Tuesday, January 31, 2006

And Now for Something Completely...Embarrassing

I can't believe I am doing this.

MY PIG PICTURE. Such as it is.

(It's all Michelle's fault.)

Pathetic! Looks like some kind of devil pig!

Is there an artist in the house?

Draw your own pig! Show me up! (Not that it would be hard.)

Friday, January 27, 2006

Margaret Sanger: Enemy of the Family

Amy provides an eloquent primer on the anti-family beliefs of Margaret Sanger, American birth control activist from the early 1900s. According to Wikipedia:

"In 1914, Sanger launched The Woman Rebel, a newspaper advocating birth control. She also separated from William Sanger. In 1916, Sanger opened a family planning and birth control clinic in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, the first of its kind in the United States. It was raided by the police and Sanger was arrested for violating the post office's obscenity laws by sending birth control information by mail. Sanger fled to Europe to escape prosecution. There, she had an affair with the famous science-fiction author, H. G. Wells. The following year, she returned to the U.S. and resumed her activities, launching the periodical The Birth Control Review and Birth Control News."

This part was a little funny, especially in light of what many Democrats said before GWB's election:

"During the 1960 presidential elections, Sanger was dismayed by candidate John F. Kennedy's position on birth control (though a Catholic, Kennedy did not believe birth control should be a matter of government policy). She threatened to leave the country if Kennedy were elected, but evidently reconsidered after Kennedy won the election."

Bwaaahaaa! But I digress.

I call her an enemy of the family because she was. Here's an excerpt from Amy's piece (emphasis mostly mine):

I wanted to preface her quote with the case that Sanger makes autonomous statements, and that as Christians, we do not have the right to do as such, though it may seem a proper and logical thing to do in a post-modern world. In the chapter which the quote appears, The Wickedness of Creating Large Families, Sanger begins by saying this, "The most serious evil of our times is that of encouraging the bringing into the world of large families. The most immoral practice of the day is breeding too many children."

And I’m making sweeping statements, broad judgments?! By her statement, this cookie baking stay-at-home mom with a minivan is worse than Hitler, Stalin, and some guy making video tapes in Afghanistan (or is it Pakistan?).

Sanger argues that large families are a burden on mothers, fathers, and society at large. The context in which the quote is found–-The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it–-is among a paragraph discussing the morality and mortality rate of children in large families.

[Amy quotes Sanger, below]

"Many, perhaps, will think it idle to go farther in demonstrating the immorality [Amy wrote: notice the word here is 'immorality,' not 'mortality!'] of large families, but since there is still an abundance of proof at hand, it may be offered for the sake of those who find difficulty in adjusting old-fashioned ideas to the facts. The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it….The probability of a child handicapped by a weak constitution, an overcrowded home, inadequate food and care, and possibly a deficient mental equipment, winding up in prison or an almshouse, is too evident for comment. Every jail, hospital for the insane, reformatory and institution for the feebleminded cries out against the evils of too prolific breeding among wage-workers."

Sanger's words, particularly "The most serious evil of our times is that of encouraging the bringing into the world of large families. The most immoral practice of the day is breeding too many children," struck me as very similar to something Aleister Crowley, the most prominent and prolific satanist of the last century, once wrote. He said that the family was "public enemy number one." "Curse them! They are always in the way," he said. Sounds like he and Sanger were of like minds to me. here's the Wikipedia's version of his life, but I would argue with conviction that he never stopped being a satanist.

I've only partially quoted Amy here, so certainly check the whole post out for yourself. More than worth the read.

If you want to know more about Crowley's role as the human architect for the New Age, get a copy of Rock N Roll Sorcerers of the New Age Revolution. One of the best tapes EVER.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Bono Revisited

I've got to tell you, I probably received the most hateful comments and e-mails to date for writing a post that didn't sing the praises of Bono. But when I saw this incredible article linked from Ambra Nykol's blog, which I love, I really wanted to share it with you. Ambra wrote:

A recent editorial on Bono's message of "co-existence" (i.e. that Christians, Muslims, etc. can all live together in harmony hogwash) is kicking up some dust with Christian-folk and I love it. I personally, have never quite "gotten" this world's obsession with Bono the humanitarian or U2. Sorry, but they weren't big around my "neighborhood," not even when Bono did a song with Kirk Franklin. Good conversation fodder.

She's referring to an editorial from Relevant Magazine, whose audience probably didn't appreciate the comments by one Tara Leigh Cobble. Check out what happened at a recent U2 concert:

I’m pretty sure I won’t get much opposition if I say that U2 is the greatest rock band of all time. When I scored two great seats to one of the shows at Madison Square Garden last month, I thought my life had reached its pinnacle.

It was a euphoric experience. During the first few songs, I stood, along with the rest of the stadium, as we pumped our fists into the air and sang along with every word. The energy in the air was emotionally overwhelming. And if you’ve never been to a U2 show, let me tell you that it was everything you’d ever expect it to be.

But it was also much, much more.

About five songs into their set, Bono stopped the show and strapped on a headband with writing on it. I stared up at the JumboTron to see that the handwritten lettering said: COEXIST.

Coexisting sounds like a great idea. I fully support the peaceful philanthropy that Bono has encouraged, and this seemed like another way that he was trying to spread the message.

Except, it started to feel like more than a political message. The “C” in “coexist” was the Islamic crescent moon, the “X” was the Star of David, and the “T” was the cross of Christ. Bono pointed at the symbols on his headband—first to the cross, then to the star, then to the crescent moon—and he began to repeat:

'Jesus, Jew, Mohammed—all true. Jesus, Jew, Mohammed—all true.'

He repeated the words like a mantra, and some people even began to repeat it with him. I suddenly wanted to crawl out of my skin. Was Bono, my supposed brother in Christ, preaching some kind of universalism? In just a few seconds, I went from agreeing with him about Christ-like “coexistence” to being creeped out by the ungodly, untrue thing he was saying. What’s going on here?
What if he believes that all ways are the same, and he just thinks of Christianity as his particular way? Aren’t universalism and true Christianity mutually exclusive?

I’ve heard the urban legends of amazing things Bono has said about his faith, I’ve read the books, and I’ve peered deep into everything he’s said hoping to find something that makes his beliefs clear. For years, I’ve adored him and clung to the notion that he is believer, too. After all, he identifies himself with Christianity, doesn’t he?

When he stated that lie so boldly, it devastated me. It was, without question, the most disturbing experience of my life; I felt like I’d been covered in bile. As I looked around, I saw all the people standing and chanting with him—it was disgusting and beautiful all at once. Unity can be so enticing. It made me think of the one world religion and how that will probably look benign and beautiful from the outside, too. I even started to wonder if universalism just might be poised to be that religion. All these things were running through my head.

After the show, I ran into a friend who had been sitting in the back row of farthest. 'What did you think of that headband thing?' I asked. 'Well, I couldn’t hear what he was saying because it was bouncing off the wall behind me, and I couldn’t read the headband, because I wasn’t near a JumboTron. But honestly, I felt like I was witnessing an antichrist.' I stood frozen as she spoke. I’d had the same feeling.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying that Bono is the Antichrist. Perhaps he’s just guilty of being overzealous about his politics. But I hope that if he is a believer, the Holy Spirit will convict him that equating Christianity with other religions is false prophecy. II Timothy 3 tells us to avoid people who have a form of godliness but deny the true power of God. And I believe that the most deceptive thing of all is to identify yourself with the truth and preach a lie.

For a long time after the show, I couldn’t talk about it. And I still don’t know what to think because I don’t know Bono’s heart. All I know is what he said from that stage and how it shook my footing. God used that to show me something ugly in myself that needed to be fixed. It felt like He was saying, “If you’re looking to Bono, you’re looking to the wrong place.”

The reality is that Bono held too high a place in my heart. And I don’t think I’m alone there. I’ve wrongly held him up as the heroic ideal—the cool representative for Christianity; he may have been my “Christian idol,” but he was my idol nonetheless. And that’s not okay. Yes, it should bother me to think that Bono might not be a believer; but it should not bother me any more than if a random guy on the street does not believe.

I think Miss Cobble is extremely brave for being so honest about her experience. I know--also from experience--that it won't win her many friends. Perhaps afraid of the vitriol she is about to incur, she ends the article with the typical "I don't know his heart," and "If Bono has a saving faith in the one true God, I can only hope that he would speak the Truth without ambiguity." Um, there was NOTHING ambiguous about having people chant "Jesus, Jew, Mohammed--all true. Jesus, Jew, Mohammed--all true." Unbelievable.

I thank God, though, that Miss Cobble had the courage to speak out about what happened at the concert. Now if Christians who continue to cling so tightly to their love of Bono will only listen. I post this not in hate, but in love--the kind of love that tells the truth. I don't want anyone to be deceived, and that's clearly what's happening here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tozer on Movies

I thought this might be a good time to bring up an article by one of my favorite Christian thinkers, A.W. Tozer. The Menace of the Religious Movie is his discourse on drama in Christendom.

This is--I'm sure I don't have to tell you--even more controversial today than when Tozer wrote it. I don't quote him here to declare my total opposition to the use of any kind of drama, but I do think his words are worth considering honestly, in light of the Word of God and not our own desires and preferences. After reading it, I understood my own discomfort with films like The Passion of the Christ much better. I quote Tozer below, but please, read the whole thing. It's not long and I can't do it justice by snipping. He writes,

The temptation to introduce "new" things into the work of God has always been too strong for some people to resist. The Church has suffered untold injury at the hands of well intentioned but misguided persons who have felt that they know more about running God's work than Christ and His apostles did. A solid train of box cars would not suffice to haul away the religious rubbish which has been brought into the service of the Church with the hope of improving on the original pattern. These things have been, one and all, positive hindrances to the progress of the Truth, and have so altered the divinely-planned structure that the apostles, were they to return to earth today, would scarcely recognize the misshapen thing which has resulted....

Within the last few years a new method has been invented for imparting spiritual knowledge; or, to be more accurate, it is not new at all, but is an adaptation of a gadget of some years standing, one which by its origin and background belongs not to the Church but to the world. Some within the fold of the Church have thrown their mantle over it, have "blessed it with a text" and are now trying to show that it is the very gift of God for our day. But, however eloquent the sales talk, it is an unauthorized addition nevertheless, and was never a part of the pattern shown us on the mount.

I refer, of course, to the religious movie.

For the motion picture as such I have no irrational allergy. It is a mechanical invention merely and is in its essence amoral; that is, it is neither good nor bad, but neutral. With any physical object or any creature lacking the power of choice it could not be otherwise. Whether such an object is useful or harmful depends altogether upon who uses it and what he uses it for. No moral quality attaches where there is no free choice. Sin and righteousness lie in the will. The motion picture is in the same class as the automobile, the typewriter, or the radio: a powerful instrument for good or evil, depending upon how it is applied....

The idea that religion should be entertaining has made some radical changes in the evangelical picture within this generation. It has given us not only the "gospel" movie but a new type of religious journalism as well. It has created a new kind of magazine for church people, which can be read from cover to cover without effort, without thought---and without profit. It has also brought a veritable flood of religious fiction with plastic heroines and bloodless heroes like no one who has ever lived upon this well known terrestrial ball.

That religion and amusement are forever opposed to each other by their very essential natures is apparently not known to this new school of religious entertainers. Their effort to slip up on the reader and administer a quick shot of saving truth while his mind is on something else is not only futile, it is, in fact, not too far short of being plain dishonest.

One thing about films I'm personally uncomfortable with is the insertion of images into my mind which I can never erase. Media is so powerful, we must be so careful--but we are bombarded with harmful images as never before in human history. Even items marketed to Christians can be full of evil--but even if it's not blatantly evil, is it serving God's purposes?

Did you know that the origin of the word 'hypocrite' is Greek?

1. The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness.
2. An act or instance of such falseness.

[Middle English ipocrisie, from Old French, from Late Latin hypocrisis, play-acting, pretense, from Greek hupokrisis, from hupokrīnesthai, to play a part, pretend : hupo-, hypo- + krīnesthai, to explain, middle voice of krīnein, to decide, judge.]

Kinda interesting. Again, I'm not drawing conclusions--just putting out a viewpoint to consider.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Good Conversation Alert

There's a great discussion going on over at Choosing Home Blog regarding Chad Allen's role in End of the Spear.

The controversy is this: a gay actor is playing Nate Saint in a film about an event that is very precious to many Christians--the martyrdom of several American missionaries to Ecuador in January, 1956. Many Christians are upset at the selection of an openly gay activist for the part of Saint.

Like many women who have commented on Molly's post, I see both sides of the argument. Many women there have made excellent, thoughtful posts that don't come across as snide or angry. I love when we can disagree so kindly (Molly and Spunky are historically good at that, by the way!).

Molly quotes Randy Alcorn:

Many nonbelievers know only two kinds of Christians: those who speak the truth without grace and those who are very nice but never share the truth. What they need to see is a third type of Christian — one who, in a spirit of grace, loves them enough to tell them the truth.

And really, that "third type" is the only "type" with any legitimacy. Speaking the truth without love drives people away from the Lord and exposes the speaker's hardened heart. Never speaking the truth exposes cowardice and a false love.

I like Molly's point about Christians and homosexuality; I think she and Holly together make a great point:

Molly: "Sodomy is an abomination, yes, but so is lying....[I]f we must boycott this movie because it has a gay man, let’s be consistant. We need to discover the character and morality about everyone else, not just this one movie. Movies in general, probably need to get the boot (and maybe that would be a good thing?). Grocery stores need to be investigated, the product makers searched out. Where does my toilet paper come from? Are the folks who run Google morally acceptable? Does the lady at my bank indulge in fornication or drunkeness after hours? Pensees says that the fact that Chad is an activist is where we must draw the line. Maybe he’s right. But to me, it’s more complicated than that.

We need to ask the question--it’s important--and consider the relationship the Christian should have to the world. But let’s be able to clearly explain where we draw our lines and where, instead of reacting emotionally simply because a gay activist is more repugnant to us than a heterosexual adulterer.

Holly, later, in a comment: The only thing I would like to insert here is the underlying reason evangelicals tend to be particularly annoyed by homosexual sin. It is not that it is a pet sin, or “worse.” It IS the agenda, the radical agenda, which evangelicals perceive (rightly, I think) as being shoved down their throats via public school educations and television and movies. Do you all realize how much things have changed in the last twenty years regarding this issue? When I was a kid, being “gay” was not a good thing. It has become normalized, even celebrated…it has and will continue to change the face of our world (not just the US) by manner of inclusive laws, curriculum, and directly affecting the “specialness” of marriage. By glorifying it in the media, many kids copy cat it….they declare themselves bi or gay simply because it is cool…not because they have been abused. (By the way, my sister was left to raise three young children because her husband abandoned her for the gay lifestyle. I’m not remote from this. I feel the pain of the individual who struggles with this…I just don’t think it has to be widely celebrated and lauded as an acceptable lifestyle.)

Okay, enough...I'll let you read it all for yourself. :)

Ryan and I actually just watched a documentary about the missionaries and the Aucas called Beyond the Gates of Splendor, so we probably won't see this movie. I'd rather see the historical footage of the missionaries and the interviews with the living Aucas than actors any day.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Discipline: Body and Spirit

Remember Pineapple Throat? That was December 15. I'd already been sick for several days when I wrote that post; I've been to the doctor three times since then and am still on antibiotics (and believe me, I am one of those people who doesn't take them unless absolutely necessary). It's been a long time since a bug nabbed me this hard!

The illness required me to stay home from work quite a bit, and I had time to ruminate on the blessing of health, and on the connections between our physical and spiritual lives.

A little bit of background: before I got sick, and smack in the middle of my Couch to 5K running program I had been striving to complete, Ryan and I decided together to begin Bill Phillips' Body for Life (BFL) program. In a nutshell, the program consists of intense weight training, high-intensity interval aerobic training, and a (common sense) nutrition plan. I know it's cliche to say it, especially in January, but it's truly a lifestyle change for us. (And we started in November! So THERE! ;-) )

BFL is a twelve-week challenge, but it's not really meant for you to just do twelve weeks and then go back to your old way of life. It's meant to change how you look and feel so dramatically in those twelve weeks that you'll never want to go back to being a couch potato. I was extremely excited that this is something Ryan and I could do together; with C25K, I'd been running on my own. Ryan was just as committed and gung-ho as I was about weightlifting and eating right.

We were about two or three weeks into the program when I got sick. In my personal journal I wrote,

"I've been sick for two weeks now. There's nothing like an illness to make you really appreciate the health you normally enjoy. It fires up in my heart a desire to take advantage of feeling healthy: to apprehend and consistently practice and display discipline and drive to meet my goals.

I've treated my spiritual life the same way that I had treated my physical (fitness) goals before BFL: no planning, no real/concrete 'goals' set. Just wishes and vague plans--dreams. I realize now that I've got to be much more deliberate, or the enemy, who is quite willing to be calculating and deliberate, will best me, because I have not run to the Lord and hid beneath His wings."

The enemy isn't seeking to throw someone off their BFL program. He wants to turn them from God. But there are parallels between physical and spiritual discipline that I am just learning and that intrigue me. There is a connection.

1 Corinthians 9:24
Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Now, Paul isn't telling the Corinthian believers to get out to the track; he's talking about keeping the flesh under subjection to the Holy Spirit, having the Fruit of self-control. He's talking about persevering in our relationship with and obedience to Jesus Christ. But look: an athlete exercises self-control in all things. Is there something I can learn from that, something that might help my walk?

I think it's safe to say I've never been an extremely disciplined person. Academically, yes--I made A's my whole life. For me a B was an F, and a C simply unthinkable, devastating. But in pretty much every other area, I've done what pleased myself and haven't worried too much about self-control or self-denial. Jesus helped me with that a lot when we met, but I have come to realize how much I haven't listened to the Spirit in many areas where I believe it would please the Lord for me to exercise self-control, or to be more disciplined.

1 Tim 4:7b-8
...train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

Going back to my journal--when I wrote that I want "to take advantage of feeling healthy: to apprehend and consistently practice and display discipline and drive to meet my goals," I saw a connection between what I am doing physically and what I need to do spiritually.

You can't "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" with God. It doesn't work that way; it's not all about you and your effort. It's about crying out to Him, listening for Him, watching Him. But there is something to be said for being consistent and goal-oriented in seeking to obey Him. I think we actually have to be. I'm not being a type-A yuppie. I'm just agreeing with Paul. "Run that you may obtain [the prize]" and "I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."

The goal, the prize is eternal life: to know (John 17:3) and be with Jesus, whom I love and who redeemed me from death, forever. Yeah, I want to be goal-oriented.

Ephesians 5:8-10
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.

Hebrews 10:36
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Relativism's Ugly Offspring

The success of "Sex and the City" didn't astound me. Its adoring fan base wasn't surprising. But the content of the show (which, no, I haven't watched but have read enough about to know I DON'T want to see it, thanks) is another in a long list of dividing lines that increase exponentially in our country every day. It separates those with some sense of virtue and morality from those who, increasingly, don't care.

Romans 1:28-32
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

I wanted to point you guys to this article by Monique E. Stuart, Program Officer for the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute. I am more interested in what Stuart is saying than in the political aspect of the Institute's work. I thought this passage particularly incisive:

"In their moral relativist world, no one has the right to judge others. In Columbia University’s sex column, Sexplorations, Miriam Datskosky explains why the all too common 'walk of shame' shouldn’t be shameful at all. She argues that men and women should be able to go out and have sex whenever and with whoever they like, and when walking home the next morning—wearing the same clothes from the night before, their make-up smeared, and their hair a mess—they shouldn’t be judged. 'It is not up to a random stranger to make you feel ashamed,' she declares. Moral relativism and the sexual revolution had a baby, and boy is it ugly!"

The "Walk of Shame," for those of you fortunate enough not to know, is a woman's trip back to her car/apartment/dorm room after, um, having relations with someone she didn't plan on copulating with the night before. Thus the references to smeared makeup and the previous night's mussed attire.

It's so pathetic and hits so close to home that I am almost without words. My heart breaks for all those deceived women, walking back to their dorms or cars and trying desperately to feel "proud" of what they've just done, like Cosmo and Glamour said they should and would. They hope he'll call tomorrow (he won't--and if he does, it's for one thing, and sweetie, it doesn't involve a ring or going home to his mom and dad). Instead, they uncover the gritty reality the glossy magazines conveniently left out of their "Are You Normal?" sex article: anger, guilt, sorrow, and for many women, disease.

God set me free from that kind of life, through the blood of a Messiah who actually cares about women who have not lived virtuously; when the world would have thrown me out like garbage (after lying to us and telling us this life would bring happiness), He made me worth something. He gave me a totally new heart, a new way of looking at everything. He cleansed me and made a completely new person.

John 8:3-11
As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and Pharisees brought a woman they had caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. "Teacher," they said to Jesus, "this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?"

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, "All right, stone her. But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!" Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to her, "Where are your accusers? Didn't even one of them condemn you?"

"No, Lord," she said. And Jesus said, "Neither do I. Go and sin no more."

I'm still working on that whole "sin no more" thing, but I sure am glad He sacrificed Himself for me...unworthy, unholy, unfit. If I am worth anything, it's because of His love for and His redemption of me.