Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Stuff I Should Write and then Delete

I recently met a Georgian (from the country, not the state) who is breaking free from a cultural, religious, legalistic view of Christianity that his Eastern Orthodox tradition had given him. He is learning that following Jesus is more about a relationship with a living God and choosing to do the right thing in every circumstance, not simply following a list of rules where they apply and doing whatever you feel like wherever there are no traditional guidelines.

Based on his background, I was only slightly surprised when his first question after learning I was a US citizen was, “Are you a Republican or a Democrat?”

Without a hint of ironic intent, my answer was, “Neither. I am a Christian.”

As a believer, my hope and allegiance belong to Christ. I respect the authority and the laws of the land where I live and also where my citizenship resides. But my confidence and security come from a different Kingdom altogether. My future is not tied to that of any country or government.

What a lot of Christian leaders have tried to teach over the years is that our future and hope rest in one particular political party. They argue that the country will cease to exist if the truly evil party gains control, so our responsibility as followers of Christ is to endorse the other party. That’s what Jesus would do. The funniest thing is, that there are Christian leaders making this same argument for both sides of the coin.

The problems with this are many. It argues that God isn’t in control. That our political system will determine what God is able to do or not. That our only valid political action as believers is to cast a vote every so often. And that we have just two options from which to choose.

And that last one is particularly bad. It is faulty logic and leads people to embrace a wrong out of fear of a greater wrong. What Jesus wants from His followers is to always do what is right and leave the consequences—easy or hard—to Him.

A crass example that nonetheless exposes the flaws of this approach well goes as follows: Suppose a man straps a bomb to your chest and tells you he will kill you if you don’t make a choice: you have to murder a woman or rape her. Do you chose the lesser of two evils? Or do you do the right thing?

If you refuse to endorse hatred and fear mongering from one side, you are not by default electing the other side. If you chose to vote for a hypothetical third choice that has no chance of winning, you are not helping one of the other two parties. You are doing your civic duty and expressing your opinion by standing behind something right instead of following a pied piper and embracing a “lesser” wrong.

And you can remind those who tell you it’s your fault the country is going down the tubes because you aren’t willing to get your hands dirty and endorse a fear mongering, power hungry, racist, loose cannon that they are wrong. I live in a country that ignored such warning signs in favor of a man who promised to make their nation great again. It did not go well at all. You are simply standing for what is right and trusting God to be in control. And He never promised that doing the right thing would be easy or safe. In fact Jesus told His followers that it would be dangerous and the world would hate them for it.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Gunnar's Son (A Bit of Fun)

Bearded toothy grin
At a near miss because it’s fun
His is privilege and honor
No expectation just a sun
That shimmers on the water
See the glacier glowing
Eleven men who play a game
And a nation expressing joy
Chant, clap, scream
A little island’s dream
Is so much better than
Excuses chasing hubris
Like the lion
Who’s ever toothless

Friday, June 24, 2016

Quantum Leap Rewatch (Episodes 43-48)


Episodes 37-42 Episodes 49-54

This period of the show, about half way through its run, is a series of “stunt premises” that are not well enough developed to be special.

Episode 43: “8 ½ Months” 

The whole episode is spawned from the idea of having Sam take the place of a pregnant girl about to give birth. Up until now we have mostly operated with the understanding the Sam is exchanging consciousness with a person from another time. It is made clear in this episode that he is in fact changing places with them physically, and people are just seeing him as the person he is supposed to be. This clarification makes this episode all the sillier. Especially when the writers decide they really want Sam to have the baby. They are so caught up in that premise that they fail to do anything with the story more than the usual tropes of single motherhood in a time when it was even more problematic than today.

Episode 44: “Future Boy” 

Doctor Who meets Quantum Leap. Sam jumps into an actor on a cheesy, old, sci-fi tv show. But the actor who plays the time traveler has some outlandish ideas about real time-travel, that loosely parallel Sam’s theories. It isn’t as good as it sounds.

Episode 45: “Private Dancer” 





Sam takes the place of a male stripper to help save a woman from becoming a stripper and later a prostitute who would die of Aids. A refreshing reminder of a time before the feminist movement tried to talk itself into the idea that the sex trade can be good for women. The fact that the dancer Sam is saving is deaf is an extraneous bit that only distracts from the sex-trade-is-bad element.


Episode 46: “Piano Man” 





A run-of-the-mill storyline where Sam is trying to get away from a mon hitman out to kill him.


Episode 47: “Southern Comforts” 





Only a couple weeks after telling a story about the dangers and demeaning nature of the sex trade, Sam is leaped into a pimp. And the story is not about trying to help the women forced to sell their bodies to live, even though that element is touched upon. Instead, Sam injects the heart-of-gold element into the brothel owner where is presumably wasn’t there before, to help save an abused wife trying to hide out as a prostitute whilst not really being one. I don’t know where they thought they were going with this one.


Episode 48: “Glitter Rock” 





The show plays around with the Glitter Rock scene of the early seventies, but without telling a story that has anything to do with Rock, or Glitter, or anything that related to the scene. Instead they tell yet another murder mystery. We are left with no sense of why this guy had to be saved as opposed to all the other people who died on that day.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Brexit

As I write this today Great Britain is voting to decide whether they will stay in the EU or not. People on both sides of the issue are preaching doom and gloom for the future unless they have their way. It is a fascinating example of the current cultural climate across the world today.

No matter the outcome of today’s vote, the world will go on tomorrow. What’s more, God will still be in control. The results will not be a surprise to Him. His plans will go on without challenge, without hindrance. So fear is not something anyone who believes should entertain.

But fear is exactly the issue here, and across the world. The rise in popularity of ultra-nationalistic, isolationist parties—what many point out can be classified as neo-fascist ideology—is a trend not isolated to Great Britain or the US. Analysts and experts have been documenting the rise of neo-fascist trends all across Europe.

The basic argument says that the answers to all our problems is to hunker down and stop relating to the rest of the world. And a common factor in these positions is to demonize the outsider. Refugees and immigrants are to be feared because they are evil, mostly because they come from other races. People like Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, and Lutz Bachman have capitalized on this fear mongering.

I could be wrong, but I am not ready to believe that things have gone so far. I choose to hope that we can learn from history and not be doomed to repeat it. I don’t see Brexit passing. I can’t fathom people choosing to follow the guts of demagogues and racists over the data and analysis of people with facts and reality on their side.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Rule (Genesis 2:15-17)

When God placed the man in the garden, he was what we call innocent. He was simple. Man didn’t really know anything, he just did as he was created to do. He tended the garden that had been made for him. In many ways he was like all the other “living beings”, the animals. Sure, he was God’s representative, and he had authority over the animals. And he was made in God’s image, unlike the other animals. So he had a relationship with God unlike the other living beings.

However, one major thing that set man apart from the other living beings, was the Rule. We have that pithy phrase that says that rules are made to be broken, but the truth is that what makes a rule a rule is that it CAN be broken. More importantly it can also be FOLLOWED, obeyed. A rule represents a choice. And that is what man was given uniquely in all of creation.

In a sense, the tree and its fruit are incidental. People speculate what this tree must have been like. What was its fruit like and what magical properties did it have? For God’s purposes, though, it might have been just one of many similar trees—a particular apple tree, for example to highlight a common misconception. The key is that this tree—whatever it was—was the one that God told the man not to eat. The fact that it was designated as the forbidden tree is what made it important. The properties of the fruit are not what would change man and condemn him to death. It was the choice to reject God’s rule that would change humanity. The sin was the choice, not the fruit.

“What if?” That is a dangerous game. We can’t really know what would have happened had man followed God’s rule and chapter three had never happened. C. S. Lewis proposed the idea that this would have been a temporary arrangement. God would have eventually showed man what it was like to be good and not merely innocent, but it would have happened in God’s time and God’s way. God wants man to be good by choice and not just innocent. But, we don’t know what it would have been like had man chosen God instead of sin.

In the end we will end up with a humanity that choses God, but it will take sin, death and a Gospel to get us there. And, even though we know that this was God’s plan from before time began, it does NOT mean God set man up to fall. Man had the choice to obey from the start.

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