"What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote
in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all. But what does happen is that he votes
his own self-interest as he sees it... which for the majority translates as 'Bread and Circuses'."
- Robert A. Heinlein

In Roman times, free Bread and Circuses entertained the masses. I hope you find your time
here both entertaining and informative.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Grass Withers and the Flower Fades

No, I am not being paid by the floral industry to write this.

Why do women like flowers? Why do guys like buying them for women? To address the quesiton, why do women NOT like utilitarian gifts (many generalizations will be made in this post, I understand I'm speaking generally about cultural norms, and there will be exceptions, including many women would would love a Kitchenmade mixer for Christmas). Utilitarian gifts have a purpose, they may convey a kind or caring sentiment, but their primary purpose is to be used.

Not so with flowers. The sole reason to give a gift of flowers is to demonstrate love for someone. They have no other use, and the temporal nature of a flower only serves to enhance the sentiment. I give you this rose to signify my love, it will be beautiful for a day or two, and then it will decay, and I will send you more flowers in the future, because I can never stop telling you just how much I love you. In this way, flowers are the ideal "just because I love you" gift. A gift that lasts is a constant reminder of one's love and affection.

However, the giving of gifts serves two purposes. First, it shows that at this particular moment in time, I want to express a particular sentiment to you, such as love or shared grief (how closely those feelings are related. Grief, as Lewis writes, is the transformation of love through the process of loss). Second, it is a reminder that I continue to feel this sentiment towards you. The expression signified in the first particular is temporal, at a fixed moment in time the giving of a gift expresses an emotion, such as love, that we are feeling right NOW. The second aspect of gift giving allows the gift to remain as a continuing reminder that at that time, and hopefully still, I love you. Flowers are particularly attuned to be a gift which admirably serves both of these purposes. The flower itself is fleeting, temporary. It shows that right now I want to make a irrational gesture of love. I want to give you a gift right now that serves no other purpose except saying I Love You, right now, and I just had to tell you. In this way, it appears that flowers are admirably suited merely for the temporal attitude of gift giving. This is why some women do not like receiving flowers, they appear to be a waste of money on something that does not last. But the sentiment of giving out of love does last, and in this way the truth goes far deeper.

The giving of flowers in the second regard, is an act signifying a continuing gift. The flower fades, but the sentiment is renewed by the giving of more flowers. In this way, it harks back to the first gift of flowers. Even giving a dozen roses on a couple's anniversary reminds both partners of the first flowers he ever gave her, whether it was a single white rose, or a bouquet of wild flowers plucked on the way to a date. Because the flower fades, it requires the renewing of this sentiment by another floral gift, to remind the lover that the sentiment was not merely a one time sentiment, but that the attitude of love lives on. In these ways, the gift of flowers implies both gift giving attitudes: The flower is a temporary gift of momentary emotion, but in a way, giving flowers now makes both the giver and the receiver partakers of the emotions entailed by every other floral gift of the past. They can remind us of a particular time, or of better times, or of better things to come. So darling, when you read this, you'll understand a bit more why I give you flowers, and why they are an expression of love that is more than worth the cost.

Oh, and if this post strikes my readers as a bit out of the ordinary for me, well it is. I was challenged to write on something positive and uplifting, to break out of my typical critic's attitude. But no, I have not changed, and to prove it, if anyone wants to get me this for Christmas, I think it would be an awesome way to convey my usual attitude with the right tuxedo:

Single Black Rose Boutonniere

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Of Mammon and the Rapture

A short update will have to suffice, since I do not have the time for a full ramble. I would love my reader's thoughts on this:

Convert or Kill: Violent Left Behind Video Game Prompts Controversy

I wish to God I was making this up. What would be the response of fundementalist christianists if Walmart carried a video game along the following fictitious lines:

Holy Jihad: Caliph Edition
Campaign for the prophet Mohammed (not depicted) to spread Islam to the world. Enhance Allah's Kingdom by spreading the Quran using persuasion if necessary, the sword if all else fails. Remember, we're in a battle against the forces of Shaitan.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, the Christianists will now have their own real time strategy game where we fight to spread the faith. Because you know, Age of Empires has just waaaay too much gratutious sex and nudity.

What's next? Allow me to hypothesize.
Left Behind, Prequel Edition "As the Rapture approaches, take the culture war to the streets. Organize your neighbors for the Marriage Amendment and to get that pesky gay couple to move out of the neighborhood. Petition the town council to exclude any stores that sell FHM or Maxim from the community. Picket soldier's funerals with the message of God's judgment on American liberals. Look for the Eric Rudolph Expansion Pack in the Fall (The Fall of man, of culture, of the decadent American church? We don't know which, but remember, fire and brimstone always sell better to the faithful than do grace, hope and love)." © (see note)

Yet another example of Christians accepting flimsy variants of popular cultural modes in an attempt to keep our young people from engaging troubling concepts, rather choosing to brainwash them to Christianist viewpoints. And a disturbing cultural trend within the church to accept media depiction of violence, any violence, if it's for a cause with which we may sympathize (or not sympathize, such as is this Author's view), when we want to reject any truly relevant artistic or literary expression because of themes that are just as valid, but more troubling, such as themes of sex or profanity (remember you don't read any of those in the Bible). Violence though appears to be 100% Grade A Christianist approved.

Copyright Notice: Plot line and all elements not copyrighted Lahaye and Jenkins reserved to the author, because I'm afraid if the wrong people come across this post, we may very well see something in this vein shortly. If you think I'm kidding, read the description of the LBH game and tell me this is too far fetched.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

There are two kinds of egotists: Those who admit it, and the rest of us.

Anyone who knows me know that I admit it. But sometimes it's wise to admit it to oneself as well. Charles Spurgeon said, "Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self." So in one sense self-awareness is the fundamental operating condition of a humble spirit, and I am not repudiating my thoughts on this blog where I've expressed, sometimes (or often) quite strong opinions when I feel I have insight to offer.

But have you ever felt those moments when God just humbles you, when out of the blue something pops up to remind us that no matter how far we've come, we have a ways to go in the Imitation of Christ? I had one today.

I got an email from a former classmate at college. He introduced himself, said I probably don't remember him, but that we were at school freshman year together. He said that he has a picture of us and several other people together at a class outing to a historical site, and that every time he sees it he stops to pray for us all.

I was floored. When had I thought of him except in reminiscing to other friends about the somewhat odd characters who were at school the first year? Had I EVER stopped to pray for him?

Sad to say, I don't know that I have. You probably don't know how God used you, but thank you Ben.

To My Anonymous Exhorter: A Response

As my below post makes mention, I was recently reprimanded by an anonymous comment calling into question my post Re: Lahaye and Jenkins.

I feel a response is necessary. I will excuse the length of this response on the grounds that I am not only responding to the critiques of my opinions of the series, but also I expound my view of engaging the culture we live in. I do not know if my original commentator is a regular reader of my blog, or someone who stumbled across that post while looking for the Left Behind fanclub, but no matter, his/her comments merit attention.

I will reproduce the comment below in italics, and intersperse my reply point by point.

I agree with you - that the church in America is theologically atrophied. That's a good word picture.

Thank you, I'm glad my essential point got across.

But I'm afraid that the passion with which you write to communicate your very valid points are overshadowed by your use of a certain word - which in most Christian circles, evangelical or otherwise - would be considered offensive and a cursing of God's name. Sort of pours water on the fire or righteous indignation.

I dealt with my defense of my studied use of that word below, but I will give a few more comments. I remember in college, being assigned the film Cromwell in one of our classes. After viewing it, my professor felt he had to make an explanation for the more timid among the class. At one point Cromwell enters his church and sees the King has forced the trappings of the Roman church into English churches. He is then confronted with one of his friends whose ear had been cut off for some offense or other. Cromwell, righteously indignant, exclaims "God Damn this king." Dr. Stacey pointed out that Cromwell was NOT blaspheming, that this was a sincere prayer to God to punish this ungodly king. In that context, my use of the phrase should only indicate the depth of my righteous indignation, not the hypocrisy of it.

Maybe if we modeled self control more, the world would see our commitment to Christ rather than our rampant hypocrisy. (and I don't just limit it to language; Lord knows there's a plethora of "addictions" we Christians have)

Ok, so herein I'm accused of not having enough self-control in my posting. So be it. I feel there is a greater danger within the church, self or imposed control approaching legalistic Phariseeism. While we should not "sin so that grace can abound...", who is more likely to seem "real" to an unbeliever and truly evidence God's grace, one who has bought into the fundamentalist line that to be a Christian means you don't drink or swear or watch R rated movies, or someone who does not reproach the unbeliever if their language is a bit salty, who shows that the true message of the Gospel is that Christ cares who we are more than what arbitrary rules we impose on ourselves. Christ hung out with profane fishermen, prostitutes, and corrupt government officials, not the "good" people of the established church. Peter denied Christ three times with blasphemies, and yet God still used him mightily at Pentacost to found the Church. This is not meant to condone true blasphemy, only to show that is is not what God is more concerned about. Profiting off the gospel to the detriment of the work of the church is even more blasphemous of our faith and our calling. My point here is that the "world" will see who Christ is, not because we are the most self-controlled people in the world, but because God gives us grace even when we are not.

Out of curiosity, how are you personally ministering to the world? [Personal note: We may differ on this, but I don't believe that Christians must become LIKE the world in order to minister to them and show them their need for Christ.]

I hesitated to respond to this question, but I feel I must. For one, none of us truly does as much as we should, but if we are following Christ, we should at least know that there is more that we can do, rather than promoting our own works-including apocalyptic fiction-as the answer. The prophets of the old testament (not to say that I consider myself a prophet-more a critic) did not solve the world's problems themselves, rather they called the community to repent and get on track with what God wants.

That said, yes, the gauntlet has been thrown and I will try to respond charitably and without pride. I have not been called to a world stage, nor do I have the influence and public exposure which Lahaye and Jenkins continue to squander to their own profit. However, I try to live a life which exemplifies my vision of Christ's overpowering grace as explained in my second paragraph of response above. Living Christ to the world, not as "the world" writ large, but to individuals. Not classifying everyone into a worldview box, labeling them, and then saying "you're an existentialist/nihilist/pagan/pluralist/postmodern" and then beat them with the baseball bat of six or seven points of sunday school rhetoric my Biblical Reasoning prof taught me "prove" Christ to that "group." I will not deny my faith, nor live in sin in order to reach others, but I will try to discard all the non-essential legalism which all my readers who grew up in the fundamentalist church are familiar with, in order that the message of Grace, the gospel of Mere Christianity*, will shine through. We are to discard every weight so that we may run the race before us well. I cultivate relationships as I can, and in fact I am often more comfortable sitting in a coffeshop discussing God, life, and faith with all those individuals created in the image of God who make up the monolithic "the world" we so dread, than I am sitting in a holy huddle in church exhorting ourselves with how much we love us some Jesus over a shot of grape juice.

So that is my ethos of relational evangelism. I have seen God do mighty things with that approach.

I realize I am a bit of an iconoclast. I see opportunities to point out problems in the church, and if I do it with any regularity, maybe it is because the American church is so atrophied we are consumed with expending enormous amounts of time and effort combating gay marriage and Roe v. Wade, so that we will miss the opportunites to preach the truth in love to the homosexual, the pregnant teen, or dare I say it the Human Rights Council staffer or abortionist. I am not saying that all these will come to Christ, but I would like to hope that God will grant me the grace to live a life where they can look at me and say they saw Christ's love despite our disagreements, rather than repudiate Christ with how unloving His church is. However, I am making efforts to be constructive as well as deconstructive, since both in unity will, I believe, bear fruit.

As far as what I am doing in the church, well, I am not a leader, but I do try to follow Christ when He affirms the priesthood of all believers. I contribute in small groups in my church, and have recently led a Bible study on Grace. I am discipling several new believers as we work through the gospel of John and Mere Christianity.

*Not as Lewis wrote it, but as Christ preached it.

More to the point, one reader commented on my indictment of the Left Behind series.

So what exactly do you propose is wrong with Christians composing literature and offering it on the free market? Forget whether you or anyone else actually considers it "literature" (before the CLAers come and mug me). They had an idea and wrote a story. Do you really think these authors are offering their works as an alternative to Scipture and the only way to salvation? Or should Christian ideas never be offered on the free market at all for fear of their corruption? And what if one - even one soul - did pick up the books just because they were interested, and decided to investigate more, and that ended up being their first step toward salvation?

God uses even the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. That's not an excuse for Christians to be foolish, but neither is it prudent for so members of the body of Christ to spend time distancing themselves from brothers and sisters with whom they fundamentally agree that Christ died for that we may undercut the very tools God may be using for His own ends - whether we care to recognize them or not.

Let me explain my problems with the concept. I will not address the theology (if you can call it that) of the series, as that was not the point of my original essay. For example, how did what was going to be a trilogy end up becoming seven books, then twelve, then 15, as more and more people bought the books, as the authors were seduced by Amazon ranking and profit margins and marketing. Yes, God can use a deeply flawed work to bring people to him, ie: the NIV and the Roman church, and the Pentacostal movement. (Please, hold the emails on those topics.) Why did the head of marketing for all of Tindale House publishers suddenly become head of marketing for the Left Behind series alone? Does a genuine attempt to bring people to God need a head of marketing? Haven't the attempts to modernize and market Christianity resulted in some of the greatest abominations of our pop-culture faith?

If the series had never been written, I believe that God's sovereign grace is more than capable to bring all those people whom He has called before the beginning of time to saving faith in Him. I repudiate the idea that attacking errant preachers or novelists on a theological point like the prostitution of our faith on the altar of Mammon will reduce God's kingdom by even one soul. Maybe that's just me.

Yes, we may fundamentally agree that Christ died for us, but when the means people use become apparently destructive of those ends, then I believe there is call for pause and reflection, and if needs be, condemnation from the Church. Many will have cast out demons in Christ's name, or brought people to God, or written enormously popular works of fiction in his name, and He will say "depart from Me I never know you." Now, I am not questioning these gentleman's faith, just saying that if the former sentence can be true, then certainly there is reason to question things done in Christ's name, for not all those things, even if they bear some fruit, are of Christ. And marketing Christ into a series of 15 "fiction" books to record profits, slapping four initials on an armband, or giving your coworkers "Testamints" are most likely not of Him.

Note: To my fellow travelers, check out Nathan Wilson and Dr. Sock's great satirical reposte, Right Behind and Supergeddon.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

An apology to my readers and a few miscellenia

To sum up, an omnibus post.

Ok... It went something like this. I get spam on my blogspot. I enable comment moderation. I completely forget about it in the course of my busy life. I log into the new version of Blogger today, and have 68 comments awaiting moderation...

So, in short, no I have not been censoring anyone. I approved every comment that wasn't a spam advertisement. Thank you all for your interest, I had no idea so many people read my ravings.

And one note, which is certainly not an apology, but perhaps an explanation. One sincere reader objected to my use of the word "g-ddammed" in my essay on the commercialization of Christianity vis a vis Lahaye and Jenkins. If I had been being flippant, I would certainly apologize. I was not, I was and remain in dead earnest.

To quote Lewis: "One listener complained of the word 'damned' as frivolous swearing. But I mean exactly what I say--nonsense that is damned is under God's curse, and will (apart from Christ's grace) lead those who believe it to eternal death." -- Mere Christianity Book II, Chapter i.

I stand by it, those who turn faith into profit, who enrich themselves at the expense of the Kingdom, are producing stubble that will be burned. I leave it to God to ultimately judge the intent of Lahaye et al., but we are called to judge by one's fruits, and I have yet to see evidence to believe that I was mistaken in my assessment.

On that note, I must plug Derek Webb, formerly of Caedmon's Call. He has a solo career now, and has released his newest album, Mockingbird, free. Completely, utterly, downloadably, free. This reminds me of a man, who, as it turns out, also inspired Derek, Keith Green, who would give away his music. That's a Christian artist demonstrating a servant spirit. And Webb's music isn't half bad, which is not surprising from someone who lists U2 among their inspirations. I particularly recommend A King & A Kingdom, and Rich Young Ruler, a few quotes from which I will leave you with. Check it out at FreeDerekWebb.com

so what must we do
here in the west we want to follow you
we speak the language and we keep all the rules
even a few we made up
come on and follow me
but sell your house, sell your suv
sell your stocks, sell your security
and give it to the poor
what is this, hey what’s the deal
i don’t sleep around and i don’t steal
i want the things you just can’t give me
*Rich Young Ruler

there are two great lies that i'’ve heard:
“the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die”
and that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class republican
and if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him
*A King & A Kingdom

Look soon for my after action report on the Bible Study I led this last week on the beautiful doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints.

Oh, and since most of my posts are me being angry at/about/near something or someone, someone challenged me to write a post entirely different. I was brash enough to tell them to suggest a topic, so look for a post someday soon on why women like receiving flowers, and why we men like giving them. Save the lynching for after you've heard my views.

May the Grace and Peace of God be with you all.

Even ex-KGB guys can be cool

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Remember Remember the Fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot. I See No Reason Why The Gunpowder Treason Should Ever Be Forgot

But in the spirit of commemoration, whereby those important events of the past usually associated with someone's death or the end of some awful bloody struggle, a celebration of a nice holiday, I thought we could mark this November the 5th, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat. There are of course those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"Sorry about the nuclear test"

For all of you who have ever had to swallow your pride and apologize for something, this post should make you feel better... Can you imagine being the leader of a nation and have to tell a Chinese newspaper, "sorry about the nuclear test?" How embarrassing is that? Well apparently that's just what dear Kim has done. Does this shed more light on whether NK's test went badly? Can you imagine pulling off the most sabre-y of sabre rattlings, and then apologize for it if your gamble actually paid off? That's what I thought... Now, if I was a prince who decided to test a nuke, maybe I would go ahead with it, and then propose to come back to talks, but only from a position of strength, "Yeah, I tested it, it worked, now let's talk and don't treat me like a petulant child." But no, I wouldn't apologize. Interesting.

Kim, if you really want to prove you're a leader to be reckoned with now that you say you're in "the club," you need to make sure you have a sufficient, and in fact, excessive number of empty mind shafts. Because no megalomaniac can tolerate a mine-shaft gap.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Scary Movie 7: Google Style

Wow, you're very lucky, two posts in one day! And this one even has footnotes!

Since YouTube, after its recent acquisition by Google, has decided to flag this video for objectionable content,1 drastically cutting its viewership, I thought I'd put up an alternative lin. Click here if you want to see the Scary Movie version of Democratic foreign policy missteps under Clinton. Oh wait, Google owns Blogger now too... Scheiß! Will they censor this post as well? Larry and Sergey, please don't be offended. Now that I do have your attention though, one word of advice: Please use your admittedly excellent search engine to find the top result for "censorship." "It is most commonly applied to acts that occur in public circumstances, and most formally involves the suppression of ideas by criminalizing or regulating expression. Furthermore, discussion of censorship often includes less formal means of controlling perceptions by excluding various ideas from mass communication."2

Is trying to make people think, no matter how over the top one's methods, objectionable? Yes it is, at least to those who fancy themselves political or technological Übermensch. Thank you Google, for protecting me from having to consider concepts that hurt my little feelings or make my brain hurt. Good thing you flag all videos tagged "Stripping..." as well.3 Oh, you don't, do you?? Damn, at least sexy videos will keep the minds of America's youth off of more pressing issues like security, and dare I say it, freedom of speech. Thank you YouTube, please, give us more stripping and less thinking. America needs it.
1:News Report on Google Censorship of Conservative Media on YouTube
2: Censorship - Wikipedia
3: Note: Links do not suggest an endorsement of any external linked content by the author, nor moral aggreement with said content. Viewer discretion is advised.

Not with a bang but a brown-out...

"Not with a bang but a brown-out..." that might be T.S. Eliot's estimation of how Kim Jong Il's egocentric policies will come home to roost. Not in a nuclear confrontation or west-led coup d'etat, but when his starving people realize, as did the peoples of the Soviet Bloc, that their leader will sacrifice them for his own political aggrandisement. Since satellite photos are so cool, here's one Donald Rumsfeld revealed earlier this week, showing the disparity between North and South Korea, with power being shut off in the North after 9PM. But what's the little dot? Oh, it's North Korea's capital, where power is maintained, presumably so Kim can still have that late night film-fest with his enormous DVD collection. Maybe all that nuclear research should have gone into nuclear power so Koreans can actually turn on the lights, instead of being funneled into nuclear brinksmanship.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Unwed Pregnancy and Christ's Church

For Shame

It's about time someone had the... testicular fortitude to say this to the Church. Read it and weep for our inadequacies in engaging the least among us. Then let's get on our knees before our Creator and confess our sins of hypocricy and commit ourselves to living our lives with love, remembering it is only by grace we can approach Holiness. There but for that grace goes each one of us, we were not saved because we lack the capacity to err in the same ways as our fellow man, but because of it. Our ability and desire to reject God is what necessitated propitiation. Deep inside every Christian (sometimes just below the surface) are the same human appetites which could easily cause us to conceive illegitimate children, steal from our fellows, and even, dare I say, discover an illicit love for one of our own sex. The only thing that saves us from judgment is Christ, and if we truly believed that and kept it foremost in our minds, we would experience a truly radical, transforming love for humanity that would make judgmentalism impossible. But instead we prefer our God-club because it gives us a loftier height from which to look down on those we should be so passionately concerned about. When we let Christ's mandate to love go unheeded, we are living shame and repudation to the message and the very person of Chirst. For Shame indeed.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

You Defied the Will of the People...

Senator Reid was quoted this week saying: "President Bush defied the will of the American people and crushed the hopes of millions...", yada yada yada.

The issue was stem cell research, but that is neither here nor there.

Our president DEFIED the will of the people in vetoing a bill the majority of American polled support? Good for him. When did our nation become a complete democracy rather than a representative republic? While the common man and the media are quick to remind us of the necessity of checks and balances, they forget that at times they themselves are the ones who need to be checked. The authors of our Constitution knew this, as evidenced by their discussions of the passions of the people in the Federalist Papers. The president's veto is not just to preserve the general will by striking down acts of Congress with which the people are not in agreement, it is also to provide a more judicious voice whose job it is to counter act the caprice and whim of elected representatives who often make their reason and decision-making enslaved to the public attitude of the moment. President Bush's veto is one example of the executive using his authority to balance out the public passions that often run hot and then cold. Plato and Publius would be proud.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Irony of Dangerous Precedents

Army Officer Refuses Participation in "Illegal" Iraq War

And this is exactly why some conservatives' defense of Michael New was the very worse way to oppose the peacekeeping mission in Macedonia, or in fact any UN mission. In arguing that individual soldiers have the moral authority to circumvent decisions of state, New and his lawyers opened a pandoran box of issues with grave implications for the coherance of military efforts in western democracies. They have submitted raison d'etat and the necessity and motivations of uno solo to democratic vote in the minds of the enlisted men, in fact a vote by an Army of One. This approach was, in my opinion, motivated by opposition to the political ends for which President Clinton was using US involvement, rather than a sincere objection on behalf of principle. Accordingly, New et al. questioned the very principles upon which the military is based. To conservatives who would draw a delineation between Lt. Watada and Mr. New, I would ask, did Congress declare war on Iraq?

It is instructive how some conservatives are willing to make any argument to advance their cause or their own political agrandizement, yet oppose the very principles they claimed to uphold when those standards are applied to a cause they find dear to their political power. Always keep in mind the implications of using any technique and justification to combat circumstances rather than addressing overarching principles.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Cult of Coulter

The Coulter Code
-- Jerome Eric Copulsky
Ann Coulter has been much in the news lately. With her recent best-selling tome, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, it seems that the notorious bomb-throwing cover girl for conservatism has turned Grand Inquisitor. The subject matter of her book -- the idea that liberalism is a religion -- merits a sighting here, and not only because it demonstrates the increasingly "religiosecular" ambivalence of our world that Martin E. Marty wrote of two weeks ago ("Religiosecular Meditations," June 19).

"Liberalism," Coulter informs us, is a "church," complete with its own creation myth (Darwinism), priests (public school teachers), doctrines (infallibility of victims), sacraments (abortion), and so forth. Coulter's liberals subscribe to a pantheistic doctrine, renouncing the biblical distinction between human beings (made in the image of God) and the rest of creation, thus rendering biblical morality impossible -- which, she claims, is the liberals' true goal. Tossing aside any pretense to Christian charity, Coulter darkly warns that liberals (or Democrats, which are, for Coulter, one and the same) are Pagans (of the Druid denomination), science-hating Darwinists, and tree-hugging supporters of PETA, intent on killing their babies and their grandparents. Some of her invective, like proclaiming that Democrats make up "the opposition party to God," might make even a Carl Schmitt blush!
A stalwart defender of what she takes to be the Christian faith, Coulter emphatically denies the possibility of any liberal rapprochement with Christianity. Moreover, liberals are theo-political heretics, enemies of the state, "deny[ing] the biblical idea of dominion and progress, the most ringing affirmation of which is the United States of America." (Such statements, of course, raise serious questions concerning Coulter's understanding of orthodox Christian doctrine.) In Coulter's world, it is really the liberal pagans who cause all the trouble ("somehow it's always the godless doing the genocides"), while devout Christians are peaceful, moral, law-abiding folks. (Coulter conveniently omits the gloomy fact that Christians have managed to slaughter many other Christians and non-Christians well into modern times. Her memory returns, however, to attack "crazy Muslims.")

Coulter's inflammatory rhetoric, proclivity for constructing straw men, and reliance on specious and ad hominem argumentation obscures the fact that her convictions aren't new. In a sense, Coulter is merely reiterating the perennial quarrel between Reason and Revelation, Athens and Jerusalem, Enlightenment and faith -- but here in the age of mass media, and for big bucks. Given that the argument of the book is so derivative and so littered with malicious half-truths and insipid humor, the book's popularity might seem perplexing.

But then I considered the book's cover. The dust jacket of Godless features Coulter in a black dress with a plummeting neckline, sporting an apparently diamond-encrusted cross that dangles above the shadowy suggestion of cleavage. (One wonders whether the diamonds represent the indestructibility or the riches of her Church.) Her arm presses upon the final letters of the book's title, "less," as through she might crush them, a one-woman suppressor of the atheistic horde. She gazes at the viewer, wearing a sly half-smile reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa -- an impression further enhanced by the resemblance in pose and garb.

Ah-ha! I thought. This is no mere accident. Perhaps her book conceals a secret teaching, one more shocking than those encountered in a Dan Brown novel, and so inimical to the faithful that it could only be conveyed in winks and nods. Given the American obsession with codes and hidden meanings, I speculated that when Coulter writes of what "all liberals secretly believe," she just may well be hinting to the discerning reader that there is more to her text than what's on the surface.

As one who has studied with people who studied under Leo Strauss, and attuned to the art of esoteric writing, I searched. And I searched. And then I noticed, buried in a footnote, a "clue" to the entire work: "Christians," Coulter writes, "include everyone who subscribes to the Bible of the God of Abraham, including Jews and others." How very gracious of her! But there is a catch: These "Christians" may not include members of the Episcopalian Church -- which, she writes a few pages later, "is barely even a church." HmmŠ

Why does she go after the Episcopalian Church (aside, perhaps, from the fact that arch-liberal Howard Dean used to be a member)? Here's one conjecture arising from my esoteric reading. The Episcopalian Church developed from the Church of England -- an established Church, a state religion. Is Coulter, then, launching a cryptic attack on the unity of church and state? Given this, as well as her dismissal of the substance of theological differences (effacing, for instance, distinctions between Christians and Jews), and her claim that true Christians are peaceful and patriotic, one might think she is implicitly invoking the ideas propounded by the theological-political treatises of the seventeenth century, ideas like toleration and separation of religious and political authority -- you know, Liberal ideas.
This esoteric reading of Godless is, of course, preposterous, but no more so, in my opinion, than the book's actual argumentation -- and that's the point. I'm afraid that the big secret revealed in Godless is that when it comes to the depths and complexities of actual religion, Ann Coulter doesn't know what she's talking about.

Jerome Eric Copulsky is Assistant Professor and Director of Judaic Studies at Virginia Tech.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

July 4th

It's not about the barbecues.
It's not about fireworks.
It's not about waving the flag at a parade.
It's not about a cool concert on the Capital lawn.

Thank you.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Most Underreported Story of the Year

Someone asked me what the most underrepoted news story, in my opinion, was for the last year. And I think this has to be it:

Large Asteroid Will Miss Earth Tomorrow

You never really do hear about all the bad things that could happen but don't.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Monday, June 19, 2006

Why I'm Glad I'm Not a Southern Baptist

Southern Baptist Resolution

"RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-14, 2006, express our total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing, and consuming of alcoholic beverages"

I guess somewhere in the inerrant translation of the KJV version of the Scriptures, the following passage must have been omitted.

1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.
3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.
8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.
9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom
10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”
11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Yeah. Because no one at that wedding was intoxicated after having "drunk freely." Because Christ didn't manufacture, and cause to be distributed and consumed, alcoholic beverages. Because we know it had to be grape juice, because for some odd reason after drinking a whole lot of grape juice you can't tell good grape juice from bad. Yeah, because that's the Bible our Southern Baptists want us to read.

In related news, a church that actually is making a stand on an issue that is of doctrinal import and actually matters a damn:
Episcopal Church Elects Female Presiding Bishop Who Immediately Condones Homosexuality

And then:
Diocese of Fort Worth Appeals to Canterbury for Immediate Emergency Alternative Primatial Oversight

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

We Believe...

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty
Maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,
begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died, and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures
he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
And his kingdom will have no end

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life,
Who proceeds from the Father.
With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified
He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Our Captain

Our captain set out to sea. Upon his final sail.
A funeral pyre of Viking fame, whose spark could never fail
To set ablaze the hearts of us who served our captain well
That pyre lit a flame eternal, kept pure for years to come
    Our capt'n lies cold and dead my son
        but his soul burns evermore
            Within the hearts of you and I
                And those who led he well.

And from those sons of a gun to their sons, And to the sons
of their sons, they taught well the captain's tale
Mark well these words my son. Seek the Way,
Stand for truth, and pilot your ship well
    And then you'll be a captain fit
        To bear the title of such a man
            As he whose cold dead hands
                Have set our longitude

And then one day the port of those who slew our captain dead
Saw cresting over every wave the black sails of our crew
And the sons of the sons of the sons of them
Who served on the captain's ship, rekindled the flame
of the funeral pyre, kept pure for so many years,
    And they lit such a candle in that land that
        By God's grace could ne'er be put out
            And that cleansing fire burned fierce
                And purified as it passed

Oh Captain! My Captain! We set to sail for you
So fight for our captain that last time, my son.
To vindicate his sacrifice and show his life was true
Fallen cold and dead no more, My Captain lives in you.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Oh Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! My Captain!
Walt Whitman


O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
        But O heart! heart! heart!
                O the bleeding drops of red,
                        Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                Fallen cold and dead.


O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
        Here Captain! dear father!
                This arm beneath your head;
                        It is some dream that on the deck,
                                You’ve fallen cold and dead.


My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
        Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
                But I, with mournful tread,
                        Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                Fallen cold and dead.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Raven

by Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
" 'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door;
Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow, sorrow for the lost Lenore,.
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore,
Nameless here forevermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me---filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
" 'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door,
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door.
This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is, I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you." Here I opened wide the door;---
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word,
Lenore?, This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word,
"Lenore!" Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping, something louder than before,
"Surely," said I, "surely, that is something at my window lattice.
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore.
Let my heart be still a moment, and this mystery explore.
" 'Tis the wind, and nothing more."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven, of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door.
Perched upon a bust of Pallas, just above my chamber door,
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly, grim, and ancient raven, wandering from the nightly shore.
Tell me what the lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore."
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning, little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door,
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered; not a feather then he fluttered;
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "Other friends have flown before;
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master, whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster, till his songs one burden bore,---
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never---nevermore."

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore --
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

Thus I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl, whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee -- by these angels he hath
Sent thee respite---respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, O quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!"

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!--prophet still, if bird or devil!
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate, yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted--
On this home by horror haunted--tell me truly, I implore:
Is there--is there balm in Gilead?--tell me--tell me I implore!"
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil--prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that heaven that bends above us--by that God we both adore--
Tell this soul with sorrow laden, if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden, whom the angels name Lenore---
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels name Lenore?
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting--
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! -- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming.
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted---nevermore!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I hear of Jack everywhere...

I am Jack’s confused sense of being misunderstood.

I am writing today to extol the virtues of one of the most widely praised and universally misunderstood Christian writers. Those who know me well know I refer to C.S. Lewis.

Lewis has been seized upon by many in the protestant branch as the answer to Catholic academia. We can now look smugly at our Catholic brethren and say “see, we protestants have a thinker too.” But when it comes down to it, we tend to shrug him off as “just the guy who wrote Screwtape Letters and the Chronicles of Narnia. And he had some wacky ideas.” You will find this theory postulated by those who are the least familiar with Lewis’ corpus of work. Instead they rely on objections such as these: “I hear Lewis became a Catholic before he died,” “Didn’t he lose his faith after his wife died,” “He had ‘Beer and Beowulf’ evenings with his grad students.” “Wasn’t he good friends with that Catholic Tolkien, (to which I reply, Tolkien led him to faith),” “Lewis was Anglican, which is almost Catholic,” and perhaps the most spiritually damning of all, “Didn’t he smoke?”

This is perhaps the most tragic symptom of the protestant Reformation. We exchanged one “infallible” Pope for hundreds of fallible little popes, il papetto, each demanding we follow him. As Tocqueville reminded us, democracies have a tendency to produce few great men, few great issues. And so it is with the modern democratic church. For a man like Lewis, whose whole life was devoted to the great issues of Faith, he is now a man with no country to call home. His doctrines make Catholicism uncomfortable, while his criticism of the church and stand for doctrinal fidelity frightens protestants. Rejected by so many, a number of his works languish in theological misunderstanding or willful ill will. And thus we miss out on the Lewis who struggled to obtain True Truth and reflect it in his works.

To reduce Lewis to a cozy Oxford don who wrote cute children’s books about a Lion, and occasionally amused himself by writing letters as a devil, would be to grossly underestimate the breadth of his work. These “objections” to his work, if you could charitably call them that, rob the man of his apologetic, philosophical and theological power, and establish the shallow hull of fiction left behind as “Lewis the Man, Lewis Properly Understood, Lewis without all those Dangerous Ideas.” To do this is to, to quote the man himself, “castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” Those who study him see the diverse Lewis, the Lewis who wrote a confession of what it is to be a Christian, regardless of doctrinal differences, as powerful as Mere Christianity. The Lewis who struggled with questions of doubt and death in A Grief Observed. The Lewis who so strongly and comfortably explained his answer to the age old question “How can a good God allow Evil to be?” The Lewis who sought Truth in all its sources, discussing The Tao and Natural Law. The Lewis who reserved his most biting criticism, not for the sinners, the harlots, the drunkards, but the “cold, self-righteous prigs who go regularly to church.” I believe this is truly the reason we like to denigrate the man. If we can write off his theological points on technicalities, we can ignore his probity into what is seriously wrong with the Church, and how God demands we set it right.

I do not presume to offer a vindication of Lewis to the skeptics. To do so would be to assume a great many things to which I do not have the right. It would imply that I fully understood Lewis in order to make a proper defense. It would assume that I believed that those who wish to marginalize him are truly concerned with Truth. And most of all it would assume that Lewis needs vindication. He does not. I only ask my reader, for your sake, read Lewis. Start with Mere Christianity. Then take a second look at Screwtape. Follow it with A Grief Observed. Then re-read Mere Christianity. Add in The Abolition of Man. Once you’ve done that, if you are truly seeking Truth, then I believe you will want to read more, and you will see the overarching themes which drive Lewis’ work, the first of which is his pursuit of God and Truth.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Four Years in the Face of Eternity

Just a candle in the wind
A spark in the night
Only one grain of sand
in the whirlwind of time

Just a word in the Book
Quiet cry in the wild
One moment in time
Only a glint in His eye

And yet why do we think
That our time is our own
His work a budget line
In the ledger of life

We're just
a candle in the wind
A spark in the night
Only one grain of sand
In the whirlwind of time

Tiny seed in the field
Only a word of Truth
Life lasts a moment then
We whither as a grass

When you owe your all
how can you offer less
When forever's on the table
How can we hedge our bets

Four years is a scene
On the Author's stage
We play our tiny part
and exit in the dark

A life full of love
passes like a breath
In deaths lonely rattle
But Love walks on

So let me place the bet
And play my hand
Just live my part
Played to the heart

What are four years
when the stake is a soul
When so many harvests
Takes ten times more

So I'll give the years
Which look long to one
who can't fully read
the Script He penned

If I budget You a minute
I'll miss it in a blink
Your Unseen Hand's economy
asks more than I can think

Not a rash committment
To speak a word in haste
But a higher calling
to live a life of grace

Here I am resolved
What other could I do
I'll read my bit part
and let the play move on

For I'm just
A spark in the night
Sand in the Sea
A word in the Book
A glint in His Eye

For Rita and Fran

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Not Disqualified: "I cultivate my flowers and burn my weeds."

The following is not prompted by any one incident or by being called to accountability. It is also not an invitation to an open public debate on the merits of arguments against the "vice" in question. It is rather the culmination of a long growing intent to set forth a public defense of something I enjoy. Like Spurgeon, I feel I can no longer quietly participate in something that does not grieve my conscience without either accepting I am committing an unclean act, or that I believe that I am acting outside of God's will. I am a Christian who smokes (and reads "heathen" books, enjoys the occasional drink, listens to "secular" music, watches R rated movies, and fellowships in an Anglican church, but all these are neither here nor there, though the application is similar). Read it in that light.

"Well, dear friends, you know that some men can do to the glory of God what to other men would be sin. And notwithstanding what brother Pentecost has said, I intend to smoke a good cigar to the glory of God before I go to bed to-night.

"If anybody can show me in the Bible the command, 'Thou shalt not smoke,' I am ready to keep it; but I haven't found it yet. I find ten commandments, and it's as much as I can do to keep them; and I've no desire to make them into eleven or twelve.

"The fact is, I have been speaking to you about real sins, not about listening to mere quibbles and scruples. At the same time, I know that what a man believes to be sin becomes a sin to him, and he must give it up. 'Whatsoever is not of faith is sin' [Rom. 14:23], and that is the real point of what my brother Pentecost has been saying.

"Why, a man may think it a sin to have his boots blacked. Well, then, let him give it up, and have them whitewashed. I wish to say that I'm not ashamed of anything whatever that I do, and I don't feel that smoking makes me ashamed, and therefore I mean to smoke to the glory of God."

These were the words preached from the pulpit by Charles Haddon Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, responding to a previous speaker who had inveighed against smoking. After reports were published in various newspapers, Spurgeon wrote the Daily Telegraph to set the record straight. He said, in part:

"There is growing up in society a Pharisaic system which adds to the commands of God the precepts of men; to that system I will not yield for an hour. The preservation of my liberty may bring upon me the upbraidings of many good men, and the sneers of the self-righteous; but I shall endure both with serenity so long as I feel clear in my conscience before God.

"The expression 'smoking to the glory of God' standing alone has an ill sound, and I do not justify it; but in the sense in which I employed it I still stand to it. No Christian should do anything in which he cannot glorify God; and this may be done, according to Scripture, in eating and drinking and the common actions of life.

"When I have found intense pain relieved, a weary brain soothed, and calm, refreshing sleep obtained by a cigar, I have felt grateful to God, and have blessed His name; this is what I meant, and by no means did I use sacred words triflingly...

"I am told that my open avowal will lessen my influence, and my reply is that if I have gained any influence through being thought different from what I am, I have no wish to retain it. I will do nothing upon the sly, and nothing about which I have a doubt.

"I am most sorry that prominence has been given to what seems to me so small a matter—and the last thing in my thoughts would have been the mention of it from the pulpit; but I was placed in such a position that I must either by my silence plead guilty to living in sin, or else bring down upon my unfortunate self the fierce rebukes of the anti-tobacco advocates by speaking out honestly. I chose the latter; and although I am now the target for these worthy brethren, I would sooner endure their severest censures than sneakingly do what I could not justify, and earn immunity from their criticism by tamely submitting to be charged with sin in an action which my conscience allows."

In the wings, Johann Sebastian Bach, Christian and composer. "At land, at sea; at home, abroad; I smoke my pipe and worship God."

Count me with Lewis, Spurgeon, Tolkien, Bach, Luther, Barth, and R.C. Sproul. Not because I smoke or drink, but because I am striving, as we all should be, to capture God's purpose for my soul, not worrying about whether I am obeying an aesthetic legalism in regards to eating, drinking, or smoking.

Let No One Disqualify You
Colossians 2, beginning at verse 16: Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (ESV)

This post owes much debt to www.spurgeon.org

Sunday, April 02, 2006

New Armor for a New Church

And they devoted themselves to the pastor's teaching, to fellowship dinners, to the breaking of bread (once a quarter) and to the skits. (Acts 2, Revised Modern Church Version)

The Spiritual Armor of a Christian in the Modern Church

The Backplate of Unity:
We already have a breastplate of righteousness, I want a backplate to protect myself from "loving" sniping from behind. Or maybe I'll just sit in the back row.

The Shin Guards of Accountability:

So that you don't bark your shins when kicking a fellow believer when he's down.

The Bib of Fellowship:
For potlucks, fellowship dinners, ladies missionary brunches, men's prayer breakfasts (where the most substantial prayer is before the breakfast), love banquets, dessert nights, and snack time. When you're breaking bread, you don't want to get any on you.

The Mouth Guard of Love:
Like a TV Guardian for your mouth, keeps your language clean. Also waters down all criticism to an "encouragement opportunity," so you don't hurt other's feelings with truth. Also spiritually whitens teeth with just 20 minutes a day.

The "Cup" of Christ:
Keeps you pure and protects you during those "fellowship" times on the basketball court or hockey rink.

The Earmuffs of Edification:
TV Guardian for your ears. Turns any music, even on "secular" radio stations into the Walmart version. Keeps you from blushing around your coworkers when a foul word is dropped. Because we all know if we heard it, we'd have to confront it. Caution: Not intended for use around that evil group U2.

The Shield of Youthful Indifference:
With which we can extinguish the firey glances of the old people, directed towards our hair or clothes.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Everlasting Gospel

The Everlasting Gospel
By William Blake (1757–1827)

THE VISION OF CHRIST that thou dost see
Is my vision’s greatest enemy.
Thine has a great hook nose like thine;
Mine has a snub nose like to mine.
Thine is the Friend of all Mankind; 5
Mine speaks in parables to the blind.
Thine loves the same world that mine hates;
Thy heaven doors are my hell gates.
Socrates taught what Meletus
Loath’d as a nation’s bitterest curse, 10
And Caiaphas was in his own mind
A benefactor to mankind.
Both read the Bible day and night,
But thou read’st black where I read white.

Was Jesus gentle, or did He 15
Give any marks of gentility?
When twelve years old He ran away,
And left His parents in dismay.
When after three days’ sorrow found,
Loud as Sinai’s trumpet-sound: 20
‘No earthly parents I confess—
My Heavenly Father’s business!
Ye understand not what I say,
And, angry, force Me to obey.
Obedience is a duty then, 25
And favour gains with God and men.’
John from the wilderness loud cried;
Satan gloried in his pride.
‘Come,’ said Satan, ‘come away,
I’ll soon see if you’ll obey! 30
John for disobedience bled,
But you can turn the stones to bread.
God’s high king and God’s high priest
Shall plant their glories in your breast,
If Caiaphas you will obey, 35
If Herod you with bloody prey
Feed with the sacrifice, and be
Obedient, fall down, worship me.’
Thunders and lightnings broke around,
And Jesus’ voice in thunders’ sound: 40
‘Thus I seize the spiritual prey.
Ye smiters with disease, make way.
I come your King and God to seize,
Is God a smiter with disease?’
The God of this world rag’d in vain: 45
He bound old Satan in His chain,
And, bursting forth, His furious ire
Became a chariot of fire.
Throughout the land He took His course,
And trac’d diseases to their source. 50
He curs’d the Scribe and Pharisee,
Trampling down hypocrisy.
Where’er His chariot took its way,
There Gates of Death let in the Day,
Broke down from every chain and bar; 55
And Satan in His spiritual war
Dragg’d at His chariot-wheels: loud howl’d
The God of this world: louder roll’d
The chariot-wheels, and louder still
His voice was heard from Zion’s Hill, 60
And in His hand the scourge shone bright;
He scourg’d the merchant Canaanite
From out the Temple of His Mind,
And in his body tight does bind
Satan and all his hellish crew; 65
And thus with wrath He did subdue
The serpent bulk of Nature’s dross,
Till He had nail’d it to the Cross.
He took on sin in the Virgin’s womb
And put it off on the Cross and tomb 70
To be worshipp’d by the Church of Rome.

Was Jesus humble? or did He
Give any proofs of humility?
Boast of high things with humble tone,
And give with charity a stone? 75
When but a child He ran away,
And left His parents in dismay.
When they had wander’d three days long
These were the words upon His tongue:
‘No earthly parents I confess: 80
I am doing My Father’s business.’
When the rich learnèd Pharisee
Came to consult Him secretly,
Upon his heart with iron pen
He wrote ‘Ye must be born again.’ 85
He was too proud to take a bribe;
He spoke with authority, not like a Scribe.
He says with most consummate art
‘Follow Me, I am meek and lowly of heart,
As that is the only way to escape 90
The miser’s net and the glutton’s trap.’
What can be done with such desperate fools
Who follow after the heathen schools?
I was standing by when Jesus died;
What I call’d humility, they call’d pride. 95
He who loves his enemies betrays his friends.
This surely is not what Jesus intends;
But the sneaking pride of heroic schools,
And the Scribes’ and Pharisees’ virtuous rules;
For He acts with honest, triumphant pride, 100
And this is the cause that Jesus dies.
He did not die with Christian ease,
Asking pardon of His enemies:
If He had, Caiaphas would forgive;
Sneaking submission can always live. 105
He had only to say that God was the Devil,
And the Devil was God, like a Christian civil;
Mild Christian regrets to the Devil confess
For affronting him thrice in the wilderness;
He had soon been bloody Caesar’s elf, 110
And at last he would have been Caesar himself,
Like Dr. Priestly and Bacon and Newton—
Poor spiritual knowledge is not worth a button
For thus the Gospel Sir Isaac confutes:
‘God can only be known by His attributes; 115
And as for the indwelling of the Holy Ghost,
Or of Christ and His Father, it’s all a boast
And pride, and vanity of the imagination,
That disdains to follow this world’s fashion.’
To teach doubt and experiment 120
Certainly was not what Christ meant.
What was He doing all that time,
From twelve years old to manly prime?
Was He then idle, or the less
About His Father’s business? 125
Or was His wisdom held in scorn
Before His wrath began to burn
In miracles throughout the land,
That quite unnerv’d the Seraph band?
If He had been Antichrist, Creeping Jesus, 130
He’d have done anything to please us;
Gone sneaking into synagogues,
And not us’d the Elders and Priests like dogs;
But humble as a lamb or ass
Obey’d Himself to Caiaphas. 135
God wants not man to humble himself:
That is the trick of the Ancient Elf.
This is the race that Jesus ran:
Humble to God, haughty to man,
Cursing the Rulers before the people 140
Even to the Temple’s highest steeple,
And when He humbled Himself to God
Then descended the cruel rod.
‘If Thou Humblest Thyself, Thou humblest Me.
Thou also dwell’st in Eternity. 145
Thou art a Man: God is no more:
Thy own Humanity learn to adore,
For that is My spirit of life.
Awake, arise to spiritual strife,
And Thy revenge abroad display 150
In terrors at the last Judgement Day.
God’s mercy and long suffering
Is but the sinner to judgement to bring.
Thou on the Cross for them shalt pray—
And take revenge at the Last Day.’ 155
Jesus replied, and thunders hurl’d:
‘I never will pray for the world.
Once I did so when I pray’d in the Garden;
I wish’d to take with Me a bodily pardon.’
Can that which was of woman born, 160
In the absence of the morn,
When the Soul fell into sleep,
And Archangels round it weep,
Shooting out against the light
Fibres of a deadly night, 165
Reasoning upon its own dark fiction,
In doubt which is self-contradiction?
Humility is only doubt,
And does the sun and moon blot out,
Rooting over with thorns and stems 170
The buried soul and all its gems.
This life’s five windows of the soul
Distorts the Heavens from pole to pole,
And leads you to believe a lie
When you see with, not thro’, the eye 175
That was born in a night, to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in the beams of light.

Did Jesus teach doubt? or did He
Give any lessons of philosophy,
Charge Visionaries with deceiving, 180
Or call men wise for not believing?…

Was Jesus born of a Virgin pure
With narrow soul and looks demure?
If He intended to take on sin
The Mother should an harlot been, 185
Just such a one as Magdalen,
With seven devils in her pen.
Or were Jew virgins still more curs’d,
And more sucking devils nurs’d?
Or what was it which He took on 190
That He might bring salvation?
A body subject to be tempted,
From neither pain nor grief exempted;
Or such a body as might not feel
The passions that with sinners deal? 195
Yes, but they say He never fell.
Ask Caiaphas; for he can tell.—
‘He mock’d the Sabbath, and He mock’d
The Sabbath’s God, and He unlock’d
The evil spirits from their shrines, 200
And turn’d fishermen to divines;
O’erturn’d the tent of secret sins,
And its golden cords and pins,
In the bloody shrine of war
Pour’d around from star to star,— 205
Halls of justice, hating vice,
Where the Devil combs his lice.
He turn’d the devils into swine
That He might tempt the Jews to dine;
Since which, a pig has got a look 210
That for a Jew may be mistook.
“Obey your parents.”—What says He?
“Woman, what have I to do with thee?
No earthly parents I confess:
I am doing my Father’s business.” 215
He scorn’d Earth’s parents, scorn’d Earth’s God,
And mock’d the one and the other’s rod;
His seventy Disciples sent
Against Religion and Government—
They by the sword of Justice fell, 220
And Him their cruel murderer tell.
He left His father’s trade to roam,
A wand’ring vagrant without home;
And thus He others’ labour stole,
That He might live above control. 225
The publicans and harlots He
Selected for His company,
And from the adulteress turn’d away
God’s righteous law, that lost its prey.’
Was Jesus chaste? or did He 230
Give any lessons of chastity?
The Morning blushèd fiery red:
Mary was found in adulterous bed;
Earth groan’d beneath, and Heaven above
Trembled at discovery of Love. 235
Jesus was sitting in Moses’ chair.
They brought the trembling woman there.
Moses commands she be ston’d to death.
What was the sound of Jesus’ breath?
He laid His hand on Moses’ law; 240
The ancient Heavens, in silent awe,
Writ with curses from pole to pole,
All away began to roll.
The Earth trembling and naked lay
In secret bed of mortal clay; 245
On Sinai felt the Hand Divine
Pulling back the bloody shrine;
And she heard the breath of God,
As she heard by Eden’s flood:
‘Good and Evil are no more! 250
Sinai’s trumpets cease to roar!
Cease, finger of God, to write!
The Heavens are not clean in Thy sight.
Thou art good, and Thou alone;
Nor may the sinner cast one stone. 255
To be good only, is to be
A God or else a Pharisee.
Thou Angel of the Presence Divine,
That didst create this Body of Mine,
Wherefore hast thou writ these laws 260
And created Hell’s dark jaws?
My Presence I will take from thee:
A cold leper thou shalt be.
Tho’ thou wast so pure and bright
That Heaven was impure in thy sight, 265
Tho’ thy oath turn’d Heaven pale,
Tho’ thy covenant built Hell’s jail,
Tho’ thou didst all to chaos roll
With the Serpent for its soul,
Still the breath Divine does move, 270
And the breath Divine is Love.
Mary, fear not! Let me see
The seven devils that torment thee.
Hide not from My sight thy sin,
That forgiveness thou may’st win. 275
Has no man condemnèd thee?’
‘No man, Lord.’ ‘Then what is he
Who shall accuse thee? Come ye forth,
Fallen fiends of heavenly birth,
That have forgot your ancient love, 280
And driven away my trembling Dove.
You shall bow before her feet;
You shall lick the dust for meat;
And tho’ you cannot love, but hate,
Shall be beggars at Love’s gate. 285
What was thy love? Let Me see it;
Was it love or dark deceit?’
‘Love too long from me has fled;
’Twas dark deceit, to earn my bread;
’Twas covet, or ’twas custom, or 290
Some trifle not worth caring for;
That they may call a shame and sin
Love’s temple that God dwelleth in,
And hide in secret hidden shrine
The naked Human Form Divine, 295
And render that a lawless thing
On which the Soul expands its wing.
But this, O Lord, this was my sin,
When first I let these devils in,
In dark pretence to chastity 300
Blaspheming Love, blaspheming Thee,
Thence rose secret adulteries,
And thence did covet also rise.
My sin Thou hast forgiven me;
Canst Thou forgive my blasphemy? 305
Canst Thou return to this dark hell,
And in my burning bosom dwell?
And canst Thou die that I may live?
And canst Thou pity and forgive?’
Then roll’d the shadowy Man away 310
From the limbs of Jesus, to make them His prey,
An ever devouring appetite,
Glittering with festering venoms bright;
Crying ‘Crucify this cause of distress,
Who don’t keep the secrets of holiness! 315
The mental powers by diseases we bind;
But He heals the deaf, the dumb, and the blind.
Whom God has afflicted for secret ends,
He comforts and heals and calls them friends.’
But, when Jesus was crucified, 320
Then was perfected His galling pride.
In three nights He devour’d His prey,
And still He devours the body of clay;
For dust and clay is the Serpent’s meat,
Which never was made for Man to eat. 325

Seeing this False Christ, in fury and passion
I made my voice heard all over the nation.
What are those…

I am sure this Jesus will not do,
Either for Englishman or Jew. 330

Monday, February 27, 2006

We Must All Hang Together....

Save Professor Root.
That is all.
More to come.

Or not. New assignment. Grow a damned backbone.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Monday, January 09, 2006

Upturned Tables

Forget merchants in the temple, now, the merchants have become the temple.

The week, proving that when it comes to whoring out faith on the altar of Mammon, plenty of popular writers and speakers are willing to play the pimp: Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. They've followed the cash-cow 12 part "most expensive tract of all time" Left Behind series with at least two prequels.

Chalk Left Behind up in the same category as the Mantra of Jabez, "Jesus is my Homeboy," WWJD and Thomas Kinkade. Though that estimation probably isn't completely fair to whoever came up with the homeboy line, since he probably posesses more artistic nuance than is expressed in Left Behind.

The efficacy of the tract style approach to evangelism aside, what's the point of making someone buy 12 books at at least $20 each, if saving lost souls is the true goal? It would be interesting to see what would have happened if all the time, money and energy poured into these mediocre pieces of fiction had been channeled instead into Christians actually getting out of their comfort zone and engaging our culture? Is the church in America really so theologically atrophied that the only way we can present Christ to our friends and relatives is to buy them a series of books that read like a primate transcribed Clancy, Steele, and Chicken Soup for the Soul into twelve oversized tomes? It's about time the church got righteously indignant--as Christ did in the temple--and stand up to those who transmute our religion into some goddamned commericial enterprise and tell them we don't need more mediocre watered down representations of faith, we need committed, well-trained Christians ministering to the world.

For more thoughts on this trend, from Franky Schaeffer, see my previous post.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A pint of the good stuff

A bottle of Guinness was spilt on the floor
When the pub was shut for the night
Out crept a mouse from his little hole
And sat in the pale moonlight

He lapped at the frothy brew
Then back on his haunches he sat
And all night you could hear him roar
"Bring on the f***ing cat!