Monday, November 14, 2005

The Rose

I believe today's Christianity is a field of weeds surrounding a rose, where the weeds are traditions of men.

History and logic demand that caution be taken in accepting human interpretation of anything. There are far too many variables involved, including ignorance, language/cultural barriers, tribal mentality, territoriality, selfish motives and social/political/intellectual inertia.

I accepted Christ as my Savior and was baptised in a little Baptist church in 1959. Later, I served as music director, Sunday School teacher, bus driver, etc. Still later, I was married in a little Independent Fundamental Bible-Believing Baptist church. I was very active in church for many years -- but, I was always something of a fish out of water.

In college my undergraduate studies were in biology (zoology). However, in church I was careful not to mention the E-word, because humans "are not animals" and they did not "evolve from monkeys". In addition, tree-huggers threaten the Capitalistic system with which God built America.

For some silly reason, I was also a firm believer in the big helping the little and the rich helping the poor. But I learned to keep my mouth shut about that, too. Such socialistic blathering is not very popular in Republican-dominated churches. Besides -- Peter, Paul and Mary were Commies.

Theologically, I could never quite understand the logic of the churches' exclusionary tenets. They outlawed from Heaven, not only my own Native American ancestors, but almost every human who ever was or would be.

So, I went on a quest. I visited other Christian denominations and a few so-called "sects" -- and studied their tenets in depth. While they didn't all have the same weeds, they all had weeds of some kind. Truth is, I really did not know at the time that I was searching for the rose. I only saw the weeds.

So, I eventually dropped out completely and started my own church, where the altar was a stump and the congregation was made up of two faithful members -- me and my old hound dog Jake. It took a while for my brain to de-program before I could understood some things more clearly -- like the real meaning of love. It was there where God finally allowed me to understand what the rose was and where it could be found.

I still have membership in a church. I even attend once in a while (such as when one of my grandkids are involved in something). I'm even able quite often to get a glimpse of the rose among the weeds.

Some have asked me why I don't use a weedeater if I don't like the weeds, instead of "copping out". Truth is, I've worn out many weedeaters and I finally realized I was causing more harm than good -- and that's not love. God loves the people in Christian churches, and they are only guilty of following their consciences according to how they were conditioned.

You see, one of the things God shared with me at that stump was that He allowed people to keep their weeds (traditions of men) as long as they nourished the rose.

What is the rose? It is the unselfish, sacrificial love that is in our hearts -- for our Heavenly Father and our earthly brothers and sisters.

Sexual Guilt

I taught my children that sexual attraction is natural and good. It is not lust and it is not sinful. I also cautioned them that such attraction is a powerful force that they must learn to master -- or it would master them.

I taught them the same about anger, coveting, etc.

It is tragic and sad that so many Christians burden themselves and their children with unnecessary guilt because of their misunderstanding about what Christ meant concerning "lust" and "if thine eye offend thee".

The goal is not to rid ourselves of our natural sexual desires. The goal is to master them and not let them cause harm to anyone (including ourselves).

The reason we beseech God to "lead us not into temptation" is not because temptation is a sin. God would not lead us into sin. It is because temptation is an occasion to sin -- and we don't need any more of those.

Christ did not set an example of doing something we CAN'T do (have no temptation). He set an example of something we CAN do -- master our temptations and not let them be an occasion to sin.

Be angry and sin not. Be sexually attracted to someone and sin not.

If only people could separate the sin from the temptation, a terrible burden of unwarranted guilt (and its sometimes tragic outcomes) could be lifted from their shoulders.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Should We Never Lie?

Love defines law. Law does not define love.

The law was given to preserve love. Love is not to be sacrificed to preserve the law.

Love can overrule the law. The law cannot overrule love.

"Thou shalt not bear false witness," is a law that was given (as were all laws) to ensure love triumphs. It does not overrule "Love thy neighbor as thyself". If telling a lie is required to "Love thy neighbor as thyself" -- love trumps the law.

JC Was Human

Jesus was the Son of God -- but he was also FULLY human. It is unfortunate that some people want their Jesus to be something more. They want their Jesus to be a squeaky-clean freak, because they evidently think he had to be that to be "without sin".

Well, he didn't -- and he wasn't -- and we don't have to be, either.

He was a normal guy. How do I know that? He lived thirty years and fit in just fine with his peers (brothers, friends, religious community, etc.) He could not have done that if he had been a squeaky-clean freak. No one would have had anything to do with him. He couldn't have got a carpentry job. He wouldn't have been invited to weddings. He fit into the human behaviorial bell-curve just fine.

Jesus was human. He was given the same set of selfish, animal instincts we are all born with (self-preservation, sex, and so on). He had the same endocrine system pumping out the same hormones, including adrenaline and testosterone.

Jesus walked, talked, laughed, cried, defecated, urinated, bled, slept, worried, and spit.

He picked his nose and wiped boogers on his pants.

He passed gas (and sometimes laughed).

He ate and belched afterward.

He drank what others drank (including wine).

He sweat and stank between baths (which were probably few and far between).

His teeth were as yellow and probably just as rotten as those of all other Jews of his time who didn't brush and floss.

His breath stank (no Listerene).

Odds are, he had head lice.

He probably said the equivalent of "Oh, sh*t" when he hit his thumb with a hammer.

He had sexual urges. Odds are, he was attracted to pretty girls just as much as his brothers were.

During his lifetime, his comments included the use of sarcasm, satire, exaggeration, wit, humor, and irony.

He got pizzed of at other people and pizzed other people off -- just like we all do.

Do I need to use scripture to prove all this? No, just relatively common sense.

The good news is this. If Jesus could do all this and not sin, we can too.

So, excuse me but I've got this booger that really needs to come out.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Eternal Life

Ultimately, it's not the brain neurons that determine our thoughts no more than our motor neurons determine our movement. It is the work done by energy.

As far as we can tell, energy can be neither created nor destroyed -- in other words, energy appears to be eternal.

If we allow our lives to be defined somewhere along the line of "orchestrated energy", then the only requirement for us to be eternal is for the orchestration to remain the same, regardless of ancillary matter (our bodies).

Problem is, the only way we know for our energy to maintain its orchestration is for our brains to remain intact.

However, if there was a way to, let's say, remember our orchestral (energy) arrangement (or "program" if you will), then it would be theoretically possible for that which is "us" to survive without our material brain.

With this in mind (no pun intended), if there is a Creator, and if that Creator is sufficiently potent, and if that Creator so chooses, a copy of our "program" could survive our death. With a copy of our "program", then I suppose there just might be a way such a Creator could provide us with eternal life.

Perhaps something along this line is what "spirit" means.

Just rambling along ...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Faith Without Works

If Christians throughout history had promoted good works as fervently as they promoted the "good news", I expect much more good would have been accomplished.

Problem is, doing good works requires far more self-sacrifice (love) than telling good news -- and we H.saps tend to take the easy way out.

This is probably part of what James meant when he said, "Faith without works is dead." Today, the stench of that death within Christianity is evident to all.

More on Knowledge, Belief and Faith

We cannot choose to "know" or "unknow" anything. We either know or we don't. Knowledge is based upon empirical evidence. We know we have skin -- because we've seen it. We cannot unknow this by choice.

We cannot choose to "believe" or "unbelieve" anything. We either believe or we don't. Belief happens when the evidence is enough to prove something beyond a reasonable doubt. We believe we have an appendix. Most of us have never seen it, but the odds are overwhelming (but not certain) that we do. We cannot unbelieve this by choice.

We must choose to have "faith" in things for which we do not have enough evidence to "know" or "believe". Faith is hoping for something based upon whatever evidence is available. Unlike knowledge or belief, it is something we can (must) choose to have or not.

So, why did God make us have to rely upon faith, when He could have provided enough evidence for us to "know" -- or at least "believe" beyond a reasonable doubt?

I imagine it's because God wants us to sacrifice something. Self-sacrifice is a common thread throughout the Bible -- and defines love (Christ's self-sacrifice was the ultimate example).

Faith requires us to sacrifice ourselves for that which is not knowable or provable beyond a reasonable doubt. Some of us do this because we have a reason to hope that our Creator exists and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. That reason is not due to the preponderance of evidence, but is due to something far less objective -- but far more precious to Him -- our spirits wanting it be true.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Why Do We Do It?

Why do we humans kill each other? Many like to put the blame on religion and they point to examples such as Islamic (and Christian) extremists. I believe that's an unfortunate example of shallow thinking. Let's look back at some history.

What really motivated the Hutus to massacre million of Tutsis -- religion, or something more instinctive, like territoriality?

What about the genocide in Sudan -- belief in God, or something more basic, like competition for available resources?

What about the massacre of the Aboriginal population of Australia? In the 19th century, it was legal for settlers to shoot natives on the spot. Was this for religious reasons, or something more fundamental -- such as instinctive racial bias?

What about Bosnia and Croatia -- Godly motives, or unrestrained animal self-serving behavior?

What about the Holocaust? Would it have been prevented if Hitler had been an atheist -- or was the reason for the extermination of 11 million Jews due to something far more fundamental to human nature than paying lip service to a religion?

What about the genocide of Native Americans by the Europeans? What were they really after, my Cherokee grandfathers' souls -- or their land?

There are many more examples of humans committing atrocities against humans. It has been occuring since before H. saps saps wiped out H. saps neanderthalis. It occurs on all scales, from individuals against individuals to nations against nations. It happens because we H.saps have, like all animals, the instinct for survival -- and that instinct is best served by having all the marbles and eliminating all the competition.

Religion is just a convenient excuse some use to do what they would still do without it. If religion was not available, we'd use science (eugenics, for example), sociology/economics (Communism, for example), or nothing at all (I'm bigger than you, you have what I want, and I don't want you marrying my sister).

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Why Do Men Have Nipples?

Nipples in male mammals is an example of evolutionary nonconstraint. In natural selection, sexual dimorphisms (differences) are the exceptions -- not the rule. Exceptions occur when constraints are required by natural selection, not just because something is unnecessary (like nipples on men).

Males and females share common genetic traits by default. So, although a trait in mammals may be as worthless as "tits on a boar hog", that trait will be shared by both sexes (genetic correlation) unless natural selection has a reason to eliminate it.

Many think that all babies start out female, but this is a myth. Their sex is determined by the male's sperm at the moment of conception. All developing babies start out with external sex organs that look female. If the baby is male, the internal sex organs mature and begin to produce the male hormone testosterone. If the hormones reach the tissues correctly, the external genitals that looked female change into the scrotum and penis.

Nipples, like most other parts of our bodies, are merely an example of genetic correlation. Now, the size of what's behind those nipples is a different matter.

Human Behavior

What our species has done, it would have done whether it believed in a God or not. Imagine putting our abilities into the canine population -- it would give the phrase, "dog eat dog" far more credibility.

If one is going to rant and throw stones, it should be towards our species failing to govern its selfish instincts. To focus attention upon H.sap's excuses for their behavior instead of their nature is analogous to focusing upon symptoms instead of the disease.

As far as we know, H.saps is the only species that has what is called a "conscience". This drive is probably an evolutionarily enhanced behaviorial modifier that all animals have to some degree in order to ensure cooperation, cohabitibility, and compatibility. While other species simply follow their instincts, we humans have evolved to be a little more complicated.

We're a lot smarter -- and that makes us a lot harder to be trusted by our alphas. Therefore, we have to justifiy our behavior to our groups, our tribes, our countries, our political parties, our religions, etc. -- ad nauseam. This convoluted behaviorial web is all weaved for two reasons -- self preservation and the preservation of the species.

Would this mean there is no God? Of course not. It would just mean that we naked apes have become very adept at re-creating Him in our own image -- for our own selfish reasons -- and thereby using His name in vain.

My advice to those who blame God or religion for H.saps' atrocious behavior, is to put the blame where it belongs -- upon H.saps -- and not upon the Creator or His message to mankind.

One Tenet Under God

If the teachings of the entire world's religions were tossed out except for the one, single tenet that seems to be common in most (if not all), religious discussions would probably be unnecessary.

That single tenet is, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."

If we as a species used this tenet (unembelished) as a test to determine whether our behavior was appropriate, selfishly-motivated behavior such as genocides, wars, murders, rapes, theft, flipping people off on the highway, etc., would be greatly reduced.

Perhaps this is the only tenet in all religions we can safely hang our hats on.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

How Do I Worship?

The following was written by a man who respects Christ but has little respect for the teachings of "Christianity". I only know him as "SonofJames".

"How do I worship? With my feet and hands, as I walk up to the counter at the grocery store and hand the clerk the money for the items laying in front of some dear soul that looks tired and holding on to the rope with all they've got. I usually spot them getting out of their transportation (which isn't much) and I watch them as I shop -- and then I make their day!

Yesterday, after leaving Walgreens, I stopped to fill-up the tank and there -- at the next pump, was a dear old couple in their late 70's (at least, maybe older) -- in a worn-out car. I commented on how nice the cool rain was and he smiled and asked me how I was doing. This old guy could hardly stand up as he fiddled with the pump handle (and he's asking me how I'm doing), so I asked him if he'd allow me to pump his gas for him while sat in the car with his wife and he said that would be nice, but that he'd just have to get out again (no easy task) and go inside to pay. Just as I was going to insist that he let me pump his gas and pay for it, his wife asked him if he thought the $5.00 dollars worth would get them to the doctor and back home again and that's when I took charge of the situation and insisted he get back in the car (which he did) and I filled the tank ($28.00) and paid for it and then visited the wife on her side of the car and handed her $37.00 dollars (all the cash I had) and told them to use it wisely! They had tears in their eyes as I walked back to my truck just as the pump stopped (had it set on slow fill) and saw that my big ass tank had consumed $63.00 in gas -- and then I cried!

Then I come home to find my wife in tears as she reads about a homeless lady with 5 children -- that found a deputies brief case that had been misplaced and it contained several valuable items -- along with $800.00 dollars in cash! And she returned it -- untouched! Yep, off we went to the Bank Of America -- to inquire about the fund that had been opened on her behalf (per the story) and to see about giving her a number of items that she could no doubt use (that we've had in storage for sometime).

This past Sunday morning, the wife and I were headed home after going out for a light snack (bagel and fruit) and some shopping, and spotted our 79 year old neighbor/friend (that lost his wife to cancer last year and is in questionable health himself), attempting to position a ladder on the side of his house so he could change the security lights. We turned around and pulled up to his house and I informed him (in no uncertain terms), that he was not to attempt to climb 14' up that ladder for any reason -- and reminded him of why my card (number) was on his refrigerator. We left his house about 3 hours later after doing chores that would have taken him a week!

As we pulled out of his drive, I spotted another friend/neighbor attempting to push his lawn mower (he has two bad knees -- to be operated on in October), cause his riding mower wouldn't start, so, I told him to have a seat on the porch and I'd cut the grass. He invited us to have lunch with him and my sweetheart stepped inside with him and they prepared lunch. Boy, was I ever ready for Sunday lunch by the time I finished that lawn and loading his rider into my truck to take to the shop Monday morning.

How do I worship? With my feet and hands!"

I included this here, because I believe the message is important. I also believe SoJ just may be one of those whom Christ invites in at Judgement Day because, "For as much as you did it for the least of my bretheren, you did it for Me."

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Joshua's Atrocity

At Jerico, the Hebrews were concerned with infection -- cross-contamination -- racial, cultural and spiritual. They eliminated it the best way they knew how.

Not an uncommon thing. Genetic defense is instinctive throughout the animal kingdom and carried to the extreme by H.Saps. It is most likely this instinct that resulted in Homo neanderthalensis being elimated by H.sapiens.

Witness the genocide committed BY the Hebrews at Jerico. Then, thousands of years later, witness the genocide committed AGAINST the Hebrews at Auschwitz. Witness the eugenic behavior by America during the early 20th century.

Right? Wrong? Zoologically, right and wrong is judged by what best ensures the robust continuity and integrity of the species, tribe, pack, and individual. Humans tend to apply this same critieria socially and culturally (including with their religions). Every generation of humans will have to determine the "right" and "wrong" based upon the zeitgeist they find themselves in.

During Joshua's time, it is possible that genocide was not considered the atrocity it is today. Tomorrow, who knows?

In the mean time, which generation is it that will be qualified to pronounce judgement upon the actions of the Creator -- if indeed such deeds as Jerico were His doing?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Lust

If we define lust to be sexual desire, it is not sinful. It is as natural as hunger or fear -- genetically programmed into animals to ensure their continued survival.

The Creator left our cousins in the animal world free to follow their programming (instincts) as they wish (as far as we know).

The Creator chose to deal with H. Saps differently. He gave us "laws" which require us to manage (rein in) our selfish natural instincts for the benefit of others. Therefore, it is when we allow sexual desire (lust) to harm others (or ourselves), that it becomes a "sin".

Asking ourselves, "Does it harm ourselves or others?" is the best way to know if any particular behavior is a sin. Written laws (such as the 10 commandments) can only be a guideline. They are limited in scope. For example, they do not cover putting sugar in a neighbor's gas tank. They also require human definition. For example, taking another person's life can range from self-defense to the crimes of Hitler -- therefore the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill" requires human definition.

The laws our Creator put in our heart are much more useful. If we love our neighbor as ourselves, nothing will be left out (sugar in gas tanks) and it's unlikely we will commit the crimes of Hitler.

This is our Creator's "Gold Standard" for sin, if you please. If we adhere to it, we will be much more successful in pleasing our Creator (not sinning) than we can ever be trying to follow written "laws". If everyone used this "Gold Standard", it would be a much kinder and safer world to live in (which was the Creator's purpose for "laws" in the first place).

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Paradox of Faith

Strange as it may seem, the utter lack of objective evidence for Christianity's claims may be one of the strongest evidences of it's credibility. I'll try to explain this seemingly paradox.

Biblically, what the Creator wants from his creation is faith -- not knowledge. In fact, knowledge is played down or dismissed entirely many times in scripture. Knowledge requires empirical, objective evidence. The amount of evidence required for a person to have faith is far less and entirely subjective.

If even one stich of objective evidence existed for the Christ, it would make believing in the Christ easier -- but at a cost. It would decrease the amount of faith required. The more evidence we have of something, the less we need faith. Given enough evidence, we can bypass faith entirely and either believe (such as about men walking on the moon) or know (such as about having five fingers).

If it is true that "without faith it's impossible to please Him", what at first appears to be a paradox becomes a requirement. The Creator disallowed objective evidence because he wants the maximum amount of faith -- not knowledge.

It's not the way I'd do things, expecting to be immortalized. Without a ton of objective evidence, I doubt if many intelligent people 2000 years from now would believe I rose from the dead -- but they believe this about the Christ -- by the millions, and have for over 2000 years.

Can H.Saps' psychological need for self-preservation really explain this away? I don't think so. Fact is, there exists a ton of evidence for Christ -- just ask any Christian -- but it is all subjective and personal. Are all these millions of people merely trying to attain immortality at the expense of their reason? Try selling that theory to the man or woman who "knows" God answers prayer.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Wandering in the Wilderness

I know just how pitiful a servant Steve is to his Lord. He's self-centered and lazy. He hoards his coin, his talents and his time for himself and his family -- and it worries him. It worries him so much he humbly includes in every prayer to his Creator, "Please have mercy on me a sinner!" -- and means it.

I now worship God at a "stump", all alone and not in a church. That stump altar gets lonely. I miss the fellowship, the music, the things I grew up with -- but at this time I believe the stump is God's will for me. It took my leaving the church to understand just how far the church has wandered from God's basics -- loving Him AND our neighbors unselfishly with self-sacrifice. It has allowed my Creator to drill down through the traditions of men and give me a better understanding of what He's really all about.

It sometimes takes wandering in the wilderness a while for God to clear things up -- to separate the gold from the dross -- to separate His message from that taught by traditions of men. It sometimes takes praying at a stump for the Creator to give a person a new conscience.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

If I Were God ...

First scene. Pastor's office at the First Self-Righteous Church. Young woman (Faith Freeman) telling the pastor her sad story. She's trying to control three little children.

"My husband is in the hospital. He's dying. We have no insurance. I have my three children to take care of and we're out of food. I only have a high school education and no work experience. We have nothing to sell -- no savings or other income. Our car was repossessed by the bank. I walked here. It was the closest church. Our landlord is kicking us out. The only other family members we have are out-of-state and told me they have their own problems. Can you help us?"
Her story touches the pastor's heart. He gives her twenty dollars out of his own wallet and tells her he'll "see what he can do".

Next scene: Sunday morning service at the First Self-Righteous Church.

Good Pastor advises the congregation that there is woman ("not of our church") who is facing trials. He explains her problems and asks the congregation to remember her in their prayers. Christian Churchman (his friends call him Chris), sitting third row back, bows his head with the rest of the congregation and asks God to take note of this poor woman and her family.
""Please Lord", he prays, "look down upon this poor woman and provide for her needs".
"After the prayer is over, he glances over at his own family and realizes how blessed he is.

Next scene: Heaven

""... look down upon this poor woman," God hears as Churchman prays.
""Well, ALRIGHTY then!" the Creator exclaims (sounding just like Jim Carey and blowing an angel off the Throne). "Thanks to Christian Churchman I'm now aware of this poor woman. Why, I would have never noticed her from all of her prayers, but I never miss those from good Churchman".
""... and provide for her needs." Churchman's prayer ends.
""Sure thing," God grins. "I'll get right on it!"

Next scene: Churchman family leaving church in their year-old Ford Explorer.

"Where do you guys want to eat today?" Christian asks his family. Kids want McDonalds, but Momma wants Red Lobster. Momma wins. "I'll have to stop at an ATM and get some money", Christian says.
"No you won't," Momma advises. She digs into her purse, pulls out a $100 dollar bill and hands it to Chris. "Here. Here's for our meal and your next week's lunch money."
"Chris takes it and sticks it into his shirt pocket because he doesn't want to dig for his wallet while driving.

Next scene: Red Lobster's parking lot.

"You guys wait for your mother!" Chris yells at the kids as they pile out of the SUV. His smallest, cute-but-headstrong Angie (short for Angel), leaps from her seat and starts across the parking lot. Chris grabs for her and when he does, the $100 bill in his shirt pocket flies out onto the pavement. A strong gust of wind comes up from nowhere, picks up the bill and blows it into traffic where a FedEx truck runs over it. After the truck passes, the bill has disappeared.
"Aw, hell!" Christian curses. "Sonofabitch!"
"Watch your language!" his wife scolds him. "It's your own fault and the kids have big ears."
"Yeah. Right," Churchman mutters as he and his family search for a while before giving it up as a lost cause.

Next scene: A few blocks down from Red Lobster. Faith Freeman and her brood are walking out the door of the unemployment office.

"I'm hungry!" her youngest wails -- just like he's been wailing for the last thirty minutes while she was filling out papers. "And my feet hurt!"
"I know, little guy," she sighs as she stoops over to pick him up. Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she notices something fluttering against the curb. It looks like money. She steps over and picks it up -- a $100 bill.

Next scene: Heaven.

"Your prayer has been answered, Chruchman," God grins.

If I were God ...

"Hate Speech" Legislation

After a lifetime of knowing the negative effect of hate speech, I now support the people's (not the government's) freedom to say what they please -- even if it is hateful. I'll try to explain why.
I now understand things I didn't when I was younger. Treatment of minorities (of all kinds) in America still has room for improvement, but things are a world better than they were in the 50's and 60's. What made that happen? It was education -- not legislation. Threats of punishment will temporarily force people to do something -- but only as long as force is applied. When people change their minds, you no longer have to force them.

Minorities are respected much more today than in the 50's and 60's. This is because speech was free (more or less). Minorities proclaimed their truths in the streets, with signs, with marches, in the churches, in the schools. They virtually "out-shouted" the "hate speech".

There was government legislation that helped, but most were laws against acts, not speech. It was laws like those that abolished segregation and discrimination in schools, in the workplace, etc. It was legislation that let the disease of ignorant discrimination (on all sides) be successfuly treated with the right medicines -- education and assimilation.

Now, an entire generation exists that finds it hard to imagine a time when blacks were not allowed to drink from the same water fountains as whites, Indians were not sold whiskey in a bar, and neither were allowed to date white girls.

It was not the restriction of anyone's speech that led to a reduction of hate speech -- it was the freedom of all speech. Such freedom, along with education is the only way to ensure political, economic and social justice for all.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

What Do We Know?

What both science and theology know is a molehill compared to the mountain of what they do not know. Part of this is due to the fact we just haven't figured things out yet. However, part of it is due to the fact our reasoning ability has only evolved so far. In spite of what many like to think, the evolved intellectual ability of H.Saps is far from infinite. There are "truths" that humans would have no more ability to comprehend than my old hound dog, Jake -- even if they were documented and explained.

These facts keep me humble.

Do I ever play the "Only God knows" card? Of course I do. There are logical problems with some traditional Christian (and other theological) concepts. The majority of these I attribute to H.Saps' ignorance and instinctive behavior manifesting itself as tribal traditions.

For the rest, I have two choices. (1) Theology is bogus because there is no Creator or (2) There is a Creator, but exactly what role that Creator plays in the macro/micro management of His creation -- no one really knows.

As per my nature, nurture (and possibly the will of the Creator), I have chosen to have faith in number (2).As with all people who have chosen to accept a premise on faith, I have no choice at times but to admit ignorance -- to "cop-out" if you will, and say, "Only God knows".

Saturday, June 04, 2005

God On a Leash

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD." (Isaiah 55:8)

Kinda like what I tell my old hound dog, Jake. I can't understand how he can tell which direction a rabbit ran from an hour-old spoor. He can't understand why I punch my fingers so much (on a keyboard). Different species.

People try to put their Creator on a man-made leash. Who knows? Maybe old Jake gets together with my daughter's Shitzu and figures me out.

Jake: "He pecks his fingers on the table in order to drive the cat away."
Shitzu: "Yes. Everyone knows that the cat is Evil and the Master is Good. That must be the answer."
Jake: "Spread the word. The Master overcomes Evil by pecking on the table. Truth."

Yeah. I trust our skull jelly to analyze the Creator.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

God's Gold Standard

I "look through the glass darkly", (which includes my best shot at intrepreting scripture). With such a foggy view, I cannot be trusted to see the absolute nature of all truths. If only God would wipe the fog away from the window -- but for reasons only He knows, he chooses not to. Until he does, I'll squint my eyes and do my best to "see" the "truth" through that window (scripture, life, etc.), but logic says I cannot trust my view to be 100% correct.

This less-than 20/20 sight is the foundation upon which our beliefs are built. These beliefs then govern our consciences, which we use to either accuse or excuse our behavior.

I have seen a view through that dark window that appears to say people will be tortured in a terrible fire for eternity if they do not choose Chist as their Savior -- and I wonder about all the people who have never had an opportunity to make that choice. Should I accept that not-quite-clear view as absolutely correct, or would a clear view show something a little differently?

I have seen a view that appears to be my Creator telling me not to lie, regardless of what harm the truth might cause. If the window was just a little less dark, would this view be a little different?

Many images can be vaguely seen through that dark window. Mankind has used their interpretations of those vague images as foundations upon which to build complicated belief structures (traditions of men).

I have chosen to simplify things for myself. Of all the foggy images I have seen through God's dark window, one seems to be at least as clear as any other. Love.

It appears that the Creator loved His creatures and wants them to love each other in the same way. I have chosen this to be the "Gold Standard" with which I compare all other foggy views through that dark window. If a view meets the criteria of love, I'll accept it as is. If not, I'll file it away as a view my Creator will have to further explain to me some day.

This greatly simplifies things for me. The spirit of love behind a law becomes more important than any foggy interpretation given for it. If to "never lie" fails the Gold Standard test of love, I choose to believe "never lie" is a faulty intrepretation.

As I am relatively ignorant of the Creator's absolutes, I have no choice but to be relative in my beliefs. Making the best of this situation, I choose to relate my choices to love.

Friday, May 27, 2005

When Lying Is Not a Sin

God does not want us to cause harm to each other. He despises all acts (including lies) that are used for selfish gain at the expense of others.

Scripture examples of how lies are used to do this include:
  • Sowing discord among brethern
  • Hiding hatred
  • Slander
  • Personal gain
  • Hating others

God hates anything we do that selfishly and intentionally causes harm to another person, whether it be lying, stealing, adultry, or putting sugar in our neighbor's gas tank.

God did not give us the commandment, "Thou shalt not put sugar in thy neighbor's gas tank", but I am convinced He would not approve. If every possible wrong we could do to each other was listed in a book, my tractor's front-end loader would be unable to lift it.

God had a point to make -- and that point is to "Love your neighbor as yourself". You would think we could take it from there, but we get hung up on the words He used (the law) and miss the point (the reason for the law).

"Thou shalt not exceed the posted speed limit" is a law that is established by states to protect their citizens. When I was a police officer, I was allowed in certain circumstances to break that law. Why? To protect citizens. It was not the law that was most important -- it was protecting citizens.

God's gave us His laws for the same reason, to protect us from ourselves. It is not the laws that are sacred, it is the purpose for the laws -- and that purpose is to prevent us from harming each other. Unfortunately, there are some who get this backwards. They feel that God's laws are more sacred then God's reasons for giving them. This makes them preach that God's laws must be obeyed at all times, regardless of the consequences. That's like not allowing an ambulance to run a red light when transporting a critically injured person to the hospital.

Most of us who break the state's speeding law do so for selfish reasons.

Most of us who break God's lying law do so for selfish reasons.

Most of us who break God's stealing law do so for selfish reasons.

However, protecting others is the goal for all of these laws, and if there comes a time when breaking them would best serve that goal, breaking them becomes the new law.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Faith, Belief and Knowledge

Knowledge requires empirical evidence. One cannot choose to know or un-know something unless they illogically deny the evidence of their own senses. An example of knowledge would be that I know I have two hands. I have no need for faith nor belief when I have knowledge.

Belief does not require empirical evidence. However, it does require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. When someone has evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, they automatically believe -- it's not a choice. If they do not have such evidence, they will not believe. One does not choose to believe or disbelieve in anything, because belief will automatically follow the evidence. An example of belief would be that I believe I have an appendix. I have no empirical evidence (unless I pull out my Leatherman and start digging), so I cannot know that I do. However, the circumstantial evidence is such that I have no reasonable doubt. I cannot "choose" to disbelieve that I have an appendix -- I could only choose to deny my belief. This is where most people get belief and faith confused.

Faith does not require empirical evidence. It also does not require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. One can choose to have faith in something when the evidence is not sufficient for either belief or knowledge. Faith can co-exist with reasonable doubt -- knowledge and belief cannot. Because the evidence is insufficient, faith is not automatic like knowledge and belief. It requires a person to choose to accept something when the evidence for that something is insufficient for knowledge or belief. An example of faith would be choosing to accept a Biblical scripture, such as "pray for each other so that you may be healed" (in James). If the doctor has said there is no hope, a person can choose to have faith in that scripture (see where the "hope" comes in?). He cannot "know" prayer will heal without empirical evidence. He cannot "believe" prayer will heal because he does not have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. However, he can choose to have "faith" based upon what evidence is available (the Biblical passage).

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Essential Beliefs

A person once asked me, "What are the beliefs that you believe are essential to being a Christian?"

My reply:

Over 2000 years have passed since Christ walked the earth. Only God knows how many hundreds of thousands of years we humans had a working brain before then.

During those hundreds of thousands of years, there have been hundreds of thousands of beliefs that people were born into and accepted.

How many of these folk had any opportunity to know such things as The Nicene/Apostle's Creed or the "Plan of Salvation"?

We'll all know the truth someday -- and I believe it will involve Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for us. At that time, I expect it will not be the essential things we believed during life that matters as much as it will be the essential kind of heart we had.

"He has showed you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?"

Micah 6 Verse 8

Monday, May 23, 2005

More On Love

God's true love is rare and counter-intuitive for H.Saps (and all animals). If we love God the way he loved us, we will make personal sacrifices for His sake. We won't just sing "hallelujahs" to Him while our brother is hungry or our sister is thirsty. We will sacrifice ourselves for others as He did -- thereby loving Him with all our hearts.

I don't believe our Creator is on an ego trip and needs stroked. He can cause the rocks to praise Him if he so chooses. What He wants is for us to have the kind of heart for which we were made in His image. We worship Him, we love Him with all our hearts, by loving our neighbor as ourselves.

This kind of sacrificial love is really the only attribute that separates us from our cousins in the animal world. My old hound dog Jake might give his life to save mine, but it would be due to genetic programming. It would not involve a conscious decision to deny his own instincts, knowing he would be committing suicide. Only we can do that, as Christ did for us.

Christ's death was a conscious decision that violated any and all instincts for self-preservation his mortal genetics demanded of him -- even as he prayed, "if it be possible, let this cup pass from me!".

He set the example, and that example is followed by us H.Saps every day. The little old lady in a nursing home who painfully limps with her cane down a hallway with her arthritic knees to help someone else is following Christ's example.

The "narrow way" which few find? I believe it is involves the one thing that separates us from other animals -- that part of us He made in His image. The ability to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others. Most everything else will be traditions of men.

Unfortunately, many think they "love God" with their constant worship and praise -- which they subconsciously do to ensure they stay in good with the Big Guy. In other words, their "love" for God is really their "love" for themselves -- which is very natural, but is not really loving God nor their neighbor.

Origin of Good and Evil

The natural evolution of the purely human concepts of "good" and "evil" started with the instinctive need to ensure specie survival.

1. It starts with the identification of behaviors that are beneficial and detrimental to survival. All species do this by trial and error.

2. With the kindly assistance of natural selection, all species establish the intraspecific behaviorial parametrics and boundaries (what behavior is allowed and what is not).

3. And then . . . H.Saps attained the unique ability to conceptualize "beneficial" and "detrimental".

4. And then . . . H.Saps attained the unique ability to communicate concepts -- vertically with their offspring as well as horizontally with their peers.

5. And so . . . H.Saps obtained a tool for behaviorial control other animals do not have -- intellectual intimidation. They can use this tool (along with physical treats) to help ensure individual behavior is beneficial to the whole.

The Bible calls this state of cognizance, "The knowledge of Good and Evil", and depicts it as (forbidden) fruit on a tree. In an oddly mysterious way, this verbage is right on target. H.Saps' position on the "evolutionary tree" is what determined their ability to know "good" from "evil". If we had never attained the ability (ate the fruit?) to conceive of "good" and "evil", most of us would have been far happier campers.

Just another observation. Most Christians consider the first great commandment, "Thou shalt love thy God" to outrank the second, "Love thy neighbor". I kinda think it's the "loving thy neighbor" that's most important to God (and to our species). This would mean that the first commandment is given to ensure the second will be obeyed. In other words, we are far more likely to love our neighbor if God commands it than if our neighbor does -- and by "loving our neighbor", we help ensure the perpetuation of our species.

This would help explain why our Creator is a jealous God who allows "no other God before Me". He doesn't trust any other Gods' ability to ensure the perpetuation of our species.

Just a little brain wandering here.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Hell

There are too many conflicting images, descriptions, translations and ideas about "Hell" in the Bible to allow a clear understanding. About the only flag that (almost) universally gets saluted is the statement, "I'd rather not go there."

Acceptable behavior is required for the survival of a species and is enforced rigorously -- improper behavior is a threat. H.Saps are uniquely aware of their mortality. They are also uniquely able to envision a continuation of life after death. This provides them an extra tool in their behaviorial control toolbox. They can now use the threat of punishment after death to help ensure acceptable behavior during life.

Assuming there is an afterlife, one has to wonder what punishment will actually be administered by our Creator -- versus how much misinformation has been invented by our species for crowd control.

Faith and Works

Christ used too many examples of people caring for each other for me to think it's an option. The rich man and Lazarus. The good Samaritan. The "for as much as you've done" scene in the after-life. I've never counted them for comparison, but I wouldn't be surprised if he spoke more times on helping others than he did on faith.

I don't believe we can "work" our way into our Creator's favor. I don't believe he pays by commission. I do believe he looks at the heart (which we can't do) and rewards according to how hard we try to do what we believe we should. That way, our reward will not be based upon how much we know, how smart we are, how theologically educated we are, or whether we were lucky enough to born into the right family with the right "religion" during the right era with the right genetics, etc. Our conscience will either excuse or accuse us.

By the way, this does not mean that what Christ did was unnecessary. It just means that what he did, he did for all -- not just a select and fortuitous few -- which is what I believe is the true Good News.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

What God Hasn't Done For Me

I'm approaching my sixth decade of life. In some ways I've not lost as much as Job, in other ways I've lost more.

I spend a few nights each month sitting on my porch, sharing the stars with my old hound dog Jake and a bottle of Southern Comfort -- because of nightmares and thoughts about things I've seen, things I've done, and things I've lost. God could fix this by giving me amnesia, but he hasn't done so, yet.

I stood at the end of a bed in '72 and watched as Frank, my Dad, gasped for almost an hour before he took his last breath. He was a man who had taught me many wonderful things, including how to sacrifice one's self for the sake of his family. I loved and respected him more than any man I'd ever known. God chose to not cure him of prostate cancer, in spite of my many prayers.

I watched helplessly as Joretta, a kind and wonderful sister, died from complications of her pneumonia in '74. She was only 37. God took her in spite of my prayers.

In '97, I held my first grandson (Tanner) in my arms after he died at birth. As I held that little dead boy in my arms, my son saw me cry for the first time. God chose to not save that little guy in spite of my prayers.

In '99, my family was hit by the most powerful tornado ever recorded. God didn't make that tornado miss -- (but he spared our lives).

A short time later, my second grandson (Tyler) was found to have leukemia. I'm sure God knew I did not want that, but it happened anyway. (However, Tyler is doing great. Perhaps God has chosen to answer my prayers for him. )

I lost another sister in '01. God did not cure her cancer -- or the animosity we held against each other at the end -- that I now regret. I can only wish he had.

In '02, I lost my dear 92 year-old mother. My wife and I had cared for her in our home for over 20 years. For the last five of those years, she had Alzheimer's. I would go to bed, hearing her pray to Jesus for relief. She got to where she sometimes forgot who I was (but she never forgot Jesus). I would hear her cry because she thought I was Frank. She thought that I (as Frank) was sleeping with another woman (my wife). God didn't fix her mind before she died, although I prayed daily.

I live with chronic pain from old surgical scars and adhesions. God hasn't fixed them yet.

I live each day in dread of the hammer falling again, and I know it has to sooner or later. What will it strike next --my dear wife, my wonderful children, my precious grandchildren?

I get this mental picture of someone leaning back in their chair and asking the question, "Then why in hell does he still worship such a God?"

I've asked myself that question many times. I'm educated in the sciences and know how illogical much of "religion" is -- so, why don't I just give it up and throw my Bible and my faith in the dumpster?

Is it because of my conditioning? I doubt it. My childhood church-going was kind of hit-and-miss, although both Ma and Pa were Christian (in the real sense of the word).

Is it due to a fear of Hell? Nope -- but not because of any merit on my part. I've done some pretty bad things. I just don't believe in what my Cherokee/Choctaw ancestors would have called, "The White Man's Hell". Punishment, yes -- eternal screaming, no.

Is it because I want to live forever? Absolutely not. I'd like to see my loved ones again, but life has not given me a desire to live forever-- quite the opposite. Like that old Blood, Sweat and Tears song goes, "If it's peace you find in dying, well then let the time be near." Just bury me with my old dog Jake and let us both rest in peace.

So what's left? Only thing left is the evidence -- personal, mostly subjective -- but real as rain to me. Real enough to keep me defending Him, even after He chose to sit back and allow me and my loved ones to suffer. Real enough to keep me from just flipping Him off as either a sadist or a figment of my imagination. I could discuss some of this "evidence", but such evidence is mostly subjective and some of it so personal it would embarrass both of us.

- Do I know there is a God? No. I do not have the empirical evidence required to know He exists.

- Do I believe there is a God? Not by my definition of belief. If the evidence is strong enough, a person has no choice what he/she believes. I cannot "choose" whether or not to believe in England. The evidence is just too strong.

- Do I have faith there is a God? Yes. Faith is a choice to accept something as true -- based upon hope and available evidence. I hope He exists, and I have enough evidence (for me) to accept His existense. I choose to do so.

A preacher asked my dad on his deathbed if he "knew" he was "saved" and would go to Heaven when he died. My dad's answer will be the only one I'll have -- "I hope so." God has not given me all that I asked for. However, there is one thing He gave for sure -- He gave me hope.

Monday, May 16, 2005

What We Accept

What determines what we accept are three things -- conditioning, evidence and desire (I'll call it CED).

Conditioning is what we get from our life experiences.

Evidence can be both objective (empirical) and subjective (dreams, answered prayer, etc.).

Desire is basically sourced by our instincts. We desire to survive, have sex, eat, etc.

This natural "trinity" governs how we think -- and the package is very dynamic. It can change with a phone call, a dream or a scientific breakthrough.

True facts, provable with empirical, demonstrable evidence are rare -- even in science. For every foundational fact, there are hundreds of extrapolations, probabilities and just plain guesses that are built upon that foundation. The foundational fact lends credence to these, but does not ensure they are correct. (Yes, Virginia, scientists use faith every day -- they just don't want to call it that.)

We each choose what we want to accept based upon our personal CED. This CED may closely resemble another person's (such a child with a parent), but it will always be unique to the individual. For any person to adjudge another person's CED by their own is egotistical, arrogant and frankly impossible.

The Christ said, "Who art thou to judge another man's servant?" I would humbly add -- or belief.

Truth is, when considering all that is and how it got here, no one knows for sure. That does not prevent (nor should it) a firm faith or belief in a Creator or a lack of one.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Proper Worship

I would like to think that most of our success in pleasing our Creator rests upon His broad shoulders instead of our own.

If there is any one "correct" way to worship Him, I doubt if anyone knows it, due to the limitations of our human understanding.

The fact my little grandson reaches up to Granddad with love and trust means far more to me than whether or not he has his shoes tied properly.

The Conscience

Evolution has equipped the human animal with a set of instincts required to best ensure genetic perpetuation. These include the following:

Hunger
Lust and sex
Anger, hate & fear
Territoriality, possessiveness
Dominance/submissiveness
Irritability/serenity.
Sociality, parenting, family and tribal ties
Growth of emotions during ontogeny

This hard-wired programming is 100% selfish, even if some associated behavior may appear altruistic.

The brains of homo saps evolved to the point they could understand how the behavior of others could be an asset or liability to their existance. My old hound dog Jake also evolved to this point, which is why he licks my hand and growls at other, strange dogs.

Homo saps' conceptual ability developed beyond old Jake's. So did their ability to communicate beyond the growling stage. Thus, rules of conduct (laws) were established by the alphas, enforced with associated penalties, tweaked as necessary and passed on to succeeding generations. All this was still nothing more than a fancier, but still selfishly instinctive attempt to ensure self-perpetuation. Social behavior was controlled by cause and effect -- not conscience. At this stage, the concept of "sin" was as foreign to humans as it was to all other animals.

But then ...

At some point in their evolution, homo saps developed a behavior modifier unknown to all other animal species -- a conscience. (Picture the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden). From this point on, the alphas had another, even better tool to control behavior -- guilt -- which was found to be at least as effective as threats of punishment. Unacceptable behavior could then be given labels to elicit feelings of guilt -- "bad", "evil", "sinful".

It wasn't the selfish instincts that were "sinful" (even though many "religions" have ignorantly labeled them as such. It was the failure to keep those instincts under control as defined by the "laws".

However, in spite of control exercised by the neo-cortex in terms of morals, ethics, good intentions, etc., when sufficiently threatened we revert to type – and reverting to type means animal-instinctual.

Is there such a thing as real "love" -- an unselfish concern for the welfare of others? I think there is. Are we able to deny our own instincts to the point we can truly be altruistic? I think so. If these are possible (and I choose to think they are), I believe they would have to transcend the natural and require input from the supernatural. Zoologists do not see such unselfish and potentially self-harming behavior of value in perpetuating a species.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Knowledge vs. Belief vs. Faith

- Knowledge requires empirical, first hand evidence.

- Belief is binary/digital. There is no such thing as "a little belief" no more than it is possible to be a little pregnant. Belief will follow the evidence -- as the evidence changes, belief will change. If the evidence is sufficient, one will believe -- if it is not, one won't -- and for that reason, one cannot choose what they believe.

- Faith is a choice to have hope in something based upon evidence that is insufficient for belief.

Lucky for us, what God requires from us is faith.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Reason They Kill

The naked apes by other names
Will beat their chests exactly the same.

"We do it for God!" they're quick to cry,
Then gleefully watch their enemies die.

It's not for God these deeds are done.
It's not for God that wars are won.

"We're monkeys no longer!" the humans claim,
But the reason they kill is still the same.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Is God Our Errand Boy?

"God helps them that help themselves." (Benjamin Franklin)

"Help thyself, heaven will help thee." (LaFontaine)

"Heaven never helps the men who will not act." (Sophocles)

"Help thyself and God will help thee." (George Herbert)

"God loves to help him who strives to help himself." (Aeschylus)

"Prayer indeed is good, but while calling on the gods a man should himself lend a hand." (Hippocrates)

"Try first thyself, and after call in God; For to the worker God himself lends aid." (Euripides)

"He who does not work shall not eat." (Paul)

"Work as if it all depends on you and pray as if it all depends on God." (My father -- and others.)

This principle has been presented by many wise people through the ages, from Aeschylus in 500 B.C. to my own father who raised a family through the depression. This same principle is also presented over and over in the pages of Scripture by example and illustration. God blessed people, not as they were sitting still waiting for God to act, but as they were taking action. As they assumed responsibility, God assisted them. As they reached out to help others, God aided their efforts. In my life, I have seen this principle in action.

How many Christians go to church on Sunday morning and hear of a family who has fallen upon hard times and "needs our prayers"? We "raise them up to the Lord" in prayer -- then go out and shop for a new car that afternoon. "No pain, no gain"? Of course not -- because God will give the gain and we will feel no pain.

Sadly, how many Christians feel they are to "Pray and trust the doctors" when their own child is diagnosed with a deadly disease? I have a grandson with leukemia whose odds of survival would be less today if we had done this. The treatment planned by my grandson's doctors would have been inadequate and possibly catastrophic. My daughter's active participation through self-study and networking saved her son's life. Her prayer to God was that her son would be healed. We believe her prayer was answered, partly because she put feet to her prayers.

The common attitude of "Prayer conquers all - (and lets us off the hook)" irks me so much I find it hard to return to the church I grew up in (Southern Baptist). It's the religion of the lazy. It's the religion of the selfish. It is the religion of man.

Unfortunately many Christians treat God as if He's a golem -- someone or some thing they can send out to do their work and fight their fights. I don't believe God works that way. We are God's arms, eyes, feet and hands. He expects us to join in the fights, shed some of our own blood and make our own sacrifices. He is not our errand boy.

Go Golem Go!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Conformity

Whether we want to be or not -- we are conformists. If we were not, we would most likely be in jail or crucified.

Depending upon where we are in human society (both horizontally and vertically) we are allowed a certain amount of slack to be a "rebel" -- but the limits are pretty well established.

No one wants to think he or she has been programmed to conform to those limits -- but the fact is, we all have -- by the combination of our genetics and our learned behavior. It is further reinforced throughout our lives by society's laws and peer pressure.

I'm sorry if this sounds depressing -- because it shouldn't. Doing good for others, worshipping our Creator, and taking our grandsons fishing are well within what is allowed -- at least for now -- in America.

We all take a few swipes at windmills, but in the end we vary not much more from each other than do two blades of grass. As Emerson said, "To believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men - that is genius". Some may think it a curse, but it's really not. It's a blessing. Our Creator knew what He was doing.

Racism

Some believe that racism is learned behavior. Not exactly.

Racism and other forms of tribal behavior are evolved. Man has been a tribal animal for a long time. Basic human social drives developed instinctively long before they developed intellectually -- and were vital to our survival as a specie.

Humans are very territorial and this manifests itself today in many forms, including racism and nationalism -- even in whom we let into our treehouse when kids. It is reflected in our religions and in our neighborhood associations. It can be easily witnessed at any school playground. Such tribal behavior assigns that which is "different" to being a threat by default.

Overcoming this selfish, but natural instinct is what requires learned behavior. Unfortunately, it is instead often reinforced by the "tribe" we find ourselves born into. It would appear that we are becoming more civilized and our learned behavior is improving, but in reality our so-called civilized behavior is but a thin film floating on a deep ocean -- of an animal's instincts and social evolution.

We only have to pick up a newspaper to see how the "natural man" as Paul called it, is still ready and apparently eager to kill, maim and torture the "not-us" members of other tribes.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Disciplining Children

There are some disciplines that are politically correct today that I think cause children harm. These modern ideas have evolved from a misguided attempt to avoid physical punishment at any cost. They include putting a child in a corner and sending him or her to their room.

Native Americans feared shunning more than any other kind of punishment and there is good reason for this. Punishment taught a person that their behavior was not wanted. Shunning told a person that THEY were not wanted. Having a child put their face in a corner or sending them to their room alone are both forms of shunning. Sending a child away may be 10% effective in telling them you don't like their behavior, but the other 90% is saying that you don't like them.

When my mother used that willow switch on me, here's how it went.

1. She let me know what I had done wrong. "You ran out in the street after I told you to stop. You could have been killed!" After which she "nettled" my legs with that switch a couple of times. "I'm sorry, Mom," I cried. (I didn't like that switch). "I won't do it again! I promise!"

2. She reinforced the lesson and made sure I understood what I was being punished for. "You won't do what again?" she asked as she nettled me a little more. "I won't run out in the street again!" I replied, trying to squirm away.

3. She reinforced it again. "You sure?" she asked as she nettled me a little more. "Yes! Yes! I'm sure! I promise!" I cried. "I'll never run out in the street again!"

4. "All right," she said sternly. "I love you and I don't want you to be squashed like a bug by a car. If I catch you out there again, I'll get another switch!

She accepted my promise and the punishment ended -- with an admonition of love and a warning about further misbehavior. It lasted all of 30 seconds. It didn't drag on over a long time with the associated stress associated with keeping a child in a corner or in their room. I went right back to playing while Mom made me a sandwich.

She never "beat" me and she only had to use that switch a few times my whole life -- the threat was enough. She gained my respect with that switch and she gained my love with the reason she used it. She didn't whack me with a baseball bat. I wasn't bruised or bloodied and I had no cigarette burns. It was quick, loving, and effective. I come away knowing two things.

1. I was valuable to her (she loved me).

2. I'd better not go out in the street again.

I had a few narrow welts on my legs from that willow switch, but they faded away quickly. The lessons I learned -- that I was valuable and that I should not play in the street -- I still remember today.

Thank you, Ma, and I'm very proud of you.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Mystery of the Trinity

Perhaps it would help to consider a couple of things.

1. Christ did the choosing about when and where to perform miracles. He is the only person in the Bible to do this on his own. All others (Moses, etc.) performed miracles as directed by God or with the permission of God. Jesus let us know that He did the will of His Father, but we don't have the same evidence of God directing his actions. This implies that Christ was more than just a God-blessed and God-used man.

2. Christ, God and the Holy Ghost reside in the world of the spirit -- not the world of the flesh or of Newtonian physics. Limited as we are by our human senses, it is difficult to comprehend the concept of three entities being both separate and the same. This does not mean it is not possible. It is also difficult for a two-dimensional flat-lander to understand height -- but height exists.We naturally tend to limit God to what makes sense to us -- which is both understandable and understandably foolish. Is Christ literally God and is God literally Christ? That is a question we cannot answer to the satisfaction of everyone, because where God is concerned, we have no idea of what "literally" means. I value much of my Native American ancestors' traditional beliefs. Perhaps this is why the Trinity causes me little problem -- because I believe the Great Spirit is all-in-all anyway.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

A Summary of the Bible

I've often wished the entire Bible had been hidden away except for the following:

  • "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
    - John 3:16

  • "For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast."
    - Ephesians 2:8,9

  • "Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets'."
    - Matthew 22:36-40

Sure would have been a lot less confusion, fewer arguments and doctrines, and we'd have all we needed to know to please our Creator and to ensure our own eternal life.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

Years ago, when I was a cop in a small Oklahoma town I worked a terrible accident. A young girl lost control and rolled her car at a high rate of speed. The top was crushed in, killing her instantly. The paramedics had to literally scoop her body into a body bag. One of them lost his breakfast, lunch and supper over it -- while it just didn't seem to affect me that much. Difference was, he had a daughter of his own about the same age. I only had a baby son. I just didn't relate.

Today, I can get choked up over a news story involving a hurt child. I would even have feelings for a twenty-one year old who robs a bank and is gunned down in the street -- because I can imagine it being my son. I guess it's a little like what they say about learning. To learn something new, you have to relate it to something you already know.

I've always liked that old Joe South song (bet most people have never heard of him) -- Walk a Mile in My Shoes.

If I could be you and you could be me for just one hour
If we could find a way to get inside each other's mind
If you could see me through your eyes instead of your ego
I believe you'd be surprised to see that you'd been blind.

Now your whole world you see around you is just a reflection
And the law of common says you reap just what you sow
So unless you've lived a life of total perfection
You'd better be careful of every stone that you throw.

And yet we spend the day throwing stones at one another
'Cause I don't think or wear my hair the same way you do
Well I may be common people but I'm your brother
And when you strike out and try to hurt me its a-hurtin' you.

There are people on reservations and out in the ghettos
And brother there but for the grace of God go you and I
If I only had the wings of a little angel
Don't you know I'd fly to the top of the mountain, and then I'd cry.

Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes
And before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Taxes

We work our poor fingers to the bone (some, like my Dad did that literally). We trudge to work with aching backs and sore feet just to make ends meet. Then, we have a big chunk of our hard-earned money as forceably stripped away from us as if it were done by a mugger in a dark alley. Is this right?

Yes.

It is not in our animal nature to voluntarily give up 1% of our income for others, let alone 10%-25% or more. The amount I would voluntarily give up would not be enough to feed even one person for 365 days. And old man Jones (everyone's neighbor to the west)? That SOB wouldn't give the fleas off his dog to feed the hungry without a gun to his head.

Altruism, in any amount close to providing for the common defense and promoting the general welfare of ourselves and our neighbors, just ain't possible for the human animal -- even the most religious ones.

The problem I have is not taxation. I recognize it as a necessary pain due to my selfish nature. The problem I have is that my taxes are controlled by those who have the power to use my money to fulfill their own selfish animal desires, e.g. the Presidential inauguration. Therefore, my hard-earned money fails to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and heal the sick -- the things I am willing to be "robbed" for.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Intimacy with God

Studying the Bible is fundamental, but many stop there. Knowing God's will is not enough. The Devil knows God's will. God expects us to do His will.

It is God's will for us us to love others -- the kind of love that requires "giving", not just emotion. We are directed towards the hungry, the thirsty, the ill, the naked and the lonely -- and not just with prayer. We are directed to provide real food, real drink and real clothing. This requires us to make real sacrifices -- physical, emotional, financial. Love without sacrifice is only (as Tina Turner sang) "a second-hand emotion".

These "others" are out there -- just visit any nursing home or homeless shelter. If we really want a true relationship with God, we will look for them. If we really want to become more intimate and connected with our Creator, we will find them -- for when we reach out and touch their faces, we touch the face of God.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

More on Love

A little more about love. The more "gut-wrenching" the emotion, the more likely it is our instincts at work -- not love.

This does not make our feelings or what they lead us to do for others any less wonderful. I thank God we have such strong instincts to help our family and others. Such instincts are beautiful and good -- and in truth, our species would soon die out without them. However, "love" is the greatest when the sacrifices come from cool-headed decisions rather than "gut-wrenching" emotion.

I know just how backward, counter-intuitive and just plain ugly this sounds -- but to be effective at "loving your neighbor", this logic has to be understood. If we wait until the condition of our neighbor "gut-wrenches" our hearts, we will seldom do anything for him or her. And then, what reward can we expect from God? He told us in the Bible that even the infidels do this.

Sharing bread with a neighbor for no other reason than that he's hungry is love, regardless of any emotion we have. We call that "caring", but that is only because the world does not expect us to do it unless we DO care. God expects us to do it whether we care or not. He even expects us to do it for our enemies. If we do not understand God's definition of love, the world's definition will allow us to justify our selfish tendency to only help others when it requires little or no sacrifice on our part.

God hates sin more than anything else, yet the Bible says that, "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." His love is our example. We are but clay and he is the potter -- yet he is willing to die for us. Would we be willing to sacrifice our lives for a clay pot? God was! That is why the Bible doesn't just say that "God loves" -- it says that "God IS love."

Purely unselfish love (sacrificial charity) is most likely an oxymoron for any living creature, including mankind. There will always be a motive -- which, by strict definition, renders the act unaltruistic. However, the less that our instincts drive our good deeds, the more that they will have to be credited to choice -- thereby being the greater sacrifice of our time, money, whatever.

It may seem like I make a big deal out of "love" being understood correctly. I DO! I am persuaded that there is no more important concept a person can get from the Bible. When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, his answer was to "love" your God and to "love" your neighbor -- "LOVE". He taught that such agape (giving) love fulfilled all the law and prophesies that ever existed.

From the Sermon on the Mount to the parable of the Good Samaritan, during his entire ministry on earth, Christ taught us that sacrificial, agape love was a duty. Then, he gave us the ultimate definition by taking our penalties upon Himself and dying in our place while asking for the Father to forgive those who tortured and spit upon Him.

It was God dying for clay pots. It was love beyond our understanding, because we cannot imagine why one would or should die for clay pots. There is nothing to gain in doing that and everything to lose. It goes against our instincts. That kind of describes the word "sacrifice", doesn't it? But -- love requires sacrifice. Without sacrifice, love is, like Tina Turner sang, "just a second-hand emotion".