Monthly Archives: September 2014

How Should We Speak?

I was reading Ephesians and came to this part- “29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4-29:32)

So how should we speak? According to the good progressives pretty much everything I have to say is evil, sinful, cruel and wrong. The progressive/Methodist concept is if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all- at least when talking about certain things. They pretty easily throw this out the window when talking about anything that offends them, of course.

I’ll admit to being a pretty angry person, and inclined to speak harshly. I try to deal as much as I can in observable facts and reality. A lot of people don’t like reality and don’t want to hear about it. Jesus and the apostles- telling people true stuff they didn’t want to hear, got killed for it. A pretty offensive bunch of guys.

Another approach would be to deliver the truth in the gentlest, most palatable way possible, so as to win over and not offend your target audience. Mainstream conservatives try to do this to some extent, but just get shouted down, vilified and mocked. If people are not going to listen to you, if they are going to vilify and mock you, you may as well just come out and say it. Being half-truthful, ineffective and failing is worse than being truthful, ineffective and failing.

Inadmissible, offensive ideas that are thought to be neither politically or socially permissible or Christian are primarily racial differences, gender differences, and sexual morality. The argument on racial differences is the strongest. People from all nations can worship God and be Christian, but that doesn’t mean they can or should combine. Theoretically you can have a “color-blind” society based on behavior and performance, but neither non-whites nor progressives accept this, only a society of forced equality for non-elites. The Bible and reality are both quite clear on gender differences.

Sexual morality gets more complicated. Ideas that are not Christian, but lately spliced into progressive/Methodist thinking, say that love is love, just let people do what they want, it’s mean not to. Antibiotics, birth control, and sterile surgical abortion seemed to make this work for a few years. Then came AIDS. And, as the father-in-law in “The Hangover” says, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas- except herpes.”

The psychological and social effects of widespread sexual immorality are harder to pin down, but young women playing the field for years seems to have had a pretty bad effect on marriage and family life.

So what’s wrong with coming out and saying this? Alistair, of Alistair’s Adversaria, once said we need to speak gently and carefully to homosexuals. But why, exactly? They are very powerful people who tolerate no dissent. They are exactly the kind of people who need to be spoken to directly.

The same applies to women and blacks. All these groups- gays, women, blacks- are encouraged to think of themselves as oppressed, although they are actually very powerful, and to act badly. All this creates a great deal of social destruction, from disease to broken families to ruined cities.

Ideally we should speak the truth with love. Usually all I can reach for is the truth, but a lot of things, situations and people aren’t lovable.

 

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We See Into the Abyss

Rod Dreher, in commenting on (and of course trashing) Mark Driscoll brings up this article on church scandals. William Lobdell, an LA Times reporter, relates how he lost faith after covering many instances of molestation. What really hurt him was that not only the priests, but the parishioners at Catholic churches where priests even admitted to sexual assault sided with the offender.

We hear about the priests and bishops all the time, but in decades of reading about this stuff I had never heard about so much support from the rank and file, or naming a parish hall for a known child molester. I think both Dreher and Lobdell have stumbled on to the same thing Fred Phelps did (here and here)- that the sexual abuse of children is widespread and frequently deliberately overlooked, even or especially by the “good people”. A child molester is a dead man, or worse, in prison but can pretty easily be a respectable citizen in polite society.

An aside on why this is possible- of course the pervert always goes to great lengths to portray himself as an upstanding citizen, so adults in power are inclined to be friendly, even if they are found out. And the victim always gets something- this is what is called “grooming”- partly as enticement to spend time with the offender, but also so that they appear to have voluntarily entered the relationship and voluntarily participated in the abuse.

Lobdell parted ways with Christianity. Dreher parted ways with the Catholic Church, and became Orthodox. Evil, and especially evil in the church, seems like a good argument for atheism. I will submit that it is not, if only for the purposes of not going insane.

If Lobdell is right, then we live in a world where evil pretty much does what it wants, and even uses respected institutions for its own purposes, and that’s it. Progressives have spent a few hundred years trying to create heaven on earth, and have failed. Evil and human failure are not to me reasons to doubt God but to refer to him even more.

Christianity has a simple hierarchy- God, who is good; Jesus, who is also God and we also regard as good, even though he said he wasn’t; and everybody else. No one else is good, or can claim to be good.

The church unfortunately is a giant security hole. What better place to find people to use and abuse than a church, where people are looking for authority figures to trust? And so Jesus and the apostles repeatedly warned against wolves in sheep’s clothing and false teachers. The church is an institution that must be aggressively policed. Qualifications for pastors and elders are set out. (The people who so despised Mark Driscoll and mocked his church discipline and qualifications for pastors and elders now find the same Bible passages most fitting to “clobber” him with.)

I don’t mean any of this in the sense of “nobody’s perfect” or “you should forgive people”, far from it. Even Lobdell says at first he thought the victims needed to get over it. People typically have very limited resources of empathy. I mean this in the sense that God will punish these people in the harshest way possible.

People have limited abilities to deal with evil. They just can’t process more than a certain amount, and so actually doing something really evil can be easier than doing something only a little evil. I’m sure the good Catholics of Rancho Santa Margarita would be outraged if they saw somebody without a placard park in a handicapped spot, but a priest raping a boy goes right over their heads.

Being nice people, Dreher and Lobdell can’t really let themselves see the total depravity of human beings. But as Philip K. Dick said, “Reality is that which, if you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

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Worshipping God

I think the one thing we always must do is worship God, and we can do this almost any time under almost any circumstances.

We can remember that God is the creator of all things, infinite in time and space, was here before anything was, and will be here after all is gone. Even a materialist can do this. Since God is the ultimate power, creator, and controller, we can remember he is the only and final judge of all things, and that his is the only real will, and the only will that matters.

We can also remember our hope in Jesus, and whatever degree of belief we have. We can remember our proper relationship with God, which is that he has the final say in all things- not us, not our friends and loved ones, but also not our enemies or his enemies.

Job, after all, fell down and worshipped God. It didn’t mean he like what was happening to him, it only meant that in his worst moment, he remembered that God controls everything, that everything was in the hands of God.

We don’t have to like it, we don’t have to understand it, but we can always acknowledge it.

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“The Bicycle Thief” and the Prosperity Gospel

Years ago I got from the video store a post-war Italian film titled “The Bicycle Thief”, one of those movies you always hear is a classic. I have learned that stuff that has stood the test of time is best, and the film more than lived up to its reputation.

“The Bicycle Thief” is not about a bicycle thief, but the man who has his bike stolen. He is a young man in Italy just after World War II. He has a wife and a small boy who worships him. He has no job, and the family isn’t starving, but only just surviving on what assistance they get. Then he gets a big break- a job putting up posters, but he needs his bicycle for the job. His bike is in pawn, so his wife sells the sheets and he gets it back. He is very happy, and even more so his son.

Soon the bicycle is stolen, and the temporary happiness turns to agony and despair. The man and his son set out on a search around the city for the bicycle thief and the bicycle. Having been painfully broke and unemployed, and having had several bicycles stolen from me, I found the film horribly painful to watch. I would watch about five minutes then stop, so it took me most of a day to see the whole thing. The desperation of the man, the childish hope of his son, the range of reactions from people he asks for help- from a very mild interest, the willingness to take a moment, to mild to hostile indifference, glimmers of hope that quickly fade- it’s all horribly real, and horribly painful to watch.

The movie shows the thin line between fearful, humiliating want and decent comfort. I have spent my life passing back and forth over this line. There is a world of difference between being able to pay for what you need, and a little of what you want, and knowing it will be there tomorrow, and the day after, and worrying about surviving every day.

Lots of people pray for a job, or some small windfall. Some preachers tell people these things are blessings from God, and God wants them to have them. They say that being poor is not good, and God does not want them to suffer and be poor.

This idea is roundly mocked by many. I don’t think they have any idea what it means to be under heavy financial stress, for a long time. Being poor and being rich are both heavy test of a man, which is why the man in Proverbs prays to be neither.

I hope God wants us to all have good things, but I understand that for a lot of people, they will never have anything, not even their basic needs. I pray that humble hopeful people will get what they need, and a little extra, and they can thank God for it. For those who must go without, I pray they will understand God has not forgotten them and they will have good things in good time.

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Mark Driscoll and the Progressive Cult of Investigation

I lived in Seattle for some time and was a guest at Mars Hill (which is to say, not a formal member) for some of that time. I got a lot out of listening to Mark Driscoll and people there were very kind to me.

Mark Driscoll is a gifted teacher of the Bible. He is also a rough and aggressive person in a culture which is strongly passive-aggressive. What’s worse is he is politically incorrect on sex and gender issues. He and his church were mostly ignored for a long time by TPTB.

There was a kerfuffle a few years ago in which a young man in some sort of minor leadership position was discovered to be fornicating, his girlfriend also a church member. He was subjected to “church discipline” as outlined in the epistles, which is to say removed from his leadership position, asked to stop and repent before being reinstalled. He took this hard and quit the church instead. Church members were then told not to associate with him, also as according to the epistles.

This became a subject in the free weekly The Stranger, most famous for Dan Savage. Now, there are lots and lots of other churches where nobody cares if you fornicate, and if people don’t want to eat lunch with you they don’t have to. This however was treated as a major violation of his human rights.

I’m guessing the guys handling this weren’t real subtle and sensitive about it. Mars Hill is run by young Calvinist guys with hipster facial hair on fire for Jesus. On the other if Paul were around he would just smack him on the head and say “Stop fornicating!” Had the boy objected, Paul would have hit him again, harder, and said, “I told you stop fornicating! Now I’m telling you to stop fouling my church with your excuses! Get out and stay out until you care more about obeying God than getting your pipes cleaned!”

See, God is both love, and rules. One without the other is not God, or not a church of God. Formal members sign a pledge not to have sex outside of marriage, look at pornography, and some other things, and promptly confess if they do. Again, nobody has to sign the pledge, and there are plenty of liberal churches in Seattle.

This however marked the beginning of the Cathedral’s interest in Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. Mostly it came down to people feeling Driscoll was not kind and loving enough. Part of it was co-founders and staff who felt they had been pushed out of the church by him.

Things ramped up when a couple meatier things came up. A former cop who worked at a California branch felt he had been told to violate the law by being told to stall on a city notice to vacate a space they were using. Then it came out Driscoll had retained a company to increase sales of one of his books, money which may have come from church funds.

Driscoll has apologized a lot, but the demands for “investigations” have continued. The investigation is a Cathedral tool to slowly destroy the subject. “Questions have been raised”, and “complete and truthful answers are demanded”. The passive voice is always used. Who is actually demanding investigations and is not clear, and what answers are sufficient and acceptable is not clear either. Any investigation that is conducted is not conclusive enough, and any answers given are not sufficient enough.

The KGB used to say “Give us the man, we’ll find the crime.” The cult of investigation works by tearing the target down bit by bit, with the people doing it never being too obvious about who they are. The investigation ends when the target is totally destroyed. This is always done with regret and reluctance, and when it is done all involved will say it was a shame Driscoll couldn’t have been a little nicer, and prevented the whole thing.

Driscoll’s errors can be classified in two ways- the formal and the actual. Formally he is charged with misuse of funds, plagiarism, and being mean to people. I will answer for him, since apologizing constantly isn’t doing him any good. Hiring the promotions company was kind of stupid, since nobody who matters give a crap if a book is on the NYT bestseller’s list. Everybody knows these are highly manipulated. The book was part of a church project and so using church money may or may not have been appropriate, and he may or may not have paid it back later. He has written a lot of books and some stuff is apparently in there without attribution. Progressives do this too, either on purpose or as a mistake, so who really cares.

Actually he is guilty of being non-PC on sex and gender issues. Where he PC none of this would matter in the least. Unfortunately the Bible is not PC, and the PC progressive churches are only attended by a few old people who listen to NPR and think Garrison Keillor is both funny and wise. People come to Mars Hill for actual Bible teaching and if they didn’t get it they would not be going to the progressive churches, they would stay home.

The formal and actual charge is basically that Mark Driscoll is a dick. I suspect this is true. He grew up with a violent, alcoholic blue-collar father. His primary models of leadership and manly behavior I’m guessing are his high school baseball coaches. So I’m guessing he handles any problem by getting angry and yelling, possibly with obscenities added.

Church people, even conservative church people, are generally anti-authoritarian. Anti-authoritarianism is the heart of the Protestant religion. “You can’t tell me what to do, you’re not the boss of me!” sums up Luther pretty much completely. Progressive Christianity continuously undermines any authority not to its liking, and asserts its own authority through passive-aggressive social pressure. Driscoll grew up a Catholic, and while he has said dismissive things about priests, the idea of unquestionable authority may have rubbed off on him.

If someone is being a dick to you, and they are not a cop or Cathedral figure who can destroy you, you can just say “I don’t like how you’re acting.” It’s possible Driscoll just fired or had fired anybody who challenged him, but that’s how things are. Anybody who doesn’t like Driscoll can start their own church. But what these people really want I think is to enjoy the benefits of the people and money Driscoll brings in, while not being troubled by the man himself.

This will only end when Driscoll is permanently removed from Mars Hill, and then Mars Hill will fold up. Driscoll preached through Revelations, focusing on the churches mentioned. I was wondering if he was going to mention what happened to these churches, not a PC subject, and finally late in the series he showed a picture of a ruined church, saying that the Islamic invasion had destroyed it and that church had died, but the mission of the church went on.

Driscoll mentioned in the installment on Smyrna being there to preach to the tiny congregation that still exists. Afterwards he was approached by a young Turk how told him that he felt compelled to preach, but that would mean losing everything, his family and all economic and social position. Driscoll said he told the young man, well, that’s what you have to do then, nobody said it would be easy.

Churches are destroyed. People are persecuted for preaching the true words of Jesus and the apostles. Mars Hill is now being destroyed, and Mark Driscoll stands to lose most of his social standing and probably a lot of money. Most people don’t want to hear the truth. I hope Driscoll will not shut up. I hope he will start another church, forget about the evangelical superstar crap, and just honestly say what he thinks. God’s judgment awaits the blasphemers, the false teachers, and the wolves in sheep’s clothing, atheists and progressive Christians alike.

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I’m Not Supposed to Feel Sorry for Brenda Spencer

When pseudo-celebrity/daughter of Bob Geldof Peaches Geldof died of a heroin overdose- on a Monday- I thought to myself “I’ll bet Bob Geldof doesn’t like Mondays now!”

Bob Geldof is of course famous in the US as author/singer of the Boomtown Rats song “I Don’t Like Mondays”. The song was inspired by the shooting spree of a teenage girl in San Diego in January 1979, who opened fire on an elementary school across the street from her house. A radio station called the house before she was apprehended and asked her why she did it. She reportedly told them, “I don’t like Mondays.”

The 16 year-old girl in question, Brenda Ann Spencer, was subdued by police and plead guilty to two counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Her attempts to gain parole have been repeatedly denied.

The whole thing was immediately treated like a big joke, which is probably what encouraged Geldof to write the song. “She doesn’t like Mondays! Ha ha ha!” was the general response. This was I think the first “school shooting” and the outrage machine that immediately springs into action hadn’t been organized. I remember the incident being brought up in discussion in the gifted class, and when of the reliably leftists suck-ups brought up the funny aspect of the quote, I objected.

I thought and think I have a pretty good idea of what wags going on with Ms. Spencer. I too was a weird kid with strawberry blond hair in suburban beach city southern California, and I guessed immediately she was not having a real good time. The verifiable facts of her home life and school life are sordid enough; in recent parole hearings she has alleged sexual abuse, the assertion of which is denied because she didn’t bring it up earlier. I’m not inclined to doubt her, if only because people don’t talk about these things unless they think they have to.

Geldof went on to become a crusader against hunger and the organizer of benefits concerts- he is Sir Bob now- and married a music journalist with whom he had three daughters, the middle being Peaches. The woman left him for another musician and died of a heroin overdose.

Peaches had the sort of life you would expect a child of a low-level celebrity, and a moderately good-looking woman, to have. She was a journalist of sorts, in the kind of job that depends more on social status than ability to write or express thoughts. Unfortunately she picked up her mother’s taste for drugs, and she occasionally found herself in bad company. She was the kind of rich person who has everything, and yet nothing.

One young woman had almost nothing, and killed others. The other had almost everything, and killed herself. The two are pitiable in different ways. Peaches Geldof will be quickly forgotten by all but family and friends, since there is always plenty of new material for the tabloids. Brenda Ann Spencer remains in prison, and will be revived in public memory each itme she applies for parole. It is unlikely she will ever receive it.

Pretty much nobody expresses any empathy for Brenda Spencer, however qualified. She wasn’t poor, she wasn’t a minority, she was a girl, and likely enough sexually abused, but in the end I think just too weird and outside what people are willing to give a little bit of consideration to.

But, you know, I still do. I guess that’s another one of the things that makes me a bad person. Continue reading

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