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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Stepford Christians

One man’s questioning of authority is another man’s spirit of rebellion. One is good, one is arrogant. This all depends on how closely the “labeler” is aligned with the authority in question.

Martin Luther King Jr. clearly posessed one or the other. It all depended on the bias of the observer.

How about we back off, let people use their intellect and let the chips fall where they may. A true spirit of honesty will seek to right itself.

We have been ignoring our intellect way too long in order to “protect” God. I believe God can handle it. Since when did a curious mind seeking God to become more like Jesus, become irreverant?

Friday, March 03, 2006

How I Know

“Wait until tomorrow. It will be warmer and the wind will die down.” My wife has always been the voice of reason in our 16 year marriage and her voice on this cold windy December day resonated with sound advice. Why not wait until tomorrow? The road can surely wait.

I went running anyway. Along my 5 mile journey I wondered why I ignored sound advice and ventured out. I pondered these thoughts in relative isolation; the only ones on the road were in the warmth of their cars. They gave me the occasional “You idiot” glance.

My wife does not run unless she is being chased. I have never run a mile let alone a race with her. She is not a runner, but on the occasions when she does run it inspires me to be a better man, a better father and a better husband. It has been her running that has shown me that God is alive and well and does care.

When the world has told her to stay inside and wait for better weather she has braved the wind and cold of life and ran. When her heart and mind have been numbed by the journey and the world has told her to walk or stop, she has always run.

Through her faith in God she has always run toward me. Her anger at my actions has never been an excuse to leave me out in the cold. Because God dwells in her heart, she has conquered the wind, the cold and the hills of my life with a determined purposeful selfless love.

My wife’s running literally inspires the Hell out of me. Her journey in my life has shown me more about Jesus than a stack of Bibles. Her presence in my time of need has helped me considerably more than bunch of “I’ll pray for you(s).”

If my wife can brave these conditions then I can run alone in cold windy weather and be a better man for it.

Complexity of Faith

Mercedes Benz manufactures very nice automobiles. They are durable, comfortable, nice looking, aerodynamic superbly engineered vehicles. They will get you from point A to point B in comfort and style with little to no effort. Just turn the key and lightly press the gas pedal. What more could one need? Sure they cost an arm and a leg but who drives with two hands anyway?

However, these superbly engineered German driving machines can be turned into $50,000 paperweights in a split second. Mercedes rarely breakdown but when they do it takes a highly trained expert and a lot of cash to get it out of the ditch. The owner could gain the knowledge to fix the car if they didn’t have a full time job.

Unless the owner wants the $50,000 investment to remain a paper weight they had better let the trusted expert tend to it. It’s their job. They went to school for it and do it every day. Trust them and stick to turning the key and pressing on the gas pedal.

My childhood bicycle although not a Mercedes was a nice bicycle, at least I thought so. However getting from point A to point B proved quite difficult sometimes. To avoid falling off the darn thing, sometimes I had to get off the bike and push; especially when riding up the large hill by the junior college or on the sandy road (long jump pit) in front of my house. Riding into the wind always sucked (I grew up in West Texas).

Like the Mercedes, my bicycle did break down. It had flats and broken chains. I could fix them both. Oddly enough I never read a book about bicycle repair. I figured it out because it was simple. I never worried about gas prices or running out of it. I had fun on my bike. I would jump off 4 ft high curbs at a moments notice. I wrecked it many times. It survived and I walked\limped away every time. Getting from point A to point B proved difficult sometimes sucked but it did make me stronger.

I want a “bicycle” faith. By the way I drive a “paid for” lime green standard Kia Rio. Driving into the wind still sucks.

Religous Shave

  1. Occum's Razor - “Plurality should not be posited without necessity.” [Simply put, given two theories of equal merit the simplest is more likely to be right.] -William of Occum, 14th century excommunicated Franciscan theologian”

  1. “Death is an essential element in the progress of science, since it takes care of conservative scientists of a previous generation reluctant to let go of an old, fallacious theory and embrace a new and accurate one. Their recalcitrance is understandable, because they had framed their entire life’s work around one model and were faced with the possibility of having to abandon it in favour of a new model.” -Simon Singh PhD

  1. “An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting it opponents: it rarely happens that a Saul becomes a Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out, and the growing generation is familiarized with the ideas from the beginning.” - Max Planck

There is a debate if science and religion will ever be compatible. The progress of science is due to uncertainty. The influence of God\Christianity requires certainty. Science has progressed rapidly but the real influence of God\Christianity has declined. Why?

A theological Copernicus will rise up and pose a view of God so radical, so simple yet so “accurate” it will make the reformation a blip on the theological radar. It will offend the static mind and be labeled heresy, yet it will be “true.”

I refuse to believe God is that which science has not yet discovered. The new “theory” on God will bare this out.

Science will find this new religion useful. This new religion will not be needed to explain the observations science makes but to guide the technology it produces.

Want or Need

Is it a want or need? The livelihood of my company depends on us marketing “needs” and leaving the “wants” on the R&D chalkboard. The tech crash of 2001 made this very apparent. Many companies died not being able to distinguish between “wants” and “needs.” Money, time and human resources are too scarce in the semiconductor industry to conduct science experiments. If it does not have realizable potential it does not have life. No stone goes unturned in the companies which survive.

Maybe we need to go through a “religious” crash (I think we are). Production has exceeded demand. Prices are too low and our good jobs are being shipped to other faiths and other institutions. Christianity is no longer the 900 lb gorilla in the religious marketplace. Science has reduced it in its present form to a loquacious spider monkey.

We need to restructure or die. We need to look at every aspect of company. We need to let go of the dead weight. Is our current product a want or a need? Have we diversified so much we no longer do anything well? Are we top heavy? Do we encourage innovative thinking from the bottom up? Do we target the right audience? Is the market saturated? What is our market?

We have something to offer, why doesn’t the world see it or why do they look away? Are they wearing blinders, are we ugly or are we invisible?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Broke Down

Mary’s trip home for Thanksgiving excited and worried her. She wanted to see her family but the trip covered long stretches of isolated country road.

Mary stood by her car stranded, alone and without a cell phone. Forty miles of straight road separated her from the nearest town. The peculiar sounds of the country and the beautiful night sky were her only company.

How could this be happening to her? Mary and her friends had prayed fervently for her safety. She even recited the 23 Psalm before she left. Why would God let her car break down? Mary thought God would want her to go home. It was all very confusing. The confusion lifted as she thought about it.

She must have brought this upon herself. She even probably deserved her predicament. After all she had been selfish two days before, had lied to her boss last week, had not read her Bible in 3 weeks and had not been giving 10% gross. God was surely trying to teach her something.

She kneeled down and prayed “God have mercy on me a sinner. Please forgive me. What did I do? What went wrong?”

As she was praying an audible voice said “Ambient conditions and thermal stress will brittle the material and eventually your radiator hose will fail.” Mary was amazed God wanted her to know about the material properties of her radiator hose.

The man who had pulled up beside her rephrased his statement. “Looks like your radiator hose failed. Hard to know when it’s going to happen. Want me to give you ride into town or call someone for you?” Mary accepted the offer of a call. Joe waited for AAA to arrive and fix her car.

Mary tried to pay Joe for his kindness but Joe refused. In lieu of payment, Mary immediately complimented Joe on his fine Christian example. “I am not a Christian ma’am. I do not know what that means. I stopped because you were alone and needed help. If my wife were broke down, I would want someone to stop.”

Mary’s relationship with God did not cause Mary’s problem. Her radiator hose was to blame. God’s community (Joe) arrived when her problem occurred. They did not fix the problem but hung around until it was resolved.

We should not associate tragedy with God’s will, God’s lessons or lack of righteousness. We should be there in tragedy to “Love our neighbor as our self.”

Hope

“Hope” is always a good thing, right? It is that which takes the edge off the hard reality of today and promises a better tomorrow. It lets us go to sleep when thoughts of a cruel and unjust world stifle our dreams and bombard our conscience. How can “Hope” ever be bad?

Hope can sometimes kill you. After 5 days of being trapped by a boulder Aron Ralston lost “Hope” of survival (in his current situation) and cut off his arm to free himself. Aron lost “Hope”, cut off his arm, applied a tourniquet, rigged an anchor, rappelled down the cliff and hiked out of the woods. OH MY GOSH!

He was trapped on Sunday, had run out of water on Tuesday and cut off his arm on Thursday. Why did he not “act” before Thursday? It was “Hope.” Before Thursday morning, there was still some chance of him getting off that cliff alive without taking action. There was still “Hope.”

When he made the conscious decision his life was the most important thing, he sacrificed his arm to get off that cliff. Most of mankind, probably me included, would have held on to “Hope” and died under that rock.

The absence of “Hope” can cause ordinary man to do extraordinary things.

The “arm” of Christianity is trapped on the cliff under the 1000 lb weight of ancient doctrine. Will we lose “Hope,” get off the cliff and hike back to reality?

Slot Machines

The slot machine and the change machine operate on the same premise; put money in, get money out. The slot machine offers a large return on a single investment. In most cases the money invested in the slot machine far outweighs the return. In all cases the change machine returns the same as the investment.

Why do people sit in front of those slot machines?

Maybe they are curious. The slot machine’s big payoff for a “small” investment piques interest. Many people try it, realize it is too good to be true and walk away for good. The slot machine will “hit” for others once in a while but never for them. They realize the slot machine is a waste of time.

Maybe they are desperate. The slot machine’s big payoff for a “small” investment solves immediate problems. The desperate pour their life savings into the machine hoping for a better future. They lose their savings, become angry at the slot machine and walk away for good. The slot machine will “hit” for others once in a while but never for them. They realize the slot machine is an empty promise.

Maybe they are addicted. The thrill of the slot machine’s big payoff for a “small” investment numbs life’s trauma. The slot machine has “hit” enough in the past to warrant its continued use. They are willing to dedicate their life resources to the slot machine. The slot machine will “hit” for me once in a while and that is good enough. They realize the slot machine is a great anesthetic for a horrible world.

Why do people stand in front of those change machines?

The money they already have needs to change form to serve its immediate purpose. They do not flock to the change machine in pursuit of more money. They earned it earlier by working hard. They just want to be able to use it. The change machine is not exciting or colorful, but it is repeatable. Put money in and it will return the same amount in useable form. It will do this every time.

The God in the sky is a slot machine. The God found in the people of a community is a change machine

Fallen World

Most Christians will claim “We live in a fallen world.” When pressed for an answer on the meaning of this statement most Christians lack an explanation current with modern reality.

This “fallen world” idea explains such things as: Adolf Hitler, hurricane Katrina, death of children (good dying young), social injustice, poverty, oppression, etc.

“Fallen” implies the world once “stood” perfect. “We live in a fallen world” holds truth if the book of Genesis recounts the actual story of the creation. The moment Eve eats that apple and entices Adam to do the same marks the demise of humanity. This apple alters Adam and Eve’s DNA passing on the “sin” gene to the rest of mankind; permanently altering its capacity to be or do “good.” This makes me want to stop using pesticides on fruit.

Modern science and Genesis do not agree on the account of creation. I tend to believe modern science on this one. So if modern science’s model of creation is more accurate than Genesis’ model, how could the world have “fell”? Did it fall the moment man became self aware? This seems to be a more plausible explanation than the fruit induced theory. But I still do not buy it.

Both accounts of the world’s “falling” point to knowledge as the culprit. If we were all amoebas, would the world be perfect? If man killed another man out of instinct rather than hate, would it be okay? I’ll bet if the antelope of the Serengeti could talk they would accuse the lions of genocide.

I claim we do not live in a “fallen world” we live in a “crappy world.” So what is the difference? The difference is; the world never has experienced perfection. Before any creature became self aware, the world just “was.” Since the birth of self awareness love and hate have coexisted.

So what are the implications? If a vase (the world) falls off a mantle and shatters into 10,000 pieces, the hope of ever putting it back together is minimal, so minimal that some people will not even attempt it. Why bother with an impossible task? Jesus makes the vase new in heaven so why bother trying to repair the broken vase now?

If a 10,000 piece puzzle (the world) is in a box. It is not broken, it is not assembled yet. So why will people will attempt to put it together? They have hope of completion because of the picture on the puzzle box. This picture depicts Jesus’ life. There is hope in the beginning and end. So there is hope in the middle.

If this is what we mean when we say “fallen” then let’s say what we mean. Christianity’s use of self deprecation is getting old.

Park Bench

Joe sat watching the children play. Their happiness and care-free spirit seemed so distant and foreign. Three days ago his boss caught him stealing money, fired him and pressed charges. He was so ashamed of what he had done he could not bear to tell his wife or face his 3 children. There on the park bench he numbed his pain with a fifth of whiskey.

Joe earned a small salary and had a hard time paying his bills. His 4 year old daughter needed major dental work, 3 root canals. Being young and unable to sit still she had to be put under anesthesia. The procedure cost $3000 and Joe did not have dental insurance. He used the $2000 he had in savings but he still needed $1000 to cover the bill. Joe had no friends outside of work and came from a very poor family. His mother was the only one he had left and she could not help.

Joe would do it just this once. He would borrow it and give it back when he could. No one would miss it. He took the money. He got caught. The furious boss told Joe to get out and never come back. He did not require or desire an explanation for stealing and Joe could expect a visit from the police.

Jack, the boss’s younger brother had worked with Joe and learned what had happened. Jack admired Joe deeply. Joe was not a Christian like him and his brother, but he was a great guy. Joe was a very hard worker, showed up early and stayed late when needed. He always had something good to say about everyone and rarely gossiped. Joe was a great father and husband.

Three days after Joe got fired Jack found him at the park. Jack knew it was time to repay Joe’s friendship. Jack was going to give Joe a gift that could never be taken away. He was going to share the “gospel” with Joe.

Jack sat down next to Joe and put his arm around him. Joe looked up form his semi drunk state and was glad to see a familiar face and this face was smiling. Jack explained that Jesus loved him so much he had died for his sins 2000 years ago. Stealing, drinking, minor gossiping and all other sins were covered under this plan. He explained that he should ask for God’s forgiveness, “believe” in Jesus and he would be “made right” in this world and the next. He would have the eternal joy and peace which surpasses understanding. Jack knew Joe would be better off focusing on eternity instead of the huge mess he had gotten himself into.

Joe felt it was worth a shot. Jack and Joe prayed fervently that day. Joe got “saved” and started his own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Jack and Joe walked away feeling good.

Since Joe no longer worked at the company, Jack never saw him again. Three years later Jack was reading the Sunday paper. It was his way of winding down after a “super-charged” church service. While reading the obituaries he noticed “Joe.” Joe had died of liver failure. He had gotten a divorce and was homeless. He was survived by 3 children and an ex-wife. Jack wiped a tear out of his eye, kneeled and said a prayer:

“Thank you Lord for letting me and Joe talk that day on the park bench. Thank you for letting me do your work. You truly are a loving and gracious God. I know Joe is with you and in a much better place. Please be with Joe’s children. Help them come to know you as Joe did. AMEN.”

Stop!!!!


Three days after Joe got fired Jack found him at the park. Jack knew it was time to repay Joe’s friendship. Jack was going to give Joe a gift that could never be taken away. He was going to be Jesus to Joe.

Jack sat down next to Joe and put his arm around him. Joe looked up form his semi drunk state and was glad to see a familiar face and this face was concerned. Jack said

“Joe you are my friend and you made a mistake. You are still my friend. We will go together and talk to my bother. I will be with you as you ask for forgiveness from him. I will loan you the money to pay him back. If my brother does not re hire you, I will exhaust my resources and time until you get a job with another employer. When you need it, I will help you pay your bills and I will pay the remaining $1000 on your girls’ dental bill. We will go together to your house and I will be with as you explain to your wife what happened. I will re-enforce what she already knows “You are good man.”

Joe felt it was worth a shot. Jack and Joe followed their plan that day. Joe got to know Jesus and became a part of Jack’s (God’s) community. Jack and Joe walked away feeling anxious, nervous, afraid and unsure, but they walked away together.

They prayed together:

“Thank you Lord for letting us talk that day on the park bench. Thank you for letting us be your work. You truly are a loving and gracious God. I know we are in a much better place when we are in your community. Please be with our children. Help them come to know you as we do. AMEN.”

Resurrection

On February 10, 1970 eight men received a new lease on life.

“Sp4c. Baca, Company D, distinguished himself while serving on a recoilless rifle team during a night ambush mission A platoon from his company was sent to investigate the detonation of an automatic ambush device forward of his unit's main position and soon came under intense enemy fire from concealed positions along the trail. Hearing the heavy firing from the platoon position and realizing that his recoilless rifle team could assist the members of the besieged patrol, Sp4c. Baca led his team through the hail of enemy fire to a firing position within the patrol's defensive perimeter. As they prepared to engage the enemy, a fragmentation grenade was thrown into the midst of the patrol. Fully aware of the danger to his comrades, Sp4c. Baca unhesitatingly, and with complete disregard for his own safety, covered the grenade with his steel helmet and fell on it as the grenade exploded, thereby absorbing the lethal fragments and concussion with his body. His gallant action and total disregard for his personal well-being directly saved 8 men from certain serious injury or death.”

In that one second what did John Baca think about? Did he always know he would go this way? Did he ponder eternity? Did he reflect upon his life?

I do not know any of these answers, but I imagine the 8 men who witnessed this act and owed their lives to John Baca were changed forever. They were changed the moment the grenade exploded, John Baca ceased to exist and as a result they lived.

I do not why he jumped on the grenade but whatever the reason, it trumped his existence. His conscience would not allow him the option of leaving the grenade alone. I’ll bet any of the 8 men’s cloudiness on the concept of friendship was erased on February 10, 1970.

If any of these men are still alive I’ll bet they still remember John Baca. I’ll bet their children know of John Baca. I now know of John Baca and I am moved.

On February 13, 1970 John Baca did not get up, walk around and show himself to his friends. It did not matter to those 8 men. They had changed on February 10.

Disclaimer: I am in know way saying John Baca filled the enemy death quota that day and a result the other 8 men did not have to die. I am saying John Baca died showing those 8 men how to live.

Atonement

There was a man who had two sons. The oldest son was a “good” son. He did every thing the father wanted him to do. He was good looking, smart and kind. The younger son was smart and kind but on the surface was not very good looking. He through no fault of his own had been born with a birth mark covering his entire face.

Because of this birth mark the father would have no direct contact with the son. The father concluded that his direct association with this son and his “imperfection” somehow diminished his “greatness.” The only way the father would even talk to the “hideous unworthy” son was to have the son put on a mask. Despite this “odd” communication ritual, the father told the son he loved him. The younger son felt so bad about himself he believed the only who one could love him was his cruel father.

The father wanting desperately to make things “right” with this younger son sent his other “good” son to medical school. He wanted his older son to learn how to permanently remove this birth mark. His son went to medical school, became an expert at this cosmetic procedure and then returned home to “cure” his younger brother.

The procedure worked! The father could now openly talk to the younger son. Initially the younger son was very grateful to the older. He looked in the mirror and the mark was gone. He no longer had to wear this mask to talk to the father.

The younger son who was “cured” was initially excited about talking to his dad. Eventually he realized his dad was an asshole and no longer cared to talk to him at all. He realized the “old man” didn’t love him for who he was, but for who he thought he could be. His older brother was just an agent of the “old man’s” way of thinking. He had no family.

I told this “made up” story to my wife last night and asked her what she thought of the “loving” father? She replied “He is very shallow, self-centered and cruel.”

Why do we insist on telling another version of this story to our children every Sunday morning in bible class? This story diminishes the power of Jesus. This is not the God I worship or care to worship.

Falling Rocks

In 534 BCE Joe dropped a rock on his foot and it hurt. Joe did not ponder why it fell or how it fell. He only knew it fell and it fell fast.

In 211 BCE Joe dropped a rock on his foot and it hurt. Joe knew why it fell. Since it was made out of earth (one of 4 elements: earth, water, fire and air). The rock was returning to its proper place. It fell fast because it was heavy.

In 1693 Joe dropped a rock on his foot. A force called gravity was the culprit. It was a product of the mass of the rock, the mass of the earth and was inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. The rock fell fast because its resistance to wind was low.

In 1930 Joe dropped a rock on his foot and it hurt. It followed a curvature in space. The earth, the rock, Joe and anything “nearby” that had mass or energy affected the curvature of space. The rock followed a straight line on this “curved” space time grid from Joe’s hand to his foot.

In each case a rock fell and hurt Joe’s foot. In each case the explanation changed to reflect the current body of knowledge. In each case the behavior of the falling rock was not bound by the explanation of its falling. However in each case the explanation was bound by the observation of the falling rock.

To demand the current explanation of a falling rock incorporate the 200 BCE theory is an absurd request.

Does our Christian explanation of God require us to incorporate the brutality of the Old Testament and the opinions of Paul in the New Testament?