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Play-doh Christianity and the Vanishing Cross

Play-doh Christianity and the Vanishing Cross

If you haven’t heard, the Rev. Rob Bell has a dire warning for the church in America.

It was against the backdrop of Ash Wednesday, in the still-numb reality of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians being martyred for their faith by monstrous Islamic terrorists that I first read about Bell’s pronouncement.

The Church was irrelevant. Christianity itself was becoming more irrelevant with every passing day that it did not embrace same-sex “marriage”.

More irrelevant. This supposedly Christian pastor told Oprah that it was only a matter of time, and he expected the Church to get over itself very soon or perish. He said that since that was the direction society was heading, it’s the direction Christianity needs to be heading as well. Otherwise, the faith founded upon the Eternal God and his Incarnate Son will simply disappear and be left behind.

“I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense…”

Alrighty, then. According to Bell, the inspired, holy Word of God is merely a collection of 2,000 year old letters which are no longer relevant to our modern culture. God is past His expiration date.

Bell’s disdain for the authority of Christ, for Sacred Scripture, and for the purpose and nature of marriage is all too clear, and I know I won’t persuade him otherwise today. But this characterization of the Church as an irrelevant body that is essentially prejudiced, woefully out of touch, and dying on the vine is just feeble, smarmy perfidy.

Bell is a little boy sitting at the table with his Play-doh. But rather than making planes or buildings or weird animals, he’s squishing together beliefs and opinions and preferences to form his own religion. He is the latest architect of Play-doh Christianity: those heretics who prefer a religion, fashioned by an ever-changing culture, in which the only true doctrine is there is no sin.

Since there is no sin, there’s no need for a Cross. No need for a Christ. No need to mention repentance at all. (Except to demand repentance of the sin of intolerance of all the culture says is good and necessary.)

Play-doh Christianity says that since God is love, then He happily allows whatever His children decide will make them happy, and bows to their conclusions about what is right and wrong. He serves at the pleasure of His children, from age to changing age. He bends with the times — or rather, they mold Him to the times and He cooperates — pliable, good-natured deity that He is.

play doh

Bell can have his happy-clappy, navel-centered religion and his wimpy god. He just can’t call it Christianity, and he can’t claim it’s the Church.

If Bell’s Play-doh creation was a jarring contrast to the profoundness of Ash Wednesday and those heroic men who clung to Christ when death was at their throats, it seems mild compared to the formless mound of doh being sculpted by the next “Reverend”.

Let me introduce you to John Schuck. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister and considers himself a Christian, despite the fact that he doesn’t believe in God.

He believes that Christianity is merely a human construct, like all religions; that Jesus Christ may have been a historical figure, but is mostly legend; the Bible is a human product and not the Divinely-inspired Word of God. In short, he says, he “regards the symbols of Christianity from a non-supernatural point of view.”

And by the way, he doesn’t appreciate being told he’s not really a Christian.

“Why is that so many people think my affirmations are antithetical to Christianity? I think it is because Christianity has placed all of its eggs in the belief basket. We all have been trained to think that Christianity is about believing things. Its symbols and artifacts (God, Bible, Jesus, Heaven, etc) must be accepted in a certain way. And when times change and these beliefs are no longer credible, the choices we are left with are either rejection or fundamentalism.”

(Again, God serves at the pleasure of the people and their changing times. Otherwise, how could he be credible?)

“I think of Christianity as a culture. It has produced 2,000 years of artifacts: literature, music, art, ethics, architecture, and (yes) beliefs. But cultures evolve and Christianity will have to adapt in order to survive in the modern era…”

(Mr. Shuck, ours is not the first era Christianity has “survived” and it will not be the last unless Jesus returns.)

“I believe one of the newer religious paths could be a “belief-less” Christianity. In this “sect,” one is not required to believe things. One learns and draws upon practices and products of our cultural tradition to create meaning in the present. The last two congregations I have served have huge commitments to equality for LGTBQ people and eco-justice, among other things. They draw from the well of our Christian cultural tradition (and other religious traditions) for encouragement in these efforts. I think a belief-less Christianity can be a positive good for society.

“Belief-less Christianity is thriving right now, even as other forms of the faith are falling away rapidly. Many liberal or progressive Christians have already let go or de-emphasized belief in Heaven, that the Bible is literally true, that Jesus is supernatural, and that Christianity is the only way. Yet they still practice what they call Christianity. Instead of traditional beliefs, they emphasize social justice, personal integrity and resilience, and building community. The cultural artifacts serve as resources.
“But what about belief in God? Can a belief-less Christianity really survive if God isn’t in the picture? Can you even call that Christianity anymore? In theory, yes. In practice, it is a challenge because “belief in God” seems to be so intractable. However, once people start questioning it and realize that they’re not alone, it becomes much more commonplace.”
“Since posting my article — and in response to my ministry in general — many have opened up to me that they didn’t believe in God but they liked coming to my church. One young woman, after going through my confirmation class, joined the church. She read her faith statement in front of the congregation. It was a powerful articulation of her social justice commitments in which she added that she didn’t believe in God. The congregation enthusiastically welcomed her, of course.”
“Someone quipped that my congregation is BYOG: Bring Your Own God. I use that and invite people to “bring their own God” — or none at all. While the symbol “God” is part of our cultural tradition, you can take it or leave it or redefine it to your liking. That permission to be theological do-it-yourselfers is at the heart of belief-less Christianity.”

your image hereBelief-less Christianity, in which there is no God but the one you bring with you, or none at all.
Have you ever read anything so dopey in your whole life?

When you get past the dopeyness of it, you recognize the melody. Same old song been sung since forever. “I shall not serve.”

Shuck’s Play-doh design goes way beyond Bell’s. Shuck has squished God out altogether. He simply clings to the name “Christian” for, what reason? Artifacts and resources?

It is Lent. The season set aside for reflection and contemplation of all that Jesus Christ suffered for our sakes. The season given to us as a time for purging and cleansing our lives of sin and obstacles to faith. The time when we are asked to follow Christ into the desert and in the silence, to listen and hear God.

It’s almost Holy Week; soon we will stand in solemn remembrance of a particular Friday in Jerusalem, long ago, when two pieces of wood became a bridge; became a Divine splint; became that thing Bell and Shuck have no use for any longer.

The “faith” Bell and Shuck preach is merely a vehicle for social justice according to their terms. It’s not a religion but a political and secular movement trading on God’s generosity and good nature.

But Christianity is first and foremost about the Cross.

There is no Christianity without Christ, and no Christ without the cross. There was no need for the cross except for our Redemption, and no need for that except for our sin. To preach Christianity without preaching repentance from sin and taking up your cross is just wicked babble.

Bell and Shuck both want a “Christianity” in which there’s no cross for them to carry, so first they must do away with the cross. Let us not speak of Calvary, they whisper. Let us not speak of sin. How ugly and accusing. God is looove!

God — whatever he may be to you, or nothing at all if you choose! — does not dwell on unpleasant things like rules, laws, right or wrong, good or evil. He cares only for your pleasure and satisfaction. All that offends him is the intractableness of some folks who insist that Jesus Christ is Lord; the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

It’s a very popular message in our culture today, where rights and opinions are paramount, and autonomy is inviolate. Obedience is a very bad word. Humility and reverence and sacrifice are spit out like sour milk. We’re quite sickened by the very concepts.

Bell’s and Shuck’s words sound very sweet indeed to ears itching for such pleasing affirmation and permission. Come, be your own god. Establish your own law. Determine for yourself what is good and what is not. Worship yourself. Worship your own ideals. Make social justice your religion, and by your own decree establish what justice means. Listen to the wisdom of the age and mold your god accordingly.

Bell and Shuck are fools handing out Play-doh to more poor fools who listen to them and start molding and squishing their own god.

Their malleable inventions will never save them. For that you need solid wood.

I’ll take the foolishness of the Cross over the wisdom of this world any day.

crucifixion“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 1 Cor 1:18-21,25

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The 5th Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion

The 5th Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion

“When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:33-34

“It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.” Luke 23:44-46

The fruit of the mystery is faithfulness to God.

This Sorrowful pilgrimage now brings me here to this lonely hill. All the agony, the beatings and the bleeding have led me somewhere I do not want to go; somewhere I resist going with all my might.

The bitter truth is this: I really don’t want to die.

Will I walk with You along this distressing road only to shrink in fear when the final moment comes? Lord, You know that is exactly what I do, time and time again. My spirit may be willing, but my flesh is so weak. I start out well enough and I pray “not my will, but Thine” because I love You. But then the choice comes, and I stop short of the dying. I choose to spare myself. human instinct kicks in. But in sparing myself, I lose my life.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Luke 9:23-24

Clearly, there’s no getting around it. Following You means dying.

It means the death of my own will; in small choices, in big decisions, in little ways, in old habits. It means relinquishing my right to myself, over and over again, day after day.

What does a heart really sound like when it has died to itself? It sounds like this: “I am at His disposal – He can do with me just as it pleaseth Him, without even a thought of consulting me. I just want to be His own little one – if He so wants, otherwise I will be happy to be just nothing and He everything.”

How does a face look when the self has given up its rights? Like this: “Take whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.”

Those are the words of Your faithful servant, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. She put hands and feet to those words every single day while privately enduring the darkest interior pain. Is that kind of faithfulness within my grasp?

I am most definitely not Mother Teresa. My vocation is quite different, but the call is the same: take up my cross and follow Jesus. I’m still being called to die.

Today, my dying looks a lot like the mundane, thankless, routine tasks that I have no motivation to accomplish. Dying is me choosing patience and kindness; dying is being faithful in little things. Dying is me forgiving the one who has hurt me – really forgiving; no grudge, no animosity, no hope of vindication, just release.

Dying is me, freely and generously, choosing someone else ahead of myself. Dying is making a sacrifice that hurts, and doing it with a full heart, asking nothing in return.

Dying is victory.  Dying is freedom from all that frightens me.  When I die to myself, it’s my fear that’s burned to death, and real faith rises out of the ashes.

With You, there is only life. Even death can no longer harm me because Your wondrous cross has rendered it void and powerless.

You held nothing back. You willingly gave it all so that I could have abundant life. I desire that kind of faithfulness, Lord! Teach me to give my all, even in little things, and withhold nothing. Grant me the courage to carry my cross and submit to the dying it asks of me, and then I will live…truly live.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The 4th Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross

4th Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross

“Finally, Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.) John 19:16-17

The fruit of the mystery is perseverance and patience.

He was still standing after a brutal flogging that should have left him dead. His flesh is already mutilated and profusely bleeding, and His body is weak and shaky from the blood loss. Yet somehow, He withstands the pain and keeps going. I wonder if maybe the soldiers, besides being irked, weren’t just a little impressed that He was still alive after all they’d done to Him.

Maybe that’s why they enlisted some help for Him and made Simon carry the cross the rest of the way to Golgotha. “A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country and they forced him to carry the cross.” Mark 15:21

But whether Jesus could walk or not, they were determined in their cause. Nothing was going to stop them from their final goal of execution.

Jesus persevered. So did Satan.

Satan was fiercely determined in his cause that day and he was getting plenty of help from those blood-thirsty Roman soldiers. In this battle between Love and Evil, it was beginning to look like Satan would prevail.

Thus far he had succeeded in shredding Jesus’ body and utterly humiliating Him. Not a bad day’s work for a fallen angel.

(Ah, but things are not as they seem! Evil was about to be soundly, eternally defeated.)

I wonder if perhaps it was tempting for Jesus to just lie down on the dirt road and die right there. Completely sapped of strength and in agonizing pain, I wonder if He was tempted by the thought, “I can’t take another step.”

How many times have I had that thought? It seems to me that my cross is getting too heavy, or I have been carrying it for too long, and I can’t take another step. I feel weakened by some harsh blows, and it looks as though the enemy is winning.

In faithful obedience to the Father’s will, Jesus persevered. So must I. Though it seems the enemy is scoring too many points against me, I must remember he has already lost. Though I’m sapped of strength and in pain, if I remain faithful, Satan will not prevail.

“Keep walking,” Jesus says to me. “I will carry you when you are weak. I will never leave you. I have been to hell and back for you, and there’s nothing to fear.”

“Keep walking.”

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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2nd Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar

passion_scourge

2nd Sorrowful Mystery:  The Scourging at the pillar

“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.”  John 19:1

The fruit of the mystery is purity, and accepting the will of God.

They used a whip made of several strips of leather that were embedded at the ends with pieces of bone and lead.  No Roman limitation was placed on the number of lashings inflicted, and often the victim didn’t survive the flogging.  Jesus did.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

Every blow from that cruel whip was for my sake.  Every vicious tear in His flesh, every drop of precious blood that flowed was for my healing.  Every agonizing moment of pain He endured was to secure my peace.  His punishment, my freedom.

My impurities are not beaten out of me; they were beaten out of Him.

God deals with me gently and patiently, always with love.

I can’t even fathom the harsh treatment Jesus received in my stead.  He must have cried out in pain, but He never protested.  He never even tried to whisper a plea to the Father, “Stop!  Please stop!”

He would do anything to rescue a lost child.

Me.

You.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Fifty Shades of Madness: No Gray Area Here

alice

I can’t say it any better than the Dowager Countess of Grantham: Have we all stepped through the looking glass?

Yes, I’m afraid that collectively, as a culture, we have indeed. We no longer seem to recognize the plainly absurd as absurd. Up is down; out is in; wrong is right; insane is normal.

I have been holding out hope that the rapid descent of our culture into utter madness would be stopped, or at least slowed because enough people would come to their senses and find their backbones. I’m not sure I can hold that hope any longer.

Things that are as fundamental to the human person as being male and female, mother and father, are being jettisoned as oppressive and discriminatory, in favor of bizarre and thoroughly fabricated, convoluted notions of human sexuality. All sense of sacrifice and obligation toward children and their true best interest seems to have also been rejected in favor of the feelings, desires, and “rights” of the adults.

Imagine standing in a crowded stadium full of people, on a bright, sunny day, and being the only one there who knows the sky is blue. Everyone else now insists it’s pink. It’s absurd, but try as you may, you cannot convince anyone of the error of their thinking. You show them what blue looks like, but still they say, “We don’t want a blue sky anymore. We want pink! We say it’s pink, so it’s pink!”

Fifty Shades of Grey has been the latest offering of proof that we have gone completely mad.

A story that is plainly, unabashedly about sado-masachism, rape, and pornography is being hailed as romantic. It’s been offered as a Valentine to the world, and devoured with enthusiasm as though it were fine chocolate. Women look at Christian Grey, a man who is controlling, abusive, selfish, and manipulative — a man who knows nothing at all about love — and they swoon. Because he’s rich and handsome. That is madness.

“Oh, it’s just a book. It’s just fantasy.” What crazy talk! Have we all really forgotten the power of an idea that really catches on and gets gobbled up by the masses? Have we forgotten the kind of influence a book can have on a person, and on a culture?

However the money-machine has packaged and sold it, FSoG is not a love story. Christian Grey does not regard Anastasia as someone to respect and cherish; he certainly doesn’t view her as someone to protect and honor. He uses her and abuses her. He manipulates her into “consenting” to what he wants, so that his every sick and selfish desire can be satisfied. And this, somehow, is portrayed as an adult romance to be gushed over?

Dads, raise your hands: How many of you want your daughter to get involved with the likes of Christian Grey? Well, guess what? Thanks to the phenomenon of the book and movie, you can rest assured that there will be more and more Grey’s out there looking for young women they can easily dominate. The culture is telling them it’s not only alright, but it’s the kind of relationship women really, secretly want.

What are you going to tell your daughter about men like Grey? What are you going to tell her about porn and BDSM? Not comfortable having that conversation, you say? You better get comfortable real fast, because she’s having that conversation without you, with folks who do not have her welfare in mind.

And Dads, what are you saying to your sons about FSoG? Do you want your son to think it’s okay to twist a woman into signing a contract agreeing to be bound, beaten, and raped? Who’s going to tell the guys that that sort of thing is not sexy? Who’s going to tell them it’s NOT love? Who’s going to tell them it’s not how a real man behaves?

Moms, what about you? Would you just be delighted to learn that your daughter was Anastasia? That she was being blindfolded and bound, beaten, and treated like a piece of meat for some man’s selfish pleasure? Is that progress for women? “Mom and Dad, I’ve met the most amazing man. He’s rich and handsome. He had me sign a contract stating he could put me in handcuffs, blindfold me, beat me, and assault me. He says I shouldn’t overthink it. But don’t worry. It’s all good because I consented.”

Would you just be so proud of your son if he treated a young woman that way? Would you brag about him to your friends and rave of his accomplishments? “He’s a sado-masochist! He’s a master of dominance. We couldn’t be more proud of him!”

Scores of women — Protestant Christian women, Catholic women — have bought this garbage and then defended doing so. That is just madness. That is an inexcusable action. Yes, inexcusable. Why? Because “to whom much is given, much more will be required.” As part of the Body of Christ, you’ve been given True Love. You know what and Who love is. You have a duty to be a witness of that love to the world, and to refuse to buy — literally and figuratively — the counterfeit ideas of love, marriage, and sex that come from the pit of hell.

I’ve heard the pathetic rationale — “I probably won’t see the movie, but I read the book and I enjoyed it…it’s really no worse than a lot of other adult romance novels” — and I’m just gob-smacked.

What the heck are y’all reading? If this is run-of-the-mill “adult romance” to you, then you are a big part of the problem. And you have no excuse. You are obligated to know better and do better. You know darn well that FSoG has nothing whatsoever to do with love. You know darn well is pornography. It’s smut. You know it. How can you enjoy that?

Are you living under a rock that you don’t grasp the destructive force of pornography in our culture? How can you in any good conscience contribute to that destruction?

Would you think someone smart for dabbling in a little Ebola? Maybe as long as Ebola took you for a private helicopter ride, and invited you into the Penthouse suite and served champagne? Ooh, the danger, the risk, the glitter… makes it exciting!

Pornography ought to be regarded with greater alarm and more isolation than the Ebola virus because it is far more deadly. It can kill the soul of a person; it will kill a marriage and ruin a family. It destroys lives every single day from the inside out. It’s pure evil.

(Don’t believe me? Believe Ted Bundy.)

But you FSoG fans out there, you’ve lost your minds. You don’t run from this insidious plague. You’re so hypnotized by a glamorous illusion you’re willing to get cozy with it. You pay for the privilege of being infected.

And no, it’s not just your life and your private choice. Your decision to buy the book, see the movie, and defend those decisions has given aid and comfort to the enemy of all our souls, the enemy who prowls like a lion looking for children, spouses, families to devour.

You have become part of the audience for that filth. You’ve helped make it the best-selling, record-breaking hit it’s become. You helped spread spiritual Ebola.

There’s nothing gray or ambiguous about this. As plain as the nose on your face is the fact that FSoG glamorizes an abusive man, portrays him as some twisted sort of romantic idol, normalizes sado-masochism and pornography, and tries to insist that it’s all marvelous because it’s supposedly “consensual.”

A good friend of mine, who’s a Catholic convert and father of 11 children, said it so well:

“There is a line of theological thought (Milton refers to this in Paradise Lost) wherein the first sin committed after the Fall was one of lust. Adam looks at Eve’s nakedness and proceeds to simply take her. Thus at the core of our fallen nature as men is the desire to subjugate and objectify women, rather than nurture, protect, and provide for them. This is why porn is such a grave evil…it is a siren song for men to cast off their hard-won nobility and grace and revert to a default state of depravity.
How much more evil then are materials like “50 Shades”…that teach women that this state of depravity is not only normal…but desirable?”

In real life, Anastasia doesn’t change her abuser. Grey doesn’t transform into a gentleman and become a loving husband. He doesn’t realize how wonderful she is and vow to never hurt her again. No matter how much she “understands him” and no matter how patient she is; no matter how much she thinks she loves him, she cannot turn him into the man she wants. She’ll end up battered, emotionally shattered, abandoned, and possibly dead.

It also has to be admitted that if Christian Grey was a middle-aged, fat, sloppy, ugly man in a crummy neighborhood, no one but no one would be rushing to justify this book or be enthralled by its “romance.” No one would call it anything other than what it is: a perverted tale of a predatory creep and his victim.

Ultimately, the woman most responsible is the author, E.L. James. She spouts the same nonsense about the story being only fantasy, totally consensual between two adults, and not in any way making light of domestic abuse. She’s deluding herself. She’s become wildly wealthy by calling degradation and abuse “romance”, and beguiling all the crowds into accepting madness as perfect sense.

Ms. James and half the world may have gone mad, but I still know vomitous, pornographic trash when I see it. And I’m not so fond of vomit that I’ll sit in it and call it a bubble bath.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Justice is Far From Us: Will We Ever Bring it Close?

Justice is Far From Us: Will We Ever Bring it Close?

The word in the air and on the streets, both actual and virtual, is justice. People are gathering and protesting, chanting and yelling for justice. They demand justice.

The irony is, many of them demand what they refuse to submit to themselves. If “justice” is not delivered to them, they will inflict their own brand of it. If you happen to be in their way, too bad for you. Too bad for your business — it’s gotta get burned down or at least vandalized for “justice.” Too bad for your car, your property, even you. You might have to be sacrificed for “justice.” The mob will decide, and no one gets much warning. They simply bulldoze their way right over you or anyone or anything that tries to slow them down.

I’ve noticed that “justice” is very angry nowadays. It’s furious, in fact. I’m only in my 40’s, so perhaps older folks would tell me that it’s always been this way. But something tells me there’s a new intensity, a much more explosive element in the powder these days. Local crimes don’t stay local any longer. Local tragedies become national faster than you can say tweet.

Facts are not so important as the version of events that will generate the most hatred toward the other side. It’s volatile propaganda in as few characters as possible. Caricatures in soundbites. A photo and a crafty caption with enough Retweets and Shares and Likes, and suddenly, it’s the whole truth and swift action can’t come swift enough.

If you don’t agree; if you question; if you ask for details and for calm and reason, you are “just like them” and must be vilified. How dare you not acknowledge the declared victim? Why should you hesitate to condemn the declared guilty party? Who are you to say the facts don’t add up? What gives you the right to question the narrative?

You want the truth that may lead to genuine understanding? Well, how quaint. We live now only on perceptions, without even a half-hearted effort at discovering what’s really there. Instantaneous information has made us intellectually lazy. We take in whatever advances our own agenda, and reject the rest. Rather than listen to a real leader, if one can be found, we simply look to the most electric and popular spokesperson. We give back our slogans and mottos and not much else. All of it based on only one thing: our own self-styled morality.

And all of our cries for justice go unanswered. The louder we scream, the more silent justice becomes. It seems to me that our cries for justice are wasted breath because we are unwilling not only to do what justice requires, but to be what justice requires.

We ask for what we can’t define and don’t even want to understand. We demand what we cannot hold. We no longer have any concept of justice. We simply hunger for retaliation, revenge, entitlements for us, and punishment for them. These have become justice to us, so justice doesn’t stand a chance.

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness. No one enters suit justly, no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity.” Isaiah 59:1-4

Who defines justice? Can an unjust people establish justice on their own? Without the framework of a truly righteous code, how can right and wrong be decided? Without a declaration of right and wrong that has our human dignity and flourishing as its sole aim, how can the good be known and the bad be rejected?

From where comes a law that is truly just? There is an answer: not from where, but from Whom.

Only the One Who is just can teach us about justice. And that’s our problem. We’ve “progressed” beyond any need for God, and certainly beyond any patience for Him. We can design our own morality now, and adjust it accordingly to each one’s tastes and mood. When our individual moralities collide and crash into one another, we drive by the destruction in slow-motion, snap a photo, assign it our own subjective declaration of acceptable or unacceptable, and proceed to spread our false gospel.

Justice demands honesty and integrity. Honesty and integrity have no room for self-serving agendas. Justice insists on the truth; it makes no allowance for manipulation and falsehoods.

Justice is interested in the common good, and particularly in the good of the oppressed and powerless. Greed and violence have no place with justice.

Justice requires humility, and that is a virtue we are woefully lacking today. It’s a virtue we have come to despise rather than admire and seek. Without humility, we will never know justice.

“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 6:8

Justice is not merely a thing granted us or a state of being arrived at; it is something we must do. We cannot do justice if we do not understand it.

Justice walks alongside mercy, kindness, humility, and righteousness. Justice flows out of them like a river, and dries up completely in the face of arrogance, oppression, greed, hatred, and violence.

“The way of peace they know not, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked, no one who goes in them knows peace. Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we look for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope for the wall like the blind, we grope like those who have no eyes… Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth has fallen in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter.” Isaiah 59:8-10,14

“Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive against them. Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.” Proverbs 28:4-5

What is the way out of the unjust cesspool our society has sunk to? In a word, wisdom. And again, wisdom comes not from where, but from Whom.

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you; understanding will guard you; delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech, who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil; men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.” Proverbs 2:1-15

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.” Proverbs 21:2-4

If we ever hope to achieve justice for ourselves or for anyone else, we must put away our need for immediate vengeance and seek understanding instead. It is not a show of weakness to admit the other guy might be right about something, and we just may be wrong about something. Justice will never arrive with pride. We need to be humble enough to admit our own failings, and see what we might learn from someone who has traveled roads we have not. This is only possible when the goal is the real common good.

Justice also goes hand-in-hand with mercy. Yes, mercy. Not excusing fault or failing, but tempering punishment wisely, so that the sentence serves society without quashing the possibility of redemption for the guilty. The common good is not served by punishment for punishment’s sake.

Where and how do we start?

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1:16-17

Cease doing evil. Learn to do good. Correct oppression. All oppression.

The heart of our trouble, the root of our unjust weed, is our disregard for human life. We forfeit any right we may have to justice because we turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the most vulnerable among us, and sacrifice them – literally – for the sake of our wants and “rights.” We greet our innocents with brutality and death. That is why justice is far from us.

Unless and until this nation stops killing the child in the womb; unless and until we recognize the inherent dignity of each human person, even the disabled, chronically and terminally ill, the elderly, the homeless, the poor, the marginalized; we will simply never know justice or peace. Justice and peace will run away from us because we choose violence and power, greed, and death instead.

It’s that simple.

Black lives matter. White lives matter. Cops’ lives matter. Mothers’ lives matter. Fathers’ lives matter. The child in the womb matters. All lives matter.

Until that becomes our mantra, justice will be a stranger to us. The just God waits with mercy and blessing for our decision.

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you; therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. The Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” Isaiah 30:18
all lives matter

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Why Marriage is Not a Water Fountain, via Public Discourse

At The Public Discourse, by Anthony Esolen.

Separate Water FountainsFive stars! One of the best pieces I’ve read on the subject of same-sex “marriage” and why opposition to redefining marriage is not analogous to discrimination or segregation. Simply excellent, thoughtful, and solid. Would that this sort of thorough thinking would spread through our culture like a welcome winter flu. We would be healed.

An excerpt:

“Marriage is Not a Water Fountain”

Conjugal Marriage: Not Peculiar, But Universal

“Now, none of these conditions characterizes our efforts to restore and protect the institution of marriage. If anything, they characterize some of our opponents in the debate. Let us see why.

First, the idea that marriage requires a man and a woman is not peculiar to us. It is universal in human culture. Its universality is based upon the obvious functions of the reproductive organs, and the obvious need to propagate the species. We may add, too, that in a multitude of manifestations, wide in variety but recognizably of the same kind, what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman are also universal in human culture. That too is observed and accepted as natural and good, most nobly embodied in the complementarity of marriage, man and woman.

What is peculiar? The idea that there are no such things as manhood and womanhood; that the sexes are empty of significance, except in the sole case of what must then be considered a mere irrational and inexplicable desire: that this particular male must have another male, and this particular female must have another female. We can pretend that a man can possibly marry another man, because we have shut our eyes to what marriage is, and what men and women are.

That means that we have to shore up a lie. Suppose I say, “A marriage by our bodily nature requires a man and a woman. If we think about it for a moment, it also requires a vow of permanence and exclusivity, because marriage involves the time-transcending act that brings a new generation into being.” What about that is not true? When a man and a woman unite in the congress of the sexes, that is exactly what they are doing, even if they try to thwart its natural result. Nothing in human reality is comparable to that act.

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2014/09/13730/

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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