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.

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.”

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

[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.

 

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.

 

 

~~~~

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

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

[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!”

 

Genealogies of Straw?

 

…If the dead are not raised,

“Let us eat and drink,

for tomorrow we die.”

1 Cor. 15:32

 

People delight in looking into their genealogy to tell them where they came from and their ancestral background. But, what about the genealogy of our thoughts and our beliefs that are passed down? Continuing with the theme of my previous post, man as logos and centerpiece of the universe, man considers himself left to his own devices and to fend for himself. The “dead are not raised” has been passed down to us. Also passed down, la dolce vita, the Epicurean worldview prevalent today.

The originator of Epicureanism, the Greek philosopher Epicurus, and many others since, decided that God was not good at being God so man must take his place. In terms of the evil man encounters, this thinking is restated in the Epicurean paradox.

Per the Oxford Dictionary, Epicurus (341-270 B.C) was a “Greek philosopher, founder of Epicureanism. His physics is based on Democritus’ theory of a materialist universe composed of indestructible atoms moving in a void, unregulated by divine providence”.

According to several accounts, Epicurus lived and taught a philosophy of the unnoticed good life. He posited that man, a collection of particles he called atoms, would return to the earth when he died. From atoms to atoms you shall return, he postulated. When you are dead you are dead and while you are alive, as Epicurus advocated, seek pleasure and avoid pain.

Epicurus was not a political nor a spiritual man. He was more of a homebody given to a small circle of friends. Per Epicurus, everything to be trusted and believed came through the senses. And so, he deemed that God was remote if at all. And friends were real and to be trusted.

Epicurus also taught that nothing should be believed, except for that which was tested through direct observation and logical deduction – believed via the sensate and reason. Hence, the beginning of the fact/value split so prevalent in man’s thinking today. It is likely that Epicurus formed this worldview when he decided that God was uninvolved and impersonal at best and that he had to fend for himself.

Epicurean thought was embraced by some and passed down through the centuries. The Roman poet Lucretius, a disciple of Epicurus’s teachings and someone who lived about 70 years before Jesus, promoted the “god is angry” meme along with the theory of atomism formulated by Demetrius (460-370 B.C.), who died 29 years before the birth of Epicurus.

The atomic theory of the cosmos in brief: random, unguided ‘atoms’ smash into each other, thereby create the world and life as we know it. Such a hypothesis turned philosophy by Epicurus offered the ‘means’ to do away with a personally involved god and remove human accountability to God. Lucretius went on to tweak Demetrius’ theory.

Demetrius said that atoms do not always go in straight lives but can “swerve”. As such, his philosophy was then able to avoid atomism’s inherent determinism and to allow for man’s free will.

“What was most important in Epicurus’ philosophy of nature was the overall conviction that our life on this earth comes with no strings attached; that there is no Maker whose puppets we are; that there is no script for us to follow and be constrained by; that it is up to us to discover the real constraints which our own nature imposes on us.” ― Epicurus, The Epicurus Reader

Unlike the innocuous passing-on-sex Epicurus, the Romans took Epicureanism to new lows. The name of the Roman Emperor Caligula is associated today with unbridled decadence. Licentiousness continues today as the justification for the avoid-pain-seek-pleasure self.

The Enlightenment furthered Epicurean acceptance. As many began to claim science as the explainer for things being as they are and man as the interpreter of things as they are, the Enlightenment augmented the fact/value split. With science being claimed as the only arbiter of truth and reality, the transcendent was eschewed, as being unreasonable to ponder. Materialism and utilitarian atomism replaced the transcendent and facilitated the self-made man as the imago homo. An honest look around today would reveal that the worldview from the days of Epicurus down through the Enlightenment has been passed down to us.

“It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.” –Epicurus

As I see it, underlying cultural Marxism, secular humanism, Progressivism and the American Dream is the philosophy of Epicurus: extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one’s feelings, desires, etc.; egoistic self-absorption, aka, solipsism. It is the worldview of safe spaces. It is the philosophy behind the Progressive’s push for acceptance of multiculturalism whereby all cultures are deemed equal including the dehumanizing ones so that individual culture has a larger safe space to operate in. The philosophy promotes universal healthcare as another safe space in the form of insurance against financial suffering as paid for by others so one can live an Epicurean lifestyle without pain. It is the worldview of the virtue-signaling relativist social justice warriors – I want a safe space for me to live my life as I see fit so I will serve up my self-justifying, self-righteous viewpoint of high-sounding humanitarianism. Epicureanism is the doctrine of the Religion of Humanity and the paean to mind and matter as savior.

Epicureanism underlies identity politics and individual rights. It promotes a circling of the wagons around your ersatz ‘friends’, your tribe, to protect your values and your territory for further self-satisfaction. It promotes dehumanization with its message that life has no meaning other than what you give it; life is only material and sensate. So, grab yours while you are alive. Out of this dehumanizing process comes the art, music, literature, media and architecture which degrade human existence and the imago dei in humans. But. Modern man, left to his own Epicurean devices, comes up short.

The narrator in C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy novel That Hideous Strength tells us about one of the central characters Mark Studdock. He is a young academic, a sociologist, and a member of the Progressive Element at Bracton College. He is an ambitious, self-centered and shallow intellectual who has come into the service of the National Institute of Coordinated Sciences (NICE). He believes NICE will serve the best interest of humanity through progress at any cost. Once he stopped hemming and hawing about joining the organization he is welcomed into the inner circle. But he soon finds that he has committed himself to a hellish organization which plans to re-do humanity by force so that only the best humans (in NICE’s view) remain. He is made aware that the tentacles of the organization are growing.

Studdock is told in no uncertain terms that the organization wants his wife Jane to join him. He is ordered to bring her in. With no moral depth and no moral base outside himself to guide him, Mark is perplexed and now in great fear for his life. Pain and death are the only things that are real for him.

It must be remembered that in Mark’s mind hardly one rag of noble thought, either Christian or Pagan, had a secure lodging. His education had been neither scientific or classical – merely “Modern”. The seventies both of abstraction and of high human tradition had passed him by: and he had neither peasant shrewdness nor aristocratic honor to help him. He was a man of straw, a glib examinee in subjects that require no exact knowledge (he had always done well on Essays and General Papers) and the first hint of a real threat to his bodily life knocked him sprawling. And his head ached so terribly and he felt sick. Luckily he now kept a bottle of whisky in his room. A stiff one enabled him to shave and dress.

What is your genealogy of thought and belief? Is it a genealogy of strawmen?

~~~~~~~~~

The opening quote is from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. He is countering the embedded Epicureanism active in the church in Corinth. He does so with the resurrection.

To be continued.

Lost in Self-logos

 

Thus, in the conception of Humanity, the three essential aspects of Positivism, its subjective principle, its objective dogma, and its practical object, are united. Towards Humanity, who is for us the only true Great Being, we, the conscious elements of whom she is composed, shall henceforth direct every aspect of our life, individual or collective. Our thoughts will be devoted to the knowledge of Humanity, our affections to her love, our actions to her service. -Auguste Comte, A General View of Positivism [1848]

 

Mankind learned centuries ago, by the efforts of men like Polish astronomer Copernicus, that we do not exist in a geocentric universe. Now, according to some physicists, mankind is at the center of the cosmos. In order to avoid a Creator scenario, these scientists promote the anthropic theory:  the reason for the perfectly-tuned universe, for its fundamental physical constants, and the reason why things exist as they are on earth is that human existence required it. To support this theory, they posit a multiverse scenario with infinite trials and errors until man could exist.

Amir Aczel, PH. D., in his book Why Science Does Not Disprove God, describes some physicists’ viewpoint:

…if we are here, and the parameters need to be perfectly chosen for us to be here, then surely there must be infinitely many other places where parameters are wrong. We are here because we can only live where the parameters are right for our existence.

Now, I have no issue with the possibility of multiverses. But as Dr. Aczel writes, the proposed multiverse-as-cause theory to replace the creation narrative offers no mechanism to create the multiverses. The theory proposes an infinite number of somehow existing parameters doing something over and over infinitely many times to finally ‘create’ the perfect conditions for a habitable zone. Dr. Aczel goes on to state, “The anthropic theory is the weakest route to the multiverse.” As I see it, the theory has no mechanism for merit other than those who promote a God-less universe. The theory is basically one of effect with no Ultimate Cause. It is a theory of chance which says man is the reason for his existence.

Man-centered philosophical endorsement would come from the likes of Nietzsche. His “God is dead” rejection of Christian values was a push for mankind to move beyond good and evil and to loving necessity. One is therefore to live with uncertainty as a “superman”, above and center of it all. From the mighty-warrior Nimrod to Wagnerian heroes to the present FX-ed generated superheroes versions of Nietzsche’s “superman” have been around since the Garden. The “superman” notion is akin to Darwin’s theory natural selection and the survival of the fittest. In Nietzschean terms, What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

Social scientists place man at the center of the universe. Since Adam and Eve’s forced exit from the Garden of Eden, man, it seems to me, has always struggled to reclaim the Garden. Many seek to create a Garden Utopia through a relentless and self-directed improvement of the species. Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species supplies the process: selection, struggle, favored, preservation. Engels and Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and MaoTse-tung used Darwin’s theory of natural selection as justification for their “class struggle” political and economic theories. Millions have been imprisoned and slaughtered under the banner of “class struggle”. Strands of this ‘societal improvement’ is behind the current humanist thinking which is now being promulgated systematically by the Progressive Element. For Progressives, the social multiverses are the identity-centered tribes they select and deem struggling and require favored status and preservation.

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”.

Vying for special status, groups call themselves “marginalized” and “victims”. This self-centered push for center stage drives identity politics: self-designated victims ‘struggling’ to ‘survive’ require ‘protection’ (rights). “I’ll make you care about what I care about – me” is the right to impose myself on others and call it “social justice”. Man, as logos, defines the impetus of the “social justice warrior:  resentment disguised as compassion which drives the will to power.

Resentment? Life is not easy to begin with. The arbitrariness of life and the forces beyond our control fuel resentment when contemplated in the context of others. Resentment leads to claiming that one’s gender or sexual proclivity or income status or healthcare as being victimized by others. Such a worldview, one without meaning except for self and necessity and a belief that relationships are defined by power, breeds contempt for those having some perceived advantage. Hence, the demand for societal and economic reparations and at any cost to others. Resentment is fueled by zero-sum thinking: one does not have because someone else has.

Resentment disguised as compassion? Man, as logos, wants to be seen as a self-justified humanitarian. Virtue signaling accomplishes that while being resentful at the same time. It is no-cost faux-altruism intended to make one appear empathetic and compassionate without appearing resentful except for those who question their virtue signaling. This is underneath the self-righteous clamor for the right of universal healthcare, of potable water, of inclusion, diversity, equity and the host of arbitrary self-placating categories.

Resentment disguised as compassion which drives the will to power? In an age that is increasingly nihilistic, power has become the transcendent meaning to life. And once you believe that relationships are defined by power you exercise the will to power to subjugate others to the relationships you desire. The exercise of the will to power implements mental-conditioning of its subjects, hence the revision of language and of history, to fit the narrative. The power to create one’s own truth is what is desired.

The best way to sum this mash of words is with the clarity of two Scripture readings from today. The first relates the man-as-logos worldview. The second reading describes those who are Logos centered.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son was the gospel reading for today: Luke 15: 11-32. The would-be Prodigal Son demands his rights (inheritance) from his father. The son considers his father dead to him. The father transfers assets over to his son. His son turns his shares into cash as he sells the property his father had accumulated over time through the father’s effort. The universe of one departs with his values and his will to power. He’s off to a distant land, far from the logos he knows. He leaves behind his father and the remaining older son to pick up his portion of work.

A lifestyle of nihilistic (sever famine) and sensate pleasure (self-directed compassion) has him eating slop in a pig sty. He’s sees that he is just another animal. His humanism ran out of money. He returns to his senses and heads home. His father sees his son a long way off and runs to meet him. The prodigal repents and the father rejoices in his return from the distant land of self. There is a celebration for the son who was lost but is found … alive. They are reconciled. But the brother has a growing resentment disguised as compassion for his father (“I’ve been slaving for you all these years!”) which drives his will to power to up his rights. He feels his rights, his pride of place, is diminished by his brother’s return and the father showering him with a wealth of unintended consequences.

The second reading is from the Epistles: 2 Corinthians 5: 16- 17. Paul writes about a Logos worldview that sees humanity from a kingdom perspective. He writes what the Prodigal experiences when he returns to the Logos and what the other brother claims as his right to experience.

From this moment on, therefore, we don’t regard anybody from a merely human point of view. Even if we once regarded the Messiah that way, we don’t do so any longer. Thus, if any man is in the Messiah, there is a new creation! Old things have gone, and look – everything has become new!

 

 

~~~

I recommend reading The Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis for insight into humanism.

The Bill of Rumored Rights

 

Retired prison psychiatrist Anthony Daniels (Theodore Dalrymple) speaks and writes with keen insight gathered from his experience of the human condition and of its surrounding culture. Here is a short introduction of Daniels from the website Goodreads:

Anthony Malcolm Daniels, who generally uses the pen name Theodore Dalrymple, is an English writer and retired prison doctor and psychiatrist. He worked in a number of Sub-Saharan African countries as well as in the east end of London. Before his retirement in 2005, he worked in City Hospital, Birmingham and Winson Green Prison in inner-city Birmingham, England.

Daniels is a contributing editor to City Journal, published by the Manhattan Institute, where he is the Dietrich Weismann Fellow. In addition to City Journal, his work has appeared in The British Medical Journal, The Times, The Observer, The Daily Telegraph, The Spectator, The Salisbury Review, National Review, and Axess magasin.

In 2011, Dalrymple received the 2011 Freedom Prize from the Flemish think tank Libera!.

Not only is Anthony Daniels a prolific writer and well-read, as you’ll discover, he is also well-traveled. His accounts of staying in five countries (North Korea, Albania, Romania, Vietnam and Cuba), all five of which operate under leftist-ideology based regimes, is recorded in The Wilder Shores of Marx: Journeys in a Vanishing World. Would-be fellow travelers in the long march of cultural Marxism, both young and old, would do well to read about life in the totalitarian state under centralized government. Daniel’s accounts would be especially revelatory for the would-be fellow travelers promoting ‘democratic’ socialism, the ‘gateway drug’ to full-blown addiction to life under top down government. Democratic socialism is currently being promoted as the means to secure peace of mind (aka happiness) by coercively and exhaustively taxing the wealthy and then having unelected central planners redistribute the take. The uninformed traveler could also read about the state of Venezuela.

I first encountered Anthony Daniels via his essays in The New Criterion, a monthly literary magazine I subscribe to. His extensive bibliography is listed in the Wikipedia entry Theodore Dalrymple.

Having read several of his books, I recommend, for starters, the book noted above and the two books shown below.

Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass (start with this book)

Admirable Evasions: How Psychology Undermines Morality

Numerous articles written by Anthony Daniels appear in the Law and Liberty blog.

Below is a video of Anthony Daniels speaking at the Property and Freedom Society Annual Meeting last year (2018). His talk on multiculturalism begins with the subject of rights as misunderstood and misapplied today. My take: rights-gatherers employ victim status leveraged with inalienability to secure advantages in society. With their Bill of Rumored Rights they seek to bypass “the pursuit of happiness” and go directly to happiness.

 

How did our culture get turned on its head? “German Marxists”…”Marx and Freud”…”the Frankfurt school… left-wing academics… Columbia University”…

[Italian communist Antonio] Gramsci also looked to culture. If the Left truly wanted to win, it needed to first seize the “cultural means of production”: the culture-forming institutions such as the media and universities and even churches. He saw societal transformation coming about by a “march through the institutions.”…

Gramsci insisted that leftist intellectuals needed to question everything, including moral absolutes and the Judeo-Christian basis of Western civilization. They needed to frame seemingly benign conventions as systematic injustices that must be exposed. This is where we got professors fulminating against everything from “the patriarchy” to “white imperialism” to “transphobia.”

Marx at 200: Cultural Marxism’s Long Happy March Through the Institutions

 

How is the Cultural Revolution brought to bear on others? Enforceable Subjectivity (article by Theodore Dalrymple):

According to the Metropolitan Police, “evidence of the hate element is not a requirement. You do not need to personally perceive the incident to be hate related. It would be enough if another person, a witness or even a police officer thought that the incident was hate related.”

Example given:

Had a message from Guildford police tonight about my tweets following an appearance on @GMB with Susie Green and Piers Morgan. Susie Green has reported me for misgendering her daughter.

https://twitter.com/CF_Farrow/status/1107779340723515392

“A British police force is investigating @CF_Farrow, a journalist, because of words that she published,” writes @jameskirkup

https://twitter.com/SpectatorUSA/status/1108144367716302848

The Enduring Context

 

It was about this time of the year back in 2000 when I took my two oldest to Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History (the Field Museum today). What did we go to see?

CHICAGO — For the first time in 50 years, the Dead Sea Scrolls will visit Chicago in a special exhibition at The Field Museum March 10 through June 11.

Written on parchment and papyrus more than 2,000 years ago, the scrolls contain what are believed to be the oldest surviving copies of the books of the Old Testament…

Portions of 15 difference scrolls will be on display in The Field Museum’s exhibition, including five that have never traveled outside of Israel. One of those five is a segment from the book Deuteronomy, which includes the Ten Commandments; the other four contain language and concepts similar to those in the Gospels of the New Testament — written more than 100 years later.

The exhibition will also feature 80 artifacts from Qumran, the archeological site near which the scrolls were discovered;

Dead Sea Scrolls to be displayed in Chicago

 

I was enthralled by the exhibit. Parchment that is over 2000 years old containing Jewish manuscripts gave witness to the community of the “sons of light”. These “men of the covenant” cursed Belial and his unclean spirits, worshiped with angels and preserved the understanding of those who set themselves apart from the Second Temple they believed to be corrupted by sinful leadership.

The almost nine-hundred manuscripts found in eleven caves at Qumran provide us with the context for the time of Jesus. They record the Qumran community’s messianic hopes for salvation in the very near future. They speak of the resurrection, of angels and demons, of the Law and Prophets and of secular matters at the time.

The gap between the Protestant Testaments, with the exception of the book of Daniel, is about four-hundred years. The Old Testament doesn’t provide context for the time of Jesus other than in large broad strokes of God’s dealing with beastly kingdoms and the hope of God intervening to save His people. The Old Testament established the narrative that leads us to the fullness of time when Jesus was born and his kingdom on earth announced. The scrolls continue the narrative and connect the Old and New Testament times. And, more importantly, they help us understand the thinking of the first century Jew. They explain the words and phrases Jesus uses in conjunction with contemporary Jewish thought and theology. They explain Jesus as a Jew.

Though I was fascinated by the scrolls, my two boys would show more interest in another exhibit a few months later. In a sense the two exhibits ran parallel – discoveries reveling context.

 

SUE finally made a dramatic debut in Stanley Field Hall on May 17, 2000

 

In 2000 Sue the T. rex, a 67-million-year-old fossilized skeleton, was put on display. It is said to be the most complete specimen of its kind.  This display became the starting point to my accepting evolutionary creation.

I met up with more dinosaurs a few years ago. The company I work for held its one-hundred-and-twenty-fiftieth anniversary celebration in the great hall of the Field Museum. (Job-keeping disclaimer: the dinosaurs are not the people I work with!) The anniversary celebration was another reminder of the Enduring Context. Men and women have been working together for 125 years within an engineering company providing solutions that help mankind.

Just a few weeks ago I visited my mother. She is almost ninety and in hospice care. Once again, I was reminded of the Enduring Context. Mom’s and dad’s steadfast faith in God, which they received from their parents, has been passed down to their children, to their grandchildren and to a multitude of great-grandchildren.

We will do well to remember the past, its fragments and as it is fragmented before us, for we are not without its context. Whether it be dinosaur bones attesting to God’s evolutionary creation or scroll fragments attesting to a community that wanted to keep God’s narrative alive over 2000 years ago the presence of testimony from the past shouldn’t be discounted. The Enduring Context which began in God before the Big Bang is God’s desire for the universe He created. The Enduring Context can be summed up in the words of the Lord’s prayer: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

jacopo-tintoretto-crucifixion-1500s

There is art, music, literature, and architecture created with the Enduring Context in mind. And, there is art, music, literature, and architecture which knows knowing of the Enduring Context. The Progressive Element, eschewing the past, deems itself the only context that matters every time it rewrites history. Unless you are God or a Progressive demi-god, there is no present without the past for the likes of us. And if, as the English metaphysical poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself” then certainly no man is a context entirely to himself. A modern philosopher had this to say about context:

 

“We must strive to be worthy of an inheritance that we did not create, and to amend it only when we have first understood it” Roger Scruton Rousseau and the Origins of Liberalism

 

And though it seems to us in our daily struggles that sickness, death, injustice and evil are the Enduring Context, these are temporary. The resurrection of Jesus made sure of that. Our resurrection will continue the Enduring Context.

As followers of Jesus we imitate the One and the ones who are the Enduring Context. Our Lord’s context becomes our context as we walk in the Enduring Context of our citizenship:

So, my dear family, I want you, all together, to watch what I do and copy me. You’ve got us as a pattern of behavior; pay careful attention to people who follow it.

You see, there are several people who behave as enemies of the cross of the Messiah. I told you about them often enough, and now I am weeping as I say it again. They are on the road to destruction; their stomach is their god, and they find glory in their own shame. All they ever think about is what’s on the earth.

We are citizens of heaven, you see, and we’re eagerly waiting for the savior, the Lord Jesus, who is going to come from there.

‘Tis the Season to Rethink Equal Outcomes

 

The Progressive’s notion of equal outcomes: “income equality” realized through redistribution; test results based on tests revised so that certain people could pass the test; participation-trophy type merit; laws that ‘fix’ opportunity for certain people; verdicts and sentencing of activist judges who rule based on a defendant’s social circumstances rather than by the crime committed upon another; homosexual ‘marriage’ as marriage equality; “equal pay for equal work” which dismisses the resultant quality of what each worker produces; a state in which people have approximately the same material wealth and achieve equal levels of income; equating equal opportunities with equal results…

Economist Thomas Sowell gives us some insight into Progressive thinking:

Equal opportunity does not mean equal results, despite how many laws and policies proceed as if it does, or how much fashionable rhetoric equates the two.

An example of that rhetoric was the title of a recent New York Times column: “A Ticket to Bias.” That column recalled bitterly the experience of a woman in a wheelchair who bought a $300 ticket to a rock concert but was unable to see when other people around her stood up. This was equated with “bias” on the part of those who ran the arena.

The woman in the wheel chair declared, “true equality remains a dream out of reach.” Apparently only equality of results is “true’ equality….

…Confusion between equal opportunity and equal results is a dangerous confusion behind many kinds of spoiled brat politics. -Thomas Sowell from Spoiled Brat Politics, The Thomas Sowell Reader

To put us in the proper reflective mood for the Season to Rethink Equal Outcomes, below are three accounts from Scripture which reveal to us God’s concept of equal outcomes.

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. 2 Samuel 24:24

The first thing I notice about the above account is that forms of capitalism have been around for a long time. That is, capitalism, simply defined, as an economic and social system in which property, business, and industry are privately owned and directed towards making the greatest possible profits for successful organizations and people, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.

In the above account there was a cooperative exchange of private property between two individuals. Both were satisfied with the outcome. And, apparently God was satisfied with the outcome. David’s desire was to not give God the impression that he was doing something good for God, a.k.a. virtue signal or tokenism, but to pay proper respect and attribute worth to God through his offering.

David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered his prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped. 2 Samuel 24:25

The second thing I notice is restraint. Though Araunah offered his property freely to king David (2 Sam. 24:23) the king did not accept it without paying Araunah its worth to Araunah  and perhaps more. That cost David. The king could have just taken the property to begin with. Beastly kings and rulers throughout history have seized property for themselves and for “the masses”. David was not about to disrespect his neighbor Araunuh or his God by stiffing either. The king did not exploit Araunuh for righteous ends.

Worth had to be accounted for with regard to Araunah’s property and with regard to a show of respect to God. “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” That is what David said and that is what the widow thought.

Then Jesus sat down opposite the offering box, and watched the crowd putting coins into it. Many rich people were throwing in large amounts. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny. He called his disciples and said to them, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the offering box than all the others. For they all gave out of their wealth. But she, out of her poverty, put in what she had to live on, everything she had.”  Mark 12:41-44

The first thing we notice in this account is the virtue signaling and tokenism of cha-ching-ers who want to appear to profit God while incurring little or no cost to themselves. In kingdom contrast, the unassuming widow, like king David, gave an offering that cost her appreciably and was God’s Temple worthy. The widow gave her financial security. The Lord was pleased to acknowledge her gift acknowledging the God Who is Faithful (Psalm 146: 8). She loved God more than life itself. Now, did you notice in these two stories that taking into account the worth of each party and their property creates equal outcomes – both parties being satisfied and even pleased with what is exchanged? This method of accounting, making sure the ‘other’ is considered and is valued as at least equal with ourselves, can be applied to all interactions.

In a previous post I wrote:

We are told by Jesus to “love your neighbors as yourself”. To do this we must consider our own self-interest and then apply the same measure of self-interest toward our neighbors. This parity of accounting is not unlike the Lord’s accounting of forgiveness: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others their trespasses.” […,] the resentment worldview has a perverted accounting system: the self is to be credited and others must be debited for there to be parity in their world. If the word “fairness” is ever to be applied socially and economically to our culture then these two commands of our Lord define its limited and personal application.

As shown from Scripture, God endorsed equal outcomes are marriages of opportunities with offerings. The outcomes are not forced or determined by a higher power or the state. The individuals involved come to an agreement about the outcome. A marriage of a man and woman is the archetype of this union of opportunity and offering.

The man and woman exchange vows and rings and, over time, their lives. The opportunity: they met and each determined that an exchange of their life for the other would make both happy. The offering: they give themselves which costs everything. They do so freely. The exchange is not coerced as in a shot-gun wedding or when those in power decide to take your property by force. When things are forced and a person is acted upon without it being offered it is called rape. It is called stealing when a person’s property is forcibly taken.

The equal outcome of marriage is that the two become one. The transaction creates a greater good (including little ones) and both parties equally, with God’s help, continue to be satisfied with the outcome.

One more illustration from Scripture regarding the marriage of opportunity and offering. Remember this woman?

While Jesus was at Bethany, in the house of Simon (known as “the Leper’), a woman came to him who had an alabaster vase of extremely valuable ointment. She poured it on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw it, they were furious.

“What’s the point of all this waste?” they said. “This could have been sold for a fortune, and the money could have been given to the poor!”

Jesus knew what they were thinking.

“Why make life difficult for the woman?” he said. “It’s a lovely thing, what she’s done for me. You always have the poor with you, don’t you? But you won’t always have me. When she poured this ointment on my body, you see, she did it to prepare me for burial. “I’m telling you the truth: where this gospel is announced in all the world, what she has done will be told, and people will remember her.”

Matthew 26: 6-13

 

 

What do we learn about opportunity and offering from this account of a woman pouring a very expensive offering onto Jesus’ head? We learn that the Progressives around Jesus were highly offended when they couldn’t control the outcome of the “alabaster vase of extremely valuable ointment”. We also learn from Jesus about the opportunity that brought them together: “… you won’t always have me”. The woman’s offering was what she could have lavished on herself. Maybe she applied David’s words to her head: “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

The extravagant and expensive offering given freely was freely accepted by Jesus in preparation for his burial. In fact, he tells us that the equally shared outcome of what she had done was worth proclaiming: the marriage of opportunity and sacrificial offering as an act of love.

Our Common Problem

 

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see… Genesis 11

To counter the threat of disintegration and to triumph over insignificance, they build a city and a tower “with its top to the heavens. A single “place”, a single “tongue”, and a single “tower” will provide the pillars for a centralized political, economic, and religious system with universal pretensions. Humanity will be securely unified and great. -Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace

 

On the plain of Shinar the whole world acted out of fear. The whole world feared loss of group identity through scattering. They feared the differences that would evolve once “scattering” began. Out of fear the whole world decided that they needed to build a towering edifice as a symbol of their identity and intransience. Out of fear, the whole world acted like the woman who believed that having a child would solidify her identity and her relationship with a guy.

For their One World Project it could be assumed that the people living on the plain of Shinar used clay and straw for their bricks. The plain had stones but they were likely smooth river stones. Shinar translated literally is “country of two rivers”, the two rivers being the Tigris and Euphrates. River stones were not going to work for a towering monument to themselves and for their socialized labor effort. Besides, to achieve structural integrity for both the tower and a One World society, the bricks and the people had to be uniform or be tossed onto the rubbish pile.

We learn from Genesis 10:8-10 that the Land of Shinar was the site of the kingdoms founded by Nimrod. We also learn that the name-making business had already started with Nimrod:

 Cush became the father of Nimrod, who was the first on earth to become a powerful man.  He was a powerful animal-killer in the eyes of the Lord. So, it is said, “Like Nimrod, a powerful animal-killer in the eyes of the Lord.”  The beginning of his nation was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

The tower was meant to create a unifying One World name for the people. We never hear of a name later on. Maybe the tower would have been named Nimrod Tower to honor a mighty hunter and self-made man.

The narrator, with tongue-in-cheek, relates “But the Lord came down to see” the finger in His face. In that same narration (Genesis 11:5-9) we learn of a God who is “us”.

Come, let Us go down and mix up their language so they will not understand what each other says.”  So the Lord sent them everywhere over the whole earth.

Why would God mix up their language and then scatter the Shinar plain’s people? Well, God earlier had commanded their forefathers (and remnants of the flood judgment) differently:

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.  The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands.  Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. – Genesis 9:1-3

In response to a centralized obstinate hunkering down in disobedience tower building people, God confounds their language. The people are scattered, fear and all.

 

Scattering (and moving people out of their comfort zones) happens throughout Scripture. In the next chapter of Genesis (12), we read of the beginning of God’s people:

The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

Like the remnant theme, the scattering theme is repeated throughout Scripture. The people of God are scattered into exile when they choose other gods and the ways of the world.

When men or a nation hunkers down as an immovable force and starts going vertical with pride and not horizontal in obedience, God scatters. Read Daniel 2. Daniel reveals the king’s dream. The dream portrays the knocking down of the towering kingdoms man has built up and affixed their name to. God scatters the remains.

To be sure, God doesn’t scatter for the sake of scattering. God is good. Listen to the what the prophet Jeremiah wrote (Jeremiah 29) to God’s exiled (scattered) people:

This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:…

 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

 

“I will be found by you.” Consider how God, by sending his Spirit, communicates (without towers) the gospel at Pentecost to those who had been scattered. From Acts 2:

There were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem at that time. When they heard the noise, they came together in a crowd. They were deeply puzzled, because every single one of them could hear them speaking in his or her own native tongue. They were astonished and amazed

“These men who are doing the speaking are all Galileans, aren’t they? they said. “So how is it that each of us can hear them in our own mother tongues? There are Parthians here, and Medians, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia (the land of Shinar!), Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt, and parts of Libya that belong to Cyrene; there are people from Rome, proselytes as well as Jews; there are Cretans and Arabs. We can hear them telling us about the powerful things God has done—in our own languages!”

 

Scattered people come together in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost. They hear the Apostles speak in their own native tongue. They hear about “the powerful things God has done” (and not about the powerful hunting of Nimrod). They return home to announce the Gospel – “Jesus is Lord” – in their own tongue. They were filling the earth with the knowledge of God.

 

Notice in Genesis 9 (above) that the fear of going without has been lifted off of mankind. Mankind has to choose to live in fear. Yet, when we live in fear and act out of fear we make terrible decisions. We become codependent in relationships. We become sexually involved. We overeat. We make monetary demands of others for socialized this and that. We shun others who are not the same as us. We lie. We steal. We kill. We take revenge. We isolate. We hoard. We surround ourselves with the like-minded. We build mega-churches to make a name for ourselves. We become territorial. We become ultra-nationalistic. We spend our days making bricks of straw and clay for a tower that will symbolize our efforts to secure our brick and straw identity.

By scattering and filling the earth with the knowledge of God, God desires to drive out fear from the whole world as each embrace his perfect love for us. And, God makes an endearing name for the scattered – adopted sons and daughters.

By scattering and filling the earth with the knowledge of God, God desires to prosper us as we seek first His Kingdom and not the kingdom of the clay tower. Man’s vertical projects are always redirected into God’s horizontal filling the earth with the knowledge of God.

God knows that our being scattered, redirected and moved out of our comfort zones involves risks of the unknown. But, God is there. Like Abraham, I want to go into the unknown and follow God to where God is working and communicating. Don’t you? That is the only way for us to experience God’s character and His presence. You won’t gain that experience with your head in the clouds at the top of Nimrod Tower.

 

As people are “fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” they will find the earth full of God’s love. As the Psalmist wrote (Ps. 33:4-5):

For the word of the Lord is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.
 The Lord loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.

 

~~~~~

Remember:

“We are to regard existence as a raid or great adventure; it is to be judged, therefore, not by what calamities it encounters, but by what flag it follows and what high town it assaults. The most dangerous thing in the world is to be alive; one is always in danger of one’s life. But anyone who shrinks from that is a traitor to the great scheme and experiment of being.” G.K. Chesterton

~~~~

Scattering appears to be consistent with God’s character. Consider the creation of the universe. The Big Bang unleashed atomic particles which later formed into mass. The universe continued to expand and so did the evolution of species. Pentecost reminded me of another Big Bang, a Kingdom Big Bang.

Consistent with man’s character: tower building with the accumulating and hoarding of mass.

Because the human heart remains the same throughout millennia there is a current political ideology of “a centralized political, economic, and religious system with universal pretensions.” Progressivism is its name and it is based on fear. It is also based on the fear of scattering.

God’s command mankind to “fill the earth” is certainly not a directive for a One World centralized tower top down collectivism.

For Progressivism to be about “Hope and Change” it must first invoke fear: fear of going hungry, fear of medical bills, fear of going bankrupt, fear of having to pay for one’s college tuition, fear of not being accepted, fear of having to care for an unborn child, the fear of being insecure, and fear of an unapproved of group, to mention just a few of the promoted social insecurities. Progressivism’s answer to fear is to centralize, homogenize and to be given totalitarian authority.

For Progressivism to be about hope and change it must reach the heavens. So, it uses the words of a well-being gospel Jesus (aka, a prosperity gospel). When it invokes Jesus, Progressivism can then justify its means to an end. The means can be socialized medicine, socialized income, and socialized well-being all done under totalitarian control.

The ends are to remove differences in income, differences in thought, and differences in morality. Progressivism suppresses differences that do not fit their narrative. Progressivism seeks to homogenize, repress and to pull suckers into its social tar, the mortar holding the clay bricks together. To build their tower of hope the bricks are to be handmade – formed by all the same to be all the same. The bricks are to laid, one on top of another, until they reach the pinnacle of Tower Utopia.

“With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.” – from FDR’s First Inaugural Address

~~~~

The Tower of Babel…

…reminds me of top down centralized government.

…reminds of the high places mentioned in the OT. They were places where false gods were worshipped.

…reminds me of the Eye of Sauron.

Added 8/21/2018, fixating on a problem:

The belief that everything is getting worse paints a distorted picture of what we can do, and makes us more fearful. But while getting the facts wrong – or willfully misrepresenting them – often results in misguided policies, fact-based recognition of what humanity has achieved encourages policies that can achieve the most good. –  Bjørn Lomborg “A Better World is Here

Unions, Socialism and RoadKill?

Just the other day I was verbally assaulted with socialism.

Per my usual workday I was taking the morning commuter into downtown Chicago. As I stand in the train’s vestibule I visit with my fellow travelers. Our conversations run the gamut of silly to bordering on the unspoken: politics, religion and money.

Well, just as I mentioned, I was slimed by socialism.

As I was talking with my friends a guy comes into the vestibule to wait out the rest of the ride. He was apparently eager to get off the train and light up a smoke.

Victory cigarettes

Victory cigarettes

Wearing a chartreuse tee-shirt of a union pipefitter (seen around Chicago) and with a pack of smokes in his one breast pocket, this guy proceeded to let us know that he arrived.

One of our group asked him where he worked and what he did. (We usually try to engage everyone who ‘visits” the vestibule.)

The guy mentioned that he was working in a building downtown “putting in 24” pipe.” He spoke with the raspy demonic-sounding voice of a heavy smoker.

Then, without prompting and like striking flint, he said, “I hate corporate America. I hate the rich, highly paid CEOs. Who needs gold toilet seats?!” “You think union workers get paid a lot. You should see what they take out of my paycheck!”

“OK?” I said to myself. Well, here we go again: typical union griping, now on a Thursday morning.

I have heard the same sort of discontent (putting it nicely) from union postal workers, train conductors, teachers, electricians, plumbers, service workers-from all of them. And, whether the gripe is about pay grade, work time, pecking order, vacation time, labor management (a partial list of complaints, to be sure) I have heard it all. Union people have left their destiny in the hands of others in hopes of being insured against unhappiness. Guess again. Socialism takes regular drawdowns on your account of happiness.

I have heard the same sort of morbid discontent as campaign vote pandering. It slips off the politician’s tongues (here paraphrased) as “zero sum anthropogenic poverty caused by the rich and CO2”, “…limited pie…”, “…we need unlimited government…”, and (verbatim) “Fair share”; “The 1%”.

Victory Gin

Victory Gin

All such materialism driven policies enacted to “unionize” society, in my estimation, reduce life to a boring unromantic dystopia. In other words these politicians want you to, “go drink your 1984 Victory Gin and be happy. We will take care of you. Do what you were told with what we gave you. There is no romance in Socialism so don’t even think of love, only of sex.” (Hah, imagine Hollywood under socialist financial constraints! Morally, Hollywood is already dependent on the lowest common cultural denominator.)

I decided not to talk to the union guy unless others broached a response and decided to go there. I could tell by his demeanor that this guys’ mind was probably as darkened as his lungs must be.

He went on to speak about his working on and off again depending on … when work is made available to him…through the union. Months would go by until he got a call.

Then he spoke of his heart’s desire: “My precious!”-The long awaited-for pension. With wide-eyed craving he spoke of his retirement: “Only six more years of this stuff left.”

Unions have a unique way of making people ache for the ring of retirement. I’ve seen it firsthand. It comes, I believe, from the on and off nature of union work along with boredom and plenty of worrisome smokes in between, a situation this guy and others let others control. Socialism is losing control of your life while waiting for the day you can retire and live off your meager pension and then, likely, smoke and drink yourself to death within a short time. Union-socialism roadkill.  I’ve seen it over and over.

At this point I wanted to ask him who runs his pension and ask if it was invested in something more than a saving account making 0.01% interest or a CD making 0.09 % interest. Or, was his pension invested in equities and bonds, more appreciable (and risky) financial vehicles.

One could easily figure that the “highly paid” union lords control his pension (and get their cut) and that the union pension fund itself is managed by outside financial managers who manage stock and bond purchases of the union’s pension fund.

The “highly paid” overseers of his pension as fiduciaries must look at the composite financials of companies with stock and bond offerings to determine the best option to apply to a conservative pension, to have it grow while minimizing risk.

Obviously this union guy knew pipefitting and welding. But he did not know finances let alone how to find work on his own. He, instead, left others in charge of providing him work and with overseeing his “precious” pension.

Right then and there I wanted to say to this guy that when you leave your life in the hands of others they will charge you for their effort, including “highly paid” labor leaders (e.g., Richard Trumka).

Union treasuries—filled by dues paid by union members—not only fund programs benefiting union members and their families. The money also 

Richard Trumka "highly paid" Union boss

Richard Trumka
“highly paid” Union CEO

pays six-figure salaries and benefits for labor leaders and their top staffs, and provides tens of millions of dollars for Democratic causes and candidates.

-“Scores of union leaders earn six-figure salaries”

Here’s the arrogant and petty AFL-CIO union thug Richard Trumka tweeting his call for “two minutes hate” directed at Gov. Scott Walker who is dropping out of the 2016 presidential race:

 

 

“Highly paid” CEOs are charged with managing a company so as to make its value grow and to make its stockholders happy with the company’s prospects for future earnings. The company’s worth must appreciate in value. And when a company’s stock appreciates in value many people benefit. This includes employees who receive stock as a bonus. Pension funds invested in such a company’s stock also grow in value. Somehow I think any such statement to him would not meld with his union-socialist-collectivist way of life. He would go into Elizabeth Warren override.

I left out this: companies run by “highly paid” CEOs hire people and pay them to function within the company. Together CEOs and the people make the company profitable or otherwise. The people are free to stay or move on depending on their satisfaction with any number of things including pay, management, location, etc. “Highly paid” CEOs increase value. Collectivist governments, socialist governments and unions depreciate value-especially, your value, via coercive egalitarianism.

Those of us in the Kingdom of God must not take the wide way that is offered to us either by a self-described socialist such as Bernie Sanders or by a self-described “Christian” magazine called Sojourners which uses the banner of “social justice.”

Government is not altruistic. Government could never hit the moving “socially just” target without being totally controlling. Government can never offer a hurting person what a Good Samaritan can-one on one help. Government is impersonal, indifferent, insouciant.

And, as we have seen, redistribution of our wealth, filtered through the labyrinth of government funnels, distributes only fractional amounts of money to people government cannot even begin to keep track of and large amounts just to make bureaucracy function. Socialism burgeons while you diminish.

The unions, the Collective, Progressives, liberal “Christians” and even Pope Francis want “Social Justice”. What is this carrot on a stick dangled in front of us?

~~~

I have written elsewhere about this subject before. When I have I’ve turned to the parable of the Good Samaritan to make the point that we need to be involved in one another’s lives personally (like our Savior) and NOT via the million degrees of separation known as bureaucratic “Social Justice.”

The Rev. Robert Sirico, “American Roman Catholic priest and the founder of the Acton Institute”, provides us with clear-cut insight into the bureaucratization of “good intentions” versus the personification of good (good becoming man):

“The Marxist political analysis that remains popular (if now usually disguised) in many universities and even seminaries, tends to pit the poor against the rich—it’s all about class warfare and alienation. The alternative vision that I have been trying to paint in these pages is beautifully distilled in the parable of the Good Samaritan, a story that has held a persistent fascination for the religious and non-religious readers alike. Of course, like all parables, its primary meaning is Christological and moral, rather than political. But it’s also possible to discern other messages in this story.

In Luke’s Gospel, a Samaritan man (someone on the margins of Jewish society in this period) stops to help a man who was beaten and left for dead on the side of the road. When the Samaritan comes upon him, he helps the beaten man from his own resources. Even when the Samaritan has to delegate the care to the man for a time to an innkeeper, he promises to pay the innkeeper back. The Samaritan was on the scene to see and understand the fallen man’s specific needs—he was the man’s “neighbor”—and he went about meeting those needs. From this standpoint, the Samaritan might be justly described as the principle subsidiary in action. Notice, too, that he would have been hard-pressed to meet the needs of the injured man if he hadn’t first possessed enough personal wealth to hire services of the innkeeper. Lady Thatcher’s memorable insight about this text is to the point: “No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions; he had money as well.”” (emphasis added)

Passage from “Why Smart Charity Works—and Welfare Doesn’t”, “Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for the Economy” by Rev. Robert Sirico

Rev. Sirico recommends reading “Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass” by Theodore Dalrymple. I have read it and recommend it as well.

~~~

Added 9-20-2015:

It’s “1984” all over again…

“Within the book [George Orwells’1984], the purpose of the Two Minutes Hate is said to satisfy the citizens’ subdued feelings of angst and hatred from leading such a wretched, controlled existence. By re-directing these subconscious feelings away from the Oceanian government and toward external enemies (which probably do not even exist), the Party minimizes subversive thought and behavior.” (emphasis added)

“Ostensibly, [Emmanuel] Goldstein serves as a convenient scapegoat for the totalitarian regime in Nineteen Eighty-Four, and justifies its surveillance and elimination of civil liberties.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_Minutes_Hate

Union members, as with so many others of the media-collectivist-“It takes a village…” persuasion make use of the “Goldstein Effect”, a term coined by legal scholar Cass Sunstein.

As mentioned above the effect is a means of scapegoating but it is also a means of psychological distraction and redirection.

The subverted thinking of the union member as revealed in my anecdote above is directed with anger at the “highly paid CEOs” and therefore away from the ”highly paid’ labor leaders and away from the “highly paid” Big Brother candidates those “highly paid” labor leaders support. The “enemies” generalized and amorphous existence is a product of the media’s PC Ministry of Truth, the collective’s means to larger-than–life vilification.

[The] “Goldstein Effect”, [is] described as “the ability to intensify public concern by giving a definite face to the adversary, specifying a human source of the underlying threat.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmanuel_Goldstein