Archive for September, 2013
One of the largest foundational understandings of the Bible is that God created the world. Scientists and hardcore creationists can debate the “how” on that for years to come but from a purely faith perspective, God created it and throughout the prophetic books calls on it as witness to his majesty. He is first seen as Lord over creation and then allows humans to live in his domain through that creation. It would seem this subject should be very important in our daily lives, not the worship of creation but the respect for God’s creation. So why hasn’t the church historically been more concerned about that creation?
The claim that the polar ice caps are melting and that may cause torrential weather shifts is becoming less and less believable based upon scientific evidence. But it doesn’t take much to see that world is decaying on a dramatic scale. Air quality is getting worse, our natural resources are being drained, our landfills are overflowing, our ozone layer is reducing, and we spray toxic substances on our growing vegetables to decrease spoilage. We use nuclear reactors to power our world that even when run “safely” create a byproduct of spent uranium and thorium cells that remain wickedly radioactive for a thousand or so years. We currently have no manner of destroying them but we continue to produce them. As a people, we have learned to pollute and contaminate our world to an absurd level.
I am certain that the Christian church cannot stop this. I am certain it will only get worse and God’s creation will only take more and more abuse. But does that mean we do nothing to try? Do we think we are less culpable because the job is daunting? Do we think that God will hold us less accountable for our actions or lack thereof? Do we really think we are not to blame for the damage these actions have caused?
Think about this. We as consumers will not want to spend more money for fruits and vegetables. Stores will look for the lowest prices to ensure their profit margins. Farmers will do as much as they can to make as much of their crop sellable at the best cost possible, this includes toxic pesticides. The workers spraying these pesticides have statistically shown to have higher rates of disease, this includes their families though “take home” exposure. So in effect, simply because I want vegetables without spots at the cheapest price possible, I am affecting the health of other people. And somehow God will not care that I am unwilling to spend more because I want to save up money for a larger TV or Ipad?
I know it is not this simple and buying organic products solely is not possible for all and would not solve to overall issue. But is it not something to think about? I am not the one directly causing these problems, but do I have an indirect responsibility? Does the Church for not getting involved sooner? For myself, I would have to say yes, I do.
My concern is not that Churches are not picketing the local Ralphs or boycotting conventional products. That wouldn’t help and frankly Churches have done enough of that noise for a lifetime. I am more concerned they greatly ignore the question. As I stated, buying Organic will not solve the problem. But turning a blind eye will solve even less. If we are not willing to look at the problem, how can we claim we are acting morally? How can we claim we are treating God’s creation with respect? I don’t have a great answer for all the problems. But I do know that doing nothing is the worst possible answer.
A friend of mine and I recently had dinner at a little Greek place we had never been to before. I was unfamiliar with the menu and asked the waitress what was good there. She told us her favorites and we both ordered one of them. When the food was delivered it was a little more like cafeteria food than had been expected. The overall flavors were not necessarily bad; they just didn’t rate high compared to other dining options for that evening. Maybe the waitress and I have differing palates. The real question is why did I accept the recommendation of a person whom I don’t know anything about without looking into it more?
I saw a post on Facebook showing a picture of Johnny Depp with a quote that basically says to do what you need to do and don’t care what other people think. I personally think there is wisdom in this quote. I think that people put far too much stock in what others think about them. With that said, why is this more valuable because a celebrity said it? Johnny Depp makes a reported 100 million dollars a year. I really think he has a far different perspective on caring what others think than I do. Why would I accept this advise without truly struggling through it just because a celebrity said it? Popular thought does not create truth. God creates truth.
It amazes me sometimes how we accept so easily philosophical assertions without truly questioning the supporting ideas. There is a prevalent thought in our world that truth is a relative concept and that absolute truth is at least archaic and at the most completely impossible. It is not a new philosophy. Traces of it date back to Greek thought hundreds of years before the time of Christ (see Al_theia by Protagoras of Abdera or Theaetetus by Plato). It has morphed through history and is now linked mostly to Postmodernism. I believe that concepts of this movement have valuable insight into philosophical thought; however relativism is probably one of the weakest.
We would like to believe that truth is malleable. It is a comforting thought to our souls to believe that we can bring correctness to our actions simply by redefining the rules but overall it falls in on itself. If truth is not absolute and can be interpreted by the user, how can anything be trusted? We want to choose our definitions when it is to our benefit, but not when we need the truth. If a person has a sick child or spouse, the last thing they need is a doctor’s opinion based on a variant definition of health or treatment. If we get a speeding ticket for going 35 miles an hour in a 35 MPH zone because the officer wants to redefine speeding, we won’t stand for it. If we found a one pound diamond in the ground on the edge of our property, we will not stand for our neighbor redefining property lines and making a claim on it. If a scientist tells us that cholesterol levels in beef are lower than we thought, we won’t accept it if he redefines his test parameters to do so. If we go to a restaurant to eat dinner, we will not want the chef to choose an alternative definition of cleanliness and food safety standards.
The problem seems to be that we want to use this philosophy to our advantage but are unwilling to accept it across the board. If that is the case, how can it be legitimate? In reality, people want absolute truth, it just seems they want executive authority to create that absolute when it benefits them.
I am a hypocrite. I know that. I am constantly at war with my own desires reaching to polar opposites of the moral spectrum. I have in alternating moments sacrificed everything for God and then sacrificed my ethic for my desire. I am duplicitous by nature and I know that. I am not alone. All Christians fit this description, as a matter of fact, all people do. The question is whether we see it. I have seen Christians recently expressing outrage over the actions of Miley Cyrus at the VMA awards and then supporting their favorite musical artist or television show that promotes open sexuality through innuendo and provocative speech. Whereas the shows and artists they like may be more talented and skillful at the art, at least Miley Cyrus is being honest. Many non Christians have weighed in on the same moral battleground with very similar views. Hypocrisy and duplicity are easy allies and bring comfort like a warm blanket. They look to lull us to sleep while trying to steal our souls. We are not alone. Even the apostle Paul recognized this. In Romans he says:
For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. (Rom 7:15 NAS)
With that said, it should be no surprise to others when I act in a way that goes against something which means so much to me. It shouldn’t surprise me. But it should disgust me. I think that is one of the largest problems in the church today. We have forgotten that our sin should be repulsive. It should be something that grieves us and makes us understand what sacrifice God has made for us. Instead many act as if the sins of others should be repulsive but theirs should be accepted or forgotten. After all, it is forgiven, right?
What is the value of forgiveness if the actions being forgiven become common place? If all we do is expect that by uttering two words with faint shame in our eyes we bring right to the universe and celebrate the selfless act of a God/man that appeased an angry God, we are only fooling ourselves. My mother had Parkinson’s. It is a particularly evil disease that eats at you little by little over the course of many years. The main medication is a synthetic metabolic precursor of Dopamine that is able to cross the blood brain barrier and help regulate the nervous system. It works great to begin with in small doses and then as you build a tolerance, requires more and more. Eventually it no longer functions as the dosage requirements can no longer effectively be metabolized. What began as a life saver is no longer effective because its effect is no longer useful to the person. Forgiveness can never go away but our ability to effectively accept it can disappear. If we are callous to the forgiveness, the actions that need forgiving will be common place. Just showing up at church on a regular basis does nothing to stop this.
Both Israel and Judah proved that God has a tolerance point where he will let people go in the direction they want to most. Monday morning theologians want to claim that doctrine states Gods love never ends and his faithfulness and forgiveness are eternal. I agree whole heartedly. I also don’t believe that God will be asking for my exegesis on passages from the text when his examples through history show that if people act like they are separated from God long enough, they are. Debating Calvinism vs Arminianism becomes a pedantic exercise when the evidence of separation and pain in people’s lives is so real. Even correct doctrine can be an illusion that offers little comfort if misunderstood.
One of the best weapons against Parkinson’s is exercise. Every day fight the desire to just relax and take it easy: everything from running and stretching to getting up to change the channel instead of using the remote control. It stops the body from accepting the limitations of the disease and holds them off allowing the medication to work longer. We need to do the same by resisting sin. Spend less time pointing out others and more time controlling our own. The evil that invades our soul and looks like a beautiful dream we never deserved is actually a deadly poison wanting to slowly choke us to death. Look past the lies and fight. Look past our desires and fight. Look past ourselves and see God.
One of my favorite actors is Peter O’Toole and one of my favorite roles he played is Alan Swann in My Favorite Year. The character is a drunken actor that had never truly been held accountable for his hedonistic actions and had begun to find less and less enjoyment in them. He has a quote in the film that I will never forget. “A rose by any other name will wither and die”. His take on William Shakespeare explained his utter disdain for the fact that he had allowed the studios to make him change his name to brand his image as an action star. I think the essence of this is seen in society today. Many people want to re-brand Christianity to make it more palatable.
It is clear that our world is in decline. For every advancement we make on a technological or scholarly level we move backward on a human level and reduce the value of our own souls. We are aware of the problem and we seek earnestly for an answer. From major religions and secular philosophers to modern day mystics sitting outside the local Starbucks solving the worlds issues one cigarette at a time, we all look for it. Is what we are doing though just rebranding the same concepts under different names or blending the past to build a new future?
Christianity is seen as almost a bad word in our world. The actions of some people who have used that name have caused others to want to stop using the name. I have to say though; a rose by any other name will wither and die. Christianity has only one meaning. It means the act of following Christ and his teachings. This is an all or nothing gig. A person can find some or even most of the teachings of Christ valuable but that would not make them Christian. It is the same concept in other religions. Personally I find some of the teachings of the Buddha extremely wise and worth following. I feel the Hindu belief in the sacredness of life to be very valuable. These thoughts in no way make me a Buddhist or a Hindu. It would be insulting to either group to say that. For some reason however people feel that Christianity is different and you can use the name as long as you have heard of Jesus Christ. It really is no wonder people want to re-brand what they see. I would ask though, does that make what they see truly Christian? Not hardly.
We can’t solve the world’s problems by walking through a spiritual supermarket, picking up the items we want and then calling our shopping bag Christian. Rebranding destroys the old and muddies the new. Listening to many opinions does not bring about truth, it usually confuses it. All we end up doing is taking God out of the picture and creating our own religion. But if that is all we want to do, why do we need to invoke the name of Christ? Christianity starts with the mercy and justice of God and finishes with reconciliation. If parts are removed for the sake of modern sensibility, we effectively destroy the whole. Christianity is not based on a mental practice of agreeing with terms. It is based upon the action of doing the deeds. If a person doesn’t do that, they are not Christian.
Seeking the supremacy of proving our work is better than theirs and our blend is smoother and flows better is useless. A rose by any other name will still wither and die.