Hope

Hope:  a strong and confident expectation

 

I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.- Stephen Hawking

The life of man is a long march through the night, surrounded by invisible foes, tortured by weariness and pain, towards a goal that few can hope to reach, and where none may tarry long.- Bertrand Russell

That Man is the product of causes that had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins — all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.-Bertrand Russell

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.- Richard Dawkins

Religion teaches the dangerous nonsense that death is not the end.- Richard Dawkins

At its most elemental level the human organism, like crawling life, has a mouth, digestive tract, and anus, a skin to keep it intact, and appendages with which to acquire food. Existence, for all organismic life, is a constant struggle to feed — a struggle to incorporate whatever other organisms they can fit into their mouths and press down their gullets without choking. Seen in these stark terms, life on this planet is a gory spectacle, a science-fiction nightmare in which digestive tracts fitted with teeth at one end are tearing away at whatever flesh they can reach, and at the other end are piling up the fuming waste excrement as they move along in search of more flesh.- Ernest Becker

I suppose that one reason I have always detested religion is its sly tendency to insinuate the idea that the universe is designed with ‘you’ in mind or, even worse, that there is a divine plan into which one fits whether one knows it or not. This kind of modesty is too arrogant for me.- Christopher Hitchens

 

The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.-Christopher Hitchens

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. –Paul the Apostle (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Despair: Utter loss of hope

Why Google is the Antichrist

You know you’ve made it when people start believing that you might be the Antichrist. Basically every modern president, and a good number of world leaders ranging from Hitler to the Pope have been given that title by some group of people searching for a sign of the end. A few years back someone told me, in all seriousness, that Obama was the Antichrist and Oprah was his false prophet. Now, that sounds pretty ridiculous, but let’s for a moment consider what qualities one must possess to be a worthy contender for the title. The Bible contains a number of verses that describe this “man of lawlessness” or “son of perdition” who “exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God”. (2 Thessalonians 2:4) Basically he will be a powerful figure with incredible influence over the people of the world who will attempt to take the place of God. Look at this verse…

“And he spoke terrible words of blasphemy against God, slandering his name and his dwelling—that is, those who dwell in heaven. And the beast was allowed to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And he was given authority to rule over every tribe and people and language and nation. And all the people who belong to this world worshiped the beast.” (Revelation 13)

Wow, that is a lot of power and influence! Who or what could possibly possess these striking and blasphemous qualities? I submit, after much consideration and a few Google searches, that Google is a legitimate contender.

Let’s start right at the Google search engine. If you type in “Google is” you get the following suggestions: Google Israel, Google is God, Google is, and Google is evil. Israel is significant as it is the home of God’s chosen people, the Jews. It contains the city of Jerusalem, which was the site of the Temple. The Jewish people built this temple thousands of years ago, and it contained something called the Holy of Holies, which was a sacred place in which God resided. This temple was destroyed long ago, but many believe that it will soon be rebuilt. Anyway, it is significant that Google Israel is the first thing to pop up considering the following verse, “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel–let the reader understand.” (Matthew 24:15) In one sense, it is not hard to envision a rebuilt temple with a computer inside of it containing the internet, and as a result Google. But in another sense you can see how Google is already standing in the holy place since this is the first suggestion to pop up, and Google is in close proximity to Israel. Let the reader understand. Google is God doesn’t require much explanation. The verses I’ve already written for you contain much about the Antichrist attempting to seize God’s place in the world. God is meant to be the focal point for those who believe, and as an idol which steals our attention from the Almighty, Google takes His place. Google is might need some clarification. In the Bible God refers to Himself at various points as I AM. Jesus also does this. I AM is a way of stating absolute being. Google is strikes me as similar to I AM since it is a simple statement of being. Once again, Google attempts to supersede God. Google is evil looks like a warning to me. The Antichrist will be evil underneath all of his attempts to appear like God, just as this fourth suggestion appears underneath the others.

I also want you to consider the nature of the Google search engine. What do we use it for? Have you ever heard someone say, “What did we do before Google?” We use it as a means to find the answers. Do you have a strange rash? Type it into Google and find some answers. Want to know what Christians or Muslims believe? Just search for it in Google. Want to know anything and everything? All you have to do is sit down at your computer and search. Google is the number one search engine, and as such guides millions and millions of people every day to the information that Google deems appropriate for them to see based on their terms. Who do we turn to for the answers? Who has authority to guide us? What influence.

Google is available all over the world and in almost every language. Remember the verse from earlier, which states that the Antichrist has “authority to rule over every tribe and people and language and nation”.

Google is also a portal to all of the evil that can be found online. This is the darkness underneath the false appearance that we find so appealing. It tempts millions to sin.

As a corporation, Google’s informal slogan was “Don’t be evil.” Does that strike anyone as a little suspicious?

Google basically owns the Internet. Here is a line from an article I found at the top of my Google search:

Google decides what information is going to be seen in front of all else. People go to Google.com first, so ultimately because of its loyal following, Google has been given by many the authority to decide what gets seen on the internet and what doesn’t.

Along with this authority, Google also owns YouTube, which is the window to the world for many. Google has the whole world in its hands with Google Earth and maps out our lives with Google Maps.
In many ways, Google is the Internet. The source of billions of pages of information containing our histories, religions, politics, hopes, dreams, fears, and destinies. Such power. Such influence. Such a capacity for evil.

Watch this video.

A Note: Verses from the Bible can be stripped out of context and used to promote a variety of ungodly ideologies. Satan himself does this in the Bible. (Matthew 4) The Bible is meant to be read as a way to connect with God, or to understand Him better. I wrote this partially to entertain and partially to draw attention to how influential Google is in our lives. I’m not truly a believer that Google is the Antichrist, but I am a believer that Google is a powerful entity with the power to shape our thoughts through the spreading of information. We must be aware of the influence of technology, and especially the internet, in all of our lives whether or not we believe in God. But to the Christians I would say not to scoff at the idea of Google as an antichrist since it can serve as a wide gateway to a whole world of sin.

A Wholly Unholy Spirit and the Holy Spirit

 

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.”  Hebrews 2:14

The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.”- The Usual Suspects

Thomas Jefferson had his own version of the Bible.  He didn’t much care for the supernatural stuff, so he took all of it out.  So, for instance, that part in Mark 1 where Jesus casts out an impure spirit and it shrieks,  “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?”(v. 24) didn’t make the cut.  Also, that business about Jesus coming back to life and ascending to Heaven had to go.  To Jefferson, Jesus of Nazareth was a great teacher, but he was not a God-man.  He wasn’t God.

Jefferson was pretty darn arrogant.  It’s one thing to reject what the Bible says.  It’s another to think you know better and have the unique ability to discern which parts are legitimate and which are false.  Though Jefferson took it to the extreme, there are many Christians who do the same thing today.  They look at the strange supernatural spiritual stuff and they dismiss it as either irrelevant, or simply untrue.  Chances are they have seen little or no evidence that there is a spiritual realm, and they don’t care to think about it.  Talking about demons makes you sound crazy, so better to pull a Jefferson and stay away from such things.  I mean, we live in the 21st century after all.

It’s interesting that we hear many stories about spiritual warfare outside of the United States.  I have spoken to an African missionary who reported that witch doctors in a village had the power to curse people and turn them into “zombies”.  He even told of an encounter where two witch doctors called down lightning on him and the other Christians and they were both struck down by a bolt.  Also, he told me that certain people in the village saw a white light surrounding the Christians.  That was one man’s account.

I have also heard reports of various exorcisms (casting out demons) from trustworthy sources (Christians I know).  Demons throwing people to the ground and then making a commotion.  These all took place in poor foreign countries.

I recently read an article from one of my favorite writers, J. Lee Grady.  He writes about a Peruvian man who once dealt heavily in the occult, and had the power to curse people to their deaths.  He pledged his allegiance to Satan until he encountered the living God, and was transformed by God’s Spirit.   Read the article “Unraveling the Power of Witchcraft” here.

On our own soil I have heard accounts of more “New Age” spiritual things.  Things like Spirit Guides.  These, as far as I can tell, are visions that people get when they attempt to contact a spiritual being.  The being is supposed to be helpful and benevolent, but I have read accounts in which a person attempts to disconnect and the being becomes angry and terrifying.

Chances are you are rolling your eyes more than a bowling ball on track for a strike.  I understand.  But I really don’t think the possibility of a spiritual realm should be completely dismissed.  The world is more than we know and perceive.  It’s one thing to doubt, but it’s another to be certain that all of reality is physical.

Satan probably has no problem with many Christians doubting his existence.  He also probably has no problem with other people worshiping him and using them to harm God’s creation.  To be ignorant of the devil and all matters spiritual should play well to the dark side.  What the devil doesn’t want is people filled with God’s Spirit who have the power to crush him. “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Romans 16:20

American Christians are dangerously ignorant of spiritual realities.  I am included in this.   We are completely dependent on God’s Holy Spirit to do anything of any worth for the Kingdom of Heaven.  How can we live in the spirit (the way we are supposed to live) when we don’t even believe in spiritual things?

I’m tired of argumentation.

I’m tired of just thinking about Godly things.

I want to experience the undeniable, unquenchable, unstoppable Holy Spirit of God, and I want the truth, and life-giving message of Jesus Christ to come out of my hands and my face and my words and my actions.  I’m powerless to do anything, so here is my public request to my Father in Heaven to pour out His spirit on me and my whole world.

Here I am.

Finding God in Film

“A lot of people say that this town is too liberal, out of touch with mainstream America, an atheistic pleasure dome, a modern-day, beachfront Sodom and Gomorrah, a moral black hole where innocence is obliterated in an endless orgy of sexual gratification and greed. I don’t really have a joke here. I just thought you should know a lot of people are saying that.” –Jon Stewart

I love movies.  Sure, they are in large part morally bankrupt (just about any comedy or even romantic comedy to come out in the past twenty years) and so full of casual sex and violence that an alien race with any respect for life would probably wipe us out without losing much sleep.  But, once you get past the shameless debauchery and disregard for the sacredness of life, there are actually some redeemable qualities to be found.  There is good in many of these movies, and even some biblical truths.  Here are a few examples. 

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Boromir: None of us should wander alone; you least of all. So much depends on you… Frodo? I know why you seek solitude. You suffer, I see it day by day. Are you sure you do not suffer needlessly? There are other ways, Frodo. Other paths that we might take.

Frodo Baggins: I know what you would say, and it would seem like wisdom but for the warning of my heart.

Boromir: Warning? Against what? We are all afraid, Frodo. But to let that fear drive us to destroy what hope we have… don’t you see that is madness?

Frodo Baggins: There is no other way.

Boromir: I ask only for the strength to defend my people! If you would but lend me the Ring…

Frodo Baggins: No!

Boromir: Why do you recoil? I am no thief.

Frodo Baggins: You are not yourself.

Boromir: What chance do you think you have? They will find you, they will take the ring and you will beg for death before the end!


This exchange between Frodo and Boromir in the Lord of the Rings reminds me of an exchange between Jesus Christ and his disciple, Peter.  Here is that exchange. 

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:20-23)

When Boromir rebuked Frodo in his quest to destroy the ring, Frodo responded that there was no other way.  Peter rebuked Jesus for walking down a path that would lead to suffering and death, but Jesus in turn rebuked him.  He even identified him as Satan, which is like Frodo telling Boromir that he is not himself.  In both cases, selfish human concerns attempt to divert the true, yet difficult, path.  This exchange also reminds me of the verse, “6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6    There is no other way. 

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Watch this scene. 

Charlie had very little.  His family was poor.  At the start of this scene he witnessed the great Willy Wonka tearing apart his grandfather and assuring them both that they would get nothing.  No chocolate and no future.  When Grandpa Joe tries to walk away, he tells Charlie that Slugworth will get the Gobstopper, which would mean that they would get a good amount of money.  Yet, despite all of this, Charlie does the unthinkable.  He does the right thing.  He gives Wonka all that he has.  “So shines a good deed, in a weary world.” 

As I get older, this scene becomes more and more powerful.  I see this as an incredible illustration of my relationship with God.  Wonka tells them that they failed to meet the requirements spelled out in the agreement they signed at the beginning.  This is like the Law spelled out in the Bible, which condemns those who do not meet all of its requirements.  I do not meet the requirements, and I sin against God.  I lose. 

When Grandpa Joe accuses Wonka of being a cheat and a swindler, and an inhuman monster, I see all of the people and the books and the movies and everything in this world that damns God.  Almost every day I hear or read someone accusing God of being something that he’s not.  He’s a monster for allowing evil.  He doesn’t exist.  He’s a lie or a delusion.  And there are times when I don’t understand God and I feel like Grandpa Joe. 

Charlie gives Wonka all he has.  This is a great act of faith.  I am deeply moved by this.  Now, this doesn’t move me because it implies that good deeds will make God like us.  No!  This moves me because it is about faith, and it reminds me of grace.  Charlie broke the rules, and Wonka was right to say that he didn’t deserve the chocolate.  But when Charlie gave Wonka all he had, Wonka gave him everything.  Just as when I give of myself for God, even when everything around me yells to give in to Slugworth (Satan) I have faith that He is good, and wants to give me everything He has.  Namely, Himself.  At its heart, this scene is about me and God.  About how the world is, and about how in my heart of hearts I know that God is real, good, and desiring very much to be with me and I with him.  Remember, Charlie had nothing to gain from the world in giving Wonka the gobstopper. 

“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:26

So you see, there is some good stuff in these movies.  And these were just the first two that I thought of.

Three Brief Thoughts: Evil Jargon, Good Quotes, and Great Books

Evil Jargon

If there is one thing that I aspire to in my writing, it is clarity.  I want to think clear thoughts, and I want to write clear words.  With clarity comes a better glimpse of the truth.  Language has such a power to communicate the truth of our existence, but it also has an unmatched power to blind us from the same truth.  We build mighty walls around our minds and hearts with empty words mortared by ignorance.  And, unfortunately, we are guilty of building the same walls around those with whom we interact.  When we resort to jargon (words used by a particular group that have  little meaning to outsiders) we put up more walls.  Jargon is in direct conflict with the truth found in Christianity.  Only a fool, or a young child would build walls just to break them down and build them again.  Jargon is an enemy of truth and therefore in direct opposition to the message found in the bible.

Good Quotes

“There are two people who provide the entire world with quotations: Names and Anonymous.”

I wrote that quote.  Is it true, or is it clever?  Does it matter?  It seems to me that most of the quotes that we use come from famous individuals.  Regular people say all kinds of great things throughout their lives, but who cares?  You have to make a name for yourself, or the quote has to be so incredible that people forget your name and you become Mr. Anonymous.  So the next time you see a quote, ask yourself if it’s truly insightful, or if it is something you could have said at a party.

Great Books

I love movies, but more and more I see the advantage of books.  How many times have you heard someone say, “The book was better than the movie”?  In almost all cases the book is more enjoyable than the movie.  The Harry Potter series is perhaps the best modern example.  Is there one person who truly appreciates the books who will then say that the movies are greater?  To claim that the movies are better would undermine the foundation of the series, and prove to everyone that you don’t actually appreciate the story.  Even though Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all-time, you would be hard pressed to find a fan who didn’t believe wholeheartedly that the books were far greater.  The magic of books is found in the intimacy between author and reader.  The author transports you to a place inside of your own mind where the both of you can go on a fantastic journey.  Isn’t that a beautiful thing?  Let’s value great books.

An Unreasonable Belief in Equality: The Longstanding Tyranny of Religious Influence

The Declaration of Independence has something written in it that sounds a lot like it was tainted by religious ideas.  Here is the section.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.- Declaration of Independence 

I’m not going to use the Founding Fathers to prove to you that this is a Christian nation.   Glenn Beck ruined that argument for all of us. What I want to do here is look at this idea of equality.  What is it based on, and why do we believe in it today?

If I pick apart that snippet of the Declaration it reads like something that you probably wouldn’t find in a modern government document.  That part about a Creator being self-evident stands out to me.  Would our leaders write something so bold and offensive today?  Wouldn’t the network news channels be all over that, showing various negative responses from those who believe in the separation of church and state and who fear that our government officials are being brainwashed by religious beliefs?  Wouldn’t there be a call for reason over religious bias? No?  Yes?  Maybe?

It is self-evident that the Creator (God.  Accidental evolution has nothing to do with creation) made all people equal.   The people created by God are equal.  Alrighty.  What about the people who weren’t created?  Are they equal too?  Let’s explore.

To say that people are equal in relation to God is to recognize a quality of God and not people.  It says more about God to say that we are equal than it does about us.  In this way, we are equal because we are all under God’s authority and God’s law.  We all have the divine spark, the breath of life, the spirit given by God.  Under God we are all in equal need of God for life and purpose.  In relation to God our physical differences take a back seat, and we see ourselves as God sees us… as spiritual beings.  Equality makes sense in relation to God because it is a reasonable consequence of a belief in God.  If God is God, we are equal in our dependence on Him and we share an equal place in the Universe as His creation.  Where I get confused is why the reasonable non-believers believe in equality.

A popular saying among those who don’t believe in any divine creator is, “Show me the proof.”  Very well.  Now let me ask you to show me the proof that we are all equal.  Show me the evidence for equality.  How does your reason lead you to believe in such a faith-based idea?

Will you say that the government told you it was true?  Did the Constitution tell you it is so?  Has society beat it into your brain that all men and women are equal in the eyes of the state?  Did your parents tell you?  Why do you believe in equality when there is so little evidence for it?  Is it because it feels nice to say that we are all brothers and sisters?  Be careful, you’re starting to sound like a believer.

Open your eyes to the world around you.

Physically, people are far from equal.  Some are taller and stronger, and some are weak and sickly.  There are those whose brains don’t work so well, and those who understand calculus without much trouble.  Some don’t seem to be able to lose weight and some can just eat whatever they want and stay skinny.  You’ve got Mr. Muscles and Mr. Skinandbones living side by side believing they are equal.  Yet, clearly we are not equal in the physical realm.

Socially there isn’t much equality either.  You’ve got rich people and poor people.  You’ve got white-collar and blue-collar workers.  Some have millions and some live on the streets.  Certain groups of people experience  regular racial discrimination.  You’ve got the Haves and the Have Nots.  Where’s the proof that we are equal?  Don’t look to society for evidence.

So what are you basing this unfounded belief on?  Are we all equal in some abstract deep sense?   You believe in everyone’s right to happiness and a good life.  I’m no better than you and you are no better than me.  This sounds great, but where is it coming from?  Is it the belief that we are all just animals that came out of the ocean?  Once again, if that’s the case why base your belief on anything more than the  physical reality?  Why do you shun God because you can’t see or touch Him and then accept blindly something as  intangible as perfect equality?

I make this point because I fear weak belief.  A weak belief can be easily altered or tossed out.  If you are basing your belief on something that is abstract and “deep”, or simply taught to you by your government, what happens when the belief is challenged by some hard external pressure, or even the government itself?  When the Nazi’s took control of Germany, they did a great job of convincing the people of inequality.   Were the Jews equal to the Germans at that place and at that time?  Yes? No? Maybe?

Tell me, why?

Side Note:  My friend, Curtis Entenmann has decided to start his own blog in which he intends to respond to my wild conservative Christian ideas.  I will also be responding to him.  We will be posting links to each other’s blogs from time to time so I really think you should check it out.  It should be interesting to see two people with many opposing views reacting and challenging each other.    His blog is just starting out, but very soon he is sure to have many posts.   Here is the link to  Curt’s Blog.  I’m willing to bet he will say something about this last post in a few days.

The Evils of Social Justice

Do you remember when Glenn Beck said, “I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice‘ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!…Communists are on the left, and the Nazis are on the right. That’s what people say. But they both subscribe to one philosophy, and they flew one banner. . . . But on each banner, read the words, here in America: ‘social justice.’ They talked about economic justice, rights of the workers, redistribution of wealth, and surprisingly, democracy.”

I remember there was a big response from all sides on this controversial quote.  Many Christian churches condemned Beck’s words.  But not every Christian church stood opposed.  And I believe many Christians in America today agree with what Beck had to say.

Recently I attended a church, and I won’t say which, where the pastor stated that social justice is in opposition to Christianity.  Now, before I go further I should state what social justice is.  Social justice is any effort to make all people of equal standing.  So if one group is oppressed, social justice would work to end their oppression.  Another definition I found is the fair distribution of advantages, assets, and benefits among all members of a society.   I think that definition is important because it sends off red flags in the minds of certain people.

To some, social justice means socialism.  And I believe that is the problem people have with the word and its implications.  But, as usual, things aren’t this simple.  Let me try to explain all of this the best that I can.

From the conservative standpoint, socialism is a false ideology that stifles individual growth and creativity.  It promotes a welfare state in which the upper and middle working classes have to support the millions who either can’t work or refuse to.  It also goes hand in hand with government control over our lives since individuals are less responsible for their own well-being and more dependent on the system.  And with that comes a threat to independent thought and individual freedom.  So when they smell even a hint of this ideology (as we saw with Obamacare), they freak out.  I think a strong reaction against it makes a lot of sense when you hold to this viewpoint.  If you think conservatives are mindless rage-aholics, maybe you should try to see things from their perspective.

Anyways, what I see happening in some churches and with some Christians is this negative association between social justice and socialism where the former is an indication of the latter.  And where this comes into conflict with the Christian message I believe occurs on a number of levels.  Some are obvious and some are subtle.

The conservative mind makes a connection between socialism and a liberal agenda.  One of the most repeated and damning accusations of Obama is that he’s a socialist.  There is certainly some credence to this connection between liberals and socialism.  Liberals tend to be most outspoken on issues of social justice (gay marriage, women’s right, immigrant’s rights) and also more inclined to take from the wealthy to give to the poor (spreading the wealth) through taxation.  Now, the connection I make to this conflicting with the Christian message comes directly from this liberal/socialist association.  Liberals tend to fall on the wrong side of many issues of morality in the eyes of conservative Christians.  Issues like abortion and gay marriage are perhaps the most publicized.  This negative association of liberals with immorality, or beliefs that are wrong,  helps to feed hatred and fear for all of the things they stand for, including social justice.  Basically, there is guilt by association.  To many conservative Christians liberals are ungodly.  Now I’ll expand on that.

There are pretty much two ways of viewing the world, human-centric and God-centric.  Those who do not believe, or simply do not care for God will tend to elevate the place of humans in the world.  They will make mankind the center of everything.   Those who believe God is the center of this life will base their value of human life according to what the bible teaches.  The bible teaches that humans are evil, and only by the grace of God can they live according to the truth and accomplish truly good works for their fellow man.  The God-centric people, if they actually follow the God of the bible will be able to love other people more freely.  The human-centric people must believe in the goodness of people since people are what they have put their hope in.  Humanists believe that people need to be educated and afforded good opportunities in order to reach their full potential.  Many liberals (not all) are humanists who believe that the answer to the world’s evils are more education and greater wealth for the impoverished.  Afforded the opportunity, people will choose good over evil.  Education, or greater enlightenment is the answer.  More knowledge and greater technology will save mankind.  This is why the message of social justice is so crucial for these people.  If we make a way for people to live well, they will thrive and choose goodness.

The problem that many conservative Christians have with this is that it is propelled from a false philosophy removed of God.  And more than that, they believe it is false to believe in the inherent goodness of people.  They believe that the answer to the world’s problems is personal salvation through Jesus Christ.  Only when one individual after another is transformed by the life of God will real good change occur in the world.

So, to summarize, the problem many conservative Christians have with social justice is that it is often fueled by a human-centric worldview associated with socialism and an immoral liberal agenda.

But that’s not the end.  Social justice should be embraced by the Christian church.  Jesus taught us to minister to the poor and the oppressed.  The bible commands us to “Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow (Isaiah 1:17).  If anything, Christians should be at the front lines of social justice, and not making damning judgments of those who hold to opposing philosophies.

Ok, that’s the end.

(Afterthought:  I should have been more clear in my conclusion about what I see as the role of the Christian church.  I believe Christians should be at the front of social justice as it pertains to the welfare of other people.  Historically, Christians were the ones founding hospitals and caring for the sick and needy.  This type of humanitarian effort should be a major focus of the church.  But, when it pertains to the advancement of social agendas that stand opposed to the Christian’s beliefs about mankind and God, Christians should not be compromising their beliefs in the name of social justice.  This wouldn’t make any sense as the Christian would see it as inevitably harming their fellow man and supporting such an agenda would not be the loving thing to do, nor the right thing.  I should have done a better job at differentiating between social justice in the political sphere and social justice in the humanitarian sphere.) 

The Battle for the Modern Mind

What a title, huh.  I hope I can live up to it.

There are a lot of isms out there, and none of them should be taken lightly.  You’ve got relativism, hedonism, legalism, pluralism, patriotism, nationalism, socialism, capitalism, liberalism, conservatism, atheism, theism, agnosticism, humanism etc etc etc into eternity.   All of these and the many that I haven’t mentioned represent particular philosophies on life that affect the human condition.  Basically, they work to shape and define our world.  We live and die by them.  They matter.

Very good.

Moving on.

How important are ideas to the human race?  I think they are more important than you or I think.  Wars are fought to preserve them.  Peace is one of them.  Hitler had some.  Gandhi had some of his own.  Darwin, Einstein, and Martin Luther King Jr. had a few as well.  Ideas change the world because they change people’s minds.  They are invaluable.  A good idea is worth more than a glass of water in the ninth circle of hell.  You get the idea.

You see, there is a battle raging constantly, and I’m calling it the Battle for the Modern Mind.  It is a war of thoughts, philosophies, beliefs, and opinions.  The weapon is media and the chief ammunition is language.  If I’m sounding like a crazy conspiracy theorist I guess there’s no way around it.  But I’m not reaching with this observation.  I believe most people will agree with me.  In fact, many people will think I’m stating the obvious.  I’m digressing.

I write this in order to address the overarching struggle that we face in our modern interconnected world.  It is a struggle to discern what is true among so many competing ideas.  We are bombarded with ideas like a house cat caught in a hail storm.

Nothing is certain.

Death is certain.

There is an afterlife.

Conservatives are racists.

Liberals are socialists.

God is good.

God doesn’t exist.

We were created.

We spawned from nothing.

The universe is expanding.

Cell phones cause cancer.

Cell phones are safe.

Obama is great.

Obama sucks.

People are equal.

Your pleasure is important.

The needs of others is important.

Truth is relative.

Christians are stupid.

Muslims want to kill everyone.

Keanu Reeves is a good actor.

Social justice is important.

Catholic priests molest boys.

Abortion is about choice.

Abortion is murder.

Gay marriage is an abomination.

Gay marriage is none of your business.

Our minds are pelted over and over and over and over again and again and again every single day with ideas that often challenge our core beliefs, and leave us confused and aggravated.  What is right?  What path do I take?  How will I define myself in a world where everyone and no one is correct?

I don’t want to be a soldier in this fight.  I don’t want to try and capture your mind to my side.  You get enough of that from everywhere else.  Besides, it’s your mind and I have no right to reside there.  All I want to do is make you aware of the forces that seek to influence you.  I want to encourage you to think for yourself and really ask some hard questions about your purpose in this life.  Know where you stand, and what you stand for.  It’s hard to stay true to yourself even when you have a firm hold on your identity, but it’s impossible to be your own person when you don’t know who you are.

The world is all too eager to define you with its own ideas.

Know thyself.

The battle rages.

Searching for a Good Character

What are we looking for in a good character? 

One who has great power, but does not use it for selfish gain.

One who sacrifices much for the sake of others.

One who serves friends, and also rises above the threats and violence of enemies by serving them as well.

One who speaks the truth plainly, without biting sarcasm or fruitless profanity.

One who treats great and small alike, without self-serving favoritism.

One who lives in a way that proves the existence of our highest ideals, virtues, and values.

One who is relatable, and not too important or busy to pay attention to others.

One who gives without expecting to receive.

One who does not fall prey to the influence of popular opinion.

One who does the right thing when no one is looking.

 

When I watch a movie or read a book I can’t help but look for these qualities.  They are the qualities that I’m drawn to because they are the qualities that I aspire to.  It is no coincidence that these qualities are also found in the character of Jesus Christ: the one I am always searching for.

When I am talking to people, always am I considering the character of Jesus Christ.  Am I exhibiting these qualities, or is the other person?  What can I learn about Him through this?  I am searching internally and externally.  I am skimming all of creation for signs of my God.

When I watch a movie I search for Him.  Do the characters I’m watching imitate any of His characteristics?  If not, what is their value?  If so, what can I learn about my God and myself?  I watch hours upon hours of film watching for signs of life.  The fiction has only as much value as it proclaims what is true of reality.

How can I help that my heart is hungry for such a good character?  When you’ve tasted something that is better than everything else, don’t you want to taste it again and again?  When you see something more attractive than anything else, can you stop yourself from looking at it?  When you’ve heard something that rings true, how can you then block your ears to it?

 

 

I’m always searching for a good character.

 

The Value of Introspection

What is the value of introspection?  Well, with regular (often instant) analysis of one’s own thoughts, desires, and motivations you can gain great insight into your own heart.  This has tremendous value for yourself as it will solidify your character by providing your mind with an understanding of your heart.  If you are out of touch with your own desires and reasons for doing what you do, you will experience a disconnect within yourself.  And you will also be more susceptible to the influence of  thoughts, emotions, and outside forces.   Basically, it’s good to know about yourself so that you won’t fall prey to internal and external forces.   But that’s only part of the value of introspection.  The other value, and this is more important, is the enhanced ability to serve and understand other people.  If you are at the mercy of your own desires and untamed will, how do you expect to love other people in any meaningful way?

I’m missing something extremely important, and I didn’t do this on purpose, or just for effect.  Sometimes I do things for the effect, but this isn’t one of them.  The ability to gain insight into your own heart is impossible without first accepting something outside of yourself.   What am I talking about?  If you believed that you were a god, and that all of your actions and thoughts were right and good, what would you see when you looked inside yourself?  You would see a righteous heart with righteous motives.  Even if you stole or lied, you would easily justify those actions to fit your perception of self-righteousness.  If no one is informing you that you’re evil, or more importantly, you didn’t accept their judgement, wouldn’t your natural inclination be to believe in your own rightness?  Argue with me, please.  Tell me that people are actually good in their heart of hearts, and if left to their own devices would choose good.  Tell me that, but be sure to inform me of what GOOD means.  Is good simply not hurting people?  Or is good something more than that?  What is your reason for believing anything about what is good or evil?  Is that belief based on your feelings, or is it a belief in something, or someone outside of yourself?  I know people who believe that society shapes us at the core, but what informs society?  Or there are others who blame genes and believe that anything and everything has to do with an evolutionary benefit to our species.  We react this way or that way, or maintain monogamous relationships, or convince ourselves of a deity because in some way it improves the odds that our genes will be passed on to another generation of purposeless apes.  Once again, this is a belief that shapes how we see our own hearts, and how we determine good and evil.

To go back to my original point, we must first accept something outside of ourselves before we can look inward and determine the shape of our hearts.

It really does matter what you believe.  It matters for how you value life, both your own and those around you.  I believe in the God of the bible made known through Jesus Christ.  But why!!!??!!  Because my heart cries out to Him for life.  Life for myself and for other people.  Accepting God allows me to look into my own heart and see two critical things.  The first is my self-centered nature and propensity to choose things that do evil against myself and other people.  The second is a sense of self- worth made possible by the acceptance in God’s undying love for me.  By accepting Jesus Christ, the one who at once acknowledges and then forgives our evil, and informs us that we are loved enough for God to come to earth and die for us, I am able to see my heart as it truly is.  This ability to acknowledge my sin without being crushed or blinded by it, allows me to accept what is true of myself.  Accepting what is true of myself without being crushed by the hard truth frees me to love God, myself, and other people.  Now I can act beyond my heart’s selfish nature by embracing the heart of God, which at once gives a value and meaning to life that doesn’t come from anywhere else.

If loving God wasn’t of such a significant benefit to myself and the people I care about, I wouldn’t be writing these things.  And I wouldn’t be trying so hard to express to you what I know in my heart is true of this life.

Know what you believe.  Look within yourself.  But know that when you look, you have to look from some point outside of yourself.

From where you’re standing, what does your heart look like?