Bookshelf Christians: A Theology of the Book of Eli

I sat in my room the other night and viewed the Book of Eli, a film featuring Danzel Washington and Gary Oldman.  In this post-apocalyptic drama Eli (Washington) has been commissioned to preserve the Bible after an apparent world-wide attempt to destroy every copy of it.   In contrast, Carnegie (Oldman) wants to wrestle it away from Eli in order to put it to good use, like being able to control the weak and ignorant masses.   Albeit a mean and violent blind Samurai-like figure, Eli is the good guy presumably.  He is the opposite of  Carnegie and his henchmen who rule the wastelands on a policy of murder, rape, pillage, and plunder.  Eli saves the day and himself by taking the Bible west, which he has memorized, where it gets printed and put on a shelf.

Practical Christians want to change the world, even sometimes through the misguided means of coercion and violence.  We have been through this drama before: The Inquisition, the Salem Witch Hunts, the Crusades, and the wars and squabbles of religion of the past centuries.

Did these holy convulsions make the world a better place?  Nope.  A radical outcome once the sacred dust of contempt, violence, and discord settled was that the world as a whole and the powers that be no longer look up on the church for wisdom as to how to change the current mess we are in.  Correspondingly, many Christians have retreated to a form of quietism, a privatized secluded religion on the underground.  Bookshelf Christians I call them.  They happily contemplate their Bibles resting on a shelf and only casually if ever, entertain  the foggiest idea as to how, if ever, it is supposed to make the world a viable haven for humanity.  Bookshelf Christians domesticate Jesus and the Gospel by cutting off any input to the outside world.  They talk only to themselves in categories that only they can understand.  Like Eli, they are blind to the implications of the Bible towards the wider culture.   In the meanwhile, the God’s Holy Book continues to gather dust unabated.

The alternative is to have the righteous revolutionaries of Biblical morality launch a campaign of indignation with the aim of shoving Biblical principles down people’s throat. The Bible then becomes a tool for compelling  conformity.  It’s our way or the highway to hell. It doesn’t work.  It can’t work.  Jesus was a stranger to power politics. He didn’t attempt to Christianise the power structures of his day. He didn’t boycott sinners.  He didn’t practice censorship of the lost, the least, or the left-out.  His religion wasn’t about controlling the meek and the weak.  Religionistas Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and John Hagee want to fight their enemies and if necessary, kill or hurl them in prison, all in the name of defending the Bible, praise God.  Contrast that with God’s humble servant, the man Christ who sacrificed his life for his enemies instead of casually blasting them to pieces.

We need a hybrid Christian.  People with the passion of both Carnegie and Eli, but whose means and ends to achieve justice in the world are at the polar opposite of oppression and violence.  Passivity won’t cut it.  The Bible isn’t going to grow legs any time soon by sitting on a bookshelf.  Employing coercion to get people saved or at least have them conform outwardly to Biblical morality will usually backfire.  Without aiming for  a transformation of the heart, the best we can do is fashion prolific, self-righteous pharisees whose use (and abuse ) of religion will make people want to rebel and look down on their inferiors. The victims of holy-than-thou characters normally end up crucified.  Jesus would have none of this.  We need balance.  We need passion and purpose without wielding the piercing sword of judgmentalism and self-righteousness.  Religion as dogma can be a weapon  for manipulation.   We must have God’s religion of love and the Spirit in order to experience true liberation, beauty, and due justice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frankenstein 

It’s not only mad scientists who create monsters.  We all potentially can engineer them out of the unresolved and pathological distortions of our lives.  It’s the Frankenstein effect and it can potentially happen to anyone. Lodged deep in the human persona lie a constellation of malevolent and benevolent forces. These forces are all endowed with possibilities, as ripples impacting space beyond the center.

A phenomenon of modernity is the supremacy of the individual.  As such we exalt in the gospel of personal sovereignty and infinite choices. Yet we can not escape the reality that our actions do affect others for good or ill.  The unintended consequences of our long reaching ignorance, maladies, prejudices, and biases are seen frequently in rogue politicians , dysfunctional children, oppressive  economic systems, and pathological love partners. We like to assign blame to these freaks and I have to admit , plenty of them are blameworthy . Yet somehow we helped create them.

Al-Queda and Isis arose out of the power vacuum created by the massively incompetent and misguided policy of regime change in Iraq.  Misinformed laws have kept petty drug users locked up in prison when they could otherwise benefit from treatment.  The failure to bring addicts back to health has only exacerbated their condition since as branded criminals they will be less likely to rehabilitate and hence will cause more harm and cost more money in the long haul.  By the same token penal institutions become schools of crime where the sole aim is to get tough and throw away the key.  People become worse when all hope for healing and restoration is taken away from them. Public schools churn out petulant and spoiled brats with a  grand sense of entitlement and a thin sense of responsibility and discipline.  Lovers who start out as gentle can and do turn abusive stemming from the negativity and relentless bullying of their partners.  Unstable persons prime others for the same ills they are guilty of.  Abuse begets abuse.  Hopeless and desperate societies have been known to spawn destructive demagogues ( Hitler is the classic example).  Bad parents who neglect and torment their kids are surprised when later in life their kids are a mirror image of themselves.

Hardly a human behavior leaps out of a vacuum . We are social, interconnected beings whose motives and drive to action stem from the deeply ingrained attributes of our forebears (genes) our from social input (learning) .  Before you ready your sword that will slay the monster, please do a bit of soul searching to figure out its origin. Perhaps we elected him (or her) out of insecurity and fear.  You are stuck with a deviant lover. Tough. Ask yourself if in fact you contributed to him or her becoming what they are or he/she is merely a product of your lust and poor judgment.

Please note.  I am not absolving the monsters from personal responsibility.  Insomuch as they posses conscious awareness they are responsible and as such they must be held to account. We made them. We have to deal with them. But  we must understand that our influence on others do play a role on what they turn out to be.  The bitterly cynical and angry teacher more than likely will have a class that reflects who he is, minus due respect.   Withhold love and appreciation and attention and be stunned to discover that your spouse has found it elsewhere to the detriment of your relationship.  If you are single, who you are will most likely determine who you attract rather than who you desire.  If you are a freak, guess who is going to hinge to you?  I’m talking in probability terms here.  Let’s no surrender to fatal inevitability. 

Mad genius isn’t a virtue.  The same brilliance that gave us vaccines and moon travel also created the atomic bomb and designer illicit drugs.  The evil we sow today will rise up its ugly head.  Karma has a long hand and long lasting memory.  Be nice. Be good and prayerful.  You might  never know how your character shapes your surroundings and your future. Are you like the dragon who summons  monsters out of the sea ( Revelation 13), or like the King who overcomes them? ( Revelation 19). Are you a source for goodness and healing in the world, or are you presently brewing the toxic chemicals that will hatch monsters?

 

 

 

Quit Asking Jesus Into Your Heart

“Accept Jesus into your heart so you can go to heaven when you die.”

First of all , if Jesus doesn’t invite you into his heart , no amount of asking him will do.  You will remain lost and bound to face the dangerous holiness of God in the upcoming eschatological judgment.  

No one can come to me unless the Father draws him.” John 6:44

Second. In America today asking Jesus into one’s own heart has acquired almost the status of mantra or the Protestant equivalent of placing faith in crucifixes and holy water. 

Third. Ask Jesus into your heart is an expression foreign to the New Testament.   Neither Jesus nor the Apostles ever preached that way. It is a misguided strategy since it ignores the heavy demands of Jesus to totally surrender to him, even to die.  Another thing.  Jesus not only wants to be in our hearts , but in our minds too. And reality is that many Christains are scarecrow believers, all emotions and no mind.  Christ is absent from their brain matter. These Christains could never begin to tell others about Jesus because they do not even understand nor care to know the ABC’s of the faith.  

Fourthly . And then there’s the matter of inviting Jesus into church (Revelation 3:20). Why is Jesus not invited to church?  Ask and look around and you will eventually discover that Jesus isn’t a member of some churches. He was either sacked or never invited over.  Christ-less churches is perhaps in keeping with the phenomenon of all the things we want lacking in our lives. Sugar-free, caffeine -free, gluten-free, preservative-free, hassle-free, religion-free, God-free.  Godless.  By all indications, godless is what some Chriatsians are because they invited Jesus into their hearts one time but Jesus never made it through inside.  He was locked out by a rebel heart and disposition.  And so it goes that these Christains have a reputation of being thieves,  liars, cheaters, homophobes, and racists and are still loved and accepted by congregations. In reality these folk are simply homophobes, racists, cheaters, liars , and thieves who think they are Christains.

Fiftly and last.  Going to heaven when you die is hardly the be-all,  end-all of the Christ Way.  This reductionism merely presents the faith in the lowest common denominator, namely to gain security, a form of buying fire insurance to forestall falling into that awful hot place .  What about the other things essential for a hard, painful , and sweaty path towards discipleship ?  Those directives of Jesus that ask us to follow him sacrifically are usually left out in evangelistic efforts, or rendered almost invisible by the tiny print at the bottom of a leaflet. Jesus is about everything, not just heaven and bliss.  If we profess Christ we have to question our motives to discover the real reasons we are drawn to Christ.  Possibilities might be that the Christ we profess is not the Christ we posses: 

Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith” 2 Corinthians 13:5

I never knew you. Depart from me” Matthew 7:21-23

Quit telling Jesus to come into your heart.  Pray to him instead that he allows you into his heart because in the end that’s the action of God which saves. 

The Guy Who Wouldn’t Stay Dead

HE IS RISEN.  Matthew 28:6

A man who dies and comes back alive is up to something.   

The riddle of all ages has been cracked.  The resurrection of the Son of God opens up brand new possibilities for life’s meaning now and the future.  His advent from deathland points to a loving God who made a universe of intricate beauty and boundless goodness and vows to heal and restore it (Romans 8).  Our existence is no mere laboratory for philosophical materialists.  Death is not final and total. Matter alone can’t be the supreme value where everything else hinges.  The Christ Way isn’t exclusively about pie in the sky for when we die: It’s about EVERYTHING.

Had Christ stayed dead we could have surmised he stood for religious ideas rather than immortality and bliss.  We have numerous religions, spiritualities , and figureheads.  Some of them defunct, some barely clinging to life, and others, like the Big Five ( Islam, Christianity, Hinduism , Buddism, and Judaism) claiming devotees by the millions.   Yet only one  arose from the conviction that its founder slew death itself and passed on the other side , alive.   Therefore all religions can not be equal.  Anybody can be born, but not everybody can rise from the death.  If Christ truly is alive , it follows that he unlike the others, negotiates a broader spectrum of reality and  resists the strait jacket of adhering to impersonal religious maxims that have no correspondence to real life. 

This Easter Sunday people will be in pews tuning in to preachers rant about how we can resuurect our finances, bring to life stray children hooked on drugs, resuurect  a new career and opportunities after a stint in the slammer, about twelve steps to jolt our marriage back from the death (if you can jerk your corpse spouse out of bed , don’t miss that one) , and about how we can revive a snuffed out romantic flame from the throes  of weeping and heart break. 

All good and dandy.  We have mastered the language of resurrection to fancy our individualism and egotism.  We have gained proficiency at exploiting Christ’s resurection to sooth our egos and promote our causes.  Nothing wrong with trying to make relevant the message of Scripture. The New Testament speaks broadly about the implications of  Easter for advancing hope in the world: curing AIDS, feeding starving children with bloated bellies, preventing war.  But we shouldn’t start with the human element. The resurrection of Christ is not primarily about us , mind you .  It is foremost about Christ and his upcoming project for all creation.   The resurection is not advice. It won’t teach you how to weave more colorful patterns on Easter eggs. It is a Royal announcement that someone immortal , yet like us, is in charge and intends to undo deviant hearts and rescue a lost world steadily spiraling into the jaws of sin and death.  

Locos, Locas

According to the medical intelligentsia, one out of five Americans  suffers from a mental disease.  It follows that if  you are in a room with four other people and they seem normal, you are the crazy one.

We can’t escape addressing mental illness without plunging into taboo territory.  It is hardly flattering to be regarded as crazy in all its permutations.   In an alternative universe crazy could have merit, but last I heard, distorted minds deserve our concern, even derision.

atomic clownAtomic Clown. Google Images 2016

Mental disorders are as real as cancer and diabetes.  To deny their existence is to delve into denial and a callous surrender of concern and compassion.   As a matter of procedure it takes the keen maneuvering of a lawyer to pin point insanity, if it was a legal context where mental competency was at stake, and only a shrink could competently expose the psychotic among us. Outside of the domain of legals and medics, designating a person as mentally ill is as daunting as trying to pin jello to a wall. Either you are crazy and you don’t know it.  Even scarier is that you are and everything about your weirdness causes detriment to the rest of us.   One option is that you have lost touch with reality while cruising in  Lulu Land.  You think you are Napoleon incarnate, the Muffin Man, or the next Diva to be.

If we inspect longer and deeper, we will realize that more people are bordering into crazy than appears to be the case.  It could be us.  For example, one way we portray mental instability is the way we go about pursuing romance and singleness.  It is possible to pursue singleness with the radicalism of a homophobic hermit and social outcast.  You want nothing to do with your fellow men and are inclined to decline friendship and love.  You are unwilling and unable to be vulnerable and intimate.

Crazy Love

Have you ever observed a friend or acquaintance and question  their viability as loving partner?  Men and women go about thinking they deserve the One who will “save” them, who will fulfill all sensual and material fantasies.  It is easy to have Cinderella dreams and visions given the constant barrage of propaganda to which we are exposed, but reality is a different slice of cake.   The Prince in shining armor might be no other than a deranged fool wrapped in aluminum foil.  Get over it.  It is not going to happen.  Even if you managed to get married to Jesus, he would deconstruct your romance fantasies.  Jesus didn’t always attempt to solve people’s illusions , capriciousness, or problems (Luke 12:14, Matthew 20:21).  What would Jesus do?  He would rather you engage in serious soul searching and ask that you remain single because the heat of marriage and love would burn you.

Admittedly there are times when we can’t ask for help.  We have crossed a threshold.   We are in danger, hoisted on the thread of insanity beyond the pale .  Some forms of personality are merely manifestations of full fledged madness.  The more people you are connected to, the more you will spot crazy. Inevitably people’s frame of mind have a way to transfer to relationships. Relationships can be lethal.  Love, literally, does and often kills.  But don’t hurry to shift blame and point the accusatory bony finger.  Your man or woman may not be fully cognizant of their actions, or if they are, they lie below the radar of responsible awareness. The Christian duty is to get help for them.  A common caricature is that guys stay insane until about age thirty, after which they grow up and stop looking for a mom. On the flip side, girls sink into mental illness once a month, depending on hormonal fluctuations.  Stereotypes as these have a ring to it, if you happen to fall within the spectrum of dozed mentality or you know someone who does.

Fear Factor

And then there is the fear factor.  You might not be mentally ill. Your problems lie in the relentless preoccupation with all things fearmongering.  It may look like this: you are hunkered down on your own world, isolated and paranoid, believing that the world conspires against you.  We all have our fears and foibles.  Yet beyond the curve of normality exists this extreme condition called paranoia and psychosis of fear.

Fear is one phenomenon that we love to exploit or we abhor to have.  As long as I have been alive I have been told that there is something to fear.  Many  fears (terrorism, ISIS, Alqada, Swine Flu, UFO’s,  Ebola, the IRS, Global Warming, communism, and even bacon), prove eventually to be unfounded, based on statistically insignificant data or half-baked understanding of real facts.  Unscrupulous media pundits and politicians know all too well how to dig into people’s emotions that they venture into playing fear games in order to manipulate the uniformed, naïve, and impressionable masses as a means to bolster support, votes, purchases, and ratings.

If you are devoted to finding things to fear, be my guest, the world has plenty horror in it for you to freak out.  Is it fearful to be single?  It will be fearful if you want it to be: think of the night-long loneliness, the silence, the possibility of perpetual isolation.    Maybe you are one of the commitment phoebes and you can’t get around to forming meaningful relationships.  The reason?  You don’t believe anybody is worthy of you.  You are afraid.  You fear rejection, intimacy, and genuine love.  You are afraid that love will lead to your undoing.  That is a real possibility, but have you thought of the alternatives?  Staying single can lead to your demise.  Isolation has never been an optimal condition in terms of promoting longevity.  Married people outlive singles.

If I were you, I’d ensure my mental affairs are in working order.  A wholesome and meaningful life flows from a healthy mind.   So long as there is a way out to redemption and healing, there  is no shame in the admission that we are sick in the mind. Ignorant and cruelly stupid people would use your condition against you  in order to shame and humiliate. If that is the case, know that the Devil has good allies in the accusatory leagues and is therefore in your best interest that you prayerfully stay away from negative forces that detract, rather than enhance your happiness.  Life could be a lot more significant if your state of mind anchored on health and virtue rather than vice and self-destructiveness.   Life is worth living on sanity’s side.  Make it count.  We have enough of madness already.

 

 

The World’s Most Dangerous Name

lambCredit: Google Images, 2016

I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!  For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”  Revelation 6:12-17

 

Utter the name of Christ in a crowded room, among polite company, inside a business meeting.  Wait and watch the awkwardness, the tension, the sweaty palms, the raised eyebrows, the sneers.  What is it about that name?  Does it denote shame, anger, disgust, holier-than-thou self-righteous propaganda the speaker is trying to push on everyone else?

In the post Christian West, no less than in America, the name of Jesus Christ has become synonymous with cursing and cussing and blatant contempt either against real and imagined enemies, the system, politicians, the insane driver who cut us off, bad luck, uncongenial circumstances, bad weather, a cheating spouse, etc…. It is the grand intrigue of history that Christ’s influence in human affairs has extended to the domain of profanity.   Jesus has to posses something pretty darn remarkable about him in order for his name to be used as a term of derision millenia later.  Can anyone imagine the name of Buddha or Mohammed employed in  similar fashion?  In the case of Mohammed, expect your name to be added to a death list should you dare to cuss Islam’s prophet.

The name of Christ threatens us.   Christ’s name invokes accountability.  We know of Christ the Savior.  Many people are fed up with that already. We have turned salvation vocabulary into meaningless and sentimental platitudes and slogans on bumper stickers:  “I got saved from working overtime this weekend,” “I got saved from my demon husband by divorcing him,”  “I got saved from the IRS,” “DANGER: SAVED AND RAPTURE READY.”   We pay sufficient lip service to the notion of Christ the Savior and salvation from sin that we don’t believe it anymore because we are uncritical consumers of religion, not disciplined followers. Or we take Christ for granted.  Admitting that we need salvation implies we have a problem, a sin problem, and sin by all practical purposes, is regarded by the current intelligentsia as seriously passe, an old fashioned idea whose time and progress has rendered irrelevant in light of modern science, education, and overall human enlightenment.  So we think.

A nagging feeling persists about Jesus Christ.  The doubts and suspicion about him hasn’t stop public dialogue and debate. It is not going to stop anytime soon.  Jesus is disturbing.  He was dangerous to the social establishment of his time to the degree of being designated a threat to public order.  He wasn’t merely promoting a new form of religious experience (the Romans could careless about Jesus’ new private spirituality), he was creating a brand new platform of human existence affecting every area of life both private and public.  Little wonder he got himself executed. All that talk about him being the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  It sounds arrogantly exclusive and narrow minded and we can’t live with that. The ancients could not handle that claim either. We want our options open, our religions tolerant, our lifestyles free from religious constraints.

Jesus challenges all of that.  Jesus remains a danger, firm and final because he is in charge now and his moral compass guides the universe (Matthew 28:18).  If that were not so, anything goes.  Let’s lie, cheat and steal with no consequence. Let’s murder. Let’s engage in child rape and human sacrifice.  In the great scheme of things of an amoral universe, Hitler and Mother Theresa would be equals. But the boundaries have been drawn.  There are parameters to living in God’s creation.  Everything we say and do is of consequence.  The baby Jesus in the manger, the pet Jesus, the meek and mild One and feeder of thousands doesn’t present an imminent danger to our peace of mind and prospects for the future.  We treat him more as fire insurance than Lord.

It is rather the Christ of judgment, the wrathful Lamb, the Christ with the whips at the Temple in Jerusalem who is unsettling.  Christ as judge we find both uncomfortable and disturbing,  inglorious to a degree that make us squirmy, furious and indignant.   This is the Christ we find unbecoming, unpalatable, unwelcoming.  This is the Jesus Christ who pierces our ego and look upon as the great cosmic kill-joy, the disrupter of our show and status quo, the arbiter who won’t let us get away with our dreams of selfish ambitions and self- determination.  We don’t want to embrace him in the mode of judge and critic.  Until then, Christ will continue to resemble us modern self-designated civilized decent folk: Tame and tolerant and tenacious when it comes to getting our way in the world.   Human nature resists transformation and eschews insecurity and threats.  So long as Christ stays dangerous, we will hide from him at our own peril.  How then can we be saved?

Idolaters R US

I am the Lord, and there is no other;
    apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
    though you have not acknowledged me,
so that from the rising of the sun
    to the place of its setting
people may know there is none besides me.
    I am the Lord, and there is no other.”

Isaiah 45:5-6

How odd is God.  Evidently incomparable given he is the invisible Entity who has left us  no unambiguous trace of his existence, except for a handful of written witnesses illustrating what he is up to.  Ask anyone who has struggled with the idea of God.  It would seem he casts himself as arbitrary and unapproachable.  We can warrant some level of critique regarding those notions. God hasn’t made his reality as slam dunk as mathematical proof.  Clues exist out there of some ultimate purpose, of mystery, of ultimate intelligence and goodness, all variably open to interpretation.  Are we missing out on something?  Shouldn’t God be visible and tangible?  Maybe that kind of God would be susceptible to manipulation and abuse, not unlike this past week’s baby dolphin craze.

http://mainenewsonline.com/content/16027043-video-shows-how-ignorance-led-killing-endangered-baby-dolphin

Image result for baby dolphin news

God let me take a selfie with you in it!   Wouldn’t we suffocate him in the attempt to rub shoulders, literally?    Where could we possible contain him should there be no boundaries between him and us ?    How we approach God demonstrate the extent of our deviance.  Should he be like us, compliant to our whims and lack of restraint, God would be subject to our domestication: have him wear a male bikini while shirtless and flexing muscles at the beach, have him sit  for an interview and queue him with a barrage of silly questions, Instagram him on 360 degree views, paparazzi him, invite him over for pizza and beer and request that he pull a few tricks off his sleeve, have him endorse and glamorize our favorite Sunday morning religion, endorse our fashion and fads, have him bless the wonderful purpose of our lives…..

Trouble is we humans tend to swing to the polar of depraved thinking and disposition.   For many the opposite of the Midas touch is norm, rather than the exception. We tend to destroy and harass what we touch.  Why, we want to franchise and take advantage of every golden opportunity, even when our understanding and intentions are misguided.  We want God to be our idol, not our Lord.  The tendency of mortals is to craft God in our image and likeness:  The God of my religion. The God of my ring-wing/left-wing politics. The God of my capitalist economy. The God of my flag. The God of my tribe.  The God of my romance. The God of ME.

The quest to subject  and acquire things represent relentless and coveted pursuits that keep achievers (and alas thieves!) awake at night.  The temptation to reach transcendence, Godhood, divinity, whatever, has not reasonable let up for those with ulterior ambitions. Granted the opportunity, some would seek to dethrone God (Isaiah 14:14; Genesis 3:6,22).  God resists that.  A line has to be traced, not just in religion, but in every aspect of living.  God won’t be confined. He can’t.  We expect kids to grow up and become adults, not the reverse.  God abhors walls of limitation and  vetoes down boxes of neat categorization that dictate what he ought and not to do (i.e. God should answer every prayer, stop every hurricane, grant me this job right now). We think we have God all figured out and safely tucked in our Bible on that sanctimonious two hour block weekend charade. Not so.  God is loose and dangerous. He doesn’t think he is us. The world constitutes God’s arena for the display of his power, not the circus ring where he juggles to our endless entertainment and pleasure, on demand. He is the Lion of the jungle, not the bird in the cage. The wholly Other God refuses to be our pet, the baby dolphin on the sun-drenched beach.  My proposal therefore is that to get our religion right, we ought to let God be God.

 

 

Why I believe in God

I believe in God because I want to.  It makes sense.  An extra intelligence other than ours human, is not only feasible, it’s probable.  If this universe of things and atoms contains mind and consciousness, could it be that such phenomenon lies outside the physical plane of existence as well?  This is no abstract, philosophical treatise for armchair theologians.  I am more interested in the personal God, the relational being who is named and who is called.  Beauty, truth, and goodness constitute not merely the catalogue of virtues we strive to attain, but they also point to the reality of another world.  Sure enough, God has not made his existence  obvious. He is the invisible God. The God we can not see or touch.   We have heard rumors and words.  We have clues in the oracles of prophets and priests and preachers of bygone eras who heard and wrote messages from this God.

The decisive evidence for me, however, is this guy named Jesus. Yes, Jesus Christ, the century first Jewish carpenter and intemperate trouble maker.  He says God is real.  More importantly, he says this God cares and in fact made everything for a purpose.  I believe in God because Jesus Christ has made him credible and compelling.  For me, Christ proves the existence of God.   Why, Christ is the human face of God, God as personal and loving, God as father and master and not merely a religious idea or an idol of our crafting.  If this God is living and personal, then he is worthy of adoration.  The alternative is to live in peril, in less than human terms.  To be truly human, we must know God and his Christ. Good news is, our work is cut out for us.  He has taken the initiative to make himself known.  What are we waiting for…….

If Only God Hand Picked a Mate For Me

  
If God hand picked a mate for you you might not be pleased with the outcome.  

Hosea 1:2-3

“Go and take for you and adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness because the land is guilty of adultery in the vilest form.”

No. That’s not a typo.  It’s not a misprint.   God did tell one guy one time to marry a hooker.  Weird , whacky, and wild , uh!  This story constitutes one of the most salacious dramas in the whole Bible, involving the respectable Man of God and his vice bride.  Think of it.  Hosea is single and well qualified, possessing a distinguished and impeccable prophetic resume.  But the air is about to be sucked out of his guts :  he is commanded to hinge with a virtual prostitute (Hosea 3:3).  How’s that as a an option to enhance his career and life ?  Can you picture the expression in his peers’ and parents ‘ face?

Wanna reconsider the single life again? 

I’m adamant about my stance that God refuses to micromanage anybody’s life.  But poor Hosea disproves my point , right , because God told him exactly who to marry.  Well in life there’s this thing called exemptions.  Not all is black or white out there.   Fifty shades of grey is more than a fictional novel .  God does draw outside the lines sometimes and unless we are dealing with the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, many things are simply not set in stone .  Even the six hundreds plus commandments of the Torah don’t cover every single aspect of living . We are supposed to fill in the blanks. We must employ our inner moral compass based on that which carries a proven track record for maximizing and enhancing life and happiness:

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praise worthy, think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). 

I take it that God expects us to avail ourselves of informed and sanctified common sense when making critical life choices such as whom to marry.  The rules are not loose and open for negotiation , however.  The parameters are firm and not in flux:

“Don’t be unequally joked with unbelievers ” ( 2 Corinthians 6:14).

Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons” 

Deuteronomy 7:3).  

Simple enough. If that guy or gal doesn’t love Christ and his Word, ditch them.  Fill in the rest.  God isn’t going to finish your homework.   If you are waiting on God to show you by happenstance, vision, dream, or prophetic oracle about the identity of the One, you might as well plan for perpetual bachelorhood .   Take initiative .  Quit being indecisive.  Go out and meet people where people gather.  No not the bar. Not the whore house.  Stay out of the Devil’s Den.   Butterflies don’t hang out in swamps and bat infested dark caves.  They will suck out your blood.  Try the flower fields.   Not all churches are necessarily virtue clubs, but if you find singles there , chances are they aren’t there to be cured of a hangover or needing exorcism.  So I suggest you try the church house and strike out the Penthouse or Big House.  

Desist in having God as your personal life coach.  If God were to give you everything you asked, at your whims and preferences, who would be God?   The difference between God and us is that God doesn’t think he is us.    Give it up .  Get a life.  Make some tough choices.  Take a risk for love. If romance isn’t for you get a puppy , a hobby , a job and go on a quest to conquer the world .  The world is in need of fighters , not wimps and consumers.   

If God has a larger , more strategic purpose for your life, then he might well ask you to marry a shady character, an ex con, a single parent or whatever .  But that isn’t going to happen unless your ears are tuned in and adjusted to hear from God.   You and God have got to be aligned on the same wavelength so that you can discover his will.   And although the Hosea saga may be a one of a kind event , never -to-be-repeated occurrence,  you never will understand what the Lord in his wisdom has laid out for you unless you care to follow orders and be faithful .  

It’s not as complicated as it seems.  

Why doesn’t God do anything about my predicament ?  You gotta be kidding me .  Why don’t you?   You have two healthy legs, start walking !    Ten fingers can accomplish a lot , have you tried them lately?   The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work.   Try work . Rumor has it it leads to results. God won’t assume responsibility for all all your choices.   Are you prepared if he pulled a Hosea out his sleeve?  I’m using faulty logic here ( and who uses logic anymore?).   It doesn’t follow that because you surrender will power that God is going to assume control .   No. You are in control .   You are simply misguided.   You are at the wheel.  But not without a reliable guide .   The plan is already published .  Don’t be doing the lame thing of conjuring up your own plan and expecting God to endorse it.   You get aligned with what God is doing.   The path isn’t farther than those 1400 pages of holy Writ.  That’s a good place to start.  

In Lust We Trust: Jerking Off To Porn And The Quest To Call It Quits

You can not blame masturbation on porn. When I was younger I used to masturbate to Gilligand Island.

— Ron Jeremy

Known as the Tom Cruise of porn, Mr. Jeremy is all too keen in the fine of art of spinning provocative, sensational rhetoric in order to score public relations points, or merely to advance his personal image and that of the almighty porn industry, which at this historical juncture generates more dollars than all professional sports combined.  Granted, masturbation is as old as time and people have been exploring their genitalia long before Columbus set sail into the New World.  The sex industry did not invent masturbation anymore than Coca Cola invented thirst. Jeremy’s witty apologetic, however, doesn’t not address the complex interplay of sex as entertainment and the range of psychological phenomenon that inflicts on consumers.  I suspect that porn in its current manifestation does have something to do with masturbation. I would venture to say that porn as entertainment is designed to condition us to do something about it.  Its ever growing quest and ambition is the selling of lustful thrill and fantasy. And if it gets you to masturbate, then all the better because in all likelihood you’ll  be coming back for more.

Sex sits at the core of our identity.  The very question of who am I entails something of our sexuality: either I am a homo sapiens with a penis, or one with a vagina.  Genital self-discovery and exploration is an integral part of psycho-sexual development (think Freud).  Good and dandy. It is called human nature.  Before we have sex we fantasize about it, we masturbate, we talk and poke fun and manage to be embarrassed about this odd, reproductive thing.  Most of us are here because of sex and that likely is not going to change for a while.  People turn to porn out curiosity or because of the need to satisfy biological urges.  Single guys and gals understand this impulse all too well and only the most courageous will admit that dipping into porn had a way of relieving sexual tension, loneliness, and boredom.  Nothing wrong with sexual desire.  We were created to desire sex.  Human existence has persisted because of it, get over it.

But porn is another picnic table. It comes as intrusion into our consciousness. Sex is a biological function, but porn is a human construct, a form of art, a way of expressing who we are, even when it leaves nothing to the imagination.  Porn is also a drug. It works on the same principle. You have to use it to get you to a high, so to speak. The purveyors of porn are well aware of this, which explains why porn has exploded exponentially as a business enterprise.  The risk inherent in this type of recreation, like drugs, is that sooner or later the brain (the most influential sex organ) demands new thresholds of visual stimulation  to reach a high. The dynamics of addictions are such that you can’t never really settle to a comfortable level. You are not likely to say, “enough porn for today.” The more the use and abuse, the greater the tolerance  and hence the demand. You are hooked.  Your very existence has been altered and fragmented on a sexual grid.

Because it is designed to provoke and advance the cause of lust, porn facilitates masturbation. People find it exciting coming to orgasm by voyeuring  into strangers having sex on the screen.  Viewers find porn alluring because it strokes an inner need: the need to merge with and belong to another human being.  Yet  I can’t help but see porn as reductionistic of what sex is meant to be.  In porn, the sex is highly mechanical, impersonal, and detached.  Performers are paid to have sex and they may in fact be complete strangers to each other.  Porn radically shifts our perception of  manhood and womanhood, making it easier to regard them as sex objects and trophies.

Another problem I see with porn is it rattles your sexual appetite to a rude awakening, overriding the natural libido fluctuations that occur day in and out.  Unless you are suffering from some form of sexual dysfunction, you normally won’t have the constant longing for sex. You are not always thinking about it.  You have a job, you have bills to pay, family to attend to, friends with whom to bond, an exercise routine, and the like.  But using porn challenges all of that.  It forces your body into sexual action whether your hormonal state is ready or not.  Because your libido is intertwined with testosterone, masturbating to orgasm tends to deplete it, unless of course you are having sex, in which case testosterone logs a boost. If  you half-paid attention to your biology and health and wellness courses in college, you will understand that testosterone is linked to having energy and vitality and a functional libido.   Lacking testosterone makes you fatigued, demotivated, and sleepy.  If your hand is constantly reaching down the belt, you mostly likely at a point where self-pleasuring become a matter of routine, perhaps evolving to an anatomical ritual. But wait. Because you are used to masturbating to porn, you can’t just get physical anywhere and everywhere. You got to find a safe, private place in order to carry out the deed.  It all seems pretty innocent. But what if you have a spouse and kids?   What if she walked into you doing it?  What if your boss, best friends, and even mom catches you red handed? Is the embarrassment worth it and what is going to be the likeliest of explanations?

You are doing yourself a disfavor. Masturbating to porn is most detrimental in that you will begin to sense an insidious force inside out of your control, compelling you to play with yourself compulsively and obsessively while disrupting and distorting  important aspects of your personal and social life. There is no lack of people complaining of their spouses or significant others blatant and persistent use of porn. There is something malevolent in missing work, skipping a date, lying to your mom, your friends, and wasting money because there is a string inside pulling you into isolation so that you can continue consuming and masturbating to porn without inconvenience. The anecdotal data is abundant out there that some people who masturbate to porn will often spiral out into deviancy, engage in self-deception and retreat into isolation all while sacrificing and substituting marital intimacy for self-seeking lust.  If you have kept your habit as a secret to your spouse, and you both begin to experience sexual dysfunction (because you can’t hump into action unless you are viewing porn), ask yourself if your behavior enhances the quality of life for all parties concerned. People do experience sexual dysfunction,  and it is not in your best interest that your particular dysfunction is self-induced due to repeated masturbation to porn. I am not invoking the fires of hell should you fail to repent or whatever. This is no Puritan anti-sex manifesto. But good sexual ethics in your person and relationships is a matter of personal and social justice. It is part and parcel of a strong, mature, and healthy mind and solid relationships that sex be kept clean and honorable. You owe it to yourself, and if married, to your spouse to have integrity in matters pertaining to sex. Substituting marital intimacy for the ever alluring prize of self-pleasuring will put you and others at risk, earning you contempt, shame, guilt, jail, divorce court, or all of the above.

Masturbation to porn is a sign of insecurity, of the inability and unwillingness to be transparent, to let your partner know about your sexual needs. While viewing porn, do you feel that your spouse is no match for the sexual exploits and acrobatics of the Ron Jeremys and his peers of sexual athletes? Porn actors are paid to perform. Their particular talents are noticed and awarded, but for some of them, it is at the expense of self-abasement prompted by a greedy porn industry more than willing to push porn actors to the limits in order to maximize fat wallets.  Injuries, psychological and emotional pain, and damaged reputations  keep good company with sexual performers.

If you are having to compel your partner into doing sex in ways he or she feels debased and ashamed it is high time for some serious soul searching. At the risk of sounding alarmist, let me underscore that you being an avid consumer of porn will tend to devalue yourself, your partner, and how you see the opposite sex. Sex is more than eating peanuts. It is not true, as Jeremy underscores sarcastically, that “sex is simple and love is painful.”  Mister Jeremy better understand that he is oversimplifying a complex issue. But as things roll in the entertainment sphere, the name of the game is promoting whatever earns money, even when the savvy pick-up lines and slogans are proven to be shallow at the core of the reality they are attempting to describe. I would caution anymore venturing to the alluring land of porn that self-pleasuring to porn WILL make your love painful. Masturbating to porn is bad sex plain and simple because it is self-focused. You are thinking of you and catering to your own pleasure. Many things damage love. Don’t let your solitary sexual activity be one of them.