Insider Knowledge

Maybe you’ve encountered me. I like to be noticed. I am that passing shadow and that clipped voice in a box that spooks the ghost hunters on their TV programs. I’m the cold presence they encounter. What did they expect? I have no molecules to bounce around inside of me to keep me warm. I love absolute zero and the limelight doesn’t affect me as does, you know, the searing light. I dwell in the dark recesses of the universe and come around to revel in the revolting. And, more importantly, to tell people what they want to hear. That is my specialty.

I work with psychics and with those who presume to hear from the dead. And with philosophers. I am the lifeline for their game show. And, what a game it is: humans ante up their souls so they can win esoteric knowledge. What a piece of work is man! Little wonder that Hamlet is one of my favorite plays.

Who could ask for more? Murder, revenge, a ghost, hemming and hawing soliloquys, a disloyal mother, friends with secret motives, suicide, poison, madness, carnage, and a morose and grieving Prince. You know Act One. Prince Hamlet’s friend Horatio, along with two sentries, is visited by a specter that resembles the late King Hamlet. Learning of the visitation from Horatio, Hamlet resolves to see it for himself and make his own judgement. He knows that my Master likes to deceive the grieving with familiar forms. When the ghost appears to Hamlet, he tells Hamlet that he was murdered by his brother Claudius. Hamlet must avenge his death. In the moment, Hamlet agrees to avenge his father. After being sworn to secrecy about all he has witnessed, Horatio says the encounter is unbelievably strange. Hamlet tells Horatio to welcome the strange as he would a stranger. How inclusive!

Then, reminded of his time studying in Wittenberg with Horatio, Hamlet tells Horatio that “There are more things in heaven and earth, my friend, Than are dreamt of in our philosophy”. That’s where I come in. The play ends as it should – bodies everywhere. Let the good times Roll! Left to his own devices, man is a piece of work!

Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this. I communicate to the spiritualists and theorists what I know. It is easy. I’ve been around for a long time. I know things that have happened. I’ve heard what everyone else has heard. Someone dies and I can speak to medium about what I know about him or her. I can play dead. What fun! This knowledge works well with the ghost hunters. I toy with them. Ha-ha-ha! There have been many times when humans think that they have felt spiritual forces. But it is just a bunch of emf. But I’ll take credit for it. I like the attention.

Speaking of attention, I’m the one that pushes and scratches those who live with me. I infest house and lives …and ideologies. Some will sweep me out of their lives for a time but I come back with new tricks and new guises. I can take on many forms, or, I should say, personas. History has recorded my work.

Maybe you know me as “The end is what you want and the means is how you get it” Saul Alinsky or as “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime” Lavrenty Beria. Maybe you know me as the positive materialist who holds that all things, including consciousness and mental state, are the result of material interactions. I am quite involved in those material interactions. The pursuit of happiness, whether by idealism or material necessity, doesn’t happen without immaterial me.

Now, I don’t need to work with atheists. They are already on the right track. They have their reason and no need for the likes of meta-physical me. The conditions of their everyday existence are proof enough that there is no God. So, they resign themselves to the laws of nature and adapt to them and give way to those laws. They end up lonely and pounding their head against the wall. I don’t have to get physical with them. They do it to themselves.

The atheist cannot prove the beauty of a woman, yet, he will demand proof of the Antagonist’s existence from his minions and that is where I come in. How so, you ask? Alinsky said it best: “Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.” Seeing the Antagonist’s minions foul up with my help, the atheist becomes all the surer that his or her descent into pure reason is where he will find answers. And, once he or she dons implacable autonomous reason (I’m thinking in Halloween terms) they won’t need to get involved with the gooey and merciful Antagonist. I’ve already been there and done that. Things didn’t work out in my favor. But you Atheists, hang with me and before you can snap your fingers three times, you will put on the Imago de Diabolus, the likeness of my High Master. “Will you win his favor?” you ask.

I may be cold-hearted but my Master, his disposition colder than Absolute Zero, warmly welcomes the proud self-assured atheist.

My Master knows that atheists cannot accept mysteries unless they are solved in a movie or at the end of a book, or solved before their very eyes. My Master knows that they refuse to hold in tension any thought which presents itself outside of cold logic. Because of their wonderful quality of unending skepticism, they revere solipsism, science and reason, and the readily explainable. My Master is their lifeline in this game. He explains everything right when they need it. No waiting. The Antagonist draws things out into mystery and keeps you on hold indefinitely.

Some of my best work is done with humanists and social scientists. I use Progressive ideology along with consensus and sentimentality to persuade them into thinking that humans are perfectible, that one day man will reach the pinnacle of human perfection because of their exalted efforts (and if only they were in charge). Their motto: Fortschritt, Fortschritt über alles! (nb: I am working on the chosen people as I pen this.)

The young and inexperienced are the best targets for, ahem, smoke and mirrors. They dream of happiness, regeneration, of utopia. Like moths to a flame, they gather around the prophets of secular humanism. They did so for Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. These heroes of the religion of Revolution offered the utopia of uniformity and universality. They delivered on their promises. Humans were uniformly and universally dealt with, just as I had hoped. Healthcare is my newest moth-gathering flame. Control healthcare and you control people. Another Alinsky saying.

And that is how I work the old – with offers of healthcare. But some of the old are already set in their Antagonistic ways. If they refuse my offers of help then I say ‘He that is not with me is against me’. I walk away and shake the dust off of my Ways and Means Handbook.

The Antagonist has many followers in name only. I call them FINOs. They are fine with a religion without evil. Ha-ha-ha! They even believe in universal salvation! I love it! These FINOs love the amorphous and homogeneity above all else. They are not much different than the Progressive humanists and social scientists. And though they congregate differently from them, the FINOs also believe that there are no limits to human perfectibility. Therefore, they do not oppose the forms of culture I offer.

Kudos to the humanists, the social scientists, the FINOs and the central planners who work to fulfill the mission statement of My Master: reduce humanity to a state of uniformity and universality – the brotherhood of man and all that. And that is why I sow seeds of discontent. I stir up the pot, so to speak. How better to create a unity of the disgruntled than to divide humans into “me, good and you, bad” groups. Again, Alinsky best described my ways with the unwilling and obstinate: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. And of course, I get them to see that difference means hierarchy and all hierarchy is oppression, especially the hierarchy of that realm of hideous and cruel light.

Lawlessness is the only proper response to hierarchy. So, I want you to banish all law-enforcement, judges, priest and pastors, et al. from existence and to unleash the gates of …prisons. You shall know me and my ways and you shall be free.

Of course, I cannot recommend the Antagonist to you. As the Master’s muse I can only sing the Master’s praises. But I do commend the fact that humans have wills and make choices. This makes my job doable. For with the right choices, one can reach the perfection I have planned for them.

Caveat. I don’t deal in consequences. I don’t have to. Humans let the chips fall where they may. They are inclined to do what they feel and to not pay attention to consequences. I am good with that. In any case, they will end up blaming others or society or the Antagonist for their problems. Ha-ha-ha! What fun!

I’m in my element when I create dilemmas – no escape dilemmas. The only solution being to beat one’s head against the wall or the revolver. Either solution will have you blaming the Antagonist and asking “Why am I here?” I’ll tell you why once you stop beating your head against the wall.

You are here to know the power to control others that is available to you. And, I am not just talking witchcraft and magic arts. You’d be interested to know that I am also talking social-economic-political power. And if you are hungry, I will offer you socialism and the brotherhood of man to feed you. If you fall down and break something, I will offer you universal healthcare. It pleases my Master to give you good things and …to remove the confusing things from your sight.

As a non-binary values adjuster, I alter signs and symbols and any of the inherited forms and distinctions associated with the Antagonist. I offer a new sacred ordering of things. One recent example.

Just last week a transgender cyclist won a woman’s cycling championship. And this was not the first time. Ha! The other women in the race whined of unfairness, saying that science was on their side and that men have a physical advantage over women. But science and reason have nothing to do with it. The ends, a new sacred order of things, justify the means – out-cycling your opponents. And what right do they have in reproaching the champion? None! The champion was right to call them out: “You have an irrational fear of trans women.” Ontology trumps anatomy!

“Deal in lies?” you ask. Of course, one should deal in lies. With lies you don’t cross a line. You move the line that someone else put there. With a lie you create a safe space for yourself. Very utilitarian. You can now do this online.

Social media is a Master-send. So, I try to claim every square inch of screen I can. For one thing, I get women to expose themselves on social-media. And why not. Social mores are oppressive, created by dead white men. And by now you know that self-image is a very important part of being on social media. It is also in my line of work. When you are not showing pictures of the food you are eating or pictures of your bikini-self, you will want to portray your ever-day respectable self as you call out others for their evil ways. Be prepared, though. Some on social-media will want to tear down your self-image. Be in their face to protect your self-image. Demand affirmation of yourself against all hearsay.

Enough about you. It is Halloween. I have to diddle some Ouija Boards and knock on some wood at seances. You know. The usual tricks and treats. “Give the people what they want” my Master says. So, I’m off. I must pick up my costume. Nothing ghoulishness. I will be going door-to-door as an aborted fetus.

 

 

 

 

© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2019, All Rights Reserved

Iran: Sheep Among Wolves

 

“I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the LORD.”‘ Ezekiel 38:23

 

“The Iranian awakening is a rapidly reproducing a discipleship movement that has grown into the largest church in the world. It owns no property, no buildings, no central leadership, and is predominantly led by women. Hear their stories.” – Dalton Thomas, director of the film.
FAIstudios Announces New Film “Sheep Among Wolves Vol. II”

 

A leader of the Iranian underground church explains their goal is not planting churches but rather making disciples, the majority of whom are women…

“Disciples forsake the world and cling to Jesus ’till he comes. Converts don’t,” the leader said. “Disciples aren’t engaged in a culture war. Converts are. Disciples cherish, obey, and share the word of God. Converts don’t. Disciples choose Jesus over anything and everything else. Converts don’t. Converts run when the fire comes. Disciples don’t.”
Iran has world’s ‘fastest-growing church,’ despite no buildings – and it’s mostly led by women: documentary

 

Hate is In the Air

 

Breath it in. Fill your lungs with a blast of bile, the astringent air of acrimony. The air is electric, charged with rage and resentment all around you. Are you feeling the compulsion to hate “by any means necessary”? If so, there are essentials to perfect your hatred.

 

First things first. Internalize everything. This step is important in order to consolidate your truth. Of what use are other’s thoughts and feelings if they don’t affirm you? Love is that which affirms you. Hate is to be directed at those who don’t love you as you require.

See handed-down truth as demoralizing and not affirming. Reject such truth for your facts. Your truth is all that matters anyway. Then, you will see everything as out of order with regard to yourself. This will allow you to feel righteous and justified in hating the past and presenting your narrative. History is just a record of power in the wrong hands.

Then, in no particular order…

Never be content. Why should you be content when you can have it all? You were born to crave. Would any god deny you anything you deem good? Pursue the rainbow’s end. See others as keeping you from that end. Life is a zero-sum game. You must grab all you can. Find your satisfaction in tearing down what others have built. How can anyone justify what they have when you are lacking?

Begin to dehumanize those you feel responsible for your misery. They must be unhuman to not affirm your values. Make them into objects of your disfavor. Other them. Hold them in contempt. And be sure to judge them based on your values. They are judging you right now.

Exclude others who do not share your values and tune into others who do. Seek out your tribe’s mouthpieces and emotional surrogates, those who can elicit hatred more vocally. They will authenticate your hatred.  Listen to news programs. Listen to the commentators to get your cues: “Nazi!” “Hitler!” “Racist!” “Facist!” Name calling is an effective means to denigrate those you hate.

Choose politicians who market materialism as “social justice”. Soulishness, found in tales and myths, is for fools. If you can’t touch and hold the object of your desires of what use is that to you? The same politicians must advocate for diversity and inclusion. Both diversity and inclusion determine who’s in and who’s out. Then you will know who your enemies are.

Make sure to talk about others without their knowledge. The purpose of gossip is to convey your disapproval of others and to set yourself apart from them. If someone betrays your values with their words, then return the reproach. Is that not justice?

To feed your contempt and to vicariously ‘deal with’ your enemies watch movies that contain revenge justice. Watch The Hunt. Use your imagination and see your enemy ham-strung, taken down and taken out. The El Paso and Dayton shootings reveal the full realization of hatred.

Use social media to exercise your hatred. What better vehicle to vent the air of acrimony? One should not hold that air in for long. Rather, breathe it out. Use your pride as a self-defense mechanism. Knock your opponent down to size with name-calling. Their pride is keeping them from accepting your values. 4chan is a good place to chat about what you hate.

Reject consequences of your actions as unfair. The law and its personifications, law enforcement and the judges, make victims. Throw your bath water on them.

Whatever you do, do not sit around in silence. Fill the air around you with the voices and music that will sustain hatred. The Enemy of your hatred is not silent. And His words are weaponized and sharper than any double-edged sword. Defend yourself against violence done to your truth with a sound barrier.

Use your fears to leverage your hate. You fear because you do not have. Others have what you want. Hatred works to bring about equality and fairness by calling out others about their unfairness.

Be warned. There are those who walk the boundary of heaven and earth. They seek to mitigate hatred with their version of love. Resist them. Harden your heart against them. For they do not know you. Show your true face to them – the face of the god within.

You have heard it said “love your enemies and do good to those who despise you”. I say to you, know your enemies and let them know what you hate about them. Stiffen your will against all competing interests that are against you. Loving your enemies is weakness. Hatred is the power to control and compensate for any weakness on your part. And, of what use to you are those who do not share your values? There is no room in the same world for you and them. Give them no quarter.

Finally, never forgive. If a person wants reconciliation then make them grovel and accept your judgment of them. Tell them “I do what I do because of you”. If they do not respond adequately then revenge is the only option. The offender must feel the weight of the offense taken. Forgiveness is weakness and meant for those who suffer from a God-like complex. Pity is what you deserve from them for having to hate them.

If you can fill your unforgiving minutes
With sixty plus year’s worth of hate,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be self-actualized, my child!

 

–Shadowbrute

Words That Never Pass Away Except in Some Forums

 

Imagine a chemist or an engineer or doctor thinking that what came before in his field, the accumulated wealth of knowledge and of best practices, is no longer of value and foundational for what he does now…

 

One major modern-day theological misconception comes from assuming that the Pharisees, one Jewish sect of many in Jesus’ day, represented the opposite of Jesus’s teachings.  Assumptive preaching, directly or indirectly, seeks to make a contrast between the Law keepers and Jesus. The Law, presented as antiquated, and the Jews, presented as Law fixated, are projected in a negative light. Jesus and his followers, presented in humanistic fashion, in a positive light. In so doing, the Pharisees and the Law have become stereotyped in the minds of many and with it, Jesus has become stereotyped. With mischaracterization comes misapplication of the gospel.

What is juxtaposed in the gospel are the encounters Jesus has with those of his day and the prevailing opinions about the Law and about the Messiah. Jesus speaks to Pharisees, scribes, religious leaders, prostitutes, tax collectors, Samaritans, fishermen, the blind, the lame, the sick, the rich, the poor and to political power – Pontius Pilate – and to a massive crowd. These occurrences reveal Jesus’ dealing with misunderstandings of the Torah. Jesus’ countering their perceptions of the Law caught many off guard and troubled the righteous who lived by the Law. To ward off their concerns and not willing to destroy one iota of the Law, Jesus says to the Sermon on the Mount crowd “Don’t suppose that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy them; I came to fulfill them!” Not one iota of the Torah will pass away until all is fulfilled with the New Creation (Matt. 24:35).

With his Sermon on the Mount Jesus offered the big picture truth – the Law of Love should be the arbiter of our intents and actions as the fulfillment of the Law. This is God’s intentions for his created beings (Matt. 7:12). The Law basically said “Don’t do this and if you do…” Jesus, in the his sermon, explains his interpretation of the Torah to the Jewish crowd (Matt: 5:17-20). He counters each of their “You heard it said…” understandings by telling them to look at the Torah his way. He summarizes the Torah and the Jewish understanding of the righteous being admitted into the New Creation with “Well, then: you must be perfect, just as your heavenly father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48)

One important consideration to keep in mind with regard to framing a picture of the law is that the gospel writers did not intend to paint an across-the-board history of the time of Jesus. This context was provided by the intertestamental scribes. The Jewish community and the gospel writers knew their writings. The gospel writers stated purpose (John 20:31) was to write an account of the One they called the Messiah. This is the focus of the gospels, not “Law bad, Jesus good”. None of their accounts diminish or denigrate the Law or the Law keepers. Their accounts tell us of Jesus’ juxtaposed encounters and ways of thinking about the Law and life in a Jewish contemporary context. Matthew’s gospel account in particular addresses issues of concern for second temple Jews including matters of the Torah and righteousness which is mentioned over and over again in his account.

Another basis for the assumption that the Law had been negated and done away with is the fact that Christians are not obligated to follow the Law. For one thing, animal sacrifices were no longer required. Jesus – the Lamb of God – sacrificed himself for us. The righteous were to do the same. The assumption that the law, with its instructions and blessings and curses was done away with is a misunderstanding of the sending of the spirit at Pentecost upon those who believed in Jesus as Messiah. In fact, Pentecost confirms the words of the Law and the prophets: “the “word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.” (Deut. 30:14)

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh ,… Ezekiel 11:19

 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Jeremiah 31;33

There are some who draw many parallels between the giving of the Torah and the giving of the spirit at Pentecost: The Many Parallels of Sinai and Pentecost. Others line up the dates: The Giving of The Ten Commandments was on Pentecost.

The Torah, the instructions, never went away. In fact, it is right in front of you. Here’s Moses telling the children of Israel this very thing:

For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. “It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ “Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. Deut. 30: 11-14 (emphasis mine)

The English word “law” is a translation of the Greek word nomos. And, nomos is a translation of the Hebrew word “Torah”. Deuteronomy, as quoted from above, is a restating of the nomos – the law, the Torah. And, as stated above, one cannot presume that a Moses needs to be dragged off mountain top to restate the law. The law is a by-your-side tutor. So, one is without excuse regarding the knowledge of God and his Torah (restated by Paul in Romans1:18-32).

The Torah is teaching, instruction, and “best practices” to point the Jews the way to walk, to learn to be holy as God is holy. The Torah contains blessings for those who obey the Torah and curses for the those who choose not to obey. The Torah life is not a life of bondage. Rather, it is a life with boundaries. (Boundaries are conflated with bondage these days). The Torah for the Jews and especially for the Qumran community was not a religion but a way of life.

The wisdom literature of the Scripture speaks about observing the law – the Torah – to become wise. This includes home schooling one’s children in the Torah.

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching (torah). Prov. 1:8

The Apostle Paul, the chosen emissary of Jesus to the Gentiles, would speak also speak to the Messianic Jews regarding how to understand Jesus in relation to the Torah, especially in light of the fact that Paul did not require the Gentiles to follow the Torah. Many today assume that meant Paul disposed of the law for Christians. The trained as a Pharisee and law observant Paul taught a different approach to the Torah in accordance with the resurrection of Jesus and his kingdom on earth (Gal. 3: 19-20). The thinking that the law was made irrelevant by Jesus was countered early on by Paul as he taught that the Messiah delivered on his covenant faithfulness:

The Messiah, you see, is the goal of the law, so that covenant membership may be available for all who believe. Rom. 10:4

Like Jesus, Paul didn’t dismiss the law. And, like Jesus Paul made it known that obeying specific laws was secondary to one’s intent and love for the One who redeemed them to walk in love. Perspective, God’s perspective is what mattered most and not man’s attempt to practice the Law.

Circumcision is nothing; uncircumcision Is nothing: what matters is keeping God’s laws. 1 Cor. 7: 19

This perspective, as taught by Jesus (“Except your righteousness exceed that of…”) and later by Paul to the Jews who wanted to be declared “righteous” to be accepted in the age to come, also made clear that the law brought God’s people only so far.

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.

That is why we too believed in the Messiah, Jesus: so that we might be declared “righteous” on the basis of the Messiah’s faithfulness, and not on the basis of works of the Jewish law. On that basis, you see, no creature will be declared “righteous.” Gal. 2: 15-16

It would be hard to imagine a chemist or an engineer or doctor thinking that what came before in his field, what works and what doesn’t work, is no longer of value and foundational and to declare a new way. But, it is easy for social engineers to discard what came before, including the law, to invoke a societal tolerance of all manner of license against perceived authoritarianism.

The gospel as dispensed today in many churches leaves out the historical context of the Law (and of Jesus) and coaxes out stereotypes. The Jews of Jesus’ day are presented as under the heavy yoke of the Law and obsessive about rules and regulations and keeping the law. Jesus is presented as chastising them for bothering with the law and not being more human. Some preaching will go so far as to say that the law was a failed attempt by God to make his people righteous and that Jesus came to discard it and to try a new way.

Jesus is presented as setting people free from the Law and therefore accountability so that they can be their own person. And, erroneously, the Jews are presented as caring about the Law and Jesus caring about people. I have seen Jesus presented as enlightened man of peace and love. Often on social media I have seen Jesus hailed as a Progressive along with Che Guevara and other radicals. Others on social media have stated that Jesus is OK with homosexuality based on the thinking that God made them that way and the law Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin. is pre-Jesus and therefore invalid (Jesus as social-justice warrior).

Others, including a well-known Jesuit priest on social media, have implied that the Law is authoritarian and “conservative values” and therefore must be vilified as uncaring and Jesus as humanistic “Progressive values” to be embraced. These pagans worship their gods and follow their laws even sacrificing children to them in the name of Jesus the Progressive.

The effects of suppressing the truth about the Law is seen in our culture and individually, as accountability is thrown out the door with the law. Lawlessness abounds, anarchy follows and in-your-face mocking of the righteous. “Law bad, Jesus good”.

Moses and the Ten Commandments – Gustave Doré

Imagine listening to a singer’s performance and the singer and musicians didn’t care about tonality, meter and pitch. Imagine that they didn’t care about what came before musically and what worked to harmonize their performance. The sounds they make are jarring to the ears but you listen because it is promoted as avant-garde, unheard of and en vogue. You leave the performance feeling unsettled because the music didn’t resolve – there were no tonic chords only an establishment mocking dissonance. The ‘music’ was unconstrained and lacked direction and meaning. Yet, you feel proud of yourself that you were involved in something unconventional and iconoclastic. Later, at dinner with your companions, you rave about the performance. You want to come off sounding, liberal, broad-minded and, …Progressive, and not like so many others who are so conventional and lacking your insight. There is preaching today just like that today. “They declare themselves wise, but in fact became foolish.” (Rom. 1: 22)

Finally, there are three Psalms in which the Lord’s instruction is central to understanding life before God: Psalm 1, Psalm 19 and Psalm 119. The writers show a strong desire to know God and His ways. The Psalmists want God’s instruction more than life itself. We would do well to do likewise, since man does not live by bread alone.

 

~~~~~~

There is so much more that could be said about Jesus and the law, so I commend the following:

Required reading: the chapter Did Jesus Abolish the Law of Moses?  Mind the Gap: How the Jewish Writings Between the Old and New Testament Help Us Understand Jesus by Matthias Henze

 

Rejection and Revenge, A Breath Apart

The Murder of Abel – Gustave Dore

There is a well-known account in Scripture (Gen. 4) that on its face seems simple and straightforward. Yet, the Hebrew writer presents a scenario with enormous ramifications. We must dig deep to understand its meaning for us.

Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “I have acquired a man with God’s help!”  Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground.  When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

 “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected?  You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

Early in Hebrew Scripture we learn of pairs and contrast: light and dark, human and animals, Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel. The pairings and contrast are meant to be instructive, as are the names of Cain and Abel.

Although Cain’s name has the primary meaning of “acquire,” the word that his name comes from (קָנָה kanah) also means “to erect, to found,” and “to create.” In Genesis 14:19 we see various translations describe God as either the “Possessor of heaven and earth” (King James Bible, New American Standard Bible, Webster‘s Bible Translation), or “Creator of heaven and earth (New Living Translation, New International Version). Both words “Possessor” and “Creator” are translations of the same word קֹנֵה konay, a cognate of Cain’s name Kayin. What’s In A Name: A Secret About Cain and Abel

In the context of contrasting the brothers Cain and Abel, “Cain!”, an exclamation from mom and the name for her son, connotes “Possessor” and “Creator”. It’s possible that Eve’s new found God-likeness had gone to her head, perhaps claiming co-creation with God. The name signals Eve’s bending in toward self-divination and for her son to project himself in the same way – as self-sufficient creator and possessor of all before him – in contrast to the “Creator and Possessor of heaven and earth”. The pairing of the two names – Cain and Abel – tends toward this interpretation.

Abel as noun הבל (hebel) means vapor, breath, or something very close to nothing. Abel could have been nicknamed Whiff.

I wonder. Did Eve feel exhausted and out of breath chasing after little Cain? Naming her second son Abel implies a here-one-minute-gone-the-next tracking of a little life. Abel’s name is further contexed in Ecclesiastes: Everything is breath (not “vanity”, a current mistranslation). And, in Ps. 39:5, 144:4; Prov. 31:30.

We get the impression from their names that Cain is a rooted of-the-earth man and that Abel is a reed in the winds of heaven. Their vocations tell us more about them..

We learn from the narrative that both brothers are fulfilling the human vocation given earlier in Genesis: dominion and care of animals and the land. They are doing so successfully under God’s blessing and in communion with God. At the end of the year, harvest time, the brothers bring an offering to God. Cain brought only some of the fruits of the soil. Abel brought the fat portions from the firstborn of his flock.

God makes a distinction between the two offerings. God looks with favor on Abel’s offering – the best of what he has. And, God rejects Cain’s token offering. The prophet Malachi gives us some understanding as to what offering the “Possessor of heaven and earth” – the Landowner – desires:

“When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.

-Malachi 1:13-14

God’s response does not go over well with Cain. Farmer Cain, “Possessor” and “Creator” of his own domain, grows an attitude. God notices and issues a warning.

 “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected?  You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

God gives Cain a choice. He could repent and do right. Then his fallen countenance would be lifted up. He would know joy. Or, if he refuses to what is right sin will have dominion over him. His fallen countenance will remain. Sin’s chaos will rule his life and the lives of his descendants. We learn that Cain, his own man, chooses pathway number two which takes him away from home and out of God’s sight (does he think this?):

Cain said to Abel his brother, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. -Gen. 4:8

The advent of civilization (Gen. 4:17-26) is stained by a wrong choice, one made out of anger and of a desire for revenge. The horrific ramifications of the wrong choice are the pollution of the land, blood guilt and curses (as opposed to God’s blessing). The Land Owner had warned the tenant and now asks Cain the same question posed to Adam (Gen. 3: 9):

 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me this day away from the ground; and from thy face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me.” Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden. -Gen. 4:9-16

 Cain lies and evades responsibility for his actions. The sin in his heart is growing rapidly. It is taking dominion over him, the self-made dominionist. Cain’s domain, his farm land, is now working against him and Cain has become more cursed than the land. The once solid self-defined man is to become a wanderer through life– fleeting, ephemeral, mortal, transient, without strength, a passing wind, …a breath.

Cain, beginning to feel the weight of his actions, balks at his punishment. But murder is no small thing. Murder brings about a greater punishment, as we learn in Numbers 35:33:

Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it.

But in the Cain and Abel account God does not take a life for a life. Rather, as an act of mercy, God exiles Cain from his home, from others and from the land, his source of strength. Cain is removed from out of the context of God’s blessing. Exiled, Cain still has a chance to repent and return to the Land Owner.

As Cain finds out, man’s sin affects the land that we are to have dominion over. Hosea wrote about it (Hos. 4: 2-3):

There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Because of this the land dries up,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
and the fish in the sea are swept away

 

 This early account in Scripture is a study of contrasts. It reveals two ways of being and two distinct personalities. There are the Abels who acknowledge the transient and dependent nature of their being, as in the words of the Psalmist (39:5)

You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
    the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
    even those who seem secure.

And, there are the Cains who deem themselves god-like Creators and Possessors and thereby mocking the One True Creator and Possessor, as described in Prov. 21:24:

The proud and arrogant person— “Mocker” is his name—
    behaves with insolent fury.

There is an offering of the best portion and there is an offering of a token. Clearly from this account and from many more, our offerings reveal what we think about God. Do we view God as Creator and Possessor? Do we view God as the Land Owner under Whom we work as faithful stewards and return the best of our stewardship? Or, do we see God as an obligation that needs to be dealt with on our terms?  (See the Parable of the Ten Talents, Matt. 25: 14-30) (See also the account of Ananias’ and Sapphira’s token offering in Acts chapter 5. It doesn’t end well!)

The Cain and Abel account reveals that there is God’s view of things and man’s. God’s warning to Cain makes His view clear beyond a doubt. And though a victim is entitled to revenge in the Old testament God does not take revenge. Rather, God lets Cain live with the consequences of his actions. “You want to live outside my blessing – Go for it!”

 This account reveals that Biblical ethics are not the same as Biblical Law. God does not take a life for a life. God does not seek monetary compensation (2 Sam. 21). The Law should be read in a larger context. Jesus tried to get the Scribes and Pharisees to understand the bigger context, the Big Picture, of His work of Redemption.

One final contrast. Abel – “breath” or “breeze” – dies in accordance with the transient nature of human existence. Cain, who saw himself as the rooted “Creator” and “Possessor” is to wander the earth like a breeze. As a fugitive he has to keep moving. He’s not tied to the land (a symbol of his strength) as he once was. What Cain had refused to accept of God and of his brother Whiff he now has to accept as his existence “east of Eden”.

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. 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. Revenge downs Big Whiskey.

(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 dogfights for power over others contain elements of revenge and rumors of revenge. The revenge process is a vicious circle, as theologian Volf writes in Exclusion and Embrace:

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.

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

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!”