Blessed shall be he who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rocks!

There is a lot of killing in the Old Testament of the Bible. Entire groups of people are slaughtered, down to the last man, woman and child, at the direction of a supposedly loving God. Even devout believers struggle to understand the kind of relentless violence commanded by God against the enemies of Israel, and the enthusiasm for killing taken by his executioners. The title of this post has given fodder to critics, as have many other Old Testament verses. Yes, I used it to get attention.

Nothing could be more grotesque and horrifying than to see someone take a baby and smash it against a rock until it dies, only to take another one and do the same, again and again. I shudder now as I imagine it. One can only expect the desire for revenge culminating in the image described at the end of this psalm was generated by the memory of exactly this sort of scene playing out against the enemies of Israel. Many groups were exterminated by God’s command down to the last child to prevent them from reverting to practices of their lineage such as child sacrifice. I’m not going to get into the Biblical theological arguments here. This is about people killing babies in our time.

You can try to distance yourself from the facts all you want to, but there is little to no difference between the results of a medical abortion and dashing little ones on the rocks. Either results in the death of a child unable to defend itself. “The world already has too many orphaned, abused and neglected children, no one person or group of people should be able to tell another person or group of people what they can or can’t do with their own body, and the baby showed signs of abnormality or presented serious risk to the mother.” These have been the predominant arguments given for killing babies for the last few decades. So the inferences are “they’re better off never being born”, “personal freedom is the most important thing”, and “we can predict the future scientifically and this will be for the best” respectively. Somehow killing babies is perfectly acceptable to many, so long as the child was never seen before you commit to doing it. The only perceivable differences between abortion and swinging them by the ankle to bust their head open on a rock would be motive, cleanliness and actually seeing the baby or not.

None of these arguments could be or has been used effectively on any other subject relating to taking a human life that I can think of. In fact it seems quite the opposite is true. The selfish and self righteous nature of each of these arguments would automatically discredit them if applied to say killing all the kids in orphanages or foster care along with all those who have emotional scars from a rough childhood, you know, for their own good. Or, killing everyone who we perceive as presenting an obstacle to freely pursuing our overall life goals. What about killing everyone who has genetic markers for cancer, they’re just going to suffer anyway? They just don’t make sense.

People are born every day with disabilities and deformities, or suffer injuries of all kinds and families spend millions of dollars so they can live and be comfortable or to get them to live just a little longer. The number and scope of accomplishments orphans and those with difficult childhoods and disabilities have contributed to the world is beyond measure. Very few people would ever actually kill anyone they ever met, or think it’s ok for others to kill someone else for any of the reasons given as arguments for abortion.

For a long time I was sort of “pro-choice” because I felt it wasn’t for me to decide for someone else. But I have seen the scars of regret in the eyes of women who said “it was the right choice.” I, and I like to think most people, would risk my own life for a child, any child. We have an incredibly long list of laws and standards of behavior, especially when it comes to killing people, and killing a child just seems that much more brutal and viscous. Accidents, unexpected events and mistakes happen in all kinds of ways, some have tragic consequences and some have wonderful outcomes. A created natural human life should be protected, and the loss of just 50 babies from abortion should be mourned as much and receive as much attention as a bus load of school kids going off a cliff, dashed on the rocks.

We’ve come to a point in our society where a young man smiling at an old man getting in his face is subject to physical threats and accusations against his character, based on the fact that he supports our elected president and doesn’t believe its ok to kill babies. I guess that shows the required level of depravity of a society who sacrifices their own children because they believe it will make their life better. It seems normal to us, how sad.

The free exercise of abortion for all intents and purposes is the same as child sacrifice. Its putting an end to a human life in hopes or expectations that you or the baby will be better off. Whether its Molech or Baal or faith in ourselves we place above the life of a child, it is wrong. Jesus is our sacrifice, God is satisfied and we need only believe to receive his grace, the only way to the happiness and harmony we claim to be seeking.

A Good Book

There are more books produced regarding faith and spirituality than any other subject by a wide margin. It isn’t even close. From the Torah to the latest commentary on modern paganism, our drive to seek answers to questions of the unseen has called many to express in writing their thoughts on the ethereal and how it may influence our lives.

I am not a reader. Not to say I don’t read, I do it all the time. What I don’t do is read many books. As a kid I read a lot until I was about 10, mostly “true” stories about particular people or events. The biggest exception would be Tarzan, the 300 page novel, not the comic. I remember when the epic movie came out a couple years later and thinking, ‘How could that story be made into a movie? Two thirds of it were his unspoken thoughts’. They couldn’t. Though it was a huge success and critically acclaimed, it left me flat. I then understood what my parents meant in saying “the book was so much better” as I wished the audience had taken the voyage of Tarzan thinking his way through figuring out he was not an ape, teaching himself to read, figuring out his social position among the apes and other animals, on and on. All the annoying complaints of a reader exiting the theater. I read a few fiction and fantasy novels in my teens, but as an “adult” I’ve read very few books.

I’ve read a couple Christian beliefs books, namely Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin and True Christianity by Johann Arndt. I’ve read a few fiction books here and there over the years but not more than a dozen I would guess. Reading for me generally comes in investigation and research. Articles, reports, short stories, summaries, parts of books, the more direct and to the point, the better. I have read in whole or in part, the primary writings of many religions. I just find most books boring. I have however, read the Bible more times than I can count.

The Holy Bible enthralls me again and again. I read the Bible, listen to audiobook Bibles, I reference the Bible. Nothing else captures my attention like immersing myself in the Word. For anyone who has experience with ADD, (real ADD not just lack of discipline) finding something that consistently holds your attention is a miracle. If you have not read it, you should. If you have, you should read it again. As you go through the live action scenes of life, remember to return to the book it is based on. The Bible isn’t just a good book, it is The Good Book.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John chapter 1, verse 1

Born into Religion?

many-religions

The idea that practicing a religion is just a result of where you live and grew up, with no greater truth or value than other cultural or social connections is increasingly common. Still, we feel the pull of spirituality in our technology driven lives. As we engage and pursue questions of life and death, we can go with the flow or seek God’s outstretched hand. People with spiritual calling try to find answers for questions with much easier and broader access to information and therefore greater awareness of multiple religions and belief structures than was common for most people until recently. People have always engaged their faith to varying levels, but have historically identified strongly with one religion in particular, that is changing.

Many religions both past and present, give similar messages of love and acceptance, and impart parallel stories of creation, floods, and judgment of our souls. Often separated primarily by names, places and details, they rise from multiple cultures, in different ages and from distant locations. Like different pieces of a layered puzzle they overlap each other, filling in gaps while broadening the horizon and focusing perspective. As a Christian I cannot deny the clear necessity of God’s influence on the faith, if not the beliefs, of many of those who are not. These commonalities are used by many to discredit faith and even more so, religion. But these similarities actually work to reinforce the case for a God of all creation and the less than Godly nature of all created beings.

Though we have evidence of humans living 200,000 years ago and proof of complex building over 10,000 years ago, we can’t give an accurate account of what human society was doing 5,000 years ago. As we continue to uncover and decipher more about our past, we find things we have been taught for generations to be absolutely true are completely wrong, and things we were assured were simply myth or allegory are accurate accounts. The written records we do have which form our understanding of history are clues to our past but not at all the iron clad all encompassing truth of what was happening as they are portrayed. I’ve read news reports and seen video reporting of events I was present for and found the actual experience to be nothing like the story being told. The slant of the story teller or the many stories never told make history a vast mystery in many respects. The same distortion in the retelling of events taking place today has gone on since men have told stories. Some key players are mentioned, the writers perception or propaganda spin of the situation recorded, the elevation or diminishment of importance of the people or events presented as fact by the teller.

As much as we would like to think religion is free from this sort of edited, or partial records edition of history, it is not. The Bible for example, makes no mention, good or bad about many peoples, places and things that existed when the books in it were written. Not being mentioned, or having only brief reference doesn’t mean they didn’t exist, or weren’t significant. More importantly and possibly harder to come to terms with, is those omissions don’t diminish the Bible’s message, value or truth. Most religious people don’t think they have all the answers. They have enough answers, enough to cast their faith upon.

Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Taoists, Jews, Hindus, any religion you can think of really, has very few strict adherents or even believers in every single aspect, rule or instruction of its teachings. Anyone who comes close is considered ignorant, extremist, fanatical, or just plain crazy. We are taught religion by those around us, so we’re all likely to end up following the basic religion of those around us, but God reaches out to everyone. Jesus’ preaching to the living and the dead allows the opportunity for all to follow Christ, the only way to the Father.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”-Jesus

Christmas Before Thanksgiving!?!

I couldn’t resist my chance to join the “Christmas before Thanksgiving” club just as it looks to be losing steam. I celebrate the near universal call to individualize the holidays, but not because I hate Christmas music.

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. I was blessed with a grandmother who loved doing crafts and having her many young grandchildren together for stringing popcorn, decorating the tree while singing carols, making gingerbread houses and blanket forts…all the stuff you find hokey by the time you’re 10. By age 6, it became a month long event for me with school concert rehearsals, lights going up on streetlights and houses and at home, a tree decorated three weeks beforehand, with presents gradually accumulating as the time approached. We would have Christmas at home on Christmas Eve, wake up to Santa’s bounty, then hit the road to alternating grandmothers’ houses for a big meal with all the respective aunts, uncles, cousins and guests. What’s not to like?

I started working young and had kids somewhat early so my excitement for Christmas made a natural transition from the joy of receiving to the joy of giving. I knew what Christmas was for but it really didn’t have any great meaning for me beyond my personal experience. I loved the lights, the snow, cookies and candies, family gatherings and of course, presents, both giving and receiving. At 28 I became a single dad of two with a huge lawyer bill and a lot of stress. For a few years a wing and a prayer was all that held me together. Christmas became a financial and emotional burden. Just as my life of prayer was developing, the holiday of my savior’s birth became a real struggle. As life pulled back in focus, Christmas began to be a celebration again and the business of Christmas was mostly back to normal. But several years of raising two kids on a very tight budget, couldn’t help but sour me on the commercial Christmas expanding around the savior I had come to know. The Black Friday Death Race is the culmination of the Santa story; be good, get the stuff you want. Being good of course is relative and society had boiled it down to affording indulgence, getting the stuff you want wasn’t about receiving a gift anymore, but of completing a mission.

There was a bumper sticker that became popular at what seems like the height of the commercial Christmas. When everyone still said “Merry Christmas” without a lot of arguing over “happy holidays” but without much attention to the point of the celebration. “Put the Christ back in Christmas” started showing up everywhere. It wasn’t long after, the big arguments about the political correctness of “Merry Christmas” got out of hand. The kind of unchallenged joy I had as a kid at Christmas was no longer available to the average kid as grade school Christmas pageants and gift exchanges were adapted or abandoned in favor of less controversial, and less meaningful presentations. The innocence of enjoyment without controversy became difficult if not impossible without some sort of social isolation. Everyone knows it is the celebration of Jesus birth, but now rather than a mindless backdrop of a party, it has become a dividing line.

Jesus is the Christ in Christmas, his gift is the greatest gift. It isn’t given to us because we were good. It has nothing to do with getting new stuff. Christ brings a sword and putting him back in Christmas has shown us what that looks like, just as he said it would be. For me Christmas always comes before Thanksgiving, because without Him, there is nothing to be thankful for.

Pizza Wars part 2

( For part 1 go to MettleChurch.com )

There are many great minds with dedicated ambition to trace the meaning of the words of Christ and what they imply, what their true meaning is in our lives. There is a whole industry of seminaries, conferences, seminars, church hierarchy, writers, and commentators surrounding the execution of the great commission of continual and expanding sharing of the gospel. We are blessed to live in a society where deep study, discussion and debate are almost universally possible. Having a thriving academic vein dedicated to studying the depths of possible comprehension of God is invaluable. Following in the unceasing footsteps of scholars, securing and conveying knowledge from an organized perspective is a good thing, but goes greatly to waste.

The battles rage on over the fine details of differing theologies, countless hours are spent studying and discussing the great saints and evangelists of the past and someone is always working on a newer, better interpretation of scripture. Theological education and study is primarily a residual rehashing of other people’s rehashing of a Christian doctrine laid out 300 years after Jesus resurrection. The study and comparing of “isms”. You see many students’ views and beliefs shift with each passing semester as if they have no thoughts of their own. Conspiracy theories aside, those who established that doctrine were just men like the rest of us, doing their best to frame something incomprehensible to mortal man in a way that could be reduced to as few words as possible in order to set a firm comprehensible standard, without limiting God. The theologians who came after try instead to use many words to describe and expand upon the few words in an attempt to define at least a portion of the depths of infinity. The war over the meanings of words preoccupies actual free-flow of ideas and concepts with a sort of brainwashing effect.

Studying the works and thoughts of religions’ history is important, it shows both good and bad examples of what becomes of different lines of thought and ways of doing things. Original thoughts however, carry a deeper understanding of the broader meaning and implications of an idea, when followed by study, than could ever be achieved when the study comes first. Original thoughts are not to be confused with new thoughts. Original thoughts are new to the individual, connections or questions made within our own minds, and happen all the time. New thoughts are a very rare thing and thinking you have one usually indicates your particular level or area of ignorance.

Whether the current standard for formal study of the faith and hierarchy of the church and it’s divisions is about believing the revealed truth has been understood and “here it is” or just a formula devised to claim a bigger piece of the religious pie is becoming irrelevant. The world is becoming smaller and the current doctrines and professed beliefs are making God seem smaller as science whittles away at the need for his influence. Ten minute introductions for great theologians who speak like politicians for two hours to crowds of colleagues mincing words like cutting several pizzas and putting pieces from different ones back together to better describe the pizza or create a new pizza, will not feed the crowds.

Our God is a divine infinite. As we learn more about ourselves and our universe, our Father only grows larger and more amazing. The chains we put on our faith and his power by holding to traditional beliefs of world and religious history or ignoring these issues like they don’t exist while great minds endlessly debate the specific meanings of mutually understood ideas, rather than take a step back to look at creation is nothing more than a distraction from God’s ongoing revealing of himself in the grandeur and complexity of our spirits and universe.

The new battle is forming. There is a push to reevaluate our understanding of the Bible and pull religious dogma back towards Christ’s teachings, but it has not yet moved the established war of words from the battlefield. Preaching generally steers clear of most of the controversial issues and thankfully, most refocused on God’s mercy through Christ. Nothing more than the Bible and a broader perspective is needed for a deeper understanding of the universe than was historically recognized or possible, but we have filled in details, found or tied in other evidence of material history and God’s influence. Ignoring or denying the facts, and sticking to bygone conjecture to fill historical gaps is utterly ridiculous. It is time for a new reformation which allows for the infinite loving God who knows us, and we can know but still cannot comprehend.

Pizza Wars part 1

I really like pizza, the majority of people in the western world like pizza. There are some who don’t and some can take it or leave it, but if you’re trying to feed a large group of people with varying tastes and lifestyles, pizza has pretty broad appeal. But it’s not as simple as it might seem.

Pizza, five letters forming an Italian word defined as flat dough, typically covered in savory sauce and cheese, which may include other toppings of meats and vegetables, then baked. When we say pizza we initially agree on what the word means and what it is. Then we start getting more specific and things get complicated. Round or square? Thick crust or thin? Tomato sauce or Alfredo? Cheese, veggie, pepperoni, sausage, supreme? Or some real controversy; pineapple? Many words have different meanings, but pizza has just one, yet it still means many different things to different people. Give someone from Chicago a piece of authentic Italian pizza and they will look at you like you’ve lost your mind.

Pizza has three primary ingredients which until fairly recently, went basically unchanged and unchallenged. Bread, tomato sauce, cheese. People started adding other stuff to this once basic food to make it into a complete meal. Different trends in topping combinations and crust types come and go and develop in different areas. Now we have cauliflower crust, cheese crust and different kinds of sauces, dessert pizza, pizza rolls, the list goes on. Virtually anything, baked in thin flat layers can be called pizza.

The meaning and image a word (almost any word) conveys, is greatly dependent on the listener. Even in the same generation and culture they can have vastly different implications. Each person has their favorite kind of pizza, that’s the image they embrace when they hear “pizza”, whether it’s meat lovers stuffed crust with extra cheese or gluten free vegan. But you won’t often hear people disagree about what original, traditional pizza was and is, we accept that the differences we’ve come up with are our own preferences based on personal tastes and though we may jokingly argue about it, leave others to their own and are probably quite willing to eat their favorite.

The point here is, the meaning of a word, a simple noun, can be argued even when the meaning of a word is agreed upon. Christians have argued the meaning of Jesus’ words for nearly 2000 years. We have dissected and interpreted every morsel we have evidence of in an attempt to grasp it’s meaning and implication. From begrudging compliance to bloody wars we have disagreed about nearly everything he uttered at some point. We live and die by our own self righteous sense of understanding a man who’s closest friends and family seldom understood.

To be continued…

The Way

Christianity isn’t what it used to be, and that’s not all bad. Many things not of God, accepted, endorsed and enforced by the church have come and gone. Many things which contradict Jesus teachings have entered the church and never left. The first followers of Jesus Christ were never called Christians at all, and by the time it was a common term, much of his teachings were already being abandoned, distorted and mischaracterized.

The early church had no name. Sometimes referred to as The Way among other things, it was a new way of living and understanding the world. Questions about Jesus having been a real person who was really crucified hadn’t begun. His ministry and death was common knowledge and if he didn’t rise from death, the people of his time would have cried foul and that would have been the end of his following, as happened with many who had come before or since claiming or thought to be the Christ. The term Christian was eventually coined to give distinction to Jesus Christ’s followers who were by all accounts, different. Family heritage, social class and other divisions accepted by virtually everyone meant nothing among this group of outspoken people. Christ’s followers adopted the name given them, and have kept it throughout history, even when their ways strayed far from The Way.

Though a few notable academics are attempting something of a new reformation of some major church doctrine, they don’t go nearly far enough. People have used Paul’s letters to form religion around what was intended to be a new way for society to function and watered down or misinterpreted Christ’s message to suit their agendas for nearly 2000 years. I understand and sympathize with the resistance to shake the boat too hard, but it must be done. While I don’t know if the slow turn is because of genuine slow changes in understanding or careful protection of position, the common ways of following The Way have wandered far from the narrow path. Though the doctrine and structures of the church carried The Word (emphasizing what they wanted and making up a lot of extras) through the ages among a gradually enlightening society, modern understanding of earth’s history and practical science demand a recanting of much of what the church has held to for millennia.