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31 October 2016

“Be careful, little eyes…”

Nobody’s temptation-proof. But not everyone’s tempted by the same stuff.

Some years ago when I finally got round to reading the unabridged edition of The Stand (which, I remind you, is my favorite End Times novel, and not just ’cause it’s way better written than those stupid, stupid Left Behind novels), I casually mentioned to a fellow Christian (let’s call her Asha) I was doing so.

Wrong Christian to mention such things to. Asha was horrified. I think she was afraid I’d lose my salvation over it. You think I’m being facetious, but some Christians actually do believe there are such things as mortal, unpardonable sins. To Asha, Stephen King novels are apparently one of ’em.

Y’see, King is known as a horror writer. So he’ll write about evil spirits, vampires, werewolves, devilish magic creatures, and so forth. He’ll also write about non-supernatural things, like sex and violence. He’ll use the F-word, and take the Lord’s name in vain. Pagan stuff like that.

Therefore Asha insisted I was a bad Christian for exposing myself, even opening myself, to such evil influences. Why, the indwelling Holy Spirit might be so offended he’d flee my body, and devils would rush in, and I’d wind up committing all sorts of sinful atrocities. Blah blah blah, the usual clichés from people who don’t understand how temptation works.

If you’re human, you get tempted. We all do. You know how temptation works. But if you forgot, I’ll remind you.

Let’s say Stephen King wrote a novel where the main character liked to huff paint. Now, if we read the novel, we might identify with this guy in many ways: He’s good to his kids, he loves barbecue, he likes monster trucks, he likes to watch police procedurals. We might even think, “Wow, he’s a lot like me.” But that paint-huffing thing: That’s just nuts. We’d never do that. Never want to; never think to. Aren’t tempted in that direction in any way. Right?

Of course I assume you’re a typical sane human being. Maybe you are that susceptible to suggestion. And if that’s the case, why don’t you sign on to PayPal, and send $500 to my email address? Thanks a bunch.

28 October 2016

Treasures in heaven.

Things wear out and are lost. But not in God’s kingdom.

Matthew 6.19-21 • Luke 12.33-34

In Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, after he finished objecting to hypocrisy in giving to charity, in types of prayer, and in public fasting, he moved on to talk about wealth and money.

You’ll notice the three verses in Matthew I’m gonna point to today, don’t by themselves nail down precisely how we’re to stash our treasures in heaven. That, we actually have to pull from the parallel teaching in Luke: Give to charity. And if you know your Old Testament, you might remember this proverb:

Proverbs 19.17 KWL
Put the LORD in your debt: Be gracious to the poor.
He compensates you and gives peace to you.

Jesus’s first-century audience would’ve known that one… and Jesus’s 21st-century audience had better learn that one.

Matthew 6.19-21 KWL
19 “Don’t hoard wealth for yourselves on earth, where moths and corrosion ruin it,
where thieves dig it up and steal it.
20 Hoard wealth for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor corrosion ruins,
where thieves don’t dig, nor steal: 21 Where’s your wealth? Your mind will be there too.”
Luke 12.33-34 KWL
33 “Sell your possessions and give to charity:
Make yourselves a wallet which never wears out.
Infallible wealth in the heavens, which a thief can’t come near, nor moth destroy.
34 “Where’s your wealth? Your minds will be there too.”

This passage has been greatly nullified by our culture. Y’see, we have banks and insurance. Nowadays, if our minds are on our money, it’s only because we worry we don’t have enough. Back then, it was based on the constant fear, Is my money secure? Because the ancients were responsible to secure their own wealth. Neither financial institutions, nor the government, would do it for ’em. Wasn’t their job. Wasn’t anyone’s job.

Americans tend to take property rights for granted. The ancients weren’t so naïve. If the king wanted your stuff, he’d have your stuff. Land, cattle, wives. You remember Abraham was regularly worried different kings would take his wife from him—’cause they did. Ge 12.12-13, 20.2 Even though Abraham was powerful enough to assemble his very own army and rescue his nephew.

God mitigated this by having, “Don’t steal” Dt 5.19 apply to kings and commoners alike. True, it’s way harder to get justice when the king’s doing the thievery, like when David ben Jesse stole his general’s wife, or Ahab ben Omri stole his neighbor’s vineyard. The LORD had to punish them himself. But in Jesus’s day, Israel wasn’t ruled by a proper king; it was ruled by Roman puppets. Good luck getting justice if you didn’t have Roman citizenship; the Romans would treat you just like Americans treat illegal aliens. (Well okay, crucifixion is worse.)

So if you had wealth, you had to secure it. Just like paranoid people do today. Better build a strongroom in your house, or find a clever way to disguise or hide it. Lots of people simply buried it in a hole in the ground, just like the worthless steward in Jesus’s story of the talents. Mt 25.25 Or that buried treasure in Jesus’s other story. Mt 13.44 Hey, if nobody knows where your hole is, thieves can’t dig it up. (The KJV decided to translate diorýssusin/“dig through” as “break through”—a common enough way to get into a flimsy wooden house in the 17th century, but much harder to do with the solid stone houses of the first century.)

And even so, after all the precautions they took to make sure nobody could find or get at their wealth, the wealthy would worry. ’Cause any disaster could destroy it. Invading armies, or some covetous noble, could grab your land. Earthquakes could flatten your buildings. Determined looters, or even just a fire, could gut your house. Any possession could be lost. Easily.

It’s the very reason we invented insurance. Pay a little each month or year, and your possessions are protected and guaranteed? Brilliant. Now the only thing we need worry about is whether we have enough money.

So we need to climb into the first-century mindset about money before we can really understand Jesus. Imagine you’re in a really bad neighborhood, you’re not carrying a gun or taser or pepper spray, and for some crazy reason you’ve got $5,000 cash in your wallet. How secure are you gonna feel about that money?

Got that mental picture? Good. Now imagine having that worry all the time.

27 October 2016

“If my people pray, I’ll heal their land.”

Pray for your nation. But don’t just presume your nation is God’s nation.

2 Chronicles 7.14

Today’s out-of-context verse is really popular with civic idolaters, those folks who assume when Jesus returns, he won’t overthrow the United States: It’s the one exception to the kingdoms of this world which must become part of Christ’s one-world government. To them, it already is his kingdom, and Americans already are God’s chosen people. It’s just we’re heavily mismanaging things. But once we call upon God… well, lemme quote their beloved bible verse.

2 Chronicles 7.14 KJV
…if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Right. If our Christian nation returns to God, and returns to proper Christian values (as defined by popular Christian culture), and makes big shows of repentance like public prayer and voting for the prolife political party (and never mind what the party’s candidates think about the needy, the stranger, the widows and orphans—heck, women in general): God will heal our land. Turn it into his kingdom on earth. Make it paradise. Maybe even hold back on the End Times for a few more years, so we can finally accomplish all our personal goals for wealth, romance, and material success, without that pesky rapture messing up our schedule. Yet at the same time, in our church services, claiming we’re getting the church ready to meet her groom. Rv 21.2

Yeah, it’s a wholly inconsistent theology. But fear’ll do that to people.

Anyway, whenever I object to them ripping 2 Chronicles 7.14 out of its historical context, I regularly get accused of not loving the United States like they do. And they’re right: It definitely ain’t like they do. I love the United States like God loves the world—and wants to save it. Jn 3.16 I want as many Americans as possible to turn to God. I don’t assume they already have. Polls prove we think we have, but crime and abortion rates prove we haven’t. So I remain mindful my citizenship is in God’s kingdom. And every time the Holy Spirit wakes me up to the fact the United States and the kingdom are opposed, I’m siding with the kingdom. Every time. As should every Christian—instead of bending the truth till we can play both sides.

26 October 2016

Resisting God’s grace. (Don’t!)

It’s sad. But it’s possible, and it happens.

God dispenses his amazing grace to everybody, as Jesus pointed out in his Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5.43-48 KWL
43 “You heard this said: ‘You’ll love your neighbor.’ Lv 19.18 And you’ll hate your enemy.
44 And I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.
45 Thus you can become your heavenly Father’s children,
since he raises his sun over evil and good, and rains on moral and immoral.
46 When you love those who love you, why should you be rewarded?
Don’t taxmen also do so themselves?
47 When you greet only your family, what did you do that was so great?
Don’t the foreigners also do so themselves?
48 Therefore you will be egalitarian,
like your heavenly Father is egalitarian.”

Our Father doesn’t skimp on the grace. He provides it, in unlimited amounts, to everybody. To those who love him, and those who don’t—which is why Jesus instructs us to be like our Father, and love those who hate us. To those he considers family, and those he doesn’t consider family—which is why Jesus instructs us to be like our Father, and love pagans. Be like our Father. Be egalitarian. Love and be gracious to everyone, without discrimination.

Yeah, Christians suck at following this command. It’s why we’ve come up with excuses why we needn’t follow it. Or invent theological beliefs which undermine it altogether, like limited grace, and irresistible grace.

Irresistible grace is a Calvinist invention. Basically it claims God is so almighty, so sovereign, so powerful, that if he pours grace upon us it’s impossible to resist. We’re gonna get it. We’re in no position to reject it. When God shines his sun on the good and evil, the evil are unable to duck into the house and turn on the air conditioner. When God showers his rain on the moral and immoral, the immoral find it impossible to book a trip to Las Vegas and dodge the rain in the desert.

Okay, obviously people can resist sunshine and rain. But Calvinists claim that’s because there are two kinds of grace:

  • Common grace. The resistible kind. Like sunshine and rain. Like free coffee, tax breaks, a good parking space, and all the other things God and our fellow humans generously offer us.
  • Saving grace. The irresistible kind. Infinitely powerful. There’s no defense against it. If God decides you’re getting saved, that’s that.

If irresistible grace sounds kinda rapey… well, it is kinda rapey.

That’s why it doesn’t accurately describe God in the slightest. God is love, 1Jn 4.8 and love behaves patiently and kindly and doesn’t demand its own way. 1Co 13.4-5 But when Calvinists picture what they’d do if they were God, love comes second to sovereignty. (You know, just like love comes a distant second to our own selfish will.) If they were almighty, and wanted you saved, you’d have no choice in the matter; no free will. You’d be saved, period, no discussion. ’Cause they love you. And you may not love them now, but give it time, and you’ll learn to love ’em back. Just stop fighting them, ’cause there’s no way you’re strong enough to resist the grace they’re sticking inside you.

…And I’d better stop this simile now, before it gets any more icky.

25 October 2016

The prayer journal: Keeping track of prayer requests.

It’s good to have a written record of God’s answers to prayer.

Prayer journal /'pr(eɪ.)ər 'dʒər.nəl/ n. Daily (or regular) record of transactions with God.
[Prayer journaling /'dʒər.nəl.ɪŋ/ vt.]

A prayer journal is a sort of diary, but rather than listing everything you did during the day (and all your innermost secret feelings about them), your prayer journal is about what you prayed—for yourself, and for others.

I realize not everyone keeps a diary. It’s for the same reason not every Christian keeps a prayer journal. We don’t think our lives are interesting enough to record, or can’t remember to keep it up to date… or fear what’ll happen when the wrong person reads those innermost secret feelings. Well, a prayer journal isn’t necessarily about personal secrets. (Unless you requested things from God which you’d really rather other people not know: “God, please cure my butt pimples” and the like.) It’s how to keep track of what you’ve prayed—and how and when God answered these requests.

See, your average Christian doesn’t keep track of what they prayed. Consequently they don’t know how long they’ve been making certain requests of God. Or how regularly (or if) they kept up on these requests. Or when God answered them. Or how often God answered them. I mean, God answers our prayers all the time (and not just with “no!”), but when we never keep track, we can’t always tell you when, how, and how often. And when we’re feeling low, we’re gonna forget every good thing God has done for us. You know, like the Hebrews did in the wilderness, every single time they hit a rough patch: “Aw man, we’re gonna die. Egypt was better. Why’d we ever leave?” Ex 16.3, 17.3, Nu 11.18, etc. God forbid, but this kind of thing still happens. All the time.

That’s why the prophets and apostles put together a written record of what God did do for ’em. And you oughta have one too. Your prayer journal is what God’s done for you. Keep track!

Especially if you’re involved (or getting involved) with your church’s prayer ministry. Or if you regularly pray for others. Or if you’re not entirely sure prayer works: Keep a journal for three months and see for yourself.

There are dozens of different prayer journal techniques. I’ll share a few different techniques with you in future. Today I’ll just start you off with a really simple method, which works for me.

24 October 2016

White Jesus… and those who insist he stay that way.

Usually the folks who are weirded out by black Jesus.

This is the only physical description of Jesus in the bible.

Revelation 1.12-16 KWL
12 I turned round to see the voice speaking with me,
and in so doing I saw seven gold lampstands.
13 In the middle of the lampstands: One like the Son of Man,
clad in a full-length robe with a gold belt wrapped round his chest.
14 His head and hair: White, like white wool, like snow. His eyes like fiery flames.
15 His feet the same: White bronze, refined in a furnace. His voice: Like the sound of many waters.
16 He had seven stars in his right hand. From his mouth came a sharp, double-edged saber.
His face: Like the sun, shining in its power.

Since it’s in Revelation, a book which largely consists of apocalyptic visions, people don’t take it literally. I find this to be true of even the nutjobs who take everything literally in that book. A Jesus with bronze skin and white hair? Gotta be a representative vision. ’Cause Jesus, as everybody knows, is white.

Been white since medieval times—’cause that’s how artists painted him.
Warner Sallman’s 1941 painting Head of Christ, the one many an American Protestant church has on the wall somewhere. Wikipedia
Arguably been white even longer than that: You know that picture of Jesus I use on the TXAB banner? Comes from Khristós Pantokrátor, one of the oldest ikons of Jesus we have, dating from the sixth century. Painted by Byzantine Greeks… so, no surprise, Jesus looks Greek. ’Cause when people try to produce an image of God, we have the bad habit of rendering him in our own image.

So that’s what we see in every European painting of Christ Jesus: He’s European. Artists wanted to identify with him, or make him more familiar-looking to local audiences, or portray him in church pageants without wearing brownface. Northern European paintings tend to make him look northern European; southern European paintings tend to make him look southern European. Italian artists made him look Italian, French artists made him look French, Dutch artists made him look Dutch, and American artists made him look… well, whatever ethnic background they have. Usually white.

So when I was growing up, just about every picture of Jesus to be found in Protestant and Catholic churches, depicted him as white. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the most diverse parts of the country, and even so: White Jesus was everywhere.

Most popular was Werner Sallman’s Head of Christ, which you’ll still see all over the Christian subculture. Even in predominantly nonwhite churches: Black, Latino, Chinese, everywhere. They frame and display it the same way government offices display the President’s portrait. And of course white Jesus was all over our stained-glass windows, paintings, statues, Sunday school materials, Nativity crèches… stands to reason you’d get that idea fixed in your mind.

Plus, all the Jews I knew where white.

Yes, this is an excuse for being ignorant. You see, we were never taught otherwise. No pastor ever gestured at the portraits of white Jesus and pointed out, “Of course, you know he’s not really white.” This was the image of Jesus, and we unthinkingly accepted it.

More or less. Different artists might render the beard a slightly different color. Conservative churches might insist on pictures of Jesus with hair which doesn’t go past the neck. Movies might depict him with a fringed cloak and tunic—you know, like an actual first-century Jew. But for most Americans, that image from the Sallman painting would kick in: The real Jesus had brown hair, a white tunic, and either a red or blue toga. No fringes. Fringes look raggedy.

We’re meant to outgrow this worldview. But not everyone does.

21 October 2016

Acts for God, versus acts for public approval.

Charity begins with motive.

Matthew 6.1-4

Starting the second chapter of the Sermon on the Mount. It begins with this teaching, only found in Matthew:

Matthew 6.1 KWL
“Watch out to not do your righteous acts before the people to be seen by them.
Otherwise you won’t earn wages from your heavenly Father.”

Yeah, that’s the term Jesus used: Misthón/“wages.” It gets translated “reward” by various bibles (KJV, ESV, NIV, NLT, NRSV), but that’s because in 1611 “reward” meant regard, something you merited for your efforts. Nowadays “reward” implies a prize you get for stumbling across a missing person or thing. It’s not. It’s earned, like Paul said. Ro 4.4 Laborers don’t win their wages; they deserve ’em. Lk 10.7, 1Ti 5.18

Various stingy Christians claim God owes us nothing when we do good deeds. ’Cause we should be doing ’em anyway, right? True. But they’ve got the wrong mindset. We’re not just God’s kids, who work for him for free: We’re his employees, who work to further his kingdom because we have a stake in the company. Employees should be doing their job anyway—and they get paid for it. Same with us Christians: We work for God, and do what we oughta do for our Boss. And God doesn’t skimp on our wages.

Unless of course we’re not working for God, but for our own gain. Unless we’re not making him any profit, but swiping all that profit for ourselves. And this is what Jesus addresses in this lesson: Hypocrites who only do good deeds to make themselves look good. Ostensibly they work for God, but really they’re growing their own little fiefdoms instead of his kingdom.

There are three hypocritical practices Jesus objects to: Self-serving public charity, self-serving public prayer, and self-serving public fasting. Today I deal with the charity.

I already dealt with the fact Jesus’s objections appear to contradict what he previously said about us being the world’s light:

Matthew 5.16 KWL
“So shine your light before the people so they could see your good works,
and think well of your heavenly Father.”

The difference has to do with motive. If you’re doing ’em for God, good!—shine your light. If you’re doing ’em for praise, bad Christian!—human praise is all the earnings you’ll get. That’s the context.

And the way Jesus recommends we can best make sure we’re doing ’em for God—if we have any question about it—is to do these acts privately. If it’s public, it’s for the acclaim of others. If it’s private, only God sees it—’cause it’s only for him to see anyway.

20 October 2016

Jesus’s first command: Love God.

The most important of the commands to follow.

When Moshe ben Maimon of Spain (1135–1204, also called Maimonides by westerners, Rambam by Jews) wrote the Sefer Hamitzvot/“Book of Good Deeds,” he sorted God’s commands into a list of 613. His first command was the first of the Ten Commandments, which in Jewish reckoning is this verse:

Exodus 20.2 = Deuteronomy 5.6 KWL
“I’m your god, the LORD,
who took you out of Egypt’s land, out of the slaves’ house.”

Makes sense, right? It’s the first one the LORD declared aloud from Sinai.

But when Jesus was asked the most important of God’s commands, he listed two. Respectively, they’re Moshe ben Maimon’s fourth and 13th commands.

Mark 12.28-31 KWL
28 One of the scribes was standing there listening to the discussion.
Recognizing how well Jesus answered the Sadducees, he asked him,
“Which command is first of all?” 29 Jesus gave this answer:
“First is, ‘Listen Israel: Our god is the Lord. The Lord is One.
30 You will love your Lord God with all your mind, life, intent, and strength.’ Dt 6.4-5
Second is, ‘Love your neighbor like yourself.’ Lv 19.18
No command is higher than these.”

It’s kinda understandable why Moshe went with the first commandment. It is the first commandment, after all. And it identifies which God we’re to follow. We don’t follow one of the other beings which identify themselves, or which others identify for us, as God. When pagans refer to “the universe,” or nontheists mockingly refer to “the imaginary man in the sky,” we Christians reject those ideas as God. That’s not our God. Our God is the being Jesus identified as his Father; and when this being identified himself, it was as YHWH/“the LORD,” Ex 3.14-15 the name he permanently chose for himself. He’s the God who rescued the Hebrews from Egypt. That God is our God.

Identifying which God is our God, is really important to us humans. It’s why your typical theology book begins with nailing down which God we follow. The Father of Jesus; the God of Israel. There’s usually a bit in there about whether he exists, which is entirely unnecessary if you’ve met him (but a bothersome number of theologians aren’t actually sure they have… which is another discussion).

Of course if you ask God—as this scribe asked Jesus, God incarnate— he’s gonna say the most important command he gave is to love God. Just as he had Moses tell the Hebrews.

Deuteronomy 6.4-5 KWL
4 “Listen, Israel: Our god is the LORD. The LORD is One.
5 Love your LORD God with all your mind, all your life, and all your power.”

In Mark Jesus divided mehódekha/“your powerful[ness]” into two ideas: Dianoías/“intent,” and iskhýos/“strength.” Your mental power; your physical power. In case anybody was looking for a loophole—as we so often do—Jesus plugged it.

19 October 2016

The love we oughta see in supernatural gifts.

We do untold damage when love’s not part of this ministry.

1 Corinthians 13.4-8

When Christians write the about the bit from 1 Corinthians 13 which defines love, we almost universally take it out of context. Myself included. ’Tain’t necessarily a bad thing: We quote it when we’re defining love. What love is, as opposed to what it’s not—as opposed to what popular culture, and sometimes even Christian culture, claims it is. The apostles defined it properly, so we’re adjusting our concept of agápi/“charity” accordingly.

But in context, the apostles defined it because they were correcting the Corinthians’ misperceptions about the supernatural. If you’re gonna strive for greater gifts, the only valid way to pursue them and do them is in love. If you’re not doing ’em in love, you’re doing ’em wrong.

And if you’re not entirely certain what the apostles meant by this “love” concept, permit ’em to straighten you out a bit.

1 Corinthians 13.4-8 KWL
4 Love has patience. Love behaves kindly. It doesn’t act with uncontrolled emotion.
It doesn’t draw attention to how great it is. It doesn’t exaggerate.
5 It doesn’t ignore others’ considerations. It doesn’t look out for itself. It doesn’t provoke behavior.
It doesn’t plot evil. 6 It doesn’t delight in doing wrong: It delights in truth.
7 It puts up with everything, puts trust in everything,
puts hope in everything, survives everything. 8A Love never falls down.

That’s the mindset we need to have when we’re striving for, or acting in, supernatural gifts. With love. Like this. Know any prophets, faith-healers, tongues-speakers, and teachers who act in love? I surely hope so. I do.

Now, d’you know any wonder-workers who are acting the opposite of all this? Likely you do. I sure do. Let’s play an irritating little game of “Spot the loveless”:

  • Impatient. If you aren’t healed immediately, or can’t accept their prophecy or teaching, you’re to blame. Not the (supposedly) spiritually mature miracle-worker.
  • Unkind. Rude, dismissive, condescending, needlessly harsh.
  • Do act with out-of-control emotion. In other words, not gentle.
  • Do draw attention to their greatness. They do love those titles.
  • Exaggerate all the time. They only tell the big success stories… even though not even the bible tells only the big success stories. Some of our failures are teachable moments; some of our little successes can be more profound than the big ones. But for them, everything’s gotta be huge.
  • Ignores others’ considerations. Are you offended by something they said? Tough.
  • Looks out for themselves. It’s about their convenience; they’re busy people.
  • Provokes behavior. And is actually quite proud of doing so. Sometimes teaches the Holy Spirit wants to be provocative… not restorative.
  • Plots evil; delights in wrongdoing. And we’re not just talking about extreme cases of hypocrisy. Some hypocrites never commit big sins, but their lives are full of little trespasses. White lies, petty thefts, small cheats, sins of omission. They do add up though.
  • Doesn’t delight in truth. If truth is embarrassing or inconvenient, phooey on truth.
  • Puts up with nothing. Trusts no one. Hopes for little. Falls apart easily.

18 October 2016

Saying grace.

You know: Praying for your food.

The most common type of prayer—the one we see most often, and probably the type taken the least seriously—is the prayer before meals. We call it “grace.” Not to be confused with God’s generous, forgiving attitude.

Why don’t people take it seriously? Because it’s dead religion. Christians might pray it as a living act of religion, one of the acts we do to further our relationship with God. But Christians and pagans alike say grace before meals as the dead kind of religion: We do it ’cause it’s just what people do in our culture. It’s custom. It’s tradition. It’s habit. But it doesn’t mean anything.

Nope, not said out of gratitude. Nor love. Nor devotion. Nor even as a reminder of these things. We say grace because if we didn’t say grace, Grandma would slap the food out of our hands and say, “You didn’t say grace!” We say grace because Dad would take his seat at the table, fold his hands like you do for prayer, and give us kids dirty looks until we stopped eating, noticed what he was doing, and mimicked his behavior. We say grace because it’s how people wait for everyone to be ready before the meal starts. God has nothing to do with it—beyond a minor acknowledgment.

You notice in these scenarios, it’s because Grandma or Dad wanted to say grace. Not because anybody else did. Or even cared. It’s enforced religion: Everybody’s gotta participate in their spiritual practice, not to grow our own relationships with God, but because our parents felt it wasn’t proper to eat before a ritual prayer. It’s a formality.

And in some cases, it’s a superstition: If you don’t bless the food, it’s not blessed. Some will even say cursed.

So as a result of all this Christianist junk behind saying grace, we wind up with people who treat it as an annoyance. Or even passive-aggressively mock it. Like the silly rote prayers.

Good bread, good meat.
Good God, let’s eat.
Rub a dub dub
Thanks for the grub
Yea, God!

At one children’s ministry I worked with, we had a rote prayer we used for grace. Actually it was an old hymn, suitable for thanking God for food. And since each line was eight syllables long, it meant it perfectly fit a whole lot of tunes. Like different TV theme songs. The adults would have the kids sing their grace to these silly songs… then wonder why the kids didn’t take grace all that seriously. Well, duh. Obviously they weren’t being taught to.

Okay, so let’s take a more serious look at saying grace. And, believe it or not, whether we oughta drop the practice. Yeah, you read right.

17 October 2016

Things I want when I’m in a coma.

Just in case there’s any question… and in case anyone remembers I blogged on it.

The subject came up recently. It's kind of a morbid subject, but honestly, you never know when you might wind up in a coma. I’m not expecting to go into one anytime soon; no, I’m not suffering from anything. But I know people who went from hale and hearty (or appearing so) to dead in very short periods of time. If I ever go into one, I should make my wishes nice and obvious. So I’m sticking ’em on TXAB. Somewhere, in the back of someone’s mind, they’ll remember I listed ’em here.

Here ya go. If I’m ever in a coma, this is what I want.

Keep me plugged in. Keep the feeding tubes going. Keep the oxygen flowing. I wanna live, dangit.

If I ever change my mind on that, I’ll stop trying so hard to live, and just die. So if I’m alive, assume I wanna be alive. Keep me alive. Don’t disconnect the food and air; that’s a nasty way to go.

I’ll make an exception if I’m brain dead. Then, obviously, I’m dead. Keeping my body alive, other than to harvest organs, means you’re struggling to let go, or hoping some miracle will bring me back to life—and y’know, you don’t have to wait for some miracle. I’m totally fine with being dead. I’ll be with Jesus; I’ll come back when he does. Relax.

Otherwise keep me plugged in.

Keep the morphine coming. This only goes for if I’m in pain. The times I’ve been prescription-strength stoned, I didn’t enjoy it. So if I’m not in pain, don’t dope me up. But if I’m in pain, or likely in pain, I’d rather be loopy than hurting, so go right ahead and load me up. I’m in a coma; it’s not like I’ll be operating heavy machinery anytime soon.

Speaking of pain: No poking, slapping, or otherwise abusing me in the hopes of getting a response. I won’t appreciate it.

If you wanna talk to me, that’s fine. Feel free.

Talk as normally as you can. I’ve watched people talk to the sick, elderly, and non-responsive as if they’re babies. I don’t understand that; I think it’s condescending and a little bit insane; don’t do it. Don’t get weird on me.

Don’t just take advantage of the fact I’m non-responsive. Don’t try to answer or speak on my behalf, or presume what my responses might be. You should know me well enough to know I won’t always give predictable answers. (Often on purpose.) If I have to listen to a schizophrenic conversation between you and your parody of me, I’m not gonna enjoy it. Would you?

14 October 2016

Perfect love—without conditions.

Which we Christians shouldn’t have.

Matthew 5.43-48 • Luke 6.27-36

Sometimes I joke the two commands Jesus said were most important Mk 12.29-31 —love God Dt 6.5 and love your neighbor Lv 19.18 —are respectively the easiest and hardest commands. Really easy to love God. But the neighbors are a pain.

Some respond with a laugh. Others disagree: They struggle to love God, but people are relatively easy for them. ’Cause people are visible and God is not.

And, they figure, the neighbors are easy to love. Of course by “neighbor” they mean “people who are friendly,” kinda like in Jesus’s story of the kind Samaritan. Lk 10.29-37 Kind people are easy to love. Unkind people not so much. And yeah, it’s not hard to love people who are always nice to you, but I find when you really know and spend time with people, they’re not always gonna be nice. Gotta give ’em credit for trying, but everybody slips. I sure do. That’s why we Christians gotta be gracious.

Since God obligated the Hebrews to love their neighbors, a lot of ’em actually figured that’s as far as they needed to go in loving people. Kinda like that guy who provoked Jesus to tell the kind Samaritan story: He wanted to justify which neighbors to love. Don’t we all? But in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus objected to that kind of categorizing. God loves everybody, and if you’re following him, if you’re one of his kids, go and do likewise.

And Jesus didn’t pussyfoot around. He jumped straight to the unlovable folks. Not icky, dirty, or smelly people, whom superficial Christians struggle to love, but can with a little effort (and especially after we wash ’em). Not sinners, whom self-righteous Christians likewise struggle to love, but sometimes can (again, after they straighten up a bit). Nope, Jesus went for the people who are just plain being hostile and hateful towards us. Persecutors. Mistreaters. Cursers.

Matthew 5.43-44 KWL
43 “You heard this said: ‘You’ll love your neighbor.’ Lv 19.18 And you’ll hate your enemy.
44 And I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.”
Luke 6.27-31 KWL
27 “But I tell you listeners: Love your enemies. Do good to your haters.
28 Bless your cursers. Pray for your mistreaters.
29 To one who hits you on the jaw, submit all the more.
To one who takes your robe and tunic from you, don’t stop them.
30 Give to everyone who asks you. Don’t demand payback from those who take what’s yours.
31 Just as you want people doing for you, do likewise for them.”

Yeah, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus already brought up the people who might punch you in the jaw, or try to sue your clothes off. Mt 5.39-40 That was to emphasize grace over karma. In this passage, it’s unconditional love. He orders us to agapáte/“love” not just people who love us back, not just people who reciprocate, but everyone. Including people who never, ever will reciprocate.

You know, like our Father.

Matthew 5.45 KWL
“Thus you can become your heavenly Father’s children,
since he raises his sun over evil and good, and rains on moral and immoral.”

Theologians call this prevenient grace—the grace God grants us before we even know he’s there, before we choose to follow him—and even if we choose to not follow him. Sunlight for all. Rain for all. Life and health and food and water for all. Atonement for all. Salvation offered to all. Yes, God totally plays favorites, like his chosen Hebrews and Christians; but if anybody else wants to become one of his favorites, he’s not shutting them out. Jn 6.37 Neither should we.

13 October 2016

The supernatural without the Spirit’s fruit.

Yeah, contrary to popular belief, bad Christians can work actual miracles.

1 Corinthians 13.1-3

If phony supernaturalism irritates you, you’re hardly alone. It annoys me too. Just because I believe in the supernatural, a lot of folks expect I’ll believe any stupid thing. Those who don’t believe in the supernatural at all, presume I believe in every single one of the outrageous behaviors we find in the loonier fringes of Pentecostalism. Those who do believe in the supernatural expect me to accept their appalling behavior as legitimate—and are very annoyed when I won’t.

But I can’t. Jesus warned us there’d be frauds out there. He told us to keep our eyes open, look out for them, and judge whether they’re legit or not. And some of these self-described apostles, prophets, healers, and ministers are simply frauds. People always try to make counterfeits of something valuable. It’s our duty as Christians to test these would-be miracle workers, see whether there’s anything to them—and call them out when there’s not.

How do we test them? Exactly the same way we test any Christian: By their fruits.

Nope, there’s not a special supernatural litmus test, requiring the gift of prophetic discernment—though it wouldn’t hurt. It’s precisely the same test we apply to every Christian. No fruit, no Holy Spirit. Doesn’t matter how impressive their miracles are. Doesn’t matter how much they look like the real thing.

In fact it doesn’t matter if they are the real thing. The Spirit may empower the miracles, but if they’re fruitless people with fruitless ministries, stay away.

Wait, the Spirit empowering fruitless people? Yep. The apostles even said so.

Right after that bit in 1 Corinthians about striving for greater supernatural gifts, the apostles mention an outstanding way to do it. Then they started talking about love. “The love chapter,” as 1 Corinthians 13 is called. But darn near every Christian takes it out of context and forgets it’s about supernatural gifts—and misses the point of this little passage at the start of the chapter.

1 Corinthians 13.1-3 KWL
1 When I speak in human and angelic tongues:
When I have no love, I’ve become the sound of a gong, a clanging symbol.
2 When I have a prophecy—“I knew the whole mystery! I know everything!”—
when I have all the faith necessary to move mountains:
When I have no love, I’m nobody.
3 Might I give away everything I possess?
Perhaps submit my body so I could be praised for my sacrifice?
When I have no love, I benefit nobody.

When I have supernatural abilities—tongues, prophecy, enough wonder-working power to shove literal mountains around with a word—but there’s no love in it, there’s no love in me, I’m doing it for the power, authority, prestige, acclaim, and maybe donors will send a whole lot of cash my way—I’m a noise. I’m nobody. I benefit nobody.

But again: People fixate on the “I’m nobody” parts, and forget this hypothetical apostle is still doing the supernatural acts. ’Cause the Holy Spirit still let ’em do it.

12 October 2016

Doctrine: Christendom’s fixed ideas. (Mostly.)

And whether it’s safe to question them.

Doctrine /'dɑk.trən/ n. Official belief, or group of teachings, held by an organization.
2. Decree: A decision by officials as to how they choose to interpret an idea, or handle a controversy.
[Doctrinal /'dɑk.trən.əl/ adj.]

Doctrine is a formal word. A lot of Christians don’t realize this, and fling it around anyway. I know of one pastor who used to title his podcast, “Doctrines for Today.” Even though a lot of what he taught was more his interpretations of the scriptures; it wasn’t actually his church’s official stance.

Well… was and wasn’t. Y’see, he pastored one of those churches where the pastor runs the whole show. Nobody oversees him, nobody vetoes him. It’s a dictatorship. Hopefully benevolent, and I’m sure he’d like to think of himself that way, but he was super sexist, so I’m sure the women of his church didn’t consider him benevolent. But I digress; my point is his stances functionally were his church’s official stance. So they were kinda doctrines.

Historically, doctrine is one of those words we reserve for the core beliefs of Christianity. You know, the creedal stuff. Believe them, or at least uphold them, and you’re orthodox; reject ’em and you’re heretic. Ain’t no gray area.


There are others, but you get the idea. They’re Christian essentials.

11 October 2016

How we Christians imagine God’s presence.

The simplest prayer we can make.

Omnipresent /ɑm.nɪ'prɛ.zənt/ adj. Everywhere at once. Ubiquitous.
[Omnipresence /ɑm.nɪ'prɛ.zəns/ n.]

We Christians believe God is everywhere. Not just that he sees everywhere; Ps 33.13-14 he actually is everywhere. He’s not limited by space. (Nor time, although a lot of Christians only use the whole “sees everywhere” idea to discuss time. Not me. Everywhere also means every-when. Jn 8.58) The way David put it, God has no such limits.

Psalm 139.7-12 KWL
7 How can I leave your Spirit? How can I run away from your face?
8 You’re there if I climb to the skies, or rest in the grave: Look, it’s you!
9 I wear the dawn’s wings. I pitch a tent on the far side of the sea—
10 yet even there your hand guides me. Your right hand holds me.
11 I can say, “Yes, darkness surrounds me; night is ‘light’ around me”—
12 yet even darkness isn’t dark to you. Night shines like day. Darkness, light; doesn’t matter.

However. Though we believe this, we Christians sometimes talk about God’s presence as not always being here. Sometimes it’s here. Sometimes not.

By presence, Christians tend to mean a wholly different thing than omnipresence. We say yeah, sure, God’s everywhere, including here. But sometimes God is really here. The rest of the time he’s… well, not.

We make it sound a lot like God’s some semi-senile grandpa sitting in the corner, whose mind is almost always elsewhere. Though on some conscious level, he sorta knows stuff is going on in the room. And once we call upon him—“Hey grandpa!”—he snaps out of his reverie and interacts with us. But unlike this grandpa, God’s actually up to something in those other places. That’s why his mind is focused on that, and not so much this. He keeps a toe in our pool, just in case we need to call upon him again. When we do, here he is.

Is this really how God works? Not even close.

The Hebrew word we tend to translate as “presence” is panéh/“face,” as in “the LORD’s face,” or “the LORD’s presence,” or “before the LORD.” Found all over the bible. Ge 19.13, Ex 6.12, 1Sa 26.20, Ps 34.16, 1Pe 3.12 Of course it doesn’t mean a literal face. He didn’t really have one till he became human. So, “presence.”

God’s presence is everywhere. That’s literally what omnipresence means. But we humans can’t wrap our brains around the idea. You know how when you hear a voice and can’t see it, you look around till you know where that voice is coming from—and which direction to face? Psychologically, we need a direction to face. We need a focal point we can interact with. If we don’t have one, our mind will invent one for us. God’s gotta be in some direction, relative to our location. Up, down, in front of us, behind us, in the direction of Jerusalem, wherever. We need to know where his face is… so we can face him.

But he’s everywhere.

10 October 2016

Standing with Israel?

Evangelicals insist it’s important. It is; but not in the way they’re thinking.

My views on Israel are not conventional. So, of course, they’re controversial.

The average American Evangelical believes that the Jews are God’s chosen people. ’Cause they are. Ek 20.5 There might be a few antisemites hiding out among Evangelicals, but for the most part we believe God chose Abraham, God chose Abraham’s and Israel’s descendants, God demonstrated salvation by freeing Israel’s descendants from Egypt, God set a king over them whom they called Messiah, and Jesus of Nazareth is the final and greatest and eternal Messiah. (Or Christ, as gentiles tend to call him. Means the same thing.) Our religion is a descendant of the Hebrew religion. We even swiped their holidays.

The average American Evangelical also believes the nation of Israel is a nation of God’s chosen people. God promised ’em the land of the Levant/Canaan/Palestine if they kept covenant with him, and upheld his Law. God encouraged the nations round about Israel to support it and ally themselves with it—if they knew what was good for them. Of course this is based on the presumption Israel followed God; and when Israel followed God, it and its allies prospered. When it didn’t, not so much.

Hence, as a nation, Israel was destroyed by the Assyrian and neo-Babylonian empires. It was made a client state of them, and the subsequent Persian, Greek, Seleucid, and Roman empires. (With a tiny bout of independence between the Seleucid and Roman periods.) Then, in the year 70, the Romans destroyed Israel again. And it stayed destroyed.

“Until the 20th century” is how most Evangelicals usually end that last sentence. Here’s where they and I part company.

The current nation contains God’s chosen people, in that many Israelis are Jews. It consists of a lot of the land the ancient Hebrews occupied. It’s the ancient nation’s successor state. But it’s not the same state, any more than Italy is the Roman Empire, Turkey is the Ottoman Empire, or Russia is the Soviet Union. It’s an entirely new state, founded in 1948. Despite what both Jews and Evangelicals claim, it’s a whole different country than the one founded by the LORD through Moses ben Amram in the 1400s BC.

So all the prophecies and promises in the bible which have to do with Israel? Don’t automatically apply to modern Israel. ’Cause it’s not the same country.

07 October 2016

Karma versus grace.

One’s how we work—at our best. The other’s how God works.

Matthew 5.38-42 • Luke 6.29-31

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught on reciprocity, satisfaction, and revenge. Or, as our popular culture calls it, karma.

No, what we nowadays call karma isn’t what the Hindus mean by it. Properly karma is the total of all the good and evil deeds we commit in our lives, and when you add ’em up, if the scales balance towards good, your next life will be better; if they don’t, your next life is worse; if it’s about even, you’ll be reborn in pretty much the same circumstances. So why does western culture assume karma means when we do good, good comes back; when we do evil, evil comes back? I suspect it largely comes from John Lennon’s 1970 song “Instant Karma!”:

Instant karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead

Westerners unfamiliar with Hinduism assumed “instant karma” is karma, and that’s how we’ve described it since. But the idea of instant, near-instant, or soon-coming consequences isn’t an eastern idea. It’s a middle eastern one. It’s from the bible.

1 Samuel 25.39 KWL
David heard Navál died, and said, “Bless the LORD, who fought my fight,
my slander from Navál’s hand, and spared his servant from evil.
The LORD turned back Navál’s evil to his own head.”
So David sent for and spoke with Avigayíl, to take her as his woman.

If you don’t know the story: Before David was king, a man named Navál insulted him, so David lost his temper and took 300 troops to go destroy his house. But Navál’s wife Avigayíl intercepted them, and talked David down. (Giving him a bunch of food didn’t hurt either.) David realized he totally overreacted, repented, and thanked God for stopping him. So, that’d be sorta-kinda-good karma on David’s part; bad on Navál’s.

Which played out immediately. Once Navál found out what she’d done… well, it sounds like he had a stroke. David interpreted this like most folks in his culture interpreted this: When people do evil, God lets evil happen to them in return. 1Sa 25 He turns people’s iniquity back on them; Ps 94.23 he hoists them on their own petard; he lets Wile E. Coyote’s inventions blow him up instead of the Road Runner.

We call it karma. To pagans, it’s God or “the universe” paying you back. Or karma’s treated like an intelligent force on its own. However it works. It’s an idea which gives people a lot of comfort: If justice isn’t done, the infinite cosmos itself will abhor and come after you.

Thing is, though it’s a middle eastern idea, found in the bible ’n everything, it’s actually not how God works. God does grace. We don’t. Nor, many times, do we want God to do grace; we want him to get those motherf---ers and give ’em what they deserve. And worse.

It’s why Jesus had to correct this graceless idea in his Sermon.

Matthew 5.38-42 KWL
38 “You heard this said: ‘Eye for eye. Tooth for tooth.’ Ex 21.24, Lv 24.20, Dt 19.21
39 And I tell you: No comparing yourself to evil.
Instead, whoever punches you on the right side of your jaw: Turn from them all the more.
40 To those who want you judged, to take your tunic: Forgive them, and let go of your clothing.
41 Whoever drafts you to carry their gear one mile, go with them two.
42 Give to one who asks you. Don’t drive off one who wishes to borrow from you.”
Luke 6.29-31 KWL
29 “To one who hits you on the jaw, submit all the more.
To one who takes your robe and tunic from you, don’t stop them.
30 Give to everyone who asks you. Don’t demand payback from those who take what’s yours.
31 Just as you want people doing for you, do likewise for them.”

Okay yes, I translated this a bit different from the more popular “Turn the other cheek,” and “If they want your tunic, give ’em your robe.” Lemme explain why.

06 October 2016

Get ahold of yourself!

Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Now, notice that word “self” in there?

As I wrote recently, a lot of Christians assume the Spirit’s fruit just spontaneously grows in our lives. Comes from a combination of laziness and bad theology.

One of the indications the fruit isn’t spontaneous is the last fruit Paul listed in Galatians 5.22-23. In the KJV it’s called “temperance.” In most other bibles it’s “self-control.”

Comes from the Greek word enkráteia. The krátia part means government, like in dimokratía/“people[-run] government,” democracy; plutokratía/“wealthy[-run] government,” plutocracy; or theokratía/“God[-run] government,” theocracy. The en part of the word means “inside”: Self-government. You govern yourself.

I know; you thought it’d be God-controlled or Spirit-controlled. Some Christians even try to stretch en to mean “the Holy Spirit inside,” so that it is ultimately Spirit-controlled. Nope. Paul could’ve made it explicit the Spirit is working us like a hand puppet, and didn’t. Self-controlled. God isn’t so incapable a creator he has to work us like puppets. Sovereignty doesn’t work like that. God told us what he wants of us. Fruitful Christians don’t look for excuses not to obey him. We get hold of ourselves, tap the power the Spirit grants us to do as he told us, and go and do.

Lazy Christians don’t believe in self-control. They think enkrátia doesn’t mean we do anything; they assume the Holy Spirit’s gonna reprogram us. He’s gonna replace our self-centered human nature with something godlike. We’re supernaturally gonna want to sin less. We’ll become good, without any further effort on our own part.

If that were the case, Paul’s inner war with his depraved human nature makes no sense. Why’s he in such turmoil when the Holy Spirit granted him the fruit of self-control?

Romans 7.14-20 KWL
14 We’ve known the Law is spiritual—and I am fleshly, sold into sin’s slavery.
15 I do things I don’t understand. I don’t want to do them. I hate what I do.
16 Since I don’t want to do them, I agree: The Law is good.
17 Now, it’s no longer I who do these things, but the sin which inhabits me.
18 I know nothing living in me, namely in my flesh, is good.
The will, but not the ability, exists in me to do good.
19 I don’t do the good I want. I do the evil I don’t want.
20 If I don’t want to do them, it’s not so much me doing them, as the sin which inhabits me.

If self-control were nothing more than the Spirit’s reprogramming, there’s no need whatsoever for all God’s commands to quit sinning and behave yourself. Right? We’d do it automatically. We’d see a quantifiable drop in the amount of sinning we commit. Christians should sin way less than pagans do.

But the reality is we sin just as much. Survey after survey (in the United States, anyway), shows in practice, we aren’t morally better. Our temperance sucks. And since the Holy Spirit isn’t broken, the responsibility lies with us. We’re not practicing self-control. Just the opposite.

Heck, how many times have you seen Christians beg God for temperance? “God, my life is so undisciplined. I’m making an utter mess of things. Please take it over. I surrender my life and my will to you.” We’ve even included this idea in most versions of the sinner’s prayer. It’s the correct attitude. It’s just it’s not how God works. He wants us to obey. To resist temptation. To choose his path. To seize control of our thoughts and emotions.

He wants a loving relationship with followers. If he wanted machines he’d have built some.

05 October 2016

Strive for greater supernatural gifts!

’Cause the Holy Spirit wants us to be a wonder-working church.

1 Corinthians 12.28-31

Part of the reason the apostles brought up the subject of supernatural gifts was so Christians wouldn’t be ignorant of ’em. 1Co 12.1 There are all sorts of gifts, empowered by one and the same Holy Spirit, 1Co 12.4 distributed among Christians so they can contribute to Christianity’s unity.

This being the case: Do we see all Christians stepping up to the different ministries these gifts can energize? Do we see all Christians practicing these supernatural gifts? Miracles breaking out everywhere, mighty acts of power convincing the world God is really among us, the weak and sick flocking to churches because they know God has the cure, the lost and confused seeking out Christians because they know God has answers?

I wish.

And I’m sure plenty of Christians also wish it were so. Not to mention Christ himself. But we don’t see it. What we see are naysayers and cessationists. People who reduce these ministries to job titles, and remind everybody within earshot they hold these titles, so give respect where respect is due. Meanwhile they’re not growing God’s kingdom much. What little growth they have is anemic.

It’s a far cry from the Spirit’s intent: Ministers in Christ’s body, tasked with doing the supernatural, expected to grow the kingdom—and okay, not everybody is mature enough to wield these duties just yet. But they’ll get there. We all will.

1 Corinthians 12.28 KWL
This is who God put in the church:
First apostles. Second prophets. Third teachers. Then powers.
Then supernatural healing. Helpers. Leadership. Different kinds of tongues.

04 October 2016

Postmodernism: Why we can’t take “truths” for granted.

It’s a worldview whose starting point is doubt. And it’s everywhere. Heck, I have it.

Postmodern /poʊs(t)'mɑd.ərn/ adj. Reflecting an attitude of skepticism and distrust of “modern” grand theories and ideologies.
2. Anti-modern.
[Pomo /'poʊ.moʊ/ abbr., postmodernism /poʊs(t)'mɑd.ərn.iz.əm/ n, postmodernist /poʊs(t)'mɑd.ə adj., postmodernity /poʊs(t).moʊd'ər.nə.di/ n.]

I grew up postmodern. I just didn’t know it had a name. I also didn’t realize it scared the heebie-jeebies out of Christian apologists.

The label’s not new. It first cropped up in the 1950s. Artists and architects started using it to describe the hip, exciting things they were doing. The current scene was “modern,” but they claimed they were beyond that; they were post-modern. Whatever modern was, they were no longer that. “Pomo” is the popular abbreviation.

Gradually people began to claim postmodernism was their worldview, their interpretation of the society we live in. Like the artists, they didn’t have a precise definition. They just figured whatever they were, they weren’t modern.

Now if you wanna talk the modern worldview, that’s actually been defined. Modernism is the way people have been looking at the world since the French Enlightenment in the 1700s: Humanity’s destiny is to achieve greatness by mastering (or conquering) our environment through the use of reason, logic, math, and science. With effort we can learn the universal truths behind everything, harness the great natural forces, and solve every problem. We can figure out the best way for everyone to live, and achieve peace and harmony and prosperity. You know, like Star Trek.

Whereas we postmoderns are entirely sure that’s just a pipe dream.

Nope, it’s neither cynicism nor nihilism. It’s doubt. That’s the one thing which defines postmodernism best: Postmoderns doubt. Doubt it’s our destiny to achieve greatness. Doubt we can master our environment; doubt it’s a good thing to conquer it. Doubt humanity’s reason and logic (or certainly your reason and logic) are sound. Doubt math and science will always be used towards good ends. Doubt we can learn universal truths, or that such truths even exist. Doubt we can solve every problem; doubt there’s a “best way” for everyone. Doubt utopian science fiction: Our technology may improve, but apart from the Holy Spirit, human nature never does.

03 October 2016

Bad candidates, Big Pictures, and false prophets.

Woe to you when you call evil good. Even in election years.

I live in California. My state is two-thirds Democratic. Only liberal Republicans get elected to statewide offices anymore. Otherwise we elect Democrats, same as we have in the last six presidential contests. Barring some freak occurrence, we’re electing a Democrat to the Senate this year, and all our 55 electoral votes are going to the Democratic nominee for president.

So it’s out of my hands. Doesn’t matter whether I vote with the Democratic supermajority or against it.

I suppose I can concentrate on the other elections—which stand more of a chance of affecting my daily life. Got a city council race. A congressional race. State propositions.

But I keep coming back to the presidential race. Mainly because the candidates are so galling. The “third party” candidates are barely worth mentioning: One is greatly uninformed (and probably useless every day after 4:20 p.m.); one has demonstrated she’s more interested in being right than in making deals and bringing people to consensus, which is half the president’s job.

As for the institutional parties: The Democrat is largely competent, though I disagree with her in many areas. But she has a significant character defect: She’s willing to make serious ethical lapses, and justify them to herself because her intentions or goals were good. Let’s also not forget the level of grace ambitious people will automatically grant themselves—even though they’ll seldom grant it to others.

In any other election year, I’d easily lean towards her opponent. But it’s not just any other election year. She has great flaws, but her Republican opponent is vastly worse.

I likewise disagree with him in many areas. Particularly his xenophobia, his lack of knowledge of international issues, his tactless forms of diplomacy (and how he dropped his bluster during a trip to Mexico, demonstrating how he can’t be consistent in that either), his opportunistic switch to the prolife movement so as to appease Evangelicals, and his unproven economic and military beliefs. That’s in the areas where he’s expressed a coherent opinion. In most other situations his opinion is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.

I mentioned the Democratic candidate’s ethical lapses. The Republican candidate has the very same problem. But there’s more. Time and again he expresses little to no respect for the value of others; women in particular. Disagree with him, or challenge him in any way, and he responds with ridiculous insults, holds the grudge far longer than reasonable, and fires you if he can. If he doesn’t know, he lies; if he does know, he exaggerates; if he has to admit he’s wrong, he pretends he was never wrong to begin with. He makes foolish statements on a whim, holds no counsel with anyone but toadies, takes no thought no care to the international fallout.

He’s a manchild. His immature character renders him wholly unfit for any leadership position.