I Wonder (As I Wander..)

Today I read this in a Breakpoint essay:

“Our familiarity with the Christmas story causes us to overlook the fact that Mary could have said ‘no.’ In his book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, Benedict XVI wrote ‘God seeks to enter the world anew. He knocks at Mary’s door. He needs human freedom. The only way he can redeem man, who was created free, is by means of a free “yes” to his will. In creating freedom, he made himself in a certain sense dependent upon man. His power is tied to the unenforceable “yes” of a human being.’

“It is an understatement to say that a great deal was riding on Mary’s response. Benedict cites a sermon by Bernard of Clairvaux that ‘portrays heaven and earth as it were holding its breath at this moment of the question addressed to Mary. Will she say yes?’”

That got me to thinking.  I wonder if there were other Marys, before Mary, to whom God sent His invitation?  For all we know, a Mary in every generation since the Prophets had her opportunity to welcome God in the flesh, but turned it down.  I wonder what God might still be wanting to do, but is unwilling/unable to do because He will not do it apart from the freedom with which He has gifted us?  Because we won’t freely say “Yes.” Jesus so often taught that the absence of faith was restrictive of God’s working.  In what ways have my own fear and faithlessness prevented God from working some miracle through me?

Jesus took on human flesh in order to redeem humanity.  He still desires to take on human flesh–my flesh–and so continue His work in the world.  Lord, grant me the courage to say “Yes.”

Advertisements

The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult. (Proverbs 12:16)

We need to grow thicker skins.  We need to go back to when we knew that sticks and stones could break our bones, but names could never hurt us.

There is a word that cannot be spoken in today’s world.  It’s just a word.  Six letters, two syllables.  It begins with the letter N, and is a derivative of the Spanish word for “black.”  I dare not write it out, even here.  A man uttered it, in the context of a conference call concerning his business.  He didn’t fling it at a group or individual.  There is no evidence that he has ever used it that way.  There is no evidence that he prefers one sort of human over another in his hiring or marketing practices.

All he ever wanted to do was sell people pizza.  He makes good pizza.

But he said the N-word out loud, to a few his business associates.

No one died.  No one lost an arm or an eye.  Not a drop of blood was spilled, not a bone broken.  Someone got offended.  If they had told him, he would have apologized (as in fact he has).  Instead, someone decided to spread the news.

As a consequence he has suddenly lost the business that he spent years building up from the seed of a vision.  He’s lost respect, lost his reputation, his good name.  He will be vilified all over the media and held in contempt by people who never knew him.  The ripples will no doubt sink some of his franchise owners.  They and their employees will lose their incomes.  Some may come under physical attack.

Someone got offended, and couldn’t shrug it off.  Someone so fragile, so thin-skinned, so insecure in their own own personhood, that they cannot bear even the whisper of a rumor that someone outside their group has used That Word.

What if the conversation had stayed between those concerned?  What if the context was such that there was no harm intended or expressed?  What if, contrary to current fashion, the apology had been accepted?  What if no one had even noticed?  What if we were all free to just walk around on solid ground again, instead of on eggshells?

The sun would set, the sun would rise, and life would go on.

 

 

Addendum

I did not know, on August 14, that Antifa was involved in the Charlottesville affair.  I didn’t know it, because I was not there and the news media failed to mention that part.  But the President knew, and hinted (on Saturday) that there was blame to be assigned on both sides.  What I do know about Antifa is that they are provocateurs, and they are extremely violent.  I learned about them at closer range when they stormed an orderly demonstration in Berkeley on April 15.  After the peaceful anti-Trump protesters retreated (wisely), Antifa, dissatisfied, reacted by vandalizing campus property to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Trump didn’t name Antifa, and I notice that no one on the press criticized him for that.

What Trumps said was, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides.”  Anyone with connected brain cells knew exactly who he was talking about on the Right.  We lacked details of who he was talking about on the Left.  But the press wasn’t satisfied, and hounded him into being more specific.  So later he named names.  But still he didn’t name Antifa.  He said, “Racism is evil — and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.

That still wasn’t good enough, so he came out a third time, reiterating his opinion that there is culpability on both sides.  And still he did not name Antifa.

This morning on the Today show, Tom Brokaw came out of retirement to remark, “He refused to condemn the hateful hate groups that assembled in Charlottesville.

How can he say that?  I seriously don’t understand.  Can the news media actually not hear with their ears and see with their eyes?  I wish someone could explain this to me.

P.S.  The President wondered aloud whether statues of Washington and Jefferson might be pulled down in the future, as they were both slave-holders.  I can see it happening.  In fact, I can already see a movement growing in opposition to the whole American concept, birthed as it was by white European males.  I can see the Declaration of Independence being burned, and the Constitution being deconstructed and replaced by a new American manifesto with a revised Bill of Rights our founding fathers would not recognize.

That’s not despair.  Regimes change, nations rise and fall, kingdoms crumble.  That is the story of mankind.  The good news is, “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever” Isaiah 40:8.

Charlottesville

What happened in Charlottesville on August 12 was wrong.  And it could have been avoided.

What would have happened if the White Nationalists or KKK or Nazis or whoever they were had been allowed to throw their little tantrum, march around in their bizarre costumes, waving their offensive flags and ignorant signs and shouting their hateful slogans–and no one had paid them any attention?  What if no one else showed up except the police?  No media, no counter-protesters, no curious onlookers, no one.

It would have been a non-event.  Heather Heyer would still be alive.  So would police Lt. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, in all likelihood.  Twenty others would be walking around, attending to their daily business.

I’m not in disagreement with those who wanted to demonstrate their opposition to the hate-mongers.  Their motives were pure, and Heather Heyer will rightly be counted as a martyr for a good cause.  But the counter-protesters method of opposition was a mistake.  The result of the decision to confront was disastrous–and foreseeable.  I don’t know who, if anyone, organized the counter-protest.  Probably it just grew on its own, through social media.  But I would urge everyone to re-think their strategies going forward.  Stage a peaceful demonstration before or after the fact, with a positive message and without referencing the hate groups.  Or, launch a city-wide public service blitz to coincide with the hate march, and try to get the media to cover that instead.  Set a counter-example.

And speaking of the news media…   I was watching Face the Nation Sunday morning.  Panelist Molly Ball focused on President Trump’s statement to the effect that these racist movements have been a problem in America for many decades, adding “…it isn’t Barack Obama or Donald Trump.”  Instead of addressing the problem of hate groups as the President did, Ball launched into a tirade against the President, complaining that he was trying to “make it all about himself” so that there they were, poor helpless journalists, talking all about him and not about what happened in Charlottesville.  Really?  Who was steering the conversation?  Who was stopping them from talking about Charlottesville?

And this became the focus of news reports for the rest of the day.  Not the problem of hate groups in the U.S., not a breakdown on how this march went so terribly wrong, not the complexities of the efforts in the South to come to terms with their Confederate past. Not even the conventional victim profiles.  No, but pages and hours devoted to microscopic analysis of the President’s response, mostly focused on what he didn’t say.  And looking for ways to blame him for what happened.

If they’re looking for someone to blame, they should start with a look in the mirror.

 

 

Birth Rights Trumped?

Let’s say half the people who voted for Clinton really like her.  The other half were just voting against Trump.  Let’s say it’s the same for the other side.  So now, about a quarter of the country is happy with the result of the election, and the rest are feeling everything from trepidation to anger to despair.

I find myself in the Trepidation category.  I have concerns about foreign relations, and about the protection of immigrants in this country of immigrants.  I’m not angry with anyone.  And I’m far from despair.  I believe in this country, I believe in the documents by which it is defined, and I have hope that it can survive even an election this divisive.

This blog is about the abortion issue.  I’m hearing a lot about the “end of women’s rights.”  That’s code for the “right” of pregnant women to abort their babies.  This “right” was not bestowed from eternity by the Creator, like the rights referenced in the Declaration of Independence, the first of which is the right to life.  No, the “right to choose” was bestowed by the Supreme Court in 1973.   Forty-three years later, we have the blood of more than 50 million babies on our hands as a nation, and I’m hopeful that this genocide might be brought to an end.

The media, shapers of opinion, teach that a pro-life position comes with the “package” when someone becomes a Christian.  That is untrue.  I know Christians who are pro-abortion.  And I know non-Christians who are pro-life.  I was one of those.  My faith has strengthened my conviction, but I had no faith when it was formed.

When I was in college, pre-Roe v. Wade, I had two friends who had abortions.  One had to fly to Japan, where it was legal.  I felt bad for them, but we didn’t really give it that much thought, we all moved on.   It was about avoiding a complication in life.  When Roe v. Wade became law, it seemed right and reasonable to me.  It would provide a safe alternative to dangerous back-room abortions.  The underlying assumption being that abortion was the prudent solution to an unwanted pregnancy.

After college I joined the workforce, and I began to have friends who were marrying and having children.  The moms-to-be would caress their tummies and talk about their “babies.”  That also seemed normal to me.  And then it happened that one of them suffered a miscarriage.  That was a time of sadness, my friend and her husband grieved deeply for their lost child.  For their baby.  And that was the first time the inconsistency actually dawned on me: that pregnant women were pregnant with children.  It couldn’t be that some were pregnant with something else.  I began to re-think the idea that abortion was all about the woman’s body only.  There is another body involved, the body of a child.

Over time I have learned more about the gestation process.  A human genome is formed, with its complete and unique human DNA, within 12 hours of conception.  A new human’s life has begun.  And it turns out that if it is wanted, it’s a baby in everyone’s mind, right from the start.  If a problem is discovered in utero, in many cases that baby can even have surgery.  Under anesthesia.  (A baby can feel pain by Week 12.)

But if it isn’t wanted, then we’re to believe that it’s not a baby.  It’s called a fetus.  No emotional baggage is attached to that word.  And that fetus can be ripped to pieces in the womb, have his skull crushed, her arms and legs ripped off, without benefit of anesthesia, sucked out like a piece of refuse and disposed of.   Even, now, into the third trimester.

Why has that baby no right to live?  If his parents don’t want him, there are others who do.  If her mother can’t afford to feed and clothe her, there are agencies and service organizations that can help.

Some are concerned about pregnancies that result from rape or incest, or that endanger the life or health of the mother.  Abortion in these cases was legal before Roe v. Wade, and they account for fewer than 15% of abortions performed.  Health concerns account for about 12%, rape and incest 1% or less.  (http://www.abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics/)  So, there is really no argument for wholesale abortion-on-demand based on these exceptional circumstances.

I’m hopeful that, as the pro-abortion movement fears, Roe v. Wade might finally be overturned.  I’m hopeful that more enlightened policies will be adopted, and programs funded, with the needs of both mother and baby in mind.

 

 

 

More Than Meets the Eye

We went to see “Batman v Superman.”  Hubby is a comic book collector. He loves his superheroes.  I can tolerate the movies.  Not top of my list–I find the chase scenes and fight scenes and explosions tiresome–but there is usually a secondary plotline for me to enjoy.

This one surprised me.  It’s all about Jesus!  The villain, Lex Luthor, is angry at God because of his terrible childhood.  He has concluded that God is not good, and that in fact absolute power and absolute good cannot coexist.

He lives in a world where there are two superheroes.  Batman is earth-born, and so represents humanity.  He tries to do good with his superpowers.  Superman is alien-born.  He represents God, also super-powerful.  Luthor has an idea: set these two at enmity with each other, prove that neither is really good, and see who wins.

He sets the stage by framing Superman in a scandalous massacre, turning public opinion  against him.  The rest of the movie traces Luthor’s manipulation of both protagonists, and the media, and the government, to accomplish his goal.  At one point, Superman even goes on trial in front of Congress. The ultimate confrontation ends with the death of Superman.  But not before Luthor’s plot is revealed.  Batman now realizes that Superman was not his enemy, but another power for good in the world.  And here is where the film fairly shouts the gospel.

Superman succumbs on a pile of rubble, and Batman and Lois Lane arrive too late.  Together they gather the body.  Superman is swathed in his cape as he is lowered, and the ruins in the background actually form two crosses.  The cities of Gotham and Metropolis mourn.

The body is taken back to Clark Kent’s hometown for burial.  (Kent has also died, you see.)  At the funeral, Lois throws soil on the coffin and walks away.  But just before the movie fades to black, we hear something like a heartbeat, the coffin shudders, the soil shifts.  Seeds of a sequel are sown, with echoes of the Resurrection.

The movie, chiefly through Luthor, poses fundamental questions.  If God is good, why does evil exist?  If God is all-powerful, why does He not intervene?  Is God our enemy?  All things being equal, could mankind defeat Him?

Luthor thinks not.  Evil, he believes, comes from Out There, and cannot be overcome.  But Batman insists, at the end, that “Men are still good.”  That isn’t exactly the biblical view, but it leans in the right direction.  Superman/Jesus is here to help us overcome evil, in the world and in ourselves.

So, it isn’t just another superhero movie.

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Lie

I had hoped to spend my morning bingeing on Downton Abbey.  I confess, I was totally smitten, and loathe to say adieu.  And PBS, sympathetic, has been replaying the final season all day for two weekends running.

Alas, this morning, they offered up only the last episode.  Not nothing, it’s two hours long, but hardly a binge.  Following that, the program was Dr. Wayne Dyer.  Specifically, “The Forever Wisdom of Dr. Wayne Dyer.”  To wit:

“My beliefs are that the truth is a truth until you organize it, and then it becomes a lie. I don’t think that Jesus was teaching Christianity, Jesus was teaching kindness, love, concern, and peace. What I tell people is don’t be Christian, be Christ-like. Don’t be Buddhist, be Buddha-like.  …Religion is orthodoxy, rules and historical scriptures maintained by people over long periods of time. Generally people are raised to obey the customs and practices of that religion without question. These are customs and expectations from outside the person and do not fit my definition of spiritual.”

Oh my.

The nonsense contained in that one paragraph is almost infinite.  But the sentence that jumped out at me initially is, “Generally people are raised to obey the customs and practices of that religion without question.”  This is something I have often heard from atheists.  They assume that people of faith are intellectually deficient, or emotionally crippled, or both.  They take this as, well, a matter of faith.

But this cannot be their actual experience in life.  I have never met a person, believer or not, who has grown up the way they were raised.  I have never seen a toddler or a teenager obey “without question.”  Rebellion is in our DNA.  In fact, the heavier the hand of indoctrination on a child, the more radical their rebellion is likely to be.

Moreover, genuine faith is not something that can be transmitted by force.  It doesn’t come from parents, or teachers, or pastors.  It comes from God.

So Dr. Dyer’s “Forever Wisdom” looks to me more like arrogance.  He shared with other atheists a high regard for his own intellect, and a patronizing disdain for those who hold beliefs he failed to grasp.

He bought the Big Lie.  He thought that in his own wisdom he could be as God.  He died last year.  He knows better now.