A Whip in His Hand: The Mystery of Providence

The question of evil is a strange thing:

If God is All Good and All Powerful, from whence evil?

Modern Christian alternatives, instead of fielding Scripture, has been many times suckered by Pagan philosophies and gut-level cringing. There have been calls to the free-will argument. Here God does not desire evil, nor does He bring it about. Man instead is the cause of all evil, and God, who desiring the greater good of freedom, allows man his atrocities. Yet this is horribly inadequate. Not only does it demote God to a creaturely, pleading nanny, but it runs rough-shod over reality and biblical data. Natural disasters do not have a Human origin. There are ways this is nuanced. Sometimes it is still attributed to Humanity (i.e. tracing to Adam’s fall), or to spiritual powers (i.e. demons bring down floods and volcanoes).

But it still lacks Biblical warrant. The Lord is not reluctant to accept His working through evil means. Sometimes direct and sometimes indirect. Throughout the TaNaKh (Old Testament), the Lord would bring down judgment. Sometimes “natural” (i.e. Judgments on Pharaoh) and sometimes “agential” (i.e. Ordering Israel to invade Canaan). Even in the New Testament, the Lord brings death to Ananias and Saphira for lying to the Holy Spirit, trying to cheat God through His commissioned Apostles. The Lord even brought judgment on Herod for thinking himself a god.

We’re squeamish to admit it, but the Lord is no pushover. It’s been hard to see God, the Lord of Life(!), be at anyway involved in death. And yet, harder still, if He is such, then why not more consistently? There are thousands of oppressed, many who claim the name of being His People has wrought much chaos and evil. Is God not so mighty and interventionist? For reasons, one or another, some have argued so. God is in the Process of the World becoming. He is the Spirit to the Body that is the World. There is a climax coming, and mankind needs to act and bring this about.

Some of the popularity of this is in the trauma and tragedy of the 20th century. Where was God, some ask, in the Holocaust? Or in the Gulags? Or in the mass oppression of Colonialism and Western governance? It is perhaps nicer to think that God, who can do no more than cry, is doing the best He can. If He is merely the substance of Freedom, the grounds of our being, and our ultimate concern, then He is doing His job, we need to do ours. A synergism of sorts comes about, as the Body must be beat into Fitness at the Behest of God (World-Spirit).

But a god of this kind only leaves me feeling mugged. When I watch a movie-comic like Watchmen, I do not sit with any kind of comfort from the above god. Instead, the truth is that we are abandoned. Such a god is no god in a world this bad. Frankly, there is no comfort in a crucified god. It is a tragedy, perhaps being assumed into the god, but still a tragedy. Rorschach’s recognition rings true: “It’s not God who kills the children…it is us, only us”.

It’s this darkness that led Niebuhr’s Realist crusade against the Social Gospelites and any face towards the future. The world is dark, sin is real. Niebuhr (at least his thinking) was not a Christian, but he, like a Cicero, could see the World clearly. People, even oppressed people, were no different, and their chains would only pass on to another. As a song lyric put it,

“Guillotine blades release peasants and slaves,Peasants turn Princes and chain them again”

Or a quote from a TV show,

“Slaves do not dream of being free, but of being masters”

These are not comprehensively true, nor are they an excuse to validate oppression. It’s just a part of the reality. The argument for the World-Spirit god is overly optimistic, and bound for failure. The argument from the Niebuhrs, the Ciceros, and the realistic Pagans of the World is many times used to maintain the status-quo and promote sin. Better an authoritarian system that is well constructed, then wild anarchy. So they say. Of course they are beneficiaries and are not run ragged by it.

While I appreciate the cry for freedom, such a god is useless. While I appreciate the bitter realism, their view is a descriptive wisdom, not a proscriptive one. The former is sub-Christian, and the latter is Pagan, and sadly, the Pagans have a better grasp of the situation. But they both make a similar claim: the Cross is both the axis of Christianity and it is purely tragic.

But, as a blind prophet like Rorschach will admit, it is still up to us.

But what if Christ truly rose from the dead? What if He truly ascended? What if He rules from the Right of Majesty? What if the events of the world are in His hand? Well, how would we know this? It sure doesn’t look like He is ruling over the rebellious cosmos of sin and death. This is why Providence is not evidentiary, but an article of faith.

How would Israel have known what the Lord was doing when Assyria approached? A crumbling kingdom was on the bring of annihilation before a world-consuming empire. As the Mouth-Piece would shout at the walls of Jerusalem: what god has resisted Sennacherib? Do not all gods bow before Assyria’s might?

The Prophets presented a different message: you are judged, yes, but trust God, He will not forget His promise.

It was only in the mouth of an Isaiah that a Jew would know that Assyria was a tool of judgment in the Redeemer’s Hand. The Lord raised Assyria up to chastise Israel. However, at the same time, the Lord maintained another reality through His Prophet: Assyria was sinful, full of oppression and arrogance, and would be smashed for the worthless pot it was. Assyria was a tool and a demon. It had a place to be used, and a time to be destroyed.

The above will boggle us, for it reveals the Wisdom of God is manifold and deep. It is beyond our two-dimensional sight, for how may the creature lay claim to the Mind of the Creator? It leaves us with unanswered questions, and an awe that will leave us stuttering in asking them.

Chelcicky is a Christian who sought Lady Wisdom, and applied the objective Truth, the Reign of Christ, to his own personal situation. He was a man who lived in the 14th century, a time of chaos in his homeland of Bohemia. It was the Middle Ages where, for many, Feudalism was the Divine Law. Church and State were the Two Hands of God. But with a prophet’s mouth, he denounced such blasphemy.

Chelcicky understood the biblical witness. The Church had cast her allegiance to an Earthly Master, and the State had taken up divine prerogatives. Like Revelation would tell us, a Whore masqueraded as the Bride, a lamb with the voice of a dragon, and she spread her legs to the kings of men, drunk with the blood of the saints. He saw that much evil was done, and it was called good.

This is the mystery at work. Chelcicky would raise much anger against injustice and wickedness. Feel his anger:

The authorities think that the best way to get rid of contrary things is through fighting or other forms of revenge and repulsion.  Therefore, they rise up against enemies with force, wage war against them, repay evil for evil, and murder them in order to establish peace – this is the whole aim of the military service.  And propaganda always runs ahead of the struggle saying, “This is not for our sake, but for God’s sake.”  God knows this propaganda, and the people know it too because, were it God’s struggle, they would all be long-suffering, and accept afflictions…  But the warriors’ behavior shows that they are lying and that they are serving God falsely when they cannot stand a slander at home, while at the same time they take no thought of blasphemies against God

Substitute “for God’s Sake” with the many justifications proffered today, and it rings true now as it did then. Chelcicky was not in the business of justifying the evils of this World. However, he was not advocating violence or revolution. He was not a synergist, but believed in the mighty Hand of God, Jesus Christ, and His patience. The only reason that Feudal order, and all its horrors remains, is it still has a place. Even for all its terror, it promotes some semblance of a ‘common good’. The Sovereignty of God “suffers [empires] in order to keep the world together”.

There were a flood of violent revolutionaries (Taborites) who wanted freedom from Roman authority, whether it be the Pope or Emperor. Yet they still subverted the authority of Jesus Christ, and made themselves into God’s Hand. Chelcicky refused their calls for him to join them. Even though they fought against the current order of oppression, their method would only lead them back to a road of murder and authoritarianism. Peasants turn princes once again.

It might seem fanciful to cast your faith onto a Providence. But that is the claim of resurrection. If Jesus lives and reigns, if He is King, then no other power is legitimate. The Christ suffers them for His purposes. We don’t know why or for how long, but we know He rules.

God is not tragic. He is not powerless and only able to cry. He is not distant and aloof. He has not left us to ourselves to offer up pragmatics. The cry and anger of the Psalms should echo our cries. The Saints beneath the altar (in Revelation) cry for justice to be done. We can bang on the Lord’s door because He has adopted us into His Royal Son. Clever theology cannot mask that God is the Stranger Whose shadow casts a question over all claims to authority, nor can it mask His Voice that rings out and shatters.

May we await His Coming with our own cries and shouts. May we appropriate Christ the King’s Reign for our own times.

Porn

“I’ll know it when I see it”

These famous words were uttered by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart on a trial of public obscenity. The case dealt with the ambiguity of the term “pornography” and whether the material in trial was such and should be censored. The words above have become the sliding scale standard for how most think about porn, and it’s an impossible measure.

We might all say that porn is explicit sex, but what does that even mean? In the Muslim world, showing a woman’s hair is considered intimate and not public knowledge, it has strong sexual connotations. In the 1920’s America, ankles had a similar effect, essentially the cleavage of that decade. It was both an immodest provocation and a sign of female public equality. So our are definitions of pornography limited to cultural conditions and standards?

In current America, no one is moved by ankles anymore. Even short skirts and short shorts are becoming less and less provocative and taken as a norm in style. I’ve seen godly women wear them without a twinge in conscience. Has the bar moved? Or is pornography in the reception? Is it the effect of ankles, or hair, or legs, that moves an other?

Consider the case of nudity: one will be hard pressed to see empty shelves of National Geographic, and yet some issues have full page nudity. But the nakedness is not provocative, but descriptive. There are peoples, ranging from South America to New Guinea, whose women wear next to nothing. These photos are merely showing them. Yet Playboy magazine will fly off the shelf with women who expose much less. Why? One woman is completely naked, the other wearing lingerie, but the latter is seductive and pornographic, while the other lacks any sort of appeal.

Does the reception have something to do with the intention? Sex appeal certainly comes in presentation. A dour look, a drowsy disposition, anger, horror, terror, sorrow, all of these will do havoc on the ‘sexy factor’. Cuteness and interest create an atmosphere which is more apt to arouse. But then this is not even true. S&M contradicts this, where replicated (or real) pain, fear, anger become sexually arousing. This is considered deviant by most, but that general disgust doesn’t remove it from the equation. It’s still pornographic.

Why is any of this important? It is because this issue is so easily sublimated into our Roma-Redux, our social and cultural apparatus. If the Lord commands us to flee from sexual immorality, porneia, then what are we supposed to do? How is this applicable?

My main contention is that by making the Command into a Rule, many (in good Pharisee form) try and excuse themselves. However, there then is created a separate box for the trespassers, those who’ve soiled themselves in the polluted waters of porn, and need to find guidance. But, as Wisdom will prove, it’s not that simple.

Consider the fact that while many will claim to not watch porn, will watch a show like Game of Thrones. I have watched this show, I am not outside of this category. The story contains a vibrant and powerful story, good character development, and contains explicit, graphic sexual scenes. Some are scenes of whorehouses, some are rape scenes, others are intimate couple moments or adulterous affairs. Is this pornography? When most will consider a Porn with a plot, it’s no more complex than a woman who can’t afford a pizza. How is this not pornography?

I had a friend who was so thoroughly enmeshed in pornography, that it stopped even having an arousal effect on him. But he still found it interesting. He’d claim that he would watch it for hours “just for fun”. Is this still pornography for him? If yes, then how is viewing Game of Thrones not porn, even if the sexual elements are merely drama? If no, then is pornography purely subjective?

I use to say, and know others who do, that I did not watch Game of Thrones for any sexual reasons, I enjoyed the story. This was true for me, and I’m sure for some others. But is my will really that pure and unbreakable? How can someone watch a complete sex scene without blinking? For myself, as expected, my feelings became convoluted. There were times I closed my eyes, yet had I not claimed that I didn’t watch it for sexual titillation? And it, or the threat, was still occurring?

I would say, and it was true, that these scenes contributed to a deeper appreciation that the world was depraved. So does that mean I should spend my Friday at a Strip-club to see how American sexual mores are bankrupt? If I justify Game of Thrones for the plot, I could equally justify that I wanted to make friends with some in the shady part of society. Yet I know full well that if I went into the strip club to make friends, even if I thundered it from my will, I would fall prey to desires swirling in me.

The reality is that we are all perverts and whores. None of us, truly, are guiltless in this regard. If we catch our eyes wandering on a Victoria’s Secret commercial, we must be honest that we’ve fornicated in our hearts. Well, we might protest, I didn’t put it on! It was a commercial on during the Football game! True, I’ll say, but what did you do in the moment? Are you willing to turn the TV off, even if it means getting strange looks? Or are you willing to give up Football games, and TV generally, to avoid the possibility?

The above queries are not options I’m necessarily advocating. What is revealed is that our motivations and intentions are revealed. We don’t need naked women to lust after them. It could be hair or breasts, it could be from anything or from any motivation. But are we realistic?

I watched a music video from a popular rapper, and my heart was twisted up in it. I was enticed by lust, but it’s a music video? Is it porn? The reality is yes, The rapper even knows it. That’s part of the game, it’s part of the hustle. In this particular case, sex appeal, at the basest and most powerful level, is a power grab. While we might primarily envision this as the province for women, men are also guilty in committing the same horror.

Around the time I became a Christian I was able to walk away from explicit, internet pornography. But this is not a badge to wear. For the longest time, I would say that I didn’t watch porn. But I’m not so sure. The fact I don’t masturbate or watch self-described porn is merely a different point of the continuum in regards to mental fantasies or allowing my heart to be captivated by a TV show or a music video, let alone actual fornication.

I am nothing more than a pervert and a whore.

If you’ve read anything on this blog, you will know that the solution is that Jesus Christ, who shed His cleansing blood on the cross, rose from the dead on the 3rd day. I could wax eloquent about atonement, but allow this to be a given, lest this post get longer. The question is: how do we live as the redeemed?

Let me qualify that I know I’ve been talking about men near exclusively, but the condemnation falls on women too. It’s a smaller percentage of women who look at the physically graphic pornography then men. So the above applies to them. But there is a different kind of pornography that is considered benign: emotional porn.

What fuels the Rom-Com industry of vapid plots of boy meets girl, and live happily ever after? It’s a similar objectification and reification of the emotion in an intimate relationship, appealing to what a lot of women want. It’s as fake and staged as filmed sex, and is deleterious for the imagination and the intellect.

Anyway, what do we do? Well, many could take the above and retreat to the mountains. There’s a long tradition of monastic retreat. There are nuances, but, to paint a broad-brush, is just a worldly solution and will end worse. The demon of lust for flesh is replaced with a sevonfold demon of lust for godhood. Sexual immorality is replaced with pride and arrogance. The Apostle calls this solution false humility, an empty display of godliness, and useless. I’d wager even to call it demonic, as the Devil can appear in bright light and majesty.

Despite the negative connotations of the word lust, the problem is that we do not lust rightly. The Spirit is said to lust against the lusts of the flesh (c.f. Galatians 5:17). I do not wish to reclaim the word, its negativity is rather fixed and I’m not in the business of fighting up-hill and useless battles. So let us use the word ‘groan’.

When we hunger for bread, we groan. Can Man live by bread alone? No. But implicitly it means that, indeed, man lives by bread.  Where evil manifests is when a man would take the bread out of another’s mouth to feed himself. I mean this literally and figuratively. This is where a groaning becomes a lust. Where life-affirming reality becomes destructive.

Now sex is not afforded the same place as bread, but the same structure can be applied. The Scripture has a strong, but ordered, place for erotic love: it is called marriage. Ultimately, marriage, between man and woman, is an ikon, an image, of God’s communion with man, manifest as the Christ and His People, His Assembly.

Perhaps our groans for sex, as sometimes our groans for bread, are denied, instead finding true delight in the Lord of Life. This is the call of celibacy, sometimes spanning a lifetime, which is afforded equal good in God’s sight. However, perhaps we find our groans filled in the bonds of marriage.

Augustine is generally misunderstood in his councils, and his deep psychological insights are condensed into half-truth platitudes. But he is popularly cited as the figure who invited guilt into sex, even between married couples. He is claimed to say that sex is only justifiable to produce children, any other time is sinful indulgence.

That is a lop-sided argument, and while Augustine did give this advice to couples, and even worked it into his doctrine of sin, it was out of his own reflection on his own heart and desires. Augustine knew that sexual groans can easily become sexual lusts. He believed self-concern will always trump love of the other. He was afraid that giving unqualified permission would lead Christians into excusing sin, a problem that was rampant everywhere in his day.

His point stand: marriage is not an unqualified approval of sex. There is such a thing as marital rape. One’s groan and love for the other can easily become lustful and utterly self-concerned. Husband and wife can utterly destroy each other with sex. Some popular Evangelical advice denies this and affirms marital sex without any qualification or understanding. It is just naive and reactionary pendulum swings against a culture of repression and false humility.

But what Augustine said is of no concern, he did not understand the Apostolic council nor the beautiful and graphic poetry of the Song of Songs. And that’s the point: overcoming porn can only be found in rightfully subjecting our groans beneath the Word of God. Yes we will groan, we will hunger, we will thirst. But none of these are enough. Only the Word of God can rightly order and maintain.

Loving God does not lead to hating the creation, but learning to enjoy the creation ‘in Christ’. We are called to hate the world of this age, not the creation. We are to hate porn in all its manifestations, but not the created goods of sex and pleasure, which come from the Father of All Lights.

May my reflections help prime the pump and keep seeking the truth.

Je Suis Christien

Here’s a post by my friend over at The Pilgrim Underground about the Charlie Hebdo Murders: I am not Charlie

Check it out for yourself. He makes good points about how the media ignores other massacres and deaths because of general propagandist reasons. The deaths were bad and the murderers evil, but the coverage is skewed. Why is it funny and acceptable to insult and ridicule Muslims, but not all peoples? Why are some jokes funny, and others off-limits? Many christic-Americanists will snort at anyone getting upset at a cartoon. But then what happens when an American flag is burned?

To conclude, here is my comment I left on the post:

I end up seeing bits and pieces of “Fox & Friends”, which is truly abysmal. However, I remember them freaking out when Chris Rock made jokes involving September 11th. They were highly critical and considered him classless and unAmerican (which is almost a denial of humanity for them). Then months later Charlie Hebdo happens…How dare these Muslims? Free speech is free speech, you can insult anyone and no one should be hurt!

At the end of the day, as Al-Jazeera points out (to their own criticism), there is an anti-Muslim sentiment that is rampant. We obsess over the specter of ISIS when more beheadings and murders and cult-like activity happens in Mexico with the Cartel’s steady advance of influence and the increasing worship of Santa Muerta. How many Americans are concerned? None, because the Cartels will not be a serious competitor to the religion of Americana. ISIS is in the way of our global political dreams, the Cartel can be bought off.

Really, as it has always been, it’s a war of the gods. Like the worship of Roma and the Caesars, you can worship any gods as long as it is within the shrine of America. Allah, and ISIS, threatens that existentially. Sadly Christians, by and large, have forsaken Christ, and built their own Jeroboam-esque altar in Washington.

Not to sound Hegelian, but Islam is the anti-thesis to the Paganism of RomAmerica. The war is a battle over liturgy in the worship of Death. It’s this clash of beasts that the faithful live beneath and continue to spread the Gospel, the Victory of Christ and end of all beasts and demons, yea, even death.

Je Suis Christien,
Cal

Blood: Consumption, Cannibalism, and Communion

Blood is a major object and theme throughout the Bible. The Torah tells us that “Life is in the Blood”, and the Jews are implored to not eat meat that contains blood. Even the Gentiles, for the consciences of their brethren, are also enjoined to abstain from eating blood. Women who have their periods are considered ritually “impure” and must wash before they may lay with their husband or attend to worship. This is twisted to be some strange patriarchal fetish, but these are not the words of men.Ultimately, we are washed clean by the shed blood of Christ.

The theme of Blood is not misplaced, it is has power and significance.

Blood is certainly something that separates living creatures from dead. It separates the warm from the cold. It is a principle of vitality that most societies have understood and honed in on, and many believed strange, odd, and magical properties about blood. None of these are necessarily relevant to the Biblical witness, but it does highlight how well the ancients picked up on the significance of the plasma in our veins.

So, “Life is in the Blood”, and this works itself out in Christ’s hard saying: “Unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, you have no life in you”.

There’s a reason that the Israelites would not bloody their sacrifice like the Pagans and yet the Messiah offers Himself to His people. This does not devolve down into magik religion and transubstantiation. Instead, it has a very strong and powerful message: Life is only found in God. Unlike the Pagans, who drank the blood of their animals, the Jews would only find life in the Living God. The Nations turned to the creation, Abraham’s seed turned to the Creator.

And if this sort of life comes through blood, restoration only comes through the blood. The author of the Hebrews says firmly: there is no forgiveness without blood.

Blood not only is a foundation for life, but it is the means for washing. It reestablishes the bonds between two parties. For Abraham, the LORD offered Himself twice in His covenant with him. The LORD passed through the torn animals twice. He pledged Himself for Himself, and for Abraham. If one party failed, blood was promised. And in the Messiah Jesus, God’s blood was shed for us (c.f. Acts 20:28). His Blood for our blood: His life for our Life. This is the essence of forgiveness. Something is sacrificed in order for communion to be restored. Life dies in a dimension in order to heal. But we worship a God who stands over both life and death.

For if the Father of Heavenly Lights is not the Living God who can breathe life even into the dead, then we are left with nothing better than the Pagans. The alternative to eating God’s blood is eating the creation’s blood. If we find no consummation in our Creator, then we will, by distorted desire, find it in the creation. We will eat the blood of created things, and find our life there.

There’s a reason why vampires are terrifying creatures that exist in every culture’s mythos. We project our fears of blood drinking outwards in order to hide the vampiric monsters within. Creation has no eternal life to offer, so by eating the blood of creation, we will inevitably kill it. We find this acceptable with less beasts and other things, but not with each other. But it will turn into this so easily. The vampire in us all is at work in the shadows of all that we do.

Sexuality is twisted into the idolatry of a partner, or of the experience (which usually means multiple partners). The apocalypse of the orgasm becomes our life-blood. This is the ultimacy of communion, we touch, with extended arm, the whispy throne of Aphrodite before we rapidly plummet back to Earth. We drink the blood of the one or or many in our pursuit of life. If this is too brutal a description, William Stringfellow puts it quite well when he says:

Here are the lonely whose search for a partner is so dangerous, so stimulating and so exhausting that the search itself provides an apparent escape from loneliness. But when a partner is found for an hour or a night or a transient affair, the search immediately resumes, becomes compulsive. And while erotic companionship seems more appealing – and more human – than resignation to boredom, while touching another may be more intimate and more honest than watching another, no one may really find his own identity in another, least of all in the body of another. Perhaps this is the most absurd fiction of them all: the notion that is present, primitively, in erotic partnerships but also very often in other relationships – between parents and children, in friendship, in marriage – that one’s own identity must be sought and can be found in another person.

But sexuality isn’t the only blood-eating endeavor. Our corporate worship of the State through the cult of the Military, the Flag, and Freedom. This involves blood-letting, not only of the enemies, or the scape-goats, but offering up soldiers are holy and pure. Being in the military is called “service”. The death of a soldier/sailor/airman/marine is called a “sacrifice”. Entering in, you are brought to a crisis where you receive a new name and identity. You are drilled with mantras. You are catechised with a new code. This all maintains a religiosity about it. But this isn’t new. Militias and ragtag military forces will never stand up before a sacralized army. It’s not for no reason the Romans were saturated with military gods. I don’t believe there was any part of Roman society that was as religious as the army.

And of course, an institution built on the defense and advance of the Nation will involve the shedding of blood. Soldiers become living sacrifices, laying themselves down upon the altar of the Nation. It becomes a sacred brotherhood of gun-toting martyrs. And it is blood that makes this real. Whether its in the dying or the killing, it marks a shared experience and a bind that is stronger than anything else.

But in the haunt of sacral christendom, as Pagan as it remained, the shell maintained a sense of fear and dread. One could not openly admit to, or participate in, these forms and means. While eating blood was deep-seated, just as most of Europe and the Americas had Pagan roots syncretized with Constantine’s legacy, it still could not be open. But we are returning to Pagan days.

Instead of the dread-lord Nosferatu or Dracula, we see Twilight and Interview with a Vampire. Instead of morbid and lecherous, the vampires are sexy, inviting, friendly, fun. So with our vampires, so is our culture. The collective mouth of Americana is hot with the eating of blood. Consumerism is a way of life. We are defined by what we buy. George Bush told it was our duty to buy after the events of 9/11; this was the proof that the terrorists did not win; the rival god Allah had not killed our goddess Columbia.

Consumerism is merely an outworking of Pagan thinking. While Pagans weren’t buying from stores, they were busy buying from the temple. There’s a reason most markets were populated by the statues of gods and the presence of priests. There’s a reason many storefronts were built into the sides of temples. They were consumerists, but in a different form. Yet we still buy our technologies with prayers to Vulcan, we still buy our sex with odes to Aphrodite, we still buy our guns with kisses towards Mars. Our medicine bears the mark (his Caduceus) of Hermes the Magician and King of Thieves.

I paint a colorful picture, and this may a small exaggeration. But we needn’t take fear. The Apostle tells us that the gods are nothing, the Prophets glory in the Living God who can smash all the gods with the Breath from His Nostril. We need not hide or seek to tear down all the temples. We can still buy and sell in the Market, but we should be disturbed with the shadows cast by the many idols.

How can we? Because we imbibe the Life of God. In the Lord’s Supper we are given tangible symbols, visible promises, that we eat God’s Blood, we consume His Life. For despite Paganism’s devouring of the Creation, it’s not because Man is not a Eater. We were made with a stomach and a mouth. This I speak spiritually. We are derivative creatures. Once cut from the Tree of Life, we were doomed to die.

Either we eat of our Lord’s Table, or we fashion another god or king to eat before. However, while our God feeds us from His bountiful Hand, the idols devour men. The God is Giver, while the gods take and steal. There are two paths available, Life and Death. It’s Jesus or Belial. We cannot share a table with both. May we be fed and washed with God’s blood, which He freely offers in love and peace. May we turn our back on the endless gods who, like the Twilight Zone Episode, offer to “serve men” only to tear us apart.

For unless we eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, we have no life.

Shadows & Lies: Broadchurch, Trust, & Human Nature

I’m late to the party, but I just got done watching the BBC crime-drama Broadchurch. The general setting is that a boy is murdered in a small, sleepy, English town that is the picture-perfect example of neighborliness and simple living. Everyone knows each other and is friendly. There have been 0 murders in the town’s history. Yet in the death of this one boy, the entire fabric of society is undone.

One of the show’s main protagonists, Detective-Inspector Alec Hardy, is an outsider and a hardened man. The problem with the town isn’t this external attack (the murder of a boy), but what this evil does in revealing the actual lives of the people in Broadchurch. It’s not so much of the evil of the murder, but the evil within men’s hearts that brought this about. The murder of Danny Latimer reveals the intricate webs of deceit, malice, and lust that were formerly underground.

As Hardy says to his partner Miller, “Anyone’s capable of murder, given the right circumstances”. The theme of the show is a harrowing, and bleak message: trust no one.

I’m not going to say anything more about the plot, less I reveal something. The show is well shot, great dialog, and a masterful use of themes and symbols. However, I will discuss, with the most subtlety I can conjure, the thematics.

A major one is nature of knowing and trust. Multiple characters are surprised at what those who are closest are capable of and have done. And yet, at the same time, there is an unfathomable mystery in much of the actions. Things occur for reasons that baffle the mind. Emotions and feelings crop up without any explainability. Why one love exists for another is completely mystifying. There are existential motifs, but they are self-referential. “Because it’s there” doesn’t do much to let another into one’s mind, but it’s a near refrain throughout the show.

Alec Hardy is a broken man, and yet he sees rightfully where many would look away. He is unafraid of confronting the sickness in Humanity. A couple characters say things to him like “How do you sleep with your mind?” or “I can’t imagine being inside of that head of yours” or even “You cannot belittle my faith because you have none”. Yet, as I watched these words spill out in confrontation, I could only laugh to myself. As much as they are directed at Hardy, they’re pointed at me. I do not expect truthfulness as the common instinct of men. Lies roll effortlessly out of our lips in a bid for survival.

But in a dialog between a minister and DI Hardy, there is an interesting contrast that begs the question of whether or not it is an actual conflict of ways and means. The minister is horrified at the accusations and insinuations that Hardy is making. He, a man of faith, who acts as the hope and conscience of the town, cannot abide the state of suspicion that Hardy lives by.

But that’s the question: can one live in a state of pessimism, knowledgeable of human wickedness, and constant suspicion, and also be a man of hope? Hardy is dark, and Paul Coates (the minister) is a man of light. Hardy turns to evidence, Paul turns to a confused faith in the Almighty. Hardy believes human wickedness will continue to seethe, Paul believes the town can put this evil behind them.

But I’d argue Paul Coates stands in a sub-Christian assessment. He’s trying his best in a generally agnostic town, and seeks to act almost as a mediator between God and the faithless and agonized congregation. I appreciate a sympathetic angle for a Christian, but he’s woefully ill-equipped to deal with a Fallen World.

The question is revolves around this: can we have hope or is the World really a dark and haunted place? The Christian answer, despite the split in the show, is: Yes.

The Bible will constantly evaluate men as cons, as fools, as capable of great acts of idolatry, betrayal, and murder. The hearts of men are wicked, who can know them? This only, seemingly, should weigh atop Hardy’s assessment. Not only is world Dark in the moral sense, but also in the intellectual sense. We can’t understand what others do, we can’t even understand why we do what we do. There is a mystery of the World. We are perplexed when the covers are thrown off and our bubbles are popped. Things seem arbitrary, perhaps capricious, perhaps indifferent. We look for a reason, and we intuit there is one, but it is hidden from us, no matter how hard we dig.

Yet the Bible maintains this mystery. We are never given easy answers or philosophically arranged arguments for explanation. We are not provided with a ‘what’ or even a ‘why’, except in broad sweeps. However, we do receive a ‘who’.

God tells Job, not why the evils that afflict him happened. Instead, God poses questions and riddles to him. The ultimate reality, and confession, is that Job is only a man, and cannot even begin to reckon with God. But, the Sovereign Lord promises to be good, and to be on the move. Job walks away with a renewed trust in the God who listens and watches, and yea, even speaks and works.

It is this hope in an utterly faithful one, that gives us the ability to maintain both a suspicion and a hope. It is the twin reality that the Apostle enjoins us to: wise as serpents and innocent as doves. That we are to discern, and yet take risks. We see Jesus knowing full well the hearts of men and what they desire and are capable of, yet He, the only true pure One, enters into the fray. He will upend His opponents with questions, parables, and riddles, bringing about ‘dark-sayings of old’. He embraces His friends with affection, even with a recognition of betrayal and cowardice. He is able to bless Peter in one moment, but call him out as ‘Satan’ in another.

Jesus was not the “beautiful soul” of German romanticism, idyll and at bliss, and yet He was pure and righteouss. Jesus was not a grizzled killer, nor a Niebuhrian ‘realist’, and yet He saw right through people and called them out on their intents. He is the fulfillment of God’s cadre of prophets and martyrs, who manifested similar veins of wisdom and innocence.

It is only from trust in the Sovereign King and God that we can even take risks. That we might be purified by the hope of the resurrection, and yet crafty and wise to see schemes and lusts for what they are. May we be rid of the dichotomy.

On Rome, Liturgy & the Nativity

Let it first be said that, generally speaking, I am not keen on celebrating ‘special’ days. But I like to think that my distaste and dissatisfaction, from a lifetime of bungled attempts, with them has helped me see more properly. I have not been sucked down through laws of conventions and ‘just-so’ stories. I can more properly assess whether I ought to, or ought not, to be engaged in all these things.

For some days, it is quite obvious. I will not celebrate fourth of July as the rank pagan holiday it is, offering our thanks to the pantheon of forefathers. This is a part of America’s legacy from Rome, which she is following pretty well to the T. Worship our ancestors and our nation, and after the advances of wealth, power and technology, turn those affections upon ourselves. Like us, Rome had continually more self-involved generations to the point that ideal gentleman was no longer the public man, but the secluded introspect.

But this is neither here nor there.

I write this because of the present day: Christmas. I hate the name Christmas because I do not believe in masses nor that a specific mass would be set aside for Jesus, as if every moment of worship, every chance to breathe(!), wouldn’t be about Jesus.

But let us disregard the horrible naming convention and ask ourselves whether it’s even legitimate to celebrate, or to what extents it should be? Are we completely wrong? Our methods wrong? Or are we completely justified?

Let’s get out of the way the obvious American bogey that is this holiday. Christmas, according to most, Pagan, Atheist, many a Christian (sadly), is the same thing: a time of indulgence. According to the TV, and the ruthless cadre of ad-men, Christmas is a worship of the Baal of Consumerism.

We spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need. It becomes cutthroat as everyone tries make sure they are not caught with their pants down: giftless. If you receive a gift and don’t give one back, you’ve been one-upped on the generosity chart. You lose face and look like a Scrooge. We overeat (this is different than feasting), and become self-concerned with our failure for self-control (the gym-complex thrives this time of year). We waste hours decorating, many times out of envy or outdoing others.

Generally, it is a sick celebration that has become a staple of Americana. I despise the stories of Santa Clause as a satanic portrayal of the Lord. I do not enjoy all the mythos codified in the songs. Instead of being a symbol of purity, snow becomes a symbol for hiding all our problems. Fraud and fakeness in family gatherings can be suffocating.

But what about this celebration from a theological perspective? Do we have a right to do anything on this day? If the Bible is our authority, then what do the Apostle’s teach respecting this?

This is where I would enter my definition of liturgy (lower-case l) for warranting any recognition on this day. Liturgy is the practice of a community in their life of worship and communal gatherings. Meeting on Sundays, eating from the Lord’s Table, hearing the Word preached, coming in at 9 AM, all of these are parts of liturgy. The Bible tells us what must be apart of our liturgies (the Supper, the Word, prayer, fellowship; cf. Acts 2), but it does not place a ban on things not mentioned.

Of course, there are principles in place that do affect what happens.

There are the fruits of the Spirit, the working out of Christ’s Life, that determine our actions. If part of our liturgy was setting chairs, some of which were reserved for the rich, or there was a section built for only the women, this would run contrary to the peace in CHrist. In Him, all walls are broken down. Separate seating is a physical testament that we are not equal, that there is still a hierarchy in place determining our worth.

There is also the reality of binding. If special days are forced upon people, and made mandatory of the Christian life and the life of the Church, then these things have become evil and must be thrown away. If they represent the lifeblood of your community, they must be burned away.

However, we must realize that all we do in corporate worship is not proscribed of the Bible. There is nothing telling us when we should meet, where we should meet, or any material arrangement of the things involved. Even for those things which are proscribed, their order or placement is not dictated. It is not told whether we should receive the Supper before hearing and discussing the Scripture, or after. These things are peripheral issues that are determined by the life of the Church.

This Nativity day is like the above. If a church chooses to celebrate the Incarnation, or any particular aspect about the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem, let them do so. If a church chooses not, they should be afforded the same. If a church meets on Sunday, let them do so. If they meet on a Tuesday, they should be afforded the same.

Creating a calendar is not for the purposes of counting the days, but inhabiting particular truths that are real all year long. Jesus does not become a baby in the winter, and a crucified man in the spring. He is the Risen Lord 24/7, all year round. But we must, as a people, drink in these stories.

If the Church recognizes the Nativity, and sets aside a day, they should not be divided or separated from one that does not. Unlike the Liturgy (upper-case L) in Torah, these are not the crucial matters. In Torah, every act and movement had significance, pointing ahead to the fulfillment. Now, we have a “conjugation” of these rites, but they are on the other side. The things proscribed are accompanied by a free life in the Spirit.

I choose not to carried away in the Pagan flood of Christmas practices, a worship of the American gods. However, today is a day I will choose to think on the narrative of the Birth of my Lord Jesus, the Christ, King of Heaven and Earth. Last night, this was done corporately, today it will be done in solitude.

May no one pressure you to celebrate in anyway. You are free in Christ. If you do, dive into the Scriptures and let them guide your thinking and imagination. May you be taken to the dawning of a new world in humble Bethlehem.

Faux-Radicals

I recently finished a book called Spiritual Emotions which helps flesh out how our mind, actions, and emotions are all woven together. That the virtues and practices we commit to as new Humans, redeemed by the blood of Christ, take the emotions as components and take them seriously. It’s a decent read.

Anyway, reading through the section on Compassion, this passage jumped out. He is giving a scenario of the so-called “radical Christian”.

“A young pastor glances at the clock and sees he must put down a moving and fascinating article on St. Francis of Assisi that has appeared in the  December issue of Sojourners. It is time to make the hospital rounds. He leaves the plush office provided b his affluent congregation and goes down and cranks up his symbolic 1985 Chevy. Everything goes well as he visits a young wife who has just delivered a healthy girl baby and a teneeager who broke his leg in football practice.

But the last visit of the day is more difficult: a fifty-year old woman dying of lung cancer. He wants very much to be a good pastor and sympathize with her and thinks to himself in the midst of the visit that he is not doing too badly. She seems to be deriving comfort from the visit, and he hasn’t made any obvious blunders so far. The patient, shriveled and unable to leave the bed, asks him to lift her head and put another pillow under it. As he does so, the muscles that fill his shirt strain against his sport jacket. Then he says a moving prayer with her and leaves.

As he walks out into the balmy air of a spring evening in the city, he can’t resist a certain sense of exaltation of being away from the hospital room and out among his own kind once more. What an alien being that sufferer seemed, lying so weak and helpless at death’s door! He glances at his watch, and is glad to see that he has time to stop at the office on his way home, and finish that article on St. Francis”

I read this and my heart jumped out a little. When the Lord first called me, I slowly gravitated in this direction and flirted with it for a number of years. The sense of faux-compassion in this ideal of radicality that meant my words were nothing more than hot-air and naive aspiration.

Thankfully, the Lord shattered this silly vision. I remember sitting listening to a friend and brother who was struggling, and for a second my thoughts drifted. I said to myself: “I’d be a good pastor/counselor…I should consider doing this…”. It was a series of “Hey soul! Look at me! Look how good you are and what good you are doing!”

These thoughts were straight out of the pit of hell. In that moment, I ceased to even pay attention to my comrade’s pain, and focused on myself. I know the feeling of relief of walking out of a situation, and thinking ‘Now I can go back to read about the very thing I was in the midst of!’

So when I read the above passage, I could only internally weep at the sick man that I am. Thankfully the Lord has delivered me into knowledge of this disease. It’s a product of the liberal atmosphere I live in. It’s an environment that confuses the smell of a car-freshener amidst staleness for fresh air. It’s saccharine concern that manifests itself as high-handedness and criticism, and nothing more. It’s the sacrament pressure-release constitutive of liberal society: whine, moan, ‘sympathize with Mankind’s pain and suffering, and go on and continue in the ways that produce it.

Radical is now an ‘in’ word. A wealthy, suburbanite congregation I use to be apart of was, collectively, reading David Platt’s “Radical”. This book is about how the Church is complacent and not focused on discipleship or missions. This book’s thesis is true: loving Jesus means obeying Him, which (more importantly!) means believing in Him. But this manifests itself in the same faux-radicalism above. This community is just outside of DC, and there is no questioning of the deep rooted problems. We get to feel radical without taking up a sense of exile, poverty, and terrifying depth. We’re left feeling good in our cozy lives.

This isn’t to decry wealth prima facia, even amidst the Church. The problem is that we don’t ask the hard questions of how it is acquired. We would rather not question how the pay checks end up in our bank accounts, but still feel like we’re living on the edge. We want to suffer with the people we think deserve our affections. We like the idea of being with ‘the least of these’ without actually doing so.

I am guilty of all the above. I repent of such horrible two-faced evil. May God deliver us from the faux-radicals and the false prophets.

May we, instead, be filled with real prophets, speaking the humble truth: that we are merely dust, redeemed by the Man from Heaven, set aside for so much more. Let us learn from the real prophets and the Prophet, namely Jesus Christ.

Passionate Thomas

It occurred to me that maybe I’ve pegged Thomas, known as the Twin, all wrong. He was one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, and the only one (besides Iscariot) to miss out on Jesus’ appearance after the Resurrection. Now normally, as I’ve been led to believe, Thomas refuses to believe because he’s skeptical. He wants evidence. He has a scientific mind and wants proof. I’ve heard sermons where Thomas is the biblical validation of scientific pursuit, and the inquisitive attitude.

But of course, none of us have seen Jesus in such a way as Thomas, so I don’t know what these preachings are supposed to do. That the Apostles, particularly Thomas, were the only rational Christians? Scripture is not contrary to scientific inquiry or thinking in terms of evidence. However the point is that Thomas is immortalized by this doubt. But what if this is not intellectual doubt?

Here’s a passage to open up what I’m trying to say:

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?”

14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

Thomas is a man of conviction, and he is a man of passion. It is not cold resignation that marshaled these words. Nor was it cold, fact-finding, searching that led him to doubt whether Jesus was raised from the dead. It was that Jesus was so much his hope and light, that it was no light matter to accept that He was no longer dead. Thomas was willing to go ahead and die with his Master, rather than doubt His leading. Thomas could not merely accept this testimony, he wanted to see his Master with his own eyes. His heart was so crushed, only seeing Jesus’ very wounds would bring him to believe.

This is a good testament contrary to false conceptions of knowledge, believing, and trust. Micheal Polanyi was a scientist and philosopher who posited that all scientific knowledge is always predicated upon commitments that are not, in and of themselves, discernible. We go about investigating the creation about us because we presume that it is intelligible, that our minds are capable of understanding, and that there are ‘laws’ (or consistency) that can be tested and measured.

However this trust is not, and cannot, be devoid of our personal feelings and emotions. These are apart of the Human mind, and to dismiss them is to invite folly. Of course we, personally, care about the things we study. There is no zoologist who is indifferent to the species he/she studies. The intrigue, the wonder, the excitement all create emotions that tell us our work is good and just.

Therefore, it’s not the fact that we emote, but how we emote, which is important. When one’s career and standing is more important than the Truth, that will lead one to dismiss theories that run contrary to the standard. One’s intoxication on power and success may lead to dismissing rival theories. But we’re avid self-justifiers and liars. We tell ourselves that it’s not out of self-preservation or self-glory that we do what we do. I’ve been speaking of the sciences, but this applies to all. Our insatiable need to maintain our man-made hierarchies will lead to dismiss the corrections of perceived inferiors, and lead us to cover up the Truth.

Thomas staked his hopes and feelings upon the advent of God’s Messiah, and his heart could not bear only the possibility that He was raised. He needed to see His Lord and Friend before Him. This is the testimony that John speaks of when he tells us that “we” (the Apostles) saw the Word of Life with our eyes and hands. It wasn’t just Jesus in the flesh, but to see Him in Resurrection. Here God’s righteous verdict was passed, here hope sprung eternal through the Root of Jesse, the unconquerable Lion of Judah.

So what does this leave us in Jesus’ statement “Blessed are you Thomas…but more blessed are those who have not seen”. Is that only a game that faith is somehow superior to sight? But our hope is that one day our faith will become sight. Or is it that living by faith is some sort of test? Perhaps it develops and grows us as people. But maybe it’s more simple than all of this. Maybe it’s the pain Thomas would feel.

We who follow, seek, and know the Godhead are merely gripped in the pain of arrival. We await to know and see what we’ve only known and seen in part. We burn with finally being able to meet our King face-to-face. But Thomas, he wasn’t just awaiting for an arrival. He knew the glory that is King Jesus. In the Spirit, we have His presence, but it’s not the same. Thomas was awaiting the fulfillment of the Risen Lord. The gift of those who saw the Risen Christ is deep and terrible. What a yearning it would unleash inside!

I don’t nearly burn enough for the return of my beloved King. I am too easily fooled to forget His Return. I can be pained for the presence of my woman or a deeply missed friend, which are all good as well. But how much more my Sovereign, the Creator and Redeemer of Heaven and Earth! How I long to burn in such a way that I live to await His descending, with the Heavenly City following in tow.

Doubting Thomas was not cold or calculating. He wanted his King, and would not settle for the words of Peter.

Maranatha

Militant Muslims, Masculinity & Mission

An article came out that was a rather obvious, though explosive, comment on the demographic on those who join ISIS. Surprise, surprise, most who joined their ranks were not extraordinarily devout strugglers for Islam. They were not mystic Sufis with a bent for violence. These types, realistically, are very rare. Instead, they were disaffected, educated, alienated, and angry young people. They were caught on a wave of the West’s proliferation of a listless materialism. So instead of being like one of our own American youths, and other Westernized people, be content with mindless, ‘no-strings-attached’, sex, recreational drug use, sports addiction, fitness cults, and corporate ladder climbing, they chose a different way.

Violence and bloodlust have always been powerful pathways for people trying to forge meaning. “Life is in the Blood”, so the Lord spoke, and it is true. Shedding blood gives an exhilaration which paradoxically makes us feel more alive, and yet kills our humanity. This blood-shed doesn’t even have to happen in our own hands for us to revel. All to often it is vicarious bloodlust, and we, though sanitized, continue to live out this truth in the West.

The line between sport and blood-sport has always been a precarious one, and should make us, the Church, tremble when we consider it. Not in fearful fleeing, but in concerned reflection. As a recent lecturer pointed out, the differences between gladiatorial combat, medieval chivalric jousting, and the heavily commercialized UFC are nearly void. Yes, in gladiatorial combat people might die, due to the whim of the host and the cheer of the crowd. But there were rules. There were referees. It wasn’t mere bloodshed, but it had an art about it.

Violence has a deep and abiding allure to it. We become powerful in being able to execute life and death decisions. We are exalted as the enemy is defeated. In some sense, the ability to kill is a practice of idolatry. We, or whoever we lift up, become gods able to take away life. In the hands of a State, it is combined with the ability to proffer life. We brought you into this world, we molded you, we send you to bring death to our enemies, and we will see you out. So they say.

ISIS is just another manifestation of Nationalism, though it is not nationalism as the word is usually defined. It is perhaps similar to our American context, which relies less on blood or land, but on a philosophy of life and the god we worship. As I’ve drummed on before, America is a cult of the empty shrine. We can worship whoever or whatever we want as long as it is within our cultural orthodoxy. As long as we don’t call into question ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, then we are safe. It is just like Rome, who allowed any gods who did not interfere with the Imperium of the Capitol.

Perhaps that is why vitriol for ISIS is so harsh, fitting as it does in the Islam/West culture-clash paradigm that has spread deep roots since the fall of the Soviet Union. ISIS, like the Soviet Union, is a competitor for the hearts of the world, blending sex, violence, pride, and purpose into a single way of life. No American governing official would ever admit such, but that does not negate the truth. The idolatrous ‘Freedom’ is the god that holds us all together. Right or Left, it’s the same vision, but different details. The Left might advocate free sex or free definition of one’s person; The Right might advocate free use of weapons (the prevalence of militia culture) or free markets. At the end of the day, it’s working within the same legacy, but pulling in nuanced directions. Even these lines are blurred as some on the Left have a global market ideal, and those on the Right are quite comfortable with fetishizing scantily clad females.

Yet, unlike ISIS who has vitality, the West has lost much in a malaise. Perhaps it’s battle fatigue, going from an ideological war against the Communists to the Islamists. Anyway, there is little draw to banging the patriotic drum, sexing up the American flag, and finding purpose in the nationalism of decades past. Not that there aren’t efforts. But they are becoming more and more forced and plastic. 9/11 certainly resuscitated the power, but the god of Americana is hungry.

ISIS, on the other hand, is able to bring in young men and women. To the former, there is a mission, a sense of destiny and power, and a structured and purposed life. They are to fight against the encroachments of the West, bringing unity and national identity. There is adventure and emotional high in fighting for a new way. One needs only look at the revolutions of Europe in the 19th century, the French Revolution, hell, even the American revolution.

For women, there is a sense of adding one’s femininity to the conflict. Western girls went overseas to join ISIS. They wanted a sense of deep and communal belonging. They wanted to be married both to convicted, purpose-driven, husbands and a cause. There was something attractive about a man with a mission. Sadly, they found only lust and ‘hungry’ men. And worst still, they felt justified in what they did. Still, the attraction doesn’t stop even if the dream fails the reality. Of course, all idolatries are the same. Pray for these girls.

However, empires come and go, God’s Kingdom remains. But there is still a deep problem in all of this. God created us men and women, and there is something distinct in the fact that we have sexed bodies. There has been a trend that many have bought into the Western presuppositions, rather gnostic, that our ‘gender’ is merely a cultural construct. Despite the lusts of the heart, and the round-about way the Liberal West has sated them, the general message is we need to grow up and get over it.

Strangely, we are commercially sold a dual message of boyish/girlish anesthetized sexuality, and then told it’s all a construction. I guess it makes sense: if we’re all idiot children, then what’s the harm in a game of make-pretend. Men are given a vent in releasing a little machismo, women dress up, smoothed over with perfect skin, perfect breasts, perfect hair etc etc. Yet men are told to not be manly. It’s ok to have muscles, but no chest hairs. Girls are told not to be girl. Girls are to be brash, demanding and commanding, yet wearing revealing clothing.

I don’t really understand all the currents that flow and move in our society, or which ones self-identify themselves as having any universal value. I’m not sure if anyone really knows why they do what they do. Our hearts, and the societies that boom around us, give us a million mixed signals. I suppose, at the end of the day, everyone is racing here and there looking for life. We desire to be Human, though have no idea what that means. We look for Eternity, but have no eyes to see it.

However, the Christ does provide a vision, being the First Born from the Dead. This refers not only to His bodily Resurrection, but to the Resurrection of the Creation. The Bible refers to this as the Age to Come, the Kingdom of Heaven, yea, even the Reign of Christ.

Jesus talks of us ceasing to be given in marriage, that we’re to be like the angels, but despite much pondering, how much do we really know about the angels? According to one tradition, they can reproduce (and did with mortals, and were punished accordingly). Regardless if this is true, the Eschaton will not bring about sexlessness. We will still be male and female, as we were made. Of course, this might invite questions of intersexed peoples, but those merely highlight the falleness of our persons, and each example requires thought.

Well, I can only speak to my own particular case of being a man, which is desperately needed in our society of feeble conceptions of masculinity. The examples are that either men are a bother, a plague, or a strange vestige, or, a hyper-assumption of their identity, in either cartoonish displays or in actual, violent, displays.

I could write on and on about the many concrete examples of both. Let’s say the former manifest in the many comedy portrayals of dads as useless, posturing, fools. This bleeds over even into standard portrayals in common commercials. Men become full of shame for being foolish and useless as the media tells them. The other side is in men joining the military or a gang to find purpose, to be men, and meet their hearts desires. This also comes in ‘bro’ culture, full of binge drinking, sports obsessions, and faithless sex.

In the midst of that, Jesus stands as the ideal man, who lays down His life for His friends, His people, even His enemies (none of these categories are exclusive). The Messiah sheds His blood for the whole world, accomplishing the forgiveness of sins and the regeneration of the cosmos, a new creation. This self-sacrifice is boiled down for Paul in his admonition to husbands to be as Christ is for His People(the Church), but this self-sacrifice can be thought out more generally.

This is not to say that women are not to sacrifice themselves as well, we all, collectively and individually, live as living sacrifices, offering our lives to God. But there are distinctly male and female ways to do this. The age old polarity of male-female, perhaps reflected in external-internal acting, is brought to a close in the Messiah. Both are joined together. Christ built a new Kingdom (external), and birthed a new world (internal). There is no male or female in Christ Jesus. Yet, those we are of ontological equality, and the polarity is shattered, we still live as men and women.

For men, this self-sacrifice is brought about in ways that are distinctly male. Instead of our violent passions killing our fellow men, in word and in deed, our violence is brought down upon our flesh. Instead of being the subject of lust, our passion is for being one with Christ, forging a unity with our friends that we call our community, our church. Our quest for mission is brought to a head with the knowledge of God’s Spirit sending us to live as a people, in exile, on our way out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, making disciples of all nations.

None of these are exclusively male, nor comprehensively male, but mere examples. Our sex is not determinative of our person, but one of the many features of our being. First and foremost, if we call upon Jesus, we are His disciples, we are Christian. However, the Church is in need of understanding our maleness and femaleness in true and good ways. It is too easy to go with the current of society, embracing the definitions (or the sexless lack thereof) provided, instead of turning to the Messiah.

We must look to Jesus, as the Bronze Serpent in the desert, and live.

Veterans Day

Veterans day was a holiday founded for all those who fought in the First World War. It was called Armistice Day and was a celebration of the peace that was wrought between Germany (who was the Central Powers) and the Allies, namely France, the US, and Britain. The guns ceased on the 11th hour of the 11th month in 1918. The Great War, a world consuming conflagration of Europe’s empires, was supposed to be the war to end all wars. It was the conflict of the ages. For Germany, it was marking her dominance as Europe’s chief Empire, the leader in culture, art, politics, and religion. For Britain, it was maintaining a diplomatic balance, and securing His Majesty’s global reach. For America, it was formally overcoming the self-constraint of being a humble republic.

Yet the Great War to End All Wars is a title fit for a dark comedy or a sick joke. The postulations of arm-chair generals, deluded philosophers, and the nationalistic poets fueled this blind and twisted fantasy. Europe’s so-called Christian imperative erupted in a prolonged suicide. Strangely, America and Russia, ambitious outsiders, became the new heirs. America had longed to return to the European theater of affairs, but was considered backwards and remote. Russia always longed to be seen as a European power, but was relegated to being an ‘Asian’ mongrel.

America, as the sole heir of Western hegemony, has transformed this holiday for continued relevance. It is not just for the soldiers of that past exploit, which most of Europe is estranged from. It is a day for all soldiers. While it took World War 2 for the general populace to accept America as a chief Empire, World War 1 was the initial catalyst. Of course, I’d argue the two world wars are the same war with an intermission for 2 decades. It was a no-Peloponessian War.

These wars are remembered in American history as great triumphs for the ‘good guys’. The Germans, whether Imperialists in the first or Nazis in the second, were crushed. The Americans, and her partners, saved the world from tyranny. This isn’t the case. Anglo-American brutality is exhibited in the Dresden campaign and the Tokyo fire bombings. The Germans locked up their Jews, the Americans locked up their Japs. Both had racial fury burning in their veins, only the Nazis were more radical in unpacking their plans. FDR wasn’t a fascist, by no means. But America was filled with ambitious corporatists. While the Nazi leadership may have worshiped a personified nation, America was worshiping the dollar sign and the machine.

Of course I speak in generalities. Many people, whether American or German, had many visions for the world and progress. However, the point I want to make is that churches in America have bought into that dream and vision of Americana and celebrate, to the utmost, Veterans day. Flag colored apparel appears all over the place. Songs sung unto the Nation, with a thin veil of ‘god’, resound from coast to coast. The so-called Christian people glory in the Nation.

For me, this is nothing more than idolatry. If Jesus is Lord, what business is mine to celebrate a city of men and a kingdom of this world. There is a world of difference between honoring and praying for the leader of the city you dwell in, and something else to vaunt, promote, fight, and maintain him. It is not your Christian duty to vote, to be an activist, but to pray for whoever God lets sit upon Caesar’s throne. He too, with the whole infrastructure, will pass away into the dust.

Wouldn’t it make sense for the Church to celebrate her martyrs, real soldiers who gave their lives for the Truth? I’m not advocating the creation of a calendar, but it’s pathetic that people bearing the name ‘Christian’ will be more likely to die for the Nation instead of the Christ. But that’s because America is a functional god for many. Not the only god mind you, for Pagans worship a multiplicity of gods.

Why would you give your life for Caesar, instead of for Christ? If the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob does not desire a war by the sword, then why would we kill for Caesar?

Come quickly Lord Jesus.