adds:

And this may help to thicken other proofs/ That do demonstrate thinly.

But there weren’t any other proofs. A point Othello misses. It’s a point the media and those who pay attention to it miss as well. There are no proofs. Of anything. There’s no evidence of any behavior even slightly unethical, let alone illegal. But charge ahead they will.

They do because all they have to accomplish is to kill Trump’s reputation and that’s not hard to do. As Iago points out to Cassio (whose reputation he has just destroyed:
Reputation is an idle and most false imposition: oft got without merit, and lost without deserving…   He (and Comey) should know.

Yet later on in Act IV he tells Othello:
Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,/ Is the immediate jewel of their souls: /Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing; /'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands: /But he that filches from me my good name/ Robs me of that which not enriches him /And makes me poor indeed.

And knowing that, he went right ahead and did everything to ruin the reputations of Othello’s wife, his best friend, and of Othello himself.

Throughout the play, Iago knows exactly what he’s doing. Throughout the Trump presidency, Comey has known what he was doing, too. I don’t think he’s as smart and sly as Iago, but he’s attempting to ruin the president and he’s using many of Iago’s methods to do so. We should remember as we watch this drama unfold that, though by the end of the play 5 people are dead including Othello and Desdemona, Iago is hauled off to the dungeon to be tortured and executed. Comey will get his – I just pray it’s before he does more damage, not after.

 

 

 

Cliff Hanging and Earthquakes

           This is shocking, and in our post-modern world I shouldn’t admit it, but I like to think.  I know, I know – if I were truly cool and trendy I’d acknowledge, in grand existentialist style, that everything is just matter, therefore nothing matters, so I should just emote away about whatever matter is currently in vogue.  But I can’t.

I am human and I was made in God’s image and God thinks, therefore I think.
Q. Why isn’t thought more popular, then?  (I can hear you thinking.)
A. We’ve been taught to start in the wrong place, so we get lost and give up.
Q. Where is the wrong place?
A.  Read on…..

Picture two cliffs separated by a great chasm.  The cliffs are made of sedimentary rock, layer upon layer, each a slightly different shade.  On one side the stone deposits have built up on bedrock, solid and immovable – absolute truth.  On the opposite bank the levels are less regular and horizontal.  The foundation on which they rest their considerable weight is cracked and volcanic, full of air bubbles, nearly weightless – relative truth.  

If you stand with me on the solid side, you’ll understand what I’m about to say; if not, hang on tight because somewhere deep inside you’re about to feel wobbly.

Let’s look at the bedrock.  It consists of God – the God who existed before He spoke time and space into existence, before Earth, before before.  This is Jehovah – “I am that I am,”  (Exodus 3:14). Where God is there is absolute existence, and therefore absolute truth.

What about the opposing pumice foundation, the one that says nothing is absolutely true?

Well, we all intuitively know that one of the most important rules of logic says that no true statement can be self-refuting.  “I am not me,” makes no sense.  “My Dachshund is not a dog,” fairs no better.  How does “There is no absolute truth” strike you?   Yes, I know, It has an absolutist ring to it, but most of today’s intellectuals will swear by that assertion, even while their base crumbles beneath them.  In this scenario God becomes nothing more than a human construct embedded in the string of time we call history; godness is whatever we want it to be.  We aren’t made in God’s image, but he/she/they in ours.

If, though, we start with the stability of side one, we can figure out that the God of Truth would want us, His creatures, to know truth – and sure enough, there’s the Word of God; we can barely imagine a being so true to Himself that His Word and His existence are one and the same-- “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God,” (John 1:1).  Not only did He reveal Himself in His Word, but also in His creation; what we know that modern science began as a search for more information about God.

The opposite side of the chasm boasts purely human wisdom and post-modern science, which schlepps about in its own quagmire of Darwinian assumptions, assumptions that are being rapidly demolished by real science, which is more interested in truth than in invention.  Follow me – if there is no absolute truth and God is just another fabrication, then science alone can explain our existence – though, if nothing is true, I can’t imagine why we would bother.

Under it all we want to know who we are, why we are, so we keep looking. “What is the nature of Man? “ my favorite teacher always used to ask.  If we take God’s Word as absolute truth, then the “nature of man” is not a rosy picture,  “ All have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23).  If, on the other side of the chasm, we’re just making things up as we go (which is reasonable if nothing is rock bottom – pardon the pun – true).  It feels just fine to state, with absolute surety, that man is basically good.
Add a little evolutionary twist to that and we learn that man is getting even better, the barbarism of the last century (to say nothing of the current ISIS mess) notwithstanding.

This attitude puts the relativist in a pickle though.  How is he going to explain evil if man is basically good?  The scapegoats (sorry about using a biblical term) obediently line up – society, chemistry, family, corporations, poverty, bullying – and all get the cart before the horse.  How can the crookedness of a building be the reason why the bricks it’s built of are warped? The relativist spends a lot of energy trying to restructure society, the economy, the drug laws, etc. all in an effort to rescue perfect man from his evil oppressors.  Somehow the fact that the oppressors are also people eludes him.

The relativist has another option, though, if the transference thing gets shaky: he can change what “sin” means.  If we’re doomed to do evil, and nothing is carved in stone, then let’s just change the meaning of evil.  Easy.  Pedophilia is really just fine because kids really want it.  I had a class of honors students tell me right after 9/11 that it wasn’t wrong that the high-jackers flew those planes into the Twin Towers.  They were doing what they thought was right.

Evil, on the other cliff, is a very clear and solid idea.  Anything non-God, anti-God is evil – a once-perfect angel, a “well-meaning” politician, a self-centered parent.  God is absolute perfection (and I am not talking about Allah), so anything short of that perfection ….. Yikes. I’m very glad God has a solution for this, because I don’t. “For God so loved the world that He gave is only begotten son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16).

Our national dialogue is getting nastier and nastier because, at the very bottom of the cliffs we stand on, our assumptions are diametrically opposed.  On one side morality is clear, immutable, and imposed by God – on the other it’s improvisational, constantly changing,  and driven by whatever the latest catch phrase is – tolerance, diversity, equality-- the ends always justifying the means.  Nothing is evil, just sick or browbeaten.

The solid cliff recognizes free will and our own responsibility; it acknowledges that only the grace of God can fix anything because we humans are too screwed up.  The relativist side assumes that we are all victims, doomed to be poor, or addicted, or gay, or whatever, and that stopping our pain will involve transferring that pain to someone else.  “Tax the rich” folks shout, believing that impoverishing someone else can enrich them.

We can’t straighten out this tangle of ideologies without acknowledging our basic differences.   Let’s choose our cliffs with our eyes wide open and let’s be ready to defend our positions from our foundations without feeling the need to malign or threaten, bully or demean. It is true, however, that standing on a shaky foundation is enough to make any of us desperate enough to start name-calling. If you can’t logically, factually win an argument then you are doomed to committing that faux pas.

So where do you come from?  On what do you stand?  Which cliff do you claim? And should you be feeling equivocal, there are only two, and the gulf between them is widening. We can all feel the ground shaking.