Revenge and Rumors of Revenge

 

The croaking raven doth bellow for revenge.

Hamlet (3.2.250)

 

The Murder of Abel – Gustave Dore

How would you respond if a group of people became jealous of your influence and they decided to do away with you?

Revenge, retaliation, reprisal and retribution. These are four words with the same connotation: returning an offense taken in back onto the offender; payback.

Escalation, increase, intensification and mushroomed. These four words connote the same thing. Their meaning is made obvious as the media uses them to describe the burgeoning effects of revenge, retaliation, reprisal and retribution. Those effects include estrangement, conflict, lack of closure, segregation, armed conflict, crisis, strife, tension, turmoil, wars and rumors of wars, and exclusion.

Settling scores sets in motion a chain reaction of settling scores. On a personal level, a husband and wife may engage in tit-for-tat sniping and then become increasingly retaliatory and then, later, lawyer-up for a contentious divorce. The effect on them and their children is one or more of the effects mentioned above.

On a global level, a nation may resist détente and instead stir up animus with hawkish rhetoric. Such a nation wants to settle accounts on their terms. So, they prepare nuclear armament for retaliatory strikes. And again, whether as an ongoing hawkish stance or a strike, the effect would be one or more of the effects mentioned above for that nation and its relations with other nations. Settling scores, whether on a personal or national level, becomes an open-ended endless battle of wills and powers. This is also true on the societal level.

A guru of the sixties, French postmodernist philosopher Michel Foucault believed that power is the most important aspect of any societal relationship. In his way of thinking, first comes power, then comes truth. Power produces truth. Institutions such as the legal system, the family, the parent, the teacher, the church, and those that hold the traditions handed down hold sway over others. Such regimes of power were to considered to produce their own realms of truth. And all such power domains were deemed by Foucault to be exclusive, repressive, censorious, concealing, and oppressive. Foucault’s ‘unmasking’ of power and its trappings would involve rebellion and retaliation against them. This, he posited, would be the path to liberation for society. This is the path of the Progressive Element who demand institutions change and they remain unchanged. and Philosopher Roger Scruton saw what was happening:

The intellectuals of 1968 hunted through the social world for marks of power, in order to declare their rebellion against it. Every gathering, every institution, every fragment of the old civilization wore for them the badge of enmity. [I]

This Post-modern thinking – power produces truth and power is everywhere and in the wrong hands – produces a context for revenge, retaliation, reprisal and retribution against long-standing institutions and traditions in the name of social justice. Again, Roger Scruton:

“People inoculated by the culture of repudiation, reluctant to acknowledge the search for meaning as a human universal, tend to think that all conflicts are really political, concerning who has power over whom”[ii]

Add nihilism, moral relativism, and ad hoc justice into the inoculation and things turn viral. The culture, as one can witness, is obsessed with anger, hatred and vindictiveness. Theologian Miroslav Volf, in his book Exclusion and Embrace, describes one reason for the spiral of vengeance as “the predicament of partiality” – the inability of the parties locked in conflict to agree on the moral significance of their actions. Put another way, “For me to err is human, to forgive you is weakness”.

While the news media daily presents us with unresolved conflicts and their escalation, the entertainment media offer us conflicts resolved with revenge justice. Its offerings are almost countless, so I’ll name just four current dramas.

John Wick is described as an “Old Testament revenge story”. Wick is a former hitman who returns to the criminal underworld when a Russian gangster steals his car and kills his dog. He searches for those for who did this and for those who act against him. He wants retribution. Revenge is a bloody mess.

In the black comedy Cold Pursuit the main character Nels Coxman, played by Liam Neesom, is a vengeful snowplow driver who starts killing the members of a drug cartel following the murder of his son. Revenge leaves no street unplowed.

Death Wish is described as a vigilante action thriller. Bruce Willis plays the main character, “a Chicago doctor who sets out to get revenge on the men who attacked his family”. Revenge goes pathological.

Unforgiven. Clint Eastwood stars as William Munny, “a notorious outlaw and murderer, but he is now a repentant widower raising two children”. He takes on a revenge job offering reward money to support his family. In the process his partner Ned is tortured and killed by Little Bill, the local sheriff. “Munny heads back to Big Whiskey to take revenge on Little Bill.

(Men are particularly drawn into these action revenge dramas. Women are drawn into the relational revenge drama offered on the likes of Bravo.)

Because of the innate human desire for justice, revenge has been plotted (and popularized) in movies, books and plays. Vengeance was a frequent theme of Tudor drama, as dramatized in the work of Shakespeare. The main character has been wronged or has incurred a significant loss and so self-justified revenge becomes the plot to mete out justice. But, beyond invoking a motivation for justice, the story line taps into fallen man’s impetus for vengeance. The story line allows the reader, the viewer and the play goer to vicariously take revenge. (I woke the other day with the MyPillow jingle in my head. I had heard the commercial in the background the night before. I wonder if watching revenge justice in any of the above movies lays in one’s subconscious mind waiting to be acted on.) Pay back is portrayed as the means to a just and redemptive end. But is the end just and redemptive? Credits will role after a revenge justice movie and your hunger for justice may be temporarily sated, but real-life revenge does end that way.

By many accounts, revenge is the ongoing de facto way to deal with social matters. Political wars, tribal wars, cultural wars, local and national conflicts, Jihad, personal vindictiveness, suits and counter suits, hatred, greed, and the lust for power over others all operate under the flag of revenge. There is revenge and rumors of revenge day and night.

Instead of wanting to forgive, we instinctively seek revenge. An evil deed will not be owed for long; it demands repayment in kind. The trouble with revenge, however, is that it enslaves us. As Hannah Arendt pointed out in The Human Condition, vengeance

acts in the form of reacting against an original trespassing, whereby far from putting an end to the consequences of the first misdeed, everybody remains bound to the process, permitting the chain reaction contained in every action to takes its unhindered course; …[vengeance] encloses both doer and sufferer in the relentless automatism of the action process, which by itself need never come to an end. (Arendt, 1959, 216)[iii]

What shall separate us from loving God and others? Revenge. What shall be the way out of the death spiral of revenge? Again, a quote from Exclusion and Embrace:

“…our actions are irreversible. The only way out of the predicament of irreversibility, Arendt insisted, is through forgiveness …A genuinely free act of which ‘does not merely react”, forgiveness breaks the power of the remembered past and transcends the claims of the affirmed justice and so makes the spiral of vengeance grind to a halt. This is the social import of forgiveness.[iv]

 

We both know that even when we forgive and don’t return evil for evil, the other may seek to continue the cycle of revenge. But, when we disengage from the revenge process and only return good towards the other “you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you” (Prov. 25.22, Rom. 12:20). With forgiveness and acts of love we frustrate the other’s attempt to continue in the spiral of revenge. The onus to continue is put on the other’s head. The other may shake off our response and continue to seek revenge (becoming more of a hothead?) or the other may look to get out from under the burning coals and go their way.

To be sure, forgiveness is not a denial of the injustice incurred. Rather, it is placing the injustice in the proper perspective, as Joseph did so long ago: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20). Joseph forgave his brothers, embraced them and showed them kindness.

How would you respond if a group of people became jealous of your influence and they decided to do away with you?

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

               [i] An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture, Roger Scruton, page 130.

               [ii] Forgiveness and Irony, Roger Scruton

               [iii] Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation,   Miroslav Volf, page 120-121

               [iv] Ibid. 121.

Sundays with Dad

 

As I watch the U.S. Open Championship rounds at Pebble Beach, Calif. I can’t help but think of Sundays with dad. After a delicious home-cooked meal prepared by my mother, I would find dad on the couch watching golf. He wasn’t a golfer, but he must have found watching golf relaxing after a week of working, sometimes at two jobs. I would sit with him a bit trying to understand his interest in the game but after a short while my restive teenage nature would have me ask for the car keys.

Now, as I watch the U.S. Open I wish dad were sitting next to me. I can only envisage dad in my spirit – he went to be with the Lord a few years ago. What I see in my mind’s eye is dad watching the peaceful almost monotonous game of golf and him listening to the whispering monotone commentators while shaking his knee furiously. He was restless too.

Often on Sundays, dad and mom would have guests over for Sunday dinner after church. Those invited included professors from Trinity Divinity School, missionaries from Africa, Bolivia, New Guinea, Japan, and other countries, as well as, church members. Dad would converse with them about the world they cared about. I sat and listened to learn about the world from his conversations. He would joke and kid his friends and also prayed for those who were hurting. Hospitality was characteristic of both mom and dad, as was giving.

Dad was a strong proponent of the tithe. And he not only gave of his hard-earned money on Sundays but also of his time to support the kingdom of God. He taught classes, preparing for them on Saturdays. He was chairman of the church and at one point became a village trustee and, later, mayor of our town. And he prepared meals during the week.

Dad would cook supper and give my mom, who also worked, some time out of the kitchen. Of those many meals, he prepared cream chip beef with peas on toast (“Nooo! Not again!) and sometimes liver and onions (my favorite). On Saturday mornings dad would prepare pancakes as my mon slept in. He would call us to grab a plate as we watched the Saturday morning fare: Keystone Kops, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers and the Three Stooges.

Another highlight of my Sunday memories of dad is his eating red-dyed pistachios as he watched golf. His fingers and mouth would be covered with the red dye. Guess what I got dad on Father’s Day.

I couldn’t have asked for a better dad. He could have asked for a better child, though. I was often a nuisance, like the time I stepped in the wet cement he just poured and let to set. And, I was a teenager in the sixties, so mischief was to be had regardless of Scriptural warnings (Proverbs read after evening meals) and dad’s Christ-like example. At times, I would also become an embarrassment to him, a respected church and civic leader. Yet, I received no reproach from my dad. Though his father was a something of a gruff truck driver who would angrily lash out at his kids after several drinks, that was not my father’s way. One of his dad’s Reform Church sayings was “everything done decently and in order.” Disorderly children were to be handled and reproached. Those words and their negative application had become embedded into my dad. But my dad would not use them as a reproach but as a quip to signify, at least in my mind, that he had moved on from his father’s ways. He could handle some disorder. Mine in fact. Dad, as grace personified, waited patiently for me to change my ways.

Perhaps for dad, watching the slow-paced and peaceful game of golf took the edge off of some of my painfully jarring ways. Golf is, after all, a game played “decently and in order”. And perhaps dad shaking his knee as I sat with him on Sundays was his way of dealing with my ups and downs. Grace meted out?

The spirit of my father and his amazing grace sit with me today as I watch the U.S. Open – golf. (And, I did change my ways!)

Dad & mom

 

 

The Case of Mistaken Identity

Recently, I went to my state’s DMV to obtain a Real ID. Starting Oct. 1, 2020, this ID will be required for all domestic commercial flights and to enter Federal facilities requiring identification to enter, such as military bases or nuclear power facilities. The REAL ID Act passed in 2005 establishes minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards. The Act refers to federal anti-terrorism laws and regulations that control access. To obtain the Real ID I had to submit several documents that verified my identity and my relationship to the state and federal government and my address.

As important as it is to our federal authority to know who you are to identify any threats to its citizenry, it is vastly more important for us to know who we are in space and time. It is to which authority we submit to that matters with regard to the verification of our identity and to the rights granted to us by that authority. Therein lies the case for mistaken identity.

Modern man has placed himself at the center of the universe as the anthropic cause and reason for existence. Modern man sees himself as the final authority. As such, his identity as self-creator becomes the reference point for all matters of life. What came before, what has been handed down through millennia is of no concern to modern man. Religion, science, family – nothing is as important to modern man as his present tense self-created identity. Enter Identity Politics.

Identity Politics and its, as philosopher Roger Scruton has described it, “culture of repudiation”, are at the forefront of modern man’s renunciation of the past – inherited values, cultural identifications and namesakes. As modern man shakes off the past and its ties to his identity, the need to belong remains.

Here is an excerpt from Scruton’s address, How identity politics destroys freedom, during the Acton Institute’s “Crisis of Liberty in the West” conference :

…we have a craving for membership, which is a deep adaptation of the species, and which presses us always towards the group and the conformity that will protect us. Many young people, under the impulse of this feeling, search for a “conformity in defiance,” a belonging which is also a rejection, that will provide a new identity in place of the old.
As a result, the pursuit of freedom has taken on an entirely new character. The new activist on behalf of freedom does not stop at affirming the right to choose a course of action or a way of life. He or she builds around this right a rival identity, an identity that defies the one that was traditionally on offer. This search for identity claims a space in the public world, and claims it from and against the unspoken conventions that have, over the years, made our free society possible. In this way, the pursuit of individual freedom, detached from inherited obedience, leads to a new denial of freedom.
It is worth examining how this comes about. Every freedom creates a difference – the difference between those who exercise it and those who do not. When you use this freedom to define your identity, you are in a certain measure differentiating yourself from those who receive their identity by inheritance. It is then a small move to the claim that the inherited forms of membership discriminate against the new identities, since they exert an unfair pressure to conform. There arises a new and virulent condemnation of our old identity and an attempt to suppress it.

The culture wars confirm the last statement. Social media accounts are silenced and suppressed when any voice counters the identity politics narrative. Swarms of cultural repudiators descend on anyone who doesn’t affirm their chosen reality bombarding them with vitriol. At a minimum the voices of cultural avowal are upbraided by SJWs who, appropriating the words of Jesus, condemn the voices for “judging” and “not loving”. But often, the cultural war is taken to a heightened level.
“Attack and destroy!” is the battle cry against anyone who veers from the political narrative sanctioned by their political overlords. And so, there is character assassination and doxing and worse meant to hamstring, cripple and harm the ‘enemies’ of the “culture of repudiation” warriors. The self-created with self-endowed authority demand that you affirm their creation and their authority. There is a price to pay if you don’t.

What is not taken into account by the cultural repudiators is that the human race has been paying another price, an enormous price, for its descent into self-creation and self-affirmation. Identity Politics, in the form of the Serpent, was right there at the beginning of the human race. The offer on the table: if you eat this you can be like God and own your identity; you can be your own person and not be tied to some outside authority; you can become self-logos. Once the ‘apple’ of self-realization was taken from the hand of the Identity Politics purveyor, problems and misery began for mankind. Self-creation and self-authority would go on to create vulnerability, isolation, and a denigration of the image of God. The quest for power and the search for group identity and dignity also began in the Garden. The product of Garden-variety Identity Politics can be seen today in the Pride Parade – the in-your-face anti-God perpetuated rite of cultural repudiation.

Since the Garden, Identity Politics went on to crawl its way down through the centuries to affirm all takers in their narcissism and to get them to crawl on their bellies for affirmation and fostering a brood of snakes. These snakes offered mistaken identities in the form of self-realization.

Consider this passage from Polish philosopher and historian Leszek Kolakowski’s essay On the So-Called Crisis of Christianity:

Christianity is thus the awareness of our weakness and misery, and it useless to argue that there exists or could exist a “Promethean Christianity,” that is that Christian faith could be reconciled with hope for self-salvation. Two great ideas of the nineteenth century which, despite all that separates them, perfectly embodied this Promethean expectation –those of Marx and of Nietzsche – were anti-Christian in their roots, and not as a result of accidental historic circumstance. Nietzsche’s’ hatred of Christianity and of Jesus was a natural consequence of his belief in the unlimited possibility of mankind’s self-creation. Nietzsche knew that Christianity is the awareness of our weakness, and he was right. Marx knew this too, and from the Hegelians, he took over and transformed the philosophy (more Fictean than Hegelian) of self-creation and futuristic orientation. He came to believe that the collective Prometheus of the future would reach a state which his thought and action would be indistinguishable and in which even “atheism” would lose its reason for existence, since people’s self-affirmation would be entirely “positive”, not negatively dependent on the negation of God.

The Progressive Element, those with Promethean Expectation, do not embrace God. The Democrat party, its enabler, booed God at the 2016 convention. Together they embrace the ideologies espoused by Nietzsche and Marx. The words of Jesus are used by the Progressive Element as a tagline for behaviors they want justified for someone they deem marginalized.

Man, as the principle cause and logos of the universe, creates his own values. Thus, the religion of humanity. Secular humanitarianism is the tie that binds the Progressive Element: atheists, agnostics, deists, social Darwinists and those who buy into sentimental Christianity for the sake of progress. The creation of man-as-logos values produces a querulous society of competing values, hence the culture wars. Amorphous and relativistic values are promoted under the high-sounding and ambiguous rubric of “social justice”. Individualism is turned inward toward self-centered anodyne interest to be protected by “rights”. Progressivism inverts The Second Commandment: “love me as you love yourself”. Lost in Self-Logos

The Progressive Element promotes another authority: the self as authorized, ID’d and dispensed by them. It is dedicated to the proposition that all behaviors are equal, that the ends justify the means, and that power is truth. It lambasts authoritarianism while acting in full authoritarian manner against anyone who wants to see the ring of power destroyed under their all-seeing eye.

If you want to read about the nefarious characteristics of the Progressive Element, I recommend reading C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy. The antagonist Weston (representing Western Civilization?) is a rationalist, scientist and secular humanist, who rejects God and any other form of knowledge outside science. He plots to create a Nietzschean-type super man race. His machinations turn him into a beast. Later, as becomes ever more possessed by the devil, he is identified in the story as the “Un-Man”. The Progressive Element aligned with dark forces is That Hideous Strength.

Or, for a historical take of the Progressive Element’s characteristics, one could read the Book of Daniel. The scribe Daniel records accounts of beastly kingdoms that were opposed to God and to His authority. The rulers self-ID’d as gods.

Or, you can watch the Pride Parade and witness the “dignity” of degeneracy and dehumanization of those making the case of mistaken identity. God does not ID his created beings as homosexual, perverse creatures. God IDs them – all of us – in His own image.

 

 

As with obtaining a Real ID, one has to submit their identity to a higher authority to obtain the rights and privileges the authority grants. Submitting a false ID is against the law. And, one could not submit their documented identification to the federal and state government and claim to feel like someone else. Emotional identity is not who you are. It is only a part of who of you are. One’s identity is a composite of the whole person and affirmed by an outside reference point. But the world rejects outside reference points as authoritarian and God-like. The Progressive Element has a significant problem with authority.

My identity is referenced or ‘sync’d’ with my relationship to the Highest Authority and with my relationships of those who also submit to the Highest Authority. I was reminded of this again today, Pentecost Sunday. The Holy Spirt was sent to indwell all believers of all nations, stamping their IDs “in Christ” and “located in the Kingdom of God”. The Holy Spirit was and is given as a pledge or seal (Eph. 1:14) of an inheritance – another reminder of my ID in as a child of God. Those in the world want to stamp their IDs with “self-appointed authority”.

Because of the coming inheritance I want to make sure all my documents are in order.

800 Ordinary Beliefs

a short story…

Tomas took a bus across town to see Dr. Mendoza. His sister had told him that Dr. M would know what to do. On the bus Tomas talked to a lady with a sleeping child. Tomas told her that he wished he could sleep at night like the boy. The lady, a native of Guatemala, gave her advice: “You want to sleep like a baby? Add some epazote and menudo to your diet.”

Tomas entered Dr. M’s office. He signed in at the desk and was handed five pages of empty lines and boxes to fill out and to check. The doctor wouldn’t see him until all of the paperwork was complete. The only line that mattered to Tomas: “What brings you in today?”

Tomas wrote his down complaint and handed the five pages over to the receptionist. She told Tomas to have a seat. The crowded waiting room offered only one chair. When he sat down the old man next to Tomas told Tomas that he had been waiting for 45 minutes. In their conversation the man said he had no trouble sleeping at night but that his joints ached in the morning.

The door opened and a blue outfitted nurse called for the old man. “Hi, Mr. Long, how are you today?” The man responded, “I’ve been better.” Fifteen minutes later the nurse called for Tomas. She showed him to an examination room and told him to have a seat. “The doctor will be with you shortly.”

Twenty minutes later Dr. M entered the room. He looked at the chart. Not looking up he asked, “What brings you in today?”  Tomas described his lack of sleep as the doctor continued to look at the chart. Without looking up Dr. M said, “I see.” He put the chart down and began his examination.

Dr. M looked in eyes, his ears, his throat. He checked his blood pressure, his reflexes, his heart beat, his lungs and drew some blood. “About this condition of yours, tell me more.”

Tomas explained as best he could. But he couldn’t explain why he wasn’t sleeping. Dr. M tapped the chart with his pen and said, I may have something which can at least help you get to sleep at night. Dr. M prescribed a relaxant and said “Come back in two weeks and I will have your blood work results.” The nurse returned with the prescription and handed Tomas a business card. “Dr. M has a cousin who is an estate planner. He can help you get your house in order.”

“Am I going to die?”, Tomas searched Dr. M’s face.

“No. But you should always be prepared for the unexpected. His cousin should be able to ease your mind.”

Tomas left the room, his shoulders drooping. He didn’t think his condition was terminal but maybe the doctor knew something he didn’t. He decided to pay the cousin a visit that very morning. Preparing for the worst might relieve his condition.

After a phone call Tomas met with the cousin. The cousin said, “Fill out these forms so that I can see your personal financial profile. Include your beneficiaries and your assets.” Tomas spent the next twenty minutes filling out the forms. His only assets were his condo and some cash in the bank. His only beneficiary was his sister Marisa with five children. The cousin explained estate planning and his fee. Tomas accepted the cousin’s terms and signed on the bottom line. The cousin shook his hand and handed him a business card: “A. Mendoza, Funeral Director”.  Tomas searched the cousin’s face.

“My brother is a funeral director. He can take of your end of life needs.”

“But, I’m only 37 years old. I told your doctor cousin my condition. This …”

“You never know Tomas …there are things beyond our control. It’s best to be prepared for eventualities.” Tomas stuffed the card into his shirt pocket and left. He was hungry.

On his way back across town, Tomas came across a Chinese restaurant. He went in for some chop suey. When he had finished the waitress cleared the table and returned with a small plate holding a fortune cookie and an almond cookie. Tomas cracked open the fortune cookie. He read it out loud. “You never worry about the future.” Tomas took the business card out of his shirt pocket and held it next to the fortune cookie slip: Rest assured. When You Need Us, We’ll Be There.

The waitress, a slender young Indian woman, returned with the check. She noticed a look of anguish on Tomas’ face. “Is everything OK, sir?”

Tomas looked up. “Um, I have a lot on my mind these days.”

“I find that yoga helps me with stress. They say thatmuch of our stress comes from us being hard on ourselves. I internalize everything. My emotional brain takes over. Yoga helps me connect with my logical brain. Yoga helps me balance the connection between my body and mind. It helps me with depression and anxiety.”

Tomas searched her face. As he did, she wrote the name of her yoga studio, Yoga for Your Life, on the back of a check and handed it to Tomas. Tomas thanked her, paid his bill and left her a handsome tip.

Marisa had invited him to dinner that night. So Tomas decided to take a walk to the park to fill up the time. The midday sun was glaring and hot. The park’s trees would offer some cover.

Tomas crossed the street and walked past the bus stop. As he did he noticed an advert on the back of a bench:

Psychic Cruises. See your psychic landscape from a new perspective. Get on board with your future.

Tomas smiled. No medium would know what his sister knew. She seemed to know everybody’s business.

Tomas walked further and heard a boom box blaring. What he heard sounded like a three-year-old kicking the back of a booth at a restaurant and crying, “I want your bottle”.

Walking into the park he heard, “Till death do us part.” A wedding was taking place in the park’s gazebo.

Beyond, he paused to watch a father helping his son learn to ride a two-wheeler. The father, holding the bike and the boy in balance, said “You can do this.” The father gave a push and yelled, “Peddle, Peddle! You’ve got this!” until the bike wobbled out of control and the boy fell. The father rushed over and picked the boy up. The father searched the boy’s tearful eyes. Would he try again?

The path took him around a small lake. There he saw an old man fishing. He was wearing a wide-brimmed hat. The man sat as still as the water. The scene reminded Tomas of a painting. As Tomas stood there a young girl skipped past him. Her parents followed behind. They smiled in the direction of the girl between words that seemed difficult for the other to hear.

Around another bend the path went along the great lawn of the Pavilion. The afternoon sun bore down on the field. The air was heavy and dense. Across the lawn a boy and girl were running as fast as they could with a kite in tow. As Tomas watched the kite fluttered and stiffened and jerked and snapped and then darted to the ground. They picked it up and ran again. Kites were meant to fly.

At the pavilion there was a rehearsal for the evening production: Shakespeare in the Park Tonight Macbeth.

Tomas sat down under a tree and listened.

Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

As he sat there, his eyes became heavy. Lunch was heavy in his stomach. The warm smothering air was like a blanket comforting him. He began to doze off. But reveille sounded. Protestors on the street were shouting. “If we don’t get no justice, you don’t get no peace”. A voice through a loud speaker ask-demanded “What do we want? A fair contract!  When do we want it?  Now!”

A gaggle of protestors marched down the path near Tomas. They chanted their signs.

We’ve got the crisis fixed!  Tax, tax, tax the rich!

Education is a right, not just for the rich and white!

Hold the burgers, hold the fries, we want our wages super-sized!

Climate devastation will not be solved by corporations. That’s BS, get off it.  The enemy is profit!

Not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate!

I’m a dreamer You can’t deport ideals!

The sinuous commixture of grievances walked through the park. Did they know? We would all share common ground someday.

Tomas could not see any counter-protestors, only the father and mother who went on quarreling and the little girl who went on skipping and the boy and girl who ran and tugged a kite in tow. Kites were meant to fly.

Tomas got up and looked for the park exit. The pharmacy should be right over there. Maybe I’ll dream tonight, after I take my prescription. That would be ideal!

At the pharmacy Tomas handed the script the doctor had given him over to the pharmacist. He told Tomas it would take fifteen minutes to fill. He could have a seat.

Tomas sat down next to a woman with a walker. She looked him over. “I’ve been here ten minutes already. But I don’t have anything I need to do anyway.”

Tomas nodded and picked up a magazine from the rack next to him. Go healthy and happy! You are what you eat. Fitter, healthier, happier.

Seeing the magazine Tomas was reading, the old woman leaned over. “I eat only organic. I don’t want all those chemicals in my food.”

Tomas nodded politely.

“Ma’am your prescription is ready.” The woman at the counter waved the bag of pills.

The woman got up and Tomas reached over to steady the walker. “Thank you. I wish my grandkids would eat better.”

Making every step count the old woman walked over to the counter. Tomas sat down again. He reached for another magazine on the rack. Achieve Financial Security. Sleep better at Night Knowing Your Financial House is in Order. Opportunity has its Own Door. Knock on it! Success has a price. What are you Willing to Exchange for it?

“Sir, your prescription is ready.” The woman at the counter held up the bag of pills.

Tomas replaced the magazine in the rack. He went over to the counter.

“Have you had these before?” The woman asked.

“No, I haven’t.”

The woman called the pharmacist over to explain their effect.

“These are to help you relax”, he said.

“I have had trouble sleeping at night.”

“Well, then these should take care of that.”

With that Tomas paid for the prescription. He left the counter and walked outside. He decided to call his sister to see if needed to bring anything for dinner that night.

Marisa gave him a list over the phone: avocado, Café Bustelo, and some diapers.

Tomas asked about having menudo. Marisa said it would take too long to make, besides, she said, “I have four children running around driving me crazy.”

Tomas asked a passerby where the nearest grocery was. “Mercado Fresco was two blocks down”, the man with the umbrella said. Rain water was pouring down off the pharmacy awning. Tomas returned into the pharmacy and bought an umbrella. The woman at the counter said, “Nice weather. For ducks that is!” Tomas agreed.

Tomas walked quickly, dodging from one store awnings to the next to escape the wind-driven rain. His shoes were soaked when he entered the grocery. They squeaked when he walked over to the tables of avocados. “Are these organic?” Tomas asked the produce stocker.

The stocker looked the avocados over and said, “They look natural to me.” Tomas picked one out and placed in a plastic bag. He found the Café Bustelo, and some diapers and placed them in his cart. He gathered the ingredients for flan. He headed to the checkout.

At the checkout Tomas there were signs advertising money transfers to Mexico and the Lottery. Standing in line he had time to look over the headlines of the tabloids racked next to him.

Aliens Break their Silence! The Earth Will be Destroyed in Twelve Years! (with photo)

Woman Loses 300 Pounds Eating Only Turnips! (with before and after photos)

Couple divorces and remarries 3X Finds Love! (with photo)

Bigfoot Sighted in Big Boy parking Lot! (with photo)

Doctors tell man wanting to transition a 6th time: Five is the Limit! (with photo)

“Anything else for you, sir?” The woman at the counter asked as she rang up the amount.

“No. Thank you,” Tomas replied. “Do people read those things?” Tomas pointed to the rack.

“Oh, yes! They have all the latest gossip and interesting news. Your sister buys them all the time.”

Taken back, Tomas queried,  “You know my sister Marisa?”

“Oh, yes! She called me and said you might come in to buy some things for her. She wanted me to remind you to get diapers. She said you have a mole on your right cheek. An astrologer told me that moles on the right cheek is a sign of a sensitive person who gives a lot of respect to his parents. But the left cheek, not so good for you.”

Tomas thanked the cashier and walked away wondering if she was going to call Marisa. She did!

Outside, the rain had stopped. But a bus drove by splashing him with rain water. Now his pants were soaked, too. He decided to walk the five blocks to Marisa’s. The intermittent sun might dry his clothes. Through the city buildings he could see a segment of a rainbow. Was this a promise of no more rain?

Another bus approached. Tomas ducked into a nearby store’s doorway. There was a sign on the bus: Vote Angel Rodriguez for Alderman He Knows Where You Live.

Tomas smiled. Angel Rodriguez may want to rethink that slogan.

Tomas continue to walk. He passed a book store. The door opened and there was a gust of Jasmine. In the window, next to hanging crystals, there was a poster in the window: Individual and world peace comes from having a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing.

Another store had a rainbow flag out front. House of Raven Love doesn’t have to be blind. What’s in store for you? Readings, Advice, Predictions, Fill Up Your Psychic Void Restore Your Aura.

A block further. Night & Day Spa & Salon Come as You Are Leave as you See Yourself Revitalize, Rethink, Relax Out with the Old In With the New.

Further down that same block, an army recruiting center. Be All You Can Be. Tee-shirted recruits stood in formation in the alley next to the store front. A Sargent paced and shouted.

The next three blocks were lined with bungalows. There were signs in many of the yards. Vote for so and so and so and so will bring change.

He arrived at Marisa’s bungalow. His nephews and niece greeted him.

Marisa called from the kitchen. “Did you get the diapers?”

“You know I did.” Thomas replied as he walked to the kitchen.

“Enrique, come here. I need to change you. Ahora!”

On the counter were several lottery tickets tucked under a Our Lady of Guadalupe figurine. And a tabloid with a photo of the face of Jesus in naan bread. Tomas set the bags down. Out the window he could see his brother-in-law Agustín in the garage. He was always working on cars. Los Tigres del Norte’s Historias Que Contar blared from the radio.

Marisa came back into the kitchen. “Did you see Dr. M?”

“You know I did.”

“C’mon Tomas. What did he tell you?”

“He said I checked out OK. But my blood pressure was a little high. He prescribed something to help me sleep at night.”

“When was the last time you went to confession Tomas?”

“You mean you didn’t call Father Sanchez to find out?”

“You are impossible.”

“This noise is impossible.” Marisa didn’t hear him.

“Can I turn this off?’ Una familia con suerte. Tomas turned the TV off.

After getting the kids to wash their hands and making Agustín wash his twice, Marisa bought the food to the table. Chicken Enchiladas, refried beans and ensalada. She asked Tomas to give the blessing.

“For this we are about to receive, we give Thee thanks. Amen”

“So, the doctor gave you something to sleep at night. I think a little …” “Agustín!” Marisa stopped him short.

“I brought some flan for dessert, instead.” Tomas replied darting his eyes from Agustín to Marisa and to the kids.

When the meal was over, Marisa made some coffee and brought out the flan. The kids were quiet the next thirty-seconds. Agustín ate and smiled a devilish smile. Marisa ate and stared at him. Tomas ate and avoided both sets of eyes.

The flan gone, the kids were excused from the table. Agustín got up and gave Marisa a kiss. “Sin tu amor

No se que valla a hacer conmigo…

“I know what will happen to you if you don’t get out of my hair.” Agustín winked at Tomas and returned to the garage singing.

Tomas offered to help with the dishes.

“I heard Father Sanchez is going to Lourdes. He can bring back some water for you, Tomas.”

“I have all the prescriptions I need, Marisa.”

“You need a wife and some kids. At least there will be a reason you won’t get a good night’s sleep.”

Marisa turned from the sink and put her hand on Tomas’ shoulder. “Are you depressed?”

“No. I don’t think so. It’s just that … It’s that there is so much to think about at night that I don’t sleep.”

“Maybe you should talk to a counselor. And look,” Marisa pointed to a flyer on the counter, “Adam Lock is coming to town. He’s a spiritual healer. You should …”

Dishes done, Tomas thanked Marisa for the dinner and said good night. A bus carried him a block from his condo.

At home Tomas clicked on the TV. Soccer. Commercials. News. Commercials. Talk shows. Commercials.

There was a commercial of the same prescription the doctor had given him. A man was tossing and turning in a bed. His wife woke up next to him looking irritated. Then came the benefits and contraindications of taking the prescription. And then the next night the man settles into bed next to his wife. And then, the next morning, he awakes stretching his arms out. He is fully rested. A new day. The sun is shining. The wife is beaming.

Tomas clicked the TV off. He went into the bedroom and put on his pajamas. He swallowed two of his prescribed pills and then settled into bed.

Now, he just had to wait for sleep. Kites were meant to fly. Nothing out of the ordinary.

© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2019, All Rights Reserved

Intersectional in All the Right Ways

Merriam-Webster’s Definition of intersectionality

: the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.

I am intersectionality challenged. I am a white woman who was born into a lower middle-class family. I have not chosen a gay lifestyle. I haven’t experienced racism; I may have experienced sexism but I wasn’t looking for it. I don’t think I qualify, as a white who was only given a Christian heritage and a work ethic and who has worked all her life to be successful, to be a victim of classism. Maybe next year it will all come together for me and then I can claim to be marginalized and dip into the slush fund of rights. I am already being marginalized for not being gay affirming. And hated by some presidential candidate wannabes for being capitalism affirming and pro-life.

Who is the most oppressed? That hotly contested matter was solved when intersectionality was given life. The Frankenstein monster was created by a mad critical race theory scientist in her ivory tower laboratory. The monster was stitched together from several kinds of oppressed bodies. “Behold! It’s alive!” The townsfolk are terrified.

The monster was created to promote social and political equity, according to its creator. Of course, the opposite effect occurs. Claiming layers of victimhood is the means to claim layers of power over others (e.g., racial, gender and diversity quotas; affirmative action; Title IX abuse). The townsfolk are terrified.

I am intersectionality challenged. But for now, I’ll do what I have to do come hell or high water or a Frankenstein SJW roaming the village streets.

Every day I encounter someone doing what they have to do. Just this morning there was a woman, a mother of six children, working the checkout at the grocery store. She mentioned to another customer that she had worked to eleven the night before and then they called her in to work at six this morning. Someone had called in sick. She took it in stride.

Doing what you have to do is not glamorous. It doesn’t put you on TV (unless you are featured on Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs and Somebody’s Gotta Do It). There are folks who do what is required regardless of their skin color or gender or social status. Day in and day out people do what they have to do in the context of the randomness of life. They don’t label themselves as “oppressed” or “intersectional”. They make demands on themselves and not on society. They don’t submit to the Groupthink of the victim class. Because of this, they are not featured on the main stream media. Their lives are matter of fact and routine. Their stories don’t fit the narrative talking points of talking heads.

Potato Harvest – Jean-Francois Millet

Here’s one prime example of positive intersectionality within the Kingdom of God on earth. A father and mother raising children, a family connected with each other and to God and to their church and to the community is horizontal and vertical intersectionality. The hurting and oppressed are addressed within this intersectionality. Christians are mandated to “be steadfast, immovable and always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that their work in the Lord is not in vain”. Christians don’t let life run roughshod over them. They actively infuse life with good.

Status, whether as victim or as privileged, is not found in the Kingdom of God. The poor were not called victims by Jesus. The poor were ennobled by his words. Jesus changed their focus. James and John, the sons of thunder, were rebuked by the Lord for wanting special status in his kingdom. Jesus changed their focus. Jesus was not about to create any Frankenstein monsters on his watch. Those who are poor in spirit have kingdom status.

As someone in the kingdom “Do what you have to do” continues to be my mantra, even when tomorrow looks like last Monday and like the Monday before that. And that makes me intersectional in all the right ways.

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Thomas Sowell is someone who could be labeled “intersectional” by definition. Yet, he is defined by and revered for his long scholarly career as an economist and as a common-sense conservative.

As for bad luck, there were years of that, too. But I learned a lot from that bad luck, so I am not sure that it was all bad luck in the long run.

-Thomas Sowell

You Don’t Need a Ph.D. to Help Your Child Get an Education

Thomas Sowell Biography

This Form Should Follow Function Out of Town

Every Sunday these days, as I attend church, I drive past a growing monstrosity. The miscreation covers one whole square block in the midst of a neighborhood of older classic-looking homes, homes with character that befits each homeowner. Even the new homes, as you will see, are fashioned with classic motifs. Both old and new houses in this neighborhood offer warmth, charm and beauty. These houses are homes. You want to be in them. For homeowners, fitting in matters and fitting in with beauty matters more. But now, these homeowners must view this place-destroying doesn’t-belong-here structure under construction.

The disjointed amalgam of glass boxes (cubist in profile) is to be the new public library in what one visitor called a “charming and quaint” little town. Other reviewers on a travel site had this to say: “If you long to be in vibrant Currier and Ives atmosphere, then this town is for you.” and “Straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.  People come to this town from miles around to journey back in time to when warmth, charm and beauty mattered. The town’s architecture dates from mid-1800s. The town’s website proclaims an historic shopping district.

Now what does a public library contain, other than videos? It contains a wealth of information from the past. It contains literature and records of what has worked and what hasn’t. Modernism wants nothing to do with the past nor the wealth of accumulated aesthetics. Modernism wants to be “iconic” on its own and stand outside of historical (and the neighboring human) context. Enter cold, ugly, and de-humanizing modernism into the “charming and quaint” little town to quash human sensibilities. Its Form Should Follow Function Out of Town. See for yourself.

These photos were taken on a grey overcast day, not unlike the dreary ominous subject.

This new public library adds insult to injury. Witness previous desecration of the townscape. This is the police station just off the historic shopping district and across the street from more of the homes described above.

About three blocks from the new public library and just off the historical shopping district is the historical (150 years old) church I attend.

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Modernist buildings exclude dialogue, and the void that they create around themselves is not a public space but a desertification

-Roger Scruton, philosopher

Coming Up Short

Two TV programs that I watch when I can: Bar Rescue with Jon Taffer and The Profit with Marcus Lemonis. I watch these programs from the perspective of a former business partner in a multi-million dollar enterprise and as a follower of Jesus. I watch them because they provide insight into human nature and the nature of rescue. (Blessedly, there are no Progressive Element talking points (race equality, gender equality, wage equality, etc.) in these programs. The only politics involved are the underlying business relationships of the owners, managers and employees.)

A different bar is presented during each hourly segment of Bar Rescue. If one were to watch Bar Rescue over many episodes, one would see that each new scenario has many of the same old problems. And one would hear that the owners are deep in debt. In many cases the owners have invested their life savings, their home’s equity and their retirement funds to keep the failing business afloat. Because of bad assumptions and broken processes and botched relationships the heavily-invested owners will not only lose their business in a matter of months, if not weeks, they will also lose everything invested. So, they agree “to pull back the doors, bust open the books, and make a call for help—to Bar Rescue.

Enter Bar Rescue’s Taffer. He is invited to assess the failing bar. My own assessment gathered from my many viewings of the program: the owners continue to do the same thing over and over hoping for a different result.

At the show’s opening Taffer is shown sitting in a car with two professionals, typically an experienced mixologist and a skilled chef. They view the bar via hidden cameras. They talk about what they see. Here’s a typical recounting of what they view from the car:

The bar’s name recognition is off. The signage is uninviting and confusing. The marketing is off and even off-putting. The signage is more of a liability than an asset.

The bar is chaotic. The employees have no direction and no constraints. The bartenders are drinking and over-pouring away the profits. Some of them sit at the bar. Others party with the customers. In one episode a woman, one of three equal partners, sits at the end of the bar every night smoking and drinking. She told Taffer that she thought that’s what her partners wanted.

The owners and managers appear indifferent and helpless and overwhelmed as to what is going on before their very eyes.

Relationships, at home and in the business, are dysfunctional. Denial and finger-pointing create more distance between partners. Employees and managers verbally fight in front of customers. The alcohol in their systems adds to the bar-family drama and acrimony.

Customers are given horrible beyond-expiration-dated food. The kitchen is unsanitary or unusable. The cook, often a novice, struggles to make decent food. The bar waitresses serve their customers slop.

As a “food and beverage industry consultant specializing in nightclubs, bars, and pubs”, Taffer becomes riled up as he watches. He storms into the bar and confronts the owners about what he saw. And what he saw was what has been right in front of the owner’s eyes for months.

Taffer, in a confrontational style, points out to the owners what he just witnessed via the hidden cameras. He makes “them face reality”: “nobody is being a manager!”; “It looks like the blind leading the blind!” In response, the bar’s owners usually become defensive and deny doing anything to create the situation. They deflect responsibility by acting as if they deserve better treatment from Taffer. They hold a sense of entitlement but not a sense of responsibility.

The staff confirms to Taffer what has been going on in the bar. He encounters employees who are conscientious and desire step-up management. And there are others who make excuses for their behavior after being caught on camera. The owners and managers are no different. Though the bar is obviously failing before their eyes, their pride is the resistance to accepting responsibility for the obvious failure. They balk at personal change. Taffer makes the reality of their dysfunction clear with a stress test: “If you can’t manage an empty bar, how will you manage when it’s filled?!”

After some initial training of the bartenders and the cook, Taffer invites in a crowd to see how the bar functions. By overwhelming the bar with customers, the test reveals to the staff that they cannot handle the level of business they need to succeed to meet monthly expenses, including employee paychecks, let alone be profitable.

Though the bar had opened successfully years before and brought in a stream of revenue, lack of good business practices and an “Anything Goes” mentality brought the bar to the brink of bankruptcy. Taffer opens the books. The bar’s revenue is less than half of what it was at the beginning. The heavily invested owners are about to lose their homes, their retirement and more.

Taffer talks to the owners one on one. He asks about the bar’s early years. With empathy he addresses issues both business and personal. Getting the business’s underlying relationships in order is a priority. Dysfunction has created the chaos and mounting losses. Regarding the unpaid staff, Taffer tells the owners “When you own a business you need to give the employees a better life.” Taffer seeks to light a fire under the owners/entrepreneurs. He offers a new vision and a new bar design with new tools. He offers hope for the bar’s turnaround.

“Let’s get to work!” Taffer tells the bar staff. The two experts are brought in to train the staff. The mixologist trains the bartenders in making properly poured cocktails. The chef trains the cook how to make delicious bar food. After the bar is rehabbed, Taffer presents the new look to the anxious staff. They are overwhelmed by the change. The bar’s signage is inviting and brand declarative. (Sometimes a new name is required despite the owners balking.)  Renewed and revived, they gear up for a new opening of the bar.

The opening is flooded with guests. The processes begin to work as they should. Taffer had told the staff, countering their assumptions, “The guests don’t want cocktails, they want the experience.” The experience begins to happen for the guests. The bar appears ready for success. Taffer leaves after many hugs and the owners saying “Thank you.”

 

For the sake of brevity, I’ll sum up what I see of human nature and the nature of rescue from both reality TV shows.  But first, some background on The Profit.

Marcus Lemonis is presented with applications from failing business (some 44,000 per Inc.com). When he picks a company, he considers it as a possible investment opportunity. “My ultimate goal is to make a reasonable return,” he says. “If I can average 15 to 18 percent on my money, I’m happy.

The Inc. com web article Marcus Lemonis: The Way of the Profit starts with this:

Both on screen and off, Marcus Lemonis is the king of turning around failing small businesses. But his obsession with fixing companies comes at a price.

And, later in the article we learn of Marcus’ and the viewer’s perspective:

“In most cases, the people who apply to get on the show are really in need of more than just financial help,” Lemonis says gently, and when he offers more, as he often does–by calling out a bully boss or defending an overworked and underappreciated employee–that’s when viewers might see parallels with Dr. Phil or even the Dog Whisperer. A lot can happen in those 40 unscripted minutes.

 

Where Bar Rescue presents a consultant-rescuer, The Profit presents an investor-rescuer. Both men must deal with the underlying issues that negatively affect a business. Both offer retooling and reimaging the business. Both encounter a wall of resistance to change. Pride, denial and the owner’s excuse “we’ve always done it this way” impede the business. The consultant and the investor challenge the assumptions, the habits and the lack of accountability they find. The business will not grow and, worse, it may fail completely if their advice is not taken.

Both offer a rescue from the way things are for the heavily invested and the deeply in debt. As Taffer said on one occasion, “We need to take a different path.” Both men give stern warnings about the business’s state of affairs. They each point to the wall of resistance and to the wall of reality.

For both the consultant and the investor, the business’s outcome becomes personal. People’s lives and their welfare are at stake. The business is an extension of the owner’s personal failure or his success.

Both men command respect. They speak with strong self-assured voices. And both are empathetic to the owner’s plight, especially as it concerns relationships that have soured. Their combined benevolent authority and considerate empathy bring about change in the businesses they rescue.

 

Human nature: Man is often antagonistic to personal change. Man will point to the circumstances and/or others as the problem. Man has blind spots. Man’s pride keeps him from seeing what is right before his own eyes. Man often refuses to communicate his shortcomings wanting to appear in control of himself as things he cares for spin out of control. Man resents being told he is going down the wrong path and that he has come up short. Man is often lazy and seeks the minimum of effort to correct what is wrong. Man invests heavily in himself as the captain of his fate. Yet, his Titanic ego doesn’t let him see the icebergs until it is almost too late.

 

Rescue: An authoritarian voice is required. There are those third-party consultants and investors with years of experience who can show a man the way to succeed. They are able to see things as they are without emotional attachment.

Rescue requires turning around and taking a new path. Rescue requires meekness. Rescue requires learning new habits and processes. Rescue requires facing reality and throwing away assumptions based on unreality. Rescue requires a man taking responsibility for his actions. Rescue requires a man seeing he has come up short and seeking the advice to fill up what was lacking in himself.

 

 

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One very clear dynamic I see in both programs: employees want to be part of something successful and worthy of their effort. They gain a sense of dignity when they invest themselves in things that they deem profitable to their well-being, to their self-esteem and to other’s well-being. They want to tie their wagons to owners/managers who are success bound and who are both firmly directive and also have good human relations skills such that make them able to convey direction. They desire managers and bosses who are empathetic when it is called for. Employees desire training to improve their skills, to achieve success personally.

Employees want to see themselves involved in something much higher than a bottom line. The owners/managers must evoke a vision that dignifies and elevates the work being done, especially in light of the customer. Work must be all-around humanizing.

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For those of you who know they have come up short of the glory of God and have put their trust in the One True Authoritative and Empathetic Counselor Jesus, you can rejoice in “the proper goal of your faith – namely, the rescue of your lives. 1 Peter 1:8-9

“Let’s get to work!”

Living Out of Context

 

A recent Twitter conversation offers some insight into the thinking of many.

Background: a presidential candidate presents himself as Christian and gay. A Twitter post highlighting this candidate was replied to by a well-known religious figure (XYZ). The reply stated unequivocally that you cannot be Christian and gay. (I am purposely leaving out the names (and politics) involved because there is a greater issue going on here. Politics adds another level of misanthropy to an already contentious and serious issue lurking beneath.)

In a reply to XYZ’s censuring Twitter post, a gay man (rainbow flag tagged) replied:

 “Jesus NEVER SAID ONE WORD about being gay He did however warn us about false prophets – like XYZ.”

After reading many similar replies over the past two years the selective blind-men and the elephant thinking behind such responses goes something like this: Jesus the Progressive revolutionary showed up one day to bring about change we can believe in. God’s initial project – keeping the Law – was too off-putting and not inclusive. Besides, there are no more animal sacrifices the Law required. Jesus deemed the project a failure. And so, he rejected that plan and began a new one of love, grace and mercy, of inclusion and diversity. To make his point Jesus had to kick some butt, the butt of those who judge and of hypocrites (since man is the measure of all things and feelings are truth). And because of the new radical program imparted by Jesus, Biblical accounts like the account of Sodom and Gomorrah therefore must be revised to fit the new narrative: God’s fire and brimstone judgement was not brought on by the attempted homosexual rape of Lot’s guests but due to people not being welcoming and inclusive. Does this sound familiar?

As I have witnessed time and again, the standard replies from gays and social justice warriors (SJWs) on Twitter (as evidenced above) is that Jesus, as Condemner, did not mention homosexuality and therefore gave it a pass. This way of thinking, of course, is not inclusive (except in revisionist form) of all that happened before Jesus showed up, nor of the whole of Scripture and its narrative of the Enduring Context. These gays and SJWs live out of context.

Though the gospel accounts record Jesus saying that he did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets but came to fulfill them (Matt. 5:17), it seems that many today think that Jesus did abolish the Law and the Prophets in effect. They understand the gospels as Jesus freeing people from the letter of the Law and offering a more human (read liberal) way of living apart from the Law. They posit a contrast between the (negative) Jews who sought to please God by keeping the Law and the (positive) Jesus who they believe taught that you can only please God by having faith and love. The law-following Jews, stereotyped, are seen as rigid and obsessed with the Law the many deem antiquated. Jesus is seen as modern, flexible and love obsessed. Jesus’ encounters with the Pharisees is brought up as the example of this contrast.

The Pharisees were devout men who sought to keep the letter of the law. Jesus did not upbraid them for doing so. Rather, he challenged their keeping the spirit of the Law, their intentionality. And, it would be wrong to superimpose the understanding of the Law held by the Pharisees onto all Judaism at the time of Jesus. The Pharisees were among several religious groups at that time. Each held their own interpretation of the Law. It would be equally wrong to interpret Jesus’ encounters with the Pharisees as his rejection of the Law and his replacing it with love.

When the Pharisees test Jesus “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus summarizes all of the commandments with words from the book of the law, the Torah’s Deuteronomy (6:5): Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. And, from Leviticus (19:18): ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

The gospel writer Matthew, whose account was intended for a Jewish audience, recorded Jesus’ the above encounter with the scribes (Matt. 22:34-40). His record of the Sermon on the mount is all about Jesus infusing the Law and Prophets with its intended meaning: to create a people who would represent the true humanity to the world.

When Jesus says, “You’ve heard that it was said…” Jesus is not contradicting the Torah. Jesus was providing a radical interpretation of its meaning and effect – to produce righteousness and life in his kingdom on earth. Jesus ends his sermon with “Be perfect, therefore, as your father in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48)

Like Matthew, the Apostle Paul, a scholar of the law, was keen to present the gospel within the context and continuity of the law and the prophets. He strove to make it clear what the law was intended for and not intended for. Early on Paul was adamant to write that the law was not what declared us righteous or gave us life or the promises of God (Rom. 4:13). He wrote to the church in Galatia in this regard and to admonish them (and Peter’s recent behavior) regarding the Law’s matter of circumcision, Gentile believers and being in the Messiah. He states that his law-keeping heritage is not what produces what is freely offered by the One Who is Faithful to the Law and its promises:

“We are Jews by birth, not “Gentile sinners”. But we know that a person is not declared “righteous” by works of the Jewish law, but through the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah.” (Gal. 3:15)

Later in the same passage, he writes of the law’s purpose:

Before this faithfulness arrived, we were kept under guard by the law, in close confinement until the coming faithfulness should be revealed. Thus the law was like a babysitter for us, looking after us until the coming of the Messiah, so that we might be given covenant membership on the basis of faithfulness. (Ga. 3: 23-24)

Earlier, Paul writes of the law, the babysitter, keeping him in line with God’s intention:

Let me explain it like this. Through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with the Messiah. I am, however, alive – but it isn’t me any longer; it’s the Messiah who lives in me. And the life I do still live in the flesh, I live by the faithfulness of God. (Gal. 3: 19-20)

And…

Let me put it like this. As long as the heir is a child, he is no different than a slave –even if, in fact, he is master of everything! He is kept under guardians and stewards until the time set by his father.

When we were children (babysat children), we were kept in “slavery” under the “elements of the world.” But when the fulness of time arrived, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that he might redeem those under the law, so that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Gal. 4: 1-5).

Pauls’ letter to the church at Rome is an explanation of the gospel of Jesus Christ by means of its coherence with and continuity of the Old Testament. Paul writes, as above, that the Law was given to God’s people to shepherd them until an Israelite would one day come and completely obey the perfect law of the Lord (Rom. 5:18). Out of God’s righteousness, his covenant faithfulness, came Jesus, the Messiah, who obeyed his Father perfectly. Pauls’ letter to the church in Rome goes into great detail about the righteousness of God – his faithfulness to the covenants he made, as recorded in the Torah. God’s law would be fulfilled by God’s covenant. The reason God made a covenant with Abraham was to undo the sin of Adam and its effects, as revealed by the law. The law babysat those who received the covenant, keeping them in line with God’s promises until the Faithful One appeared and rescued the world.

 

Returning to the opening conversation, it is important to note that Jesus came to his people Israel. He spoke in the context of what they knew: the law and prophets. He did not speak to pagan issues such as idol worship and homosexuality. The law forbade that behavior. The Jews in Jesus day were well aware of this. Jesus commissioned Paul as “apostle of the gentiles” (Rom. 11:13). Paul did speak to those issues. Maybe that’s why many today reject Paul’s writings and choose an ends-justifying-the-means lawlessness.

In summary, if one hangs their hat on a just few chosen words of Jesus that justifies their worldview, then God’s worldview[i] as recorded in the Law and the Prophets and continued in the New Testament is meaningless to them. They are living out of context, just like the prodigal son.

The Prodigal Son 1888 John Macallan Swan 1847-1910

 

I am reminded of what Grace said at the end of the goings on in C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength:

 

Those who call for Nonsense will find that it comes.”

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[i] We read in Genesis that God created heaven and earth. It was to be a His temple. Images of God – humans – were placed in the temple. Humans were to tend to it. Humans failed. The garden, the temple, became despoiled by sin. The law would not only act as Israel’s guardian but also the guardian of creation. If humans mess up, the creation is hurt.
Abraham was chosen to undo the sin of Adam. To make this happen, God promised him descendants as many as the stars and a tract of land. His descendants would be the caretakers of that smaller garden. Israel failed as the true humanity. They could not keep the law. They went into exile.
A Savior came to rescue the world. The kingdom of God on earth was initiated. The church was founded with the giving of the Holy Spirit into the likes of Peter, fallible humans. The church was created to reveal the true humanity to the world. The image of God would be restored in humans. Humanity and creation are to be redeemed as the church awaits the appearing of the Lord and final redemption.
God dwells with man in the New Heaven and New Earth. The law of the land: justice, righteousness and peace. There will be no, “Jesus NEVER SAID ONE WORD about …” It will be UNDERSTOOD.

 

Are You Witnesses of All This?

 

Over the last several posts I’ve written about philosophers (Epicurus in particular and Protagoras) and philosophies (Epicureanism and Stoicism). Taken together they state, among other things I described earlier, that this life is all there is. There would be no hereafter in that way of thinking. During the first century the Apostle Paul, the “the apostle of the Gentiles”, encountered those worldviews on the streets where he sold his tents and in the early churches where he taught.

Writing to those in the Corinthian church whose Gentile members denied a resurrection of the dead, Paul responded in a rather taunting manner to their philosophical take on death as final. The gospel he proclaimed – Jesus is Lord, forgiveness of sins, new creation, the kingdom of God on earth has been launched – all hinged on the resurrection of Jesus.

And if the Messiah wasn’t raised, your faith is pointless, and you are still in your sins. 1 Cor. 15:7

After addressing and closing the dead are raised issue with an eye witness defense (1 Cor. 15: 3-8), Paul responds to the heart of the Corinthian objection to resurrection: the nature of future bodies. He mocks their materialist objections using an analogy from nature:

But someone is now going to say, “How are the dead raised? What sort of body will they have when they come back? Stupid! What you sow doesn’t come back to life unless it dies. 1 Cor. 15: 35

No doubt, Paul also heard that Jesus responded in a similar fashion when he rebuked the Sadducees who denied the resurrection (as recorded in Luke 20:38 and below, in Mark 12:

“Where you are going wrong,” replied Jesus, “is that you don’t know the scriptures, or God’s power. When people rise from the dead, they don’t marry, nor do people give them in marriage. They are like angels in heaven.

However, to show that the dead are indeed raised, surely you’ve read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, what God says to Moses? ‘I am Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, and Jacob’s God’? He isn’t the God of the dead, but of the living. You are completely mistaken.”

In the same letter (1 Cor.15:19), agitated Paul, in talking about people’s motivations in light of their position on the resurrection, recommends Epicurean self-pity if the dead are not raised.

If it’s only in this present life that we have hope in the Messiah, we are the most pitiable members of the human race.

He later quotes a popular Epicurean saying that embraces self-pity and self-indulgence in light off…

…If the dead are not raised,

“Let us eat and drink,

for tomorrow we die.”

1 Cor. 15:32

What was Paul’s background that offered him insight into Greek philosophies? We learn from Acts 21: 37 -39 as he defends himself against highly agitated Jews who clamored for his arrest.  He is brought before a Roman tribune:

“Am I allowed to say something to you??” he asked.

“Well!” replied the tribune. “So you know some Greek, do you? Aren’t you the Egyptian who raised a revolt some while back and led those four thousand ‘assassins’ into the desert?”

“Actually, replied Paul. “I am a Jew! I am from Tarsus in Cilica. That’s not an insignificant place to be a citizen of. Please let me speak to the people.”

Inferring his Roman citizenship, Paul goes on to defend his Jewish background in the face of his Jewish accusers:

“I am a Jew, he continued, “and born in Tarsus in Cilicia. I received my education here in this city, and I studied at the feet of Gamaliel. I was trained in the strictest interpretations of our ancestral laws and became zealous for God, just as all of you today.”

Paul had significant first-hand knowledge of Greek, Roman and Jewish worldviews. Paul was more than able to respond to the Epicurean context of the Gentiles. Paul was more than able to present the gospel in the context of the Jewish worldview, a worldview of monotheism, the Temple, eschatology and …resurrection.

The narrative of the resurrection and an eschatology of the age to come took on great import during the Second Temple Judaism. Other than the words of Moses and some metaphorical allusions to resurrection by Isaiah (Isaiah 26:19) and Ezekiel (37), there isn’t mention of the resurrection in the Old Testament. Those allusions were applied during the Babylonian exile. They refer to the restoration of Israel as a nation and the reoccurring theme of exodus from bondage. The scribe Daniel is the first to mention the resurrection in non-metaphorical terms when he describes the “wise”, the Jewish resistance to Antiochus, not dying in vain (Daniel 11).

It was during the intertestamental period that scribes began writing about the resurrection of the dead, among many other topics of concern during late Second Temple Judaism. The Qumran community kept these writings in clay jars within caves in case the community was taken out by the Romans.

The Jewish religious leaders in Jesus’ time knew these writings, e.g., The Epistle of Enoch and 2 Maccabees. The disciples knew them. Paul knew them. The writings were talked about in the synagogues and on the streets. These writings offered a Messianic hope for the coming day when God would put things right. In the meantime, they stoked courage against the looming threat of Roman authority. It is very likely that Mary and Martha would have known about these writing as well. It appears that Martha had an understanding of them when she confronts Jesus after her brother Lazarus dies.

When Martha heard that Jesus had arrived, she went to meet him. Mary, meanwhile stayed sitting at home.

“Master,” said Martha to Jesus, “if only you’d been here! Then my brother wouldn’t have died! But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask him for.”

“Your brother will rise again,” replied Jesus.

“I know he will rise on the last day.”

(Notice the role reversals from the previous Mary and Martha encounter with Jesus in their home? Martha, the fussbudget homebody, is now interested to hear what Jesus has to say. She goes to meet him. Mary, who doted on Jesus at his feet, stays at home where she grieves and perhaps sulks that Jesus wasn’t there for her brother. She was given another chance at Jesus’ feet.)

Jesus responded to Martha.

“I am the resurrection and the life,” replied Jesus. “Anyone who believes in me will live, even if they die. And anyone who lives and believes in me will never, ever die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, master,” she said. “This is what I’ve come to believe: that you are the Messiah, the son of God, the one who was to come into the world.”

Jesus responded to Martha’s eschatological understanding with, in effect, “I am revising your understanding with personal present tense knowledge of me”. Jesus then asks for Mary. Proximity to Jesus matters and not only for Mary and Martha’s sake but also for Jesus’ sake. He wants to see for himself the loss, the grief and the pain we feel. He would carry our griefs and sorrows to the cross and then remove the sting of death with his (and then our) resurrection.

When Mary came to where Jesus was, she saw him and fell down at his feet.

“Master!” she said, “If only you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died!”

When Jesus saw her crying, and the Judeans who had come with her crying, he was deeply stirred in his spirit, and very troubled…”

Mary and Martha witnessed the resurrection of their brother Lazarus. The three of them would learn of and perhaps be among the over five-hundred brothers and sisters who saw Jesus alive after his resurrection (1 Cor. 15: 5). All of them were witnesses of the things that came to pass. And what came to pass was not a doctrine or a philosophy or an apparition – a ghost. It was bodily resurrection.

No mere manmade philosophy, ancient or otherwise, could ever revive the dead or comfort the living in their loss with “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” No amount of pleasure reduces the pain we feel. No amount of materialism and its cheerleading proponent Progressivism – a political pandering to self-pity – will provide hope for today. Those philosophical positions are about nursing wounds. Those philosophical positions are ephemera compared to the reality of the bodily Resurrection of Jesus and the new life offered to those who believe.

Only the Resurrection and the Life can reverse the downward spiral of mankind and provide hope that doesn’t pass away with a meal. Live in the present tense Resurrection and Life as Mary and Martha and hundreds of early followers of Jesus did.

Are you witnesses of all this? Of the resurrection? Or, are you witnesses of the Easter bunny? I think that’s what Paul had in mind when he mocked the Corinthians.

Empty tomb

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The Resurrection is the central theme in every Christian sermon reported in the Acts. The Resurrection, and its consequences were the “gospel” or good news which the Christians brought: what we call the “gospels,” the narratives of Our Lord’s life and death, were composed later for the benefit of those who had already accepted the gospel. They were in no sense the basis of Christianity: they were written for those already converted. The miracle of the Resurrection, and the theology of that miracle, comes first: the biography comes later as a comment on it. Nothing could be more unhistorical than to pick out selected sayings of Christ from the gospels and to regard those as the datum and the rest of the New Testament as a construction upon it. The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number of people who say they have seen the Resurrection.

Miracles, C.S. Lewis

Good Friday and the Problem of Self-Pity

 

Definition of self-pity

: pity for oneself especially: a self-indulgent dwelling on one’s own sorrows or misfortunes

Evening Melancholy I 1896 – by Edvard Munch

The philosophy of Epicureanism posited by the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC) a few centuries before the birth of Christ offered mankind self-pity with license. Per Epicurus, there was no God or the gods were uninvolved with men and there was no life after death. So, mankind had to make the best of the atoms he was dealt. Man was to do so by avoiding pain and seeking pleasure in the company of like-minded friends. Self-pity could be dealt with in intimate and safe surroundings.

Prior to Epicurus, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher and sophist[i] Protagoras (490 BC – c. 420 BC) postulated “Man is the measure of all things.” There were no Universal truths for Protagoras. As Epicurus would later teach, everything to be believed was to come through the senses. Protagoras’ atheism adopted moral relativism as a way to give meaning to a life of self-pity: “What’s true for me may not be true for you…”; “Anything goes…If it feels good, do it” until you die.

“Concerning the gods, I have no means of knowing whether they exist or not, nor of what sort they may be, because of the obscurity of the subject, and the brevity of human life.” – Protagoras

The Stoics[ii], around the same time as Epicurus, posited a grim fatalist outlook. Considering themselves cogs in life’s machinery their response was to lead a virtuous life in spite of “it all”. Materialism and passions were of no interest to them. “No Fear” and apathy towards life’s randomness were the attitudes they wore on their shoulder to appear non-self-pitying. They also advocated for suicide, the ultimate self-pity.

I cite these two Greek philosophers and the Stoic philosophy, because, as it seems to me, the ideals posited by them summarize all of the ensuing humanist philosophies: man is the measure of all things; there is nothing transcendent only naturalistic causes; man operates as a product of animal organism within different cultures; man must create his own meaning; man is logos.

Evident today in modern man’s worldview are philosophies espoused centuries ago. Strains or genealogies of man-as-logos thought has been passed down from the Garden through generations. I recognize the dehumanizing philosophies, those that elevate man to be the center of the universe and also entice him to live in servility to his bodily functions. There is no doubt in my mind that modern man is influenced by these self-pitying based philosophies. Our current politics, especially the politics of the Progressive Element, highlight their invasiveness into modern thought. Below, a recent campaign appeal to self-pity for votes (and a humanist version of Jesus’ “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”):

To anyone who has ever felt different or unloved or not good enough-this is a moment to show you that you matter to all of us. Keep believing in yourself, we love you. Change is coming.

@PeteButtigieg

Around the first century Epicureanism and Stoicism were evident in Greek, Roman and Pagan life. These philosophies gave words to what was inherent in man from his days in the Garden. During the first century these philosophies were already fused with pantheism and the zeal to worship pagan deities. Pagan sacrifices were offered to placate the angry gods posited by philosophers and the temple priests. Such offerings to the angry gods were meant to ensure that the self-pity-self-logos applecart was not overturned. Into that self-reflecting age came a Reflection of Heaven.

During the first century the Apostle Paul wrote “when the fulness of time arrived, God sent his son, born of a woman” to redeem those kept in “slavery” under the “elements of the world” Gal (4:3-4). The self-pitying responses to life were given notice.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, a church embedded with Epicurean thought, about the Israelite’s desert plight. The Israelites displeased God with their self-pitying Epicurean ways:

The people sat down to eat and drink, and got up to play. – 1 Cor. 10:7

The self-pity (“God doesn’t care.”; ‘We’re all going to die.”) the Israelites had in Egypt they brought with them into the desert. Their self-pity became a pattern of living: idolatry, immorality, testing God and grumbling.

Epicurus taught of a shared life with friends. Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi about a shared life in the King. He taught a different way of thinking, one not of self-pity, but one centered on the Logos and other-centered. Paul taught about a partnership in the spirit, about fixing your mind on the Messiah, about never acting out of selfish ambition and, about looking “after each other’s best interests, not your own”.

Stoics taught a grim fatalist apathy towards life’s hardships, that one must muddle through bravely without hope. Jesus taught “Blessed are the poor in spirit. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” There was no after life for a stoic. Jesus said, “There is plenty of room to live in my father’s house. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am.

Paul’s epistles explain more: Jesus knew what he had to do to rescue men from self-pity and its consequent self-destruction. He would deny himself and empty himself of all pleasure -glory in the company of his father-and take on the incomprehensible pain of the world. He didn’t blame fate or others for his coming crucifixion. There was no posturing stoicism against unknown odds or self-indulgent dwelling on one’s own sorrows or misfortunes when Jesus asked “My father, if it’s possible –please, please let this cup go away from me! But… not what I want, but what you want.” Love for the father and for his creation was his motivation and his life’s meaning and, his means to bring humankind into the same intimacy he enjoyed with the father.

I have given them the glory which you have given to me, so that they may be one, just as we are one. – John 17: 22

Protagoras taught “Man is the measure of all things.” Paul wrote that King Jesus was the measure of all things.

This is how you should think among yourselves – with the mind that you have because of you belong to the Messiah, Jesus:

Who, though in God’s form, did not

Regard his equality with God

As something to exploit

 

Instead, he emptied himself,

And received the form of a slave,

Being born in the likeness of humans.

And then, having human appearance,

He humbled himself, and became

Obedient even to death,

 

Yes, even the death of the cross.

And so God has greatly exalted him,

And to him in his favor has given

The name which is over all names:

That now at the name of Jesus

That every knee within heaven shall bow—

On earth, too, and under the earth;

And every tongue shall confess

That Jesus, Messiah, is Lord,

To the glory of God, the father.

-Early Christian hymn recorded in Philippians 2

 

 

Both Protagoras and Epicurus taught that death was the end. For them and for many since, there would be no thought of resurrection, only the dust bin of history containing once self-pitying lives lived seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.

Even though first century Judaism (and freaked-out King Herod) was abuzz with talk about the resurrection of the dead, Mary and Martha, (in bouts of self-pity?) appear to have thought that their brother’s death was the end of life as they knew it.

“Master,” said Martha to Jesus, “if only you’d been here! Then my brother wouldn’t have died!

“Master!” Mary said. If only you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died!”

The Resurrection and the Life would have none of this talk. And, he would deal with self-pity.

 

 

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On my dining room table there is a fragrant pot of lilies. The fragrance….is not the smell of death but of resurrection…

 

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[i] The philosophical school of Sophists did not deal in truth, logic, beauty or the transcendent. As Pluralists their teaching was a mix of philosophy, politics, opportunism and entrepreneurship. They were pragmatists who offered their life-counseling services for fee. They were self-help gurus.

 

[ii] Stoics taught that there is no universal truth, that what could be learned was through the senses and experience. The Divinity they believed in was the Logos, or mind. According to the pantheistic Stoics, we all breathed in pneuma, the air of the soul of the universe, the Oversoul. They avoided passion and worldly pleasures and thought the ascetic life ideal. Pleasure was not considered good and pain was not considered evil. Virtue is good and vice evil. Life deals cards, deal with it. Their philosophy can be summed as follows: “Everything happens for the best, and you can usually expect the worst.”; “c’est la vie!”