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Thoughts of a Man Named Dave

 

I needed a change.

For those who have been following this blog from the start, you might remember that in the beginning (around March 2010) it had the heading of, Thoughts of a Post-Grad English Major.  This lasted for about a year, until a friend explained to me why WordPress was better than blogger.  It was also at a time when I felt that “English major” wasn’t the best label for myself a year after graduating.  For those reasons I switched to WordPress and changed the heading to, Thoughts of a Post-Grad Twentysomething.  This served me well for a time as I was indeed a twenty-something and I was very much adrift in the waters of post-graduate life.  But now, at this stage in my life, I understand that it is appropriate to change things again.

The new heading reads, Thoughts of a Man Named Dave.  Now, it isn’t as descriptive as the other two, but I think that’s just fine.  It also doesn’t serve the purpose of telling people what this blog is really about in any creative way, but that’s also fine.  I’m not trying to aim for a niche in the blogosphere (not now anyway) by writing about cooking or gardening (though I love gardening and will write about it).  Most of the people who read this already know me, and those who don’t will hopefully come because something I write catches their eye.  I have not been willing to focus on one topic, since I want to write about multiple topics.  The new tagline for my blog does a good job of encapsulating my interests and some semblance of focus.

“Getting at the big picture of Life in America through faith, politics and other things you don’t talk about at the dinner table.”

I have written about gay marriage and abortion multiple times.  I have also written about Bill Cosby and why Baby Boomers love Paul Blart: Mall Cop.  Sometimes it is light and fluffy and other times it is heavy and serious.  It can be the kind of thing you wouldn’t discuss over dinner, but I suppose that depends on who’s eating.  I seem to have a keen interest in American culture in general, so it’s a safe bet that I’ll be writing about things that relate to it.   I also have strong feelings and a clear position on many political matters.  But the overriding thing, the deeper current that steers this ship, is my belief that Jesus Christ is who the Bible says he is.  Anyone who recognizes that God is real and knowable will also understand that it affects everything about them.  Think about it.

So here I am, and here is the latest incarnation of my blog.

More to follow.

P.S. For those who follow my blog or know me, you should understand why I chose this image of a man punching a gorilla.  The Tiger/Gorilla Question 

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The Powerful Subtext of Homeward Bound

Subtext-a message which is not stated directly but can be inferred.

Homeward Bound is one of those rare childhood films that can mean more to you as an adult.  I would place Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in the same category, and I explain why in the posts, Willy Wonka is a Fine Wine and Finding God in Film.  These films touch upon universal themes that children either overlook or fail to appreciate because there is much about life they have yet to experience.  In the case of Homeward Bound, it took many repeat viewings and a good amount of growing up for me to grasp the powerful subtext at its core.  From beginning to end this story is about fatherhood.

The film opens with the character of Chance, a young “pup” of a dog, delivering a brief monologue about his past.  He says,  “I was abandoned when I was very young. I lived on the streets scranging for food, sleeping wherever I could; that seemed like fun at first, but pretty soon, it landed me behind bars.”  We learn that he was separated from his parents, and likely also separated from his first owners.  Like a child whose father walked out, Chance feels the sting of abandonment.

The human children in the film, Peter, Hope and Jamie, are faced with the difficulty of accepting a new man in the role of father.  In the beginning of the film we witness a wedding between their mother and her new husband, Bob.  The children, especially Peter, are noticeably troubled.  There is a touching moment immediately after the couple finishes saying their vows where Peter looks down at Shadow and pats him.  It makes me wonder, what happened to Peter’s father?  Did he walk out on the family, or did he die?  It’s likely that Shadow was either Peter’s father’s dog, or given to Peter by his father.  Regardless, we can assume that Shadow is deeply connected to Peter and his lost father.  And in many ways Shadow fills the role of father for both Peter and Chance.

Without question, Shadow is the heart and soul of Homeward Bound.  He is loyal, faithful, and wise.  He is the leader and protector of Chance and the cat, Sassy.  At the start of the film we see that Shadow views Chance much like an old man views the younger generation.  He says, “I’d sure like to give that dog a talking to,” when Chance misbehaves at the wedding.  Then he continues by asking Chance the rhetorical question, “Would a rolled up newspaper mean anything to you?”  Shadow understands that Chance needs guidance and discipline.  He has a lot to learn, since he has grown up without a fatherly example.

Later in the film, after the animals have spent many days journeying through the woods in an attempt to return home, Sassy gets caught in a river and tumbles over a waterfall.  Once Shadow and Chance determine that she must be dead, we see the first moment in which Chance recognizes that Shadow is worthy of his respect.  Here is the exchange.

Shadow: [after Sassy is lost in the river] I shouldn’t have made her come.

Chance: It’s not your fault, she wanted to come.

Shadow: But it’s my responsibility. I had a responsibility to Sassy – to love her and protect her – the same as I have to you… and to Peter. And the same as you have to Jamie.

Chance: But we didn’t ask for this job.

Shadow: We didn’t have to. It’s built in. Has been ever since the dawn of time… when a few wild dogs took it upon themselves to watch over man, to bark when he’s in danger, to run and play with him when he’s happy, to nuzzle him when he’s lonely. That’s why they call us man’s best friend.

Chance: [narrating] Looking at him that night, he seemed so wise… and ancient, like the first dog who ever walked the earth. I just hope that one day, I can be like him.

The exchange could easily be applied to fatherhood.  Shadow speaks of having a responsibility to love and protect those who depend on him.  And when Chance challenges this obligation by saying, “But we didn’t ask for this job,” Shadow responds that it is built-in.  It is a deep and undeniable truth of life.  Many fathers don’t ask to be fathers.  Many fathers don’t accept the responsibility to love and protect their children. Chance is just beginning to understand.

Near the end of the film, Shadow falls into a hole and it appears that he may never get out.  Watch from minute 1 to minute 4.  After, I will explain how this is the moment that Chance fully accepts fatherhood, and Shadow answers the problem of abandonment, which permeates the entire film.

“I won’t let you give up,” Chance promises Shadow.  He has become the loving protector.  He gets down in the mud with Shadow to give him the strength to move forward.  Chance also finally acknowledges that he loves Shadow and wants him by his side.  This shows a profound devotion, much like the kind a father experiences with his son.  But at the same time Shadow believes that his life is nearing its end.  He states, “I have nothing left to give.”  Despite Chance’s sincere efforts to encourage him, Shadow takes this desperate occasion to teach Chance a “final” lesson.  He says, “You’ve learned  everything you need, Chance. Now all you have to learn is how to say goodbye.”  Every father must leave his son someday, and even if he was entirely loving and wise and loyal the son must learn to be on his own.  He must make peace with the absence of his father.

If you continue to watch that clip you will see the children playing basketball with Bob.  They are very happy, and we witness a touching moment in which Peter and Hope call their new father, dad.  It tells us that the children, especially Peter, have accepted him.  This means that they have learned to make peace with the father that is lost. It also indicates that they have made peace with the likelihood that their animals will never return.  They have matured by learning how to say goodbye.  And a major part of saying goodbye is the ability to say hello to what is in front of you.

The return of the animals at the end is deeply moving.  It is also profound.  After Sassy and Chance return, Peter becomes sad as he embraces the likelihood that Shadow was unable to make it.

“It was too far.  He was just too old,” Peter tells himself.

The gulf between the living and the dead appears too far for us to ever be reunited.  How could we ever hope to see them again?

I can’t help but think about God at this moment.  I think about the promise of new life.  All that is written about God being our loving Father, our protector.  How often are we like Peter, losing hope?  It’s too far.  He is too old.  It’s just an old story.

My Father isn’t about to rise over that hill.

Homeward Bound is about fatherhood, and healing from the pain of abandonment when fathers leave.  The entire film is an expression of a father’s devotion to be reunited with his son.

It is about boundless love.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:38-39)

On Gay Marriage

On two occasions I have written about abortion (An Inflammatory Issue: Abortion & Speaking for the Victims of Progress).  For each of those postings I took great care to control my emotions and also the language that I used.  It is too easy to slip into a righteous rant, and I wanted my thoughts to shine clearly.  I bring this up because I am now about to dive into another volatile topic: gay marriage.  Truthfully, I have avoided this issue because of how challenging it is to discuss.  This is the hot button issue of our day, exposing our deepest beliefs regarding freedom, morality, religion, family, society, sexuality, and love.  Like abortion, it is an issue that often defines a political position.  And, also like abortion, it defies many attempts to discuss with a cool head.  Though I can’t promise that I won’t offend, I can promise a most sincere effort to proceed with clarity and compassion.  Here we go.

I’m interested in what is behind an opinion, or a value, or a belief.  What is the primary force inside of you and me that shapes our characters and the nature of our thoughts and wills?  To tackle the topic of gay marriage, I think it is most helpful to try to identify the primary forces at work in both parties, for and against.  You may think I am being too ambitious or resorting to too much personal opinion, and perhaps that is the case.  All I ask is that you consider what’s to follow and ask yourself if I’m completely nuts or if I have a leg to stand on.

The popular liberal position on gay marriage is that it’s good, natural, and nobody’s business.  They see society as advancing in tolerance, freedom, and reason as more states legalize same-sex marriage.  Legalized gay marriage is viewed as a victory for progress.  Furthermore, those who oppose this movement are viewed as having out of touch beliefs that are largely informed by outdated values.  Many who oppose gay marriage are influenced by their religions.  Those influenced by religion are in large part viewed as religious fundamentalists, which means they interpret their holy book literally.  Each of the three major world religions condemn homosexual lifestyles, so the opposition either takes a more liberal stance on their religion (allowing for the acceptance of homosexual behavior) or they dig in their heels and quote their ancient texts.  Many liberals are critical of conservative Christians especially, calling them bigots, homophobes, and haters.  Society as a whole is growing more tolerant of gays and gay marriage, and this is good for those people who have lived in fear of judgment.  There are many cases of teen suicide related to bullying, and many of these are hate crimes linked to anti-gay sentiments.   Accepting same-sex marriage paves the way for gays to live more freely and securely in a society that is just now shaking off its puritanical roots.

If you represent the position I just described, please feel free to critique or condemn what I just wrote.  I’m sure there are elements I am missing or glossing over.  I’m attempting to sum up a position that isn’t my own so it would be better if someone who supports gay marriage had input.

The popular conservative position is that gay marriage is bad, unnatural, and nobody’s business.  They believe that family is the foundation of society and marriage is the foundation of family.  Many conservatives are informed by traditional values, which are informed by religious values.  They point to a long history of civilization, but mainly to the short history of America for evidence of the time-tested legitimacy for heterosexual marriage.  They view their opponents as possessing a worldly morality, that is one formed by the trends and passions of modern society.  These liberals are governed by their own passions and desire for personal freedom, and pay no respect to a higher standard of right and wrong.  Freedom is their god, and they recklessly sacrifice traditional values on its altar.  To many conservative Christians, liberals who favor gay marriage are attempting to redefine marriage and pass legislation that will shift our society’s standards further away from the standards of God and traditional American values.

Once again I am fitting these beliefs into a nutshell.  There’s much more to say on both sides of the issue.  But for now I want to leave them be and move onto my own beliefs on this matter.

 

I ask myself, what is the role of the Christian church in shaping America’s policies?  It is one thing to view a particular way of life as sinful, but it is another to influence secular society by fighting for political power.  Should Christians be able to speak about their critical views on homosexual behavior, absolutely.  This wouldn’t be America if people couldn’t express their beliefs openly.  Open expression doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences.  It just means that the government doesn’t snuff it out of the public square.  I think all reasonable people can agree that civil discourse on this and any other issue is essential.

Regarding the political fight to shape legislation, or to prevent legislation, I am less confident about my role.  It is one thing to establish a common morality within the church, and it is another to try to establish one in the world.

Is it our place to fight for the highest seats of power?  Is it our place to expect the same way of life from those who don’t know Jesus Christ? I think it is damaging for people to treat America like a church, as if everyone used to be Christian and we just have to knock some sense into them.  I see many people like myself dreading the changes in society as if society is meant to reflect the status of the Christian church.  Society as a whole is a part of the world, and even though we live in it and shape it, we can’t look to it like we would look to the body of Christ.  The church is called to be set apart from the ways of the world.  What happens when the church judges someone outside of it as if that person were a member?  Is that what Jesus wants us to do?  Or does he ask us to live for Him and model a righteous life?  Maybe then we would appear as bright lights to a dark world.

To sum up my position,,,

I believe that those on both sides of the gay marriage issue should speak openly and courageously.  We as Americans shape the world around us based on our values.  Christians like myself should vote for those people who most closely reflect their values just as anyone else should.  But when society shifts further away from biblical values, Christians are not meant to panic and dread as if the church itself were crumbling.  The church is a people set apart, and cannot demand of the world that it live in submission to its principles.  That doesn’t mean that we curl into a ball and die.  It simply means that we expect one thing from the church and another from society.  Since Americans have the freedom to shape their government, and as a result their society as a whole, every individual also shares in the responsibility of the result.  For that reason religious and non-religious alike should take an active role in politics.  But the Christian doesn’t look to a worldly nation for his or her spiritual affirmation.  They look to God, and their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Is America a Christian Nation?

Is our country a Christian nation?

The first thing we need to explore is what it means to be Christian.  If you were looking at the true definition of Christian you would find that it can only apply to a human being.  Christians are followers of Jesus Christ who accept his identity as God, savior, and master of their lives.  Jesus told his followers, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”(John 14:15)  Christians love Jesus and live a life that expresses love toward him.  They still sin and fail regularly at imitating him, but at their core they are devoted to the struggle of seeking God in a fallen world.  True Christians are living and active, so this means that CDs and books and movies cannot truly be Christian.  They don’t have the life of God in them.  In the same way a country cannot be truly Christian.  Even if 100% of the citizenry were Christians, and all of the government’s policies were informed by Christian principles, what we would have is a very large Christian community composed of individual believers.  The United States would not be Christian; its people would be Christian.

Now, all of that being said I know that when people call an object “Christian” they don’t believe that it is saved by Jesus.  They likely mean that it has a message which somehow ties into God.  Switchfoot is a Christian band.  Their music is shaped by their beliefs and many call it Christian.  In its own way it points to Christ, so I will say that when anything outside of a human being is labeled “Christian” it must in some way point to Jesus Christ.

The two working definitions of Christian that I will use for the rest of this post are:

  1. A human being who accepts Jesus Christ as their personal  savior, which results in an inner transformation turning the individual, over a lifetime, into the likeness of Jesus Christ.  This means their thoughts and actions will be increasingly like those of Jesus as they seek to know him.  More than a title or affiliation or even religion, Christianity is giving all of yourself with the belief that God will give you his own life in return.
  2.  Anything that is not a human that points to Jesus Christ as he is portrayed in the gospels.  Examples are music, paintings, movies, books, culture, etc.

Is our country a Christian nation?

I have heard arguments from both sides regarding the Christian foundations of America.  One side claims that the founding members of this country were largely Christian, or at least heavily informed by Christian principles.  As a result they drafted our core documents with divine assistance from God and turned to Him in prayer before taking critical first steps as a nation.  The other side points out that many of them were Deists (namely Thomas Jefferson who made his own Bible by taking out all that mystical stuff about miracles and resurrections) or simply non-religious like the Enlightenment hero, Benjamin Franklin.  This side also is keen on emphasizing the separation of church and state, which they say is the intention of our founders.  Taken even further, this separation is used as proof that the founders wanted religion far removed from the governing bodies of this land.  So what’s the deal?

Based on what I’ve gathered, and trying really hard not to let my own bias taint my senses, I believe that Christianity did play a critical role in the formation of this country.  But at the same time ideas shaped by the Enlightenment were used to craft our government structures.  The Bible was not the central document through which the Constitution was formed.  That being said, many of the men who had a hand in the beginning were devout Christians, so it is not correct to assume that they wanted Christians to be separated from government entirely.  Their ideal government wouldn’t be one in which men didn’t allow their faith to play a role in their decisions.  Religion would never be forced on anyone, but America would also not force the religious to deny their convictions once in public office.   If you need some proof of someone in high office exercising their faith, just look to George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.   American citizens elect these people to reflect their own values.

More important than where we were yesterday as a nation is where we are today.  Does our culture look Christian?  Do our policies look Christian?  Are our people even Christian?

Certainly, the dominant culture in this country is far from reflecting Christian values.  The American Dream at its core is about amassing worldly wealth and happiness so that you can have a comfortable life.  Is this anything like what Christ meant when he said to his followers, ” If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”? (Matthew 16:24)  The values that we see on television are shallow and ungodly.  Physical beauty and the vitality of youth is idolized and sex is used as a tool for profit.  How many advertisers and television shows whore themselves in our living rooms?  The internet spills over with porn with millions of men and women captivated by the dull lustful glow of their computer screens.  This isn’t about gay marriage and abortion, though legalized abortion is perhaps the greatest noose around the neck of America’s spirit.  This is about a culture of death.  We live in a culture of death.  In one moment we are thrilled by distant or digital violence and in the next promised that eternal beauty and health is attainable.  Just buy this or watch this or read this.  So much of our culture is based on avoiding the reality of our inevitable deaths.  This is the opposite of the Christian life. Clearly we cannot call our culture “Christian” since it does little to point anyone to Jesus Christ.

But what about our people?

How many people who say they are Christians are truly followers of Christ?  Say 70% of the country identified themselves as Christian.  Of those, how many go to church maybe once or twice a year and live their lives as if they didn’t love Jesus?  A conservative guess would be half.  Just consider all of the people you know who call themselves Christian or Catholic.  Of those, how many would you actually label as a legitimate follower of Jesus Christ?  How many actually live as if God was the love of their life?  I even recognize that I am in danger of falling into this category when I consider how little I resemble Jesus and how much I embody the culture in which I live.

The point I’m trying to make is that Christians, true believers who live for God, are not the majority in this country.  Christians are in the minority.  Many conservatives hold tightly to their traditional “Christian” values but their lives are far from the heart of God.

Most Americans are not Christian.

Is America a Christian nation?  No.  We were once much more united by Christian values, but we are currently far removed from that past.  Our culture is not Christian.  Our people are not Christian.  And increasingly less so.

God moves in the hearts of people.  What will become of ours?

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.

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 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?