Christmas Without A Doubt

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One remarkable thing about being a father is the perspective it gives on my own doubts of God.  While out shopping Y-dran would come across the perfect Christmas gift, he had to have, and then persistently remind us not to forget.  His need for control over what he got really could take away from the whole joy of giving and was a matter of his trust.  He is not sure of my ability or will to give him what is good.

Good Gifts 

Jesus used the analogy of a parent giving to their children to describe God’s disposition towards His creation:

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

(Matthew 7:9‭-‬11 NIV)

It is fun to see a child’s face light up when they receive a gift and it is likely because of this kind of feedback that we are so happy to give.  A good father wants to satisfy all of the needs of their children. They want to give them the best and would never torment them by giving them bad things.  It is especially easy for me to give to Y-dran as a reward for his helpful spirit.  I would give to him regardless, but it is much easier to give when he is being helpful or well-behaved.  I’m reluctant to give anything when he has an entitled attitude or makes demands.  I mean, I really don’t want to raise a son who can’t wait or ever hear the word “no” the first time.  Teaching him what is right is the best gift I can give.

My Father’s Son?

Just months into being a father I can see my own dad coming out and I don’t like it.  It is far too easy to greet inquiries with annoyance and not give the attention a child needs.  He really does know when I’m not making him a priority in my life.  Sure, we will remind him that we put the food on the table and shelter over his head.  However, to be honest, a very small portion of my income goes to him and I would need shelter for myself even if I did not have a family to care for.  And the truth is that I can be thrifty with money to the point of miserliness.

I have been at war with myself since bringing Y-dran into my life.  I’m really trying to be rid of the old man that lives in me, the one who makes others feel inadequate, that sees the financial bottom line as more important than family time, and to be the father who is truly self-sacrificial and involved in a meaningful way rather than merely playing the role.  But the reality is that the apple does not fall far from the tree and I am my father’s son.  I will need to battle it out with my own selfishness and self-righteous defense mechanisms.

Stepfather of Jesus

To some, the idea of raising another man’s son might be a deal breaker.  There was a story from earlier this year about a 5-year-old boy, in China, left behind at his kindergarten after the man raising him as a son found out that he was not the biological father.  

Joseph deliberated the same thing when he found out that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was pregnant:

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 

(Matthew 1:18-19 NIV)

Jesus, according to the Jewish writings of the Talmud, was an illegitimate child, the bastard son of a Roman soldier, and Mary a whore.  And Joseph, prior to a special visit from angels, would have every reason in the world to assume the same.  Even after being assured that the child was of the Holy Spirit, the stepfather of Jesus would no doubt have had to face the whispers of the scandal.  The angel didn’t visit his entire village to tell them and this was not like our times either when it is out of wedlock pregnancy is common.

Fortunately, for me, I’ve not had a struggle with the prospect of being a stepfather and, if anything, it was the prospect of being Y-drans father that kept me from giving up on the relationship after over three years of being apart and waiting.  It is one thing for two adults to break off their own romantic engagement, quite another to leave a boy who already calls you “daddy” behind.  I was willing to fight for the opportunity to earn the trust and love of Y-dran.  If anything, he was the best reason to marry his mother.

Our Father in Heaven 

Many social conservatives tend towards the harshness of a Chinese man who abandoned a toddler for not being his own. But this is not an attitude that is reflective of God:

He is a father to the fatherless and an advocate for widows.  God rules from his holy dwelling place.  God settles in their own homes those who have been deserted; he frees prisoners and grants them prosperity. 

(Psalms 68:5-6a)

Joseph, in taking Jesus called “the son of Mary” by skeptics in Mark 6:3 (an interesting word choice to say the least) as his son was reflective of the fatherly love of God.  Joseph shouldered this wrongful disgrace the same way that God, despite being Holy, is willing to bear the weight of our sin and even call us his own children.

If a man knows the significance of this, of St Paul’s declaration that believers become the sons of God by adoption (Romans 8:15; 9:26; Galatians 3:26) would he ever deny any child an opportunity to have a father?  

There is a sense in which we get back what we give, that there is reciprocity or a kind of karma.  If we are like the servant who buried his talents in fear or the one that refused to forgive another a debt after being pardoned, we will get the unpleasant or judgmental side of God.  We will get what we expect or demonstrate in our own actions.  Therefore, if we want grace for our own sins, to call God our Father, then we must put that old man to death, and be a father figure like the father we never had.  No one had a perfect earthly father, some have been abandoned by the man who should have been that man, but we can all be that source of structure, stability, and abiding love if we choose to be like our heavenly Father.

Why Believe In Sky Daddy?

One of the most intriguing things about the world that we are in is its symmetry and scalability.  There are repeating patterns, from the Nautilus shell to the spiral arms of the galaxy, that are amazingly paralleled in the language of mathematics and yet we really know nothing.  Science is not about knowing, it is only ever about probabilities, we can expect certain things based on prior observation.  And, in that light, the phrase “on earth as it is in heaven” can take another meaning.

The idea of God is ridiculed today and for good reason.  Many who claim to believe in God are completely petty and selfish people, quarreling over buttons on blouses, divided by political ideology and denomination, and full of self-righteousness or pride.  If God exists, then why do Christians live on their own strength and without faith?

It could be that our Father, God, is some kind of invention or an imaginary stand-in used to represent an ideal.  In other words, an Uncle Sam or Rosie the Riveter type of character there as a special example to bring out our best effort.  We know well today that people can believe almost anything, we have those who pretend to be animals and others who take on identities that do not match with the physical reality of their bodies.  So with all of this absurdity on display around us is it not possible that our traditional beliefs could be delusional as well?

Could God be the perfect dad to make up for the deficiencies of our own dad or provide us with a measure of security when our own father dies?  Or a Santa character, watching if we’re naughty or nice, and a manipulation tool used to keep children in line?

Speaking of Santa…

The Real St. Nick 

The Orthodox celebrate St Nicholas.  He is not a fat and jolly man dressed in a red suit who lives in the North Pole with elves and a sleigh pulled by reindeer.  He was a bishop, in Asia Minor, who drop bags of coins into the window of a home at night to help a poor father pay the dowry for his daughters and rescued three girls from prostitution.  So, he gave gifts, and yet he wasn’t giving trinkets to satisfy the demands of spoiled children.  No, he was a man led by Christian compassion and making a difference in his time.

How a holy man becomes the guy crying out “ho ho ho” is truly beyond me. 

A centuries-old game of telephone, I suppose? 

But it does show us that there is something that is real behind even this most distorted and commercialized image.  In other words, the atheist using the myth of Santa Claus as a reason to dismiss God is ignorant.  The myth is based on truth.  Many have rejected only a false image or caricature of God.  They run with “the man upstairs” kind of trope, but the God of Scripture is beyond comprehension and not a mere man.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

(Isaiah 55:8‭-‬9 NIV)

Many simply have the wrong concept of God.  They ​​have rejected the deity of their hypocritical parents or that of judgmental religious fundamentalists and the guy on television always asking for donations.  They see God as the petty tyrant, always out to get in the way of their enjoyment of life or trying to destroy them, and not the Creator who is good and loves mankind.

Daddy Doesn’t Love Me

It doesn’t take long, as a parent, to realize that children need some guidance for their own good.  If Y-dran were left completely to his own devices he would spend his entire day watching mindless content.  The tablet wars have been raging in our home as we try to reign in the entertainment monster.  And that is the worst part, while sucked into the vortex he changes from attentive and helpful to a different child.  This morning he became extremely upset after the WiFi doesn’t keep up with his media demands.

Y-dran may believe that we limit his time and that we refuse to get a better home internet plan because we don’t care.  But what he doesn’t realize is that the tablet is a parent’s easy way out.  If we actually didn’t care we would just let him play or watch endlessly and without any restrictions.  Sure, the end result would be a young person not prepared for success in life, and yet we would at least temporarily spare ourselves of the need to deal with his temper tantrums, right?  Of course, we are thinking of his long-term good which is why we deny his access despite his current wishes.

We can see unanswered prayers as neglect or we can believe that our not always getting what we want is truly the benevolence of our Creator who sees beyond our very limited perspective.  I mean, maybe there is no God, or maybe God is malicious and mean like some contend, but how will either one of those beliefs help us to do better in our life?  I believe in the Father who gives good gifts to His children because that’s the father that I want to be—even when they don’t understand my rules or appreciate my love.

The Cooperative Alternative

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There is an intermediate step between our own lonely individualism and some sort of wonky religious or hippie flower child 1960s-style communalism.  There is plenty of room in between the extremes.

My thoughts about this ideal were sparked again by my interactions with a young woman, on the anxious left-wing activist side of things, thinking to declare as a philosophy major, who wanted me to check out some websites about cooperatives.

While I do not embrace the full package of left-wing ideology, I do see the huge deficit of viable communities and the economic forces that are behind this erosion.  We have traded the mom-and-pop stores downtown for the corporately owned big box.

This is as unhealthy an arrangement as the mass-produced junk food many Americans choose.  And yet, if you question this regime of suburban sprawl and consumerism, you’ll get a response similar to the dialogue, in the movie Idiocracy, when Joe suggests using water rather than Brawndo, an energy drink, for irrigating the crops:

“Community, like a cult or Jonestown?”

If you bring up the word commune there will probably be a strong visceral reaction on the part of conservatives.  There is this delusion of independence, a crucial component of the American cultural mythos, which is what drives many to trade community (and potential for their greater success) for a payment plan.

Whereas a generation or two ago, there was the church and social clubs to provide some level of mutual support, now we have a class of some who make it and others who are an unforeseen circumstance and paycheck away from dependence on welfare programs.  We have traded flesh and blood relationship for faceless state or corporate bureaucracy and a truckload of paperwork.

The current system is so woefully inefficient that we’re probably working twice as hard for half the rewards.  Governments, banks, and big corporations are profiting massively by keeping us divided up and dependent on their systems.  Many believe that they are free because they can watch smut or own a deadly weapon, but they’re really slaves to debt and tossed about by entities that have no actual concern for their well-being or wellness.

But, despite their slavery to this system, the moment you suggest that they consider an alternative, working together with those of like-mind towards a common goal, there is strong resistance.  I mean, how dare you suggest that they give up their own property (that the bank owns anyway) or learn how to share anything?

Reducing the friction of commerce…

The reality is, unless you live alone on your Alaskan homestead, you are dependent on other people.  And my thought here is that we should be more intentional about this and choose what makes the most sense.  

The idea of a cooperative is basically to remove the dead weight of a business and distribute profits more evenly amongst the employed.  It means that all involved in the enterprise share in both the risks and the rewards.  Instead of paying interest to banks or making dozens of taxed transactions, all of this cost can be eliminated.  What it all means, in the end, is working less for more in return.

For example, instead of everyone buying their own lawn mower or hiring someone, why not have one person do this for the community and earn credits?  

My own vision is a mix of both cooperation and autonomy, which is negotiated between the members and the group.  There would not be everyone living in some kind of compound or anything like that, everyone could have their own residence.  There would simply be more shared space for all, fewer redundancies, and potentially more access to costly tools or equipment.

The economics of this kind of cooperative arrangement is so superior that once it was started it would vastly outpace those trying to do it on their own through the currently conventional means.  Ever wonder why so many motels and gas stations are owned by immigrants?  It is because they are financed through their ethnic communities and have eliminated the friction of interest.

Americans, by contrast, always seem to see everything as a competition.  They’ll buy the biggest most ridiculous SUV, they truly can’t afford, to keep up with the Joneses and the only real winner is the financer of this silly display of excess.  We would rather sacrifice our time so that the boss can get his hunting land or an executive makes their bonus than give up this faux image of self-reliance and work together.

Finding our commonality…

A successful cooperative arrangement does require some sort of connection or common purpose to unite the individuals.  In the early Church, their having “all things in common” was a byproduct of faith and a commitment to Christ.  The ideological left, on the other hand, begins with a different moral premise and that is the abolition of private property or Capital.  In both cases, there is a shared identity that is the glue.

That is the biggest roadblock in the rapidly atomizing West, where Protestantism has led to a proliferation of denominations with competing claims and now the dissolution of a shared or universal purpose.  Everything is about us now, about our own opinions and wants, to the point that many marriages end in a protest called divorce.  We can’t sacrifice anything in the present, even if our greater integration as a whole would be better for us in the end.

But there is a huge potential upside.  If we could find a way to look past ourselves for a moment and understand how cooperation is a means to reduce friction or cost.  However, the real need is for more people to let go of this delusion that they are better off on their own and that security comes only through money in their bank account.  The absurd part is that we already do lend our time to many people, for a wage,  their services, or whatever, and would do better to choose better partners.

If there was a way to make cooperative arrangements more palatable I would.  The real problem is that anytime we gain the slightest advantage over our neighbors we would rather keep it all for ourselves.  Many cannot see past this pointless competition and appreciate the great gain of voluntarily distributing costs or sharing responsibilities. Perhaps this is why we can’t have nice things?  I know it is why so many are lonely and discontent. They are looking in the wrong direction for fulfillment.

There are always tradeoffs for every arrangement. And yet there are also things that we are biologically wired for and denying them is to our detriment. We are social creatures. We have a neurological reward system built around having positive meaningful interactions with other people. The economic benefits of greater cooperation, at a local level, would be enormous and the social benefits even greater.

God, Suffering and Salvation

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I have complete sympathy for atheists and agnostics.  I’ve wrestled with questions my entire life and whether or not there is a God is always one of them.  But the one thing that I can’t understand is being angry about human suffering, from a rational basis, if God does not exist.  If there is no ultimate good, no greater purpose or meaning to life, on what basis do we make a moral judgment about suffering?

Okay, let’s back up a second.  I’m here at my local establishment drinking another Long Island, one of many since the death of Uriah, and it hasn’t given me an answer as to why he would die of cancer at twenty-four.  The medical diagnosis is simple enough.  He had cancer.  The aggressive kind.  It started with the lump on his ankle during boot camp.  I still have the picture on my phone taken out of morbid curiosity and never dreaming it was a death sentence.

Uriah and I, despite our difference in age, got along in a way that only cousins do.  He was like me.  We didn’t simply accept those easy cliché answers.  He was someone who was both determined and also full of doubts.  He was also the six-foot tall and better version of everything I ever was.  The best part was that I could claim some of his success for myself given that I had encouraged him to continue his college education, telling him that it was better to keep going than to live a life of regrets.

Watching Uriah sacrifice a leg only to have the cancer be found in his lungs a year later. It was a gut punch.  I think I stopped praying, at some point, because I just knew what the prognosis was.  

The hardest part, however, is that Uriah was not the first of his family that I had to carry out of the church on a cold winter day.  His parents had already lost one of their children to a seizure disorder.  His two other siblings are severely disabled and will need constant care.  Judy, his mom, is an incredible woman and has extraordinary faith.  Ed too has great strength of character.  And neither of them wastes any time feeling sorry for themselves despite losing the one healthy child they had to this terrible disease.

Where was God?

When my little Saniyah died, unexpectedly, it was a really big struggle for me.  It took me years to get my feet back under me again, spiritually and emotionally speaking, and I had both doubted my own faith along with the existence of a loving God.  The death of Uriah, along with my disappointments with those whom I put my trust in, and my long wait for Charlotte, have really tested me the past few years.  But, I have those who need me to be strong this time around and, for this reason, have had to push back against falling into despair again.

Nevertheless, I totally get why someone who has encountered suffering in a personal way is angry and denies the existence of God on this basis.  I mean why would this kind of pain and loss be allowed if there is an all-powerful good in the universe, right?  Why would God not intervene and stop this all rather than let us go through such terrible experiences?  It doesn’t make much sense, does it, that we should be left so lonely and struggling if God is good.

However, if we eliminate totally God from the equation, then we dismiss religious morality and must acknowledge that there is nothing written in the fabric of the universe that says our existence entitles us to good feelings.  I mean, as far as evolution goes, pain is more or less a survival tool, a feedback system to tell us what to avoid.  Feeling sad about the death of a friend or family member is, by this logic, a malfunction. 

In this harsh environment, where everything is out to kill us, why would we ever expect anything more than suffering?

The moral reasoning that makes this bad, if you are truly an atheist, is nothing other than a construct.  In terms of pure biology, it is good that fire hurts or we might burn our arms off.  That is pain for a very practical and utilitarian purpose.  Undeniably good if there is such a thing.  But what reasonable good is there in mourning those already dead?  No point in crying over spilled milk, right?  A totally rational being would simply move on to the next social resource and not be so attached or sentimental.

Being upset over suffering and death, if there is no God, is irrational.  And, if there is a God, like that of Christianity, then suffering and death are exactly what we’re promised in this life.  Sheesh.  Did you read the story of Jesus and how he was betrayed, beaten, and then unjustly killed in the most brutal fashion all as part of a redemptive plan?  If you actually believe in eternity then why be angry about a few years living out this rich narrative we call life? 

At the very least, how can we judge anything, especially a fictional character, on the basis of a moral standard that doesn’t exist? 

If there is no God, then there is no basis for morality either.  That too, including the idea that suffering is bad or pleasure is good, is entirely a construct.  Pain is good in some circumstances, it protects us from injury and causes us to change behavior in ways that are beneficial.  In other words, without the discomfort of hunger or thirst, we would not correctly prioritize our life.  Pleasure can be bad when it makes us eat too many donuts and become diabetic.  So how does one truly know that their own interpretation of these signals is the correct one?

From what I’ve observed in myself and in others, unbelief stems from disappointment when things do not go as expected.  It is about who is in control.  We can cling, in our own arrogance, to this notion that the universe should bend to our will.  Or realize that our own perceptions, based on senses which are not very reliable and a brain prone to making mistakes in judgment, are not infallible or ever actual truth.

The thing is we only ever know if suffering is good or bad if it is properly contextualized if we understand the end.  For example, feeling the burn of exercise is good pain because it is what accompanies muscle development and so we embrace this.  So what is the real context of our life?  To what end, or for what reason, did we become conscious?  What is behind this ‘accident’ if it is one? 

How do we contextualize our existence enough to judge what is good or bad?

If there is such a thing as an eternal reward, that would change the calculus, right?  It would mean that all pain can be gain, and all suffering can draw us closer as much as it drives us away because defining the moral character of any experience depends on the end.  I am willing to subject myself to many hardships if the reward is big enough.  No, this doesn’t take away the question of why we must go through here to get there.  But seeing past our immediate feelings is pretty much the only way to make progress.

Angry is a feeling, not a guide for life…

I was at this time living, like so many Atheists or Antitheists, in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.

C.S. Lewis

People don’t walk away from Christianity for rational or scientific reasons.  Sure, they may guard their emotion-based unbelief behind a wall of post hoc justification.  But the reality is that they’re upset about something.  They had expectations and are now disappointed and acting as wounded people do.  It’s just strange that anyone at all Biblically literate would suddenly lose faith over our suffering when that’s literally the only we’re promised in this life.

What really doesn’t make any sense is why anyone would rather suffer with no hope at all of eternity.  If God is dead, then nihilism is the logical next stop and that life has no real meaning or purpose.  But the suffering does not go away simply because we’re angry at the giver of life.  No, it will only intensify and become a spiral of despair.  Our salvation is in our understanding that, smart as we may think we are, we’re truly quite ignorant and even our most ‘concrete’ reality is not real:

The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you. 

Werner Heisenberg

For those who don’t know who that is, Mr. Heisenberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, in 1932, for the creation of quantum mechanics.  Materialism, despite the zombie corpse of this thing staggering on, died with the discovery of things in defiance of this entirely too simplistic conception.  Sure, this kind of physics is well-beyond most, but it does support a notion of reality that requires a Universal Perceiver (as described in this article) and we could call that God.

So, if you’re actually serious about science, then the hard science of physics is the place to start and, with its mathematical origin and proofs, is much less likely to be clouded by emotion one way or another.  We can’t run from God.  But we may need to leave behind the baggage of our own misconceptions and learn the value of true repentance.  Maybe Uriah died, and went to his reward, so some of us would have our flawed thinking broken and seek our salvation in Him?

Maybe some of us are just too stubborn, or too needing of control being in our own hands, to admit we can’t save ourselves?

I’ll tell you this.  The universe, without God, is an infinitely dark and lonely place.  It is that starring abyss of which Friedrich Nietzsche warned, the existential horror H.P. Lovecraft describes.  Highly intelligent men, both of them, and understood the implications that come with true unbelief in God.  You will not escape your suffering simply by denying that the Divine all-powerful good exists.  No, rather you will just remain in that hell of your own creation.

Postscript: Questions Remain

I still grieve Uriah, as I do Saniyah, uncle Roland, and others that seem to have been taken before their time. I’ve long struggled against sources of trauma much more basic, the lack of unconditional love in the church that could make up for my shortcomings, and much of that is unresolved. At the time of my writing, the impossibility is something yet to be fulfilled. I do not have answers for any of this nor do I expect to. I’m not the arrogant kid who argued with his high school biology teacher, not a Bible-thumping fundamentalist at all, and yet must believe.

“All We’re Saying Is Give Peace A Chance”

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Elon Musk did what he does best and that is he disrupted the status quo.  This time he took on the conventional argument that the war over Donbas must be fought to the very last Ukrainian.  

His Tweets:

If you thought Trump was a mean Tweeter, you should see some of the nastiness in response to these polls.

Of course, social media midwits everywhere, full of sanctimony and rage, took to their usual easy explanation of any perspective that challenges their own: Musk is an idiot or Putin’s puppet and certainly doesn’t have the credentials to comment on geopolitics!  

And yet Musk’s own call for resolution very closely mirrors that of Henry Kissinger from months ago who called for the government of Ukraine to come to the negotiating table and be willing to cede territory for sake of peace.  

This is from an editorial written back in 2014:

The West must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country. Russian history began in what was called Kievan-Rus. The Russian religion spread from there. Ukraine has been part of Russia for centuries, and their histories were intertwined before then. Some of the most important battles for Russian freedom, starting with the Battle of Poltava in 1709, were fought on Ukrainian soil.

(“Henry Kissinger: To settle the Ukraine crisis, start at the end,”Washington Post)

Kissinger, a diplomat of diplomats, former Secretary of State, and a renowned foreign policy expert, is no slouch when it comes to geopolitics, and that his sage advice was so quickly dismissed says more about the true lack of understanding and blind fanaticism of the hardliners.

It seems that some are plain vengeance driven and would rather punish Russia than find a way to peace that would end the destruction and save countless lives.  

They are either a) products of Western propaganda who knew next to nothing of the complex regional history and brutal shelling by Ukrainian partisans for eight years prior to the Russian intervention or b) Ukrainian nationalists who looked the other way when ethnic Russians were murdered in Odessa and then sought to impose their will on Donbas.

Musk and Kissinger, along with Emanuel Macron who warned not to humiliate Russia (as was done to Germany after WW1 and led to WW2), are only saying what an informed and responsible person should say when seeing an escalation that very well could lead to nuclear war.

The Boomer warmongers, the hawks like neocon Lindsey Graham or imperial-lib Joe Biden, are still very much stuck in the Cold War and would not think twice about sacrificing your sons or daughters for their latest power trip.  

They don’t tell you about how they personally profited from provoking a coup in 2014, like their predecessors did in pre-revolution Iran and all across South America.  

The United States has meddled in all parts of the world, both in form of covert CIA destabilization efforts to the too numerous to list overt brutal military invasions and occupations.  The political establishment and military leaders of the West have never thought twice about bombing those who do not submit back to the Stone Age:

The racial dehumanization of the Vietnamese found its classic expression in the words of General Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command, who said that America’s aim must be to “bomb the Vietnamese back to the stone age.” And Washington tried to do just that: From 1965 to 1969, the U.S. military dropped 70 tons of bombs for every square mile of North and South Vietnam — or 500 pounds for each man, woman, and child.

(“Bomb them back to the stone age: Racism, genocide and denial at the heart of the American Way of War,” Milwaukee Independent)

Of course, this was done in the name of “democracy” and “freedom,” which justifies all violence, right?

Anything said about Putin is a projection. The war in Ukraine is not completely unprovoked, as our own propaganda says. No, it is the direct result of the US and NATO interfering in Ukrainian’s domestic politics. Back in 2014, the late Senator John “bomb bomb Iran” McCain, along with our current Under Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, planned who would replace Ukraine’s President *before* he was overthrown in a coup.

The US only like democracy so much as the votes are counted our way and freedom so long as it benefits our current political establishment or their sponsoring banks and big corporations—that’s just the truth.

Like the jeering of our American hypocrisy by Serbian soccer fans—who saw their own country partitioned after NATO took the other side of the conflict, that of the separatists—holding a banner listing the dozens of places the US has attacked, invaded and occupied since the 1950s: All we’re saying is give peace a chance.

The world sees it, why don’t we?

A Rose By Any Other Name

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It is hard to feel unique in a world of 7.75 billion people.  Due to mass media we are also more aware of this and also now have all of the best in the world there to compare ourselves to.  We see the best athletes, the most beautiful bodies, those with wealth and power day in and day out.

I am insignificant

At the same time, many young people did not have siblings to share the attention of their parents, only were given affirmation in their formative years, a participation trophy for showing up and—special as they are—don’t need to follow rules or ever answer to anyone.  

In other words, we have a generation with deep insecurities, worried about their place in the vast sea of humanity, and then also raised to be self-absorbed narcissists.  

Unlike the past generations, where you could be a big fish in a small pond, yet also needed to learn respect for boundaries and how to share or negotiate with others. 

Unlike the meritocracy of the past, where you needed real accomplishments to earn privileges or praise, we have conditioned young people to believe that their satisfaction should come without sacrifice or effort.

It is very little wonder why so many of them are unfulfilled, dissatisfied with life, and out there seeking cheap distinction.

Distinction—Cheap or Valuable

We all know names like Elon Musk, Serena Williams, or Ron DeSantis.  They are leaders in their realms of popular culture and sport, business or politics.  And we can probably agree that some of their success is an inheritance of genetics, good fortune or the opportunities granted them.

However, what they are doing, like them or not, is producing results and with this are being rewarded for the things they do.  They have outcompeted many, they distinguished themselves by showing up for work and by putting the time in.  It is for that reason their recognition is earned.  They do the things we care about and we make them famous for this unique resume.

Earlier this week I saw a story about Rose Namajunas, a diminutive female UFC fighter with a very big attitude that earned her the nickname “Thug Rose” in school, and how she’s being featured in a Victoria’s Secret ad campaign.  The message “all expressions, no definitions,” with the word “undefinable,” do certainly fit her outsized personality and the mean head kicks she can deliver, all the while being very emotional.

The point a marketing strategy is cynical, it is to tickle ears and encourage more consumption of a particular good or service.  Those who produced this advertising campaign did it trying to target a certain demographic in the hope of profit.  And that target is probably not those who will ever have the same work ethic and skills as Rose, but is those who crave the same notoriety and ‘undefinable’ uniqueness.

We all wish to be significant, to distinguish ourselves from the pack, to be appreciated and loved.  There are many who are looking for a shortcut or feel entitled to these things, they want the same acceptance, recognition and rewards as those at the top.  They buy expensive clothes, the latest smart phones or cars beyond their budget, all trying to gain attention through their appearance rather than actual character.  

There is hard-earned distinction and there is the cheap kind.  There is the content creator who shares of their substance and then the one who destroys things for clicks.  There is the pleasing gift of Abel and that unworthy offering of Cain.  There is that real fulfillment which comes from making contribution and then the imitation that is outwardly prideful, expresses itself loudly, while truly being an envious, bitter and impoverished soul.

Personal Pronouns and No-name Jerseys

Penn State football has a long tradition of not putting the names of players on jerseys and this is to reinforce the notion of selfless team effort over a bunch of individuals only in it for themselves.  

No name, all game

Success on the field and in life depends on our plugging in and sometimes putting aside our own preferences for the good of others.  We can get more done by working together, respecting the established system, rather than demand that everyone makes special accomodations for us.

Yes, there is a time for grievances.  We also should be a reasonable give and take so far as how individuals and the members of the group interact with each other.

And yet this idea that we should rewrite cultural conventions, negotiated over many centuries, simply so some ‘woke’ Karens can have power over others, is not a grievance I can ever honor.  It is not reasonable for a person to decide the pronouns that apply to them or force us to go along with their newly invented categories.  

We don’t need to be Amish, severely limiting individual expression to maintain community cohesion, but we also don’t want to keep on this path of total atomization either.  There’s a reason why the barn raising religion is able to flourish while the rest of us are headed for Babal, confusion and collapse.

Rose By Any Other Name

This morning, pondering how the categories of mental illness are a bit arbitrary and how much I dislike how these labels pigeonhole  people, there was the thought that my given name was the best possible diagnosis of me.  I mean, I’m Joel.  I don’t need a personal pronoun when I already have my own name and identity completely my own.  

Ironically, the same people who want to have new pronouns for themselves also seem to revel in their mental illness as well.  Anything to be different.  It is a sort of humble-brag, a title of distinction of our era, to talk about your PTSD or bi-polar disorder.  If you are the right person, if you can make yourself a part of the right identity group, then your self-declared victimhood will be treated as a virtue.

It goes beyond moral inversion.  People think that you can slap the right label on a person and it will make up for their deficiencies.  If only they were described right, if we would see their pink hair as an accomplishment, then they would love themselves.  Of course, this is a lie, people so into themselves are always a black hole and no amount of love given will fill their deep void.

It is the spirit of those who are content to remain nameless, who get their numbers called for what they do for the whole, that actually matters.  People will know what is great and what is not no matter what label is applied.  I can never forget what W.E.B Du Bois wrote to a student:

Do not at the outset of your career make the all too common error of mistaking names for things. Names are only conventional signs for identifying things. Things are the reality that counts. If a thing is despised, either because of ignorance or because it is despicable, you will not alter matters by changing its name.

The Name “Negro”

We can manipulate and massage language all we want, give people all the fancy titles they wish for, but in the end none of this word play can take away or lend to their value. If you want recognition contribute to the whole and your name will be known. Not to the whole world, but to those helped by your deeds. A rose called by any other name is still a rose.

Laws of Love and Attraction

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There is only one kind of love.  Hate to break it to you.  But, once the special categories, warm fuzzy feelings experienced and those pesky mystical overlays are removed, love is attraction.  When we love something we will want more of it, to keep it for our selves, and to protect it.  If we love ice cream, we will work for the opportunity to spend more time with it, there will be cravings and desire.  If we love a fine piece of art we will take great care to preserve it, so we can continue to enjoy it long into the future.

We love other people in the same way—we are drawn to the people we love.

We perform complex rituals to make ourselves more attractive to the target of our affection and in hopes of gaining their attention, thier mutual affection, and possibly a longer commitment.  It is like the pangs of hunger when this is denied.  If only they could see past my shortcomings and see my heart.  Of course, they never do.  Had it been possible he/she would have already been digging into a conversation like a bowl of their favorite ice cream.  I mean, no, that’s not to say that you couldn’t be an acquired taste, as in the asparagus and lard a la mode that just happens to be delicious. But generally if something looks disgusting most will avoid it.

We do not control what we love anymore than we do what we find revolting.  Do you hate snakes?  Did you choose that intense feeling of disgust and that initial recoiling reaction at the first sight of this beady eyed slithering creature?  No, it’s just an instinct.  A primal fear.  And this reaction was probably to the advantage of many generations prior that had avoided the encounter with the deadly venom by their appropriate response to the stimulus.  It is good, as in very beneficial, to be triggered by dangerous critters—having a little anxiety and fight or flight response to something that can and will kill you is a healthy response.

So, love is what triggers the feelings of love and what does this is those things we find to be delectable.  Sure, we can love at different levels.  We often start by loving the object of the person.  Is he tall?  Is she beautiful?  Do they inspire our confidence, motivate us and give a reason to be a better version of ourselves?  Most people, honest about it or not, start romantic pursuit by loving what is visible outwardly, on the surface, and only after that progress onwards to those things of spiritual substance.  We love what gives us the most and despise what only takes from us. 

We will donate our time and devote our energy—be completely okay with delayed gratification—if that final prize at the end of our commitment seems big enough.

Why does absence makes the heart grow fonder?  It is because love is all about things we want to have more of and limited access to. This is why we crave sugar and salt (to our own peril) they were once hard to acquire in the quantities we needed. We don’t love oxygen until we are without it, gasping for breath, and a person who has whatever they want without any effort and sacrifice can’t truly cherish or love anything.  I mean, the saying, “familiarly breeds contempt” points to the reality that availability deceases love and scarcity builds it.  If you happen to be one of the last two humans on the planet there is more reason to spend time with the other one.

If people love you they want to spend more time with you.  Love means willingness to sacrifice one thing for another.  If someone claims to love another, yet avoids them completely or rejects a deeper relationship, then they are a liar.  Sure, we might love people for their appearance, we might love them for their soul, but love is always about attraction and who we want to spend more time with.  This is why I never care about the profession of love some make. I only ever care about the actuality of love. If a person loves us they will call us to make sure we made it home safe.  And it is because they are attracted and want to see you again.

This is why “love your enemy” is really an oxymoron.  If we truly love someone then they aren’t an enemy anymore.  We can’t actually force love, it comes off as fake, all we get is that uncanny valley of niceness and people will see right through it.  Having seen how vicious that the Christian ‘faithful’ can be, I would settle for loving our brothers and sisters.  But I’m not sure we can, we love our own ideologies and sectarian divisions more than we do unity or seeing our own sin or faults as equal to their’s.  If I could see the impossible love that bridges the divides that are within the Church, I might see loving our actual enemies as being possible.

What is more evident is that we’re in love with ourselves   Opposites attract is more or less reserved for the world of sex, at least for those of urge to do what is needed to further the species, otherwise the rule is that birds of a feather flock together.  And it is because we’re mostly in love with ourselves and thus love those who reflect our own base values and/or have things we see as being valuable to us.  The reason why most Christian missions ultimately fail is because the people ‘evangelized’ are a mere tool to get to heaven and not truly loved.

When we love we are attracted.  We want to spend time together, not as an obligation or a religious duty, but as a real impulse.  The divisions of romantic versus familial, or that of crush as opposed to committed, are really not all that important.  What matters is if our love is genuine or a counterfeit that we use in hope of scoring points.  We can mimick loving actions, like a psychopath, but not actual love.  

While there are certainly different ways to love each other, there are no different levels of love.  Without exception we will always want more of what we love, more in quantity, closeness or intimacy, and less of what we do not.  We’ll never say no to a visit with family, our beloved, or those things that we truly love.  We have cravings and a need for the things that we love.  If you don’t love someone like the food you eat, then you’re probably not really all thatloving of them.  If we love someone we’ll fight for them, long to be with them and let nothing come between.

When It Is Better To Do Nothing

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Have I mentioned that I’m tired of religious people and the prescriptions they give?

The real Jesus was defiant.  He upended the systems and standards of his time.  He was intentionally offensive to the self-righteous religious elites and then completely gentle with those who were broken.  There was no one-size-fits-all, no attempt to simplify the process.  Salvation is a walk of faith, not our ability to keep a set of fixed rules or pray a certain way, it is about our heart.

No, I’m not saying this as favoring the more libertine amongst us.  Being “free in Christ” is not a license to do whatever we want.  It is not about being ‘spiritual’ rather the religious either.  Rather it as about love:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. […] You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”

(Galatians 5:1‭, ‬13 NIV)

A great deal of my social media connections are unregenerate social conservatives.  They love those fading structures that once kept people bound to their moral standards and yet lack any comprehension of grace or their own need of it.  They may see themselves as being righteous, for their exceptional ability to keep up certain cultural conventions, but they are very much like those rebuked and condemned by Jesus.

But still the alternative is not to go in the complete opposite direction.  It is not better to have no structure, to completely defy all cultural convention or use Christian freedom as an excuse to do whatever we please.  No, rather it is to serve and save others:

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

(1 Corinthians 9:19‭-‬23 NIV)

Which is to reiterate the example of Christ:

…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

(Mark 10:43‭-‬45 NIV)

Our love for God is always, always, a matter of how we treat each other.  If we can’t love the people we see, specifically our brothers and sisters in Christ, then our claim to love God is a lie. (1 John 4:20)  Therefore, to be free in Christ, is not to shirk responsibility to each other.  It is not worshipful, at least not of God, to go to church (or not go) for own sake:

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

(Matthew 5:23‭-‬24 NIV)

This is putting reconciliation with each other, true reconciliation. before or ahead of the ritual worship that religious people do.  No, it is not negotiable.  This is the command of Jesus.  And yet it is so often reversed.  It is acceptable to act or go through the motions of righteousness, but not to ask for the same authenticity that put Jesus at odds with the religious authorities.

Had Jesus just followed the rules and did what was expected he would never have been a threat to anyone.  The reality is that he saw through the empty gestures.  He was not impressed with those pious people who had their performative religion.  His call was for genuine love, to be merciful as our Father is merciful:

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

(Matthew 9:12‭-‬13 NIV)

That’s our true worship, to truly forgive and love those undeserving and broken.

Early Christians had a saying “unus Christianus, nullus Christianus,” which is to say that one Christian is no Christian.  This is to say that our Communion together, in Christ, needs to go beyond merely sharing the same physical space for a few hours or it is fake.  True Christianity can’t be reduced to mere individualistic pursuit of the Divine.  It is not an “only God can judge me” freedom from duty to others.

I could quote two dozen other texts and it would not matter.  So many are caught up in their own corrupted ‘traditions’ that they’ll always miss the forest for the trees.  But I’m not interested in dime-store Christianity, the kind that only loves in prescribed ways.  I want the real deal, the kind that frees and truly forgives.  I want what is alive, what has the true Spirit of truth and love in it, not the lifeless self-serving counterfeit form.

It’s not that the wonderful symbolism and designated acts of ‘Christian’ service are unimportant or useless either.  But it’s just that none of it really matters if it is not a part of something genuine.  As Jesus said, in Matthew 23:15, a person can “travel over land and sea to win a single convert” and only be successful in making their new convert “twice as much a child of hell” as themselves.  In that case it would be better to do nothing at all.

Even the mystical “cup of salvation” can be our damnation if we drink unworthily (1 Corinthians 11:29) or in disregard and without care for His body. The body of Christ meaning, at times, our fellow members of the Church or the people we encounter who are in need of love:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

(Matthew 25:35‭-‬36 NIV)

The Shocking Truth About Diversity and Strength

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Composite materials are stronger than their component parts.  When two or more materials of unique strengths are blended together the result can be a composite that has the ideal characteristics of all the parts.  This is what makes concrete and rebar a formidable pair.  The combination gives both the compressive strength of concrete and also the tensile strength of the steel.  It is inarguable that diversity is not strength or at least when it comes to material science.

However, as all topics go, it does not end there.  Boeing, like all builders of commercial airliners, has two primary goals (besides safety) in their designs: Lightweight and reducing costs.  One of their innovations is the use of carbon fiber in their aircraft.  The problem with carbon fiber is that it reacts with or is corrosive of aluminum.  For this reason, they must use a separating layer of expensive titanium as the solution to this bad material pairing.  It works in this case, but diversity is also a source of conflict and potential systemic failure.

Diversity: Good and Bad

First, the good.  We’re all unique.  I go to work with a group of people with slightly different abilities and backgrounds from my own.  It is what allows us to specialize and thus be stronger as a team than if we tried to do it all by ourselves.  I would rather Patty do the bookwork, the members of our sales team talk to our customers and stick to my role of designing trusses.  This is where diversity is a great strength.

Furthermore, men and women are different, both physically and otherwise, which can make them an ideal pair.  Only a male and female can produce offspring together.  We can argue over the particulars or against sexist generalities, but there is something special about any diversity of characteristics that can lead to the creation of new life.  It is ideal in other ways as well.  One of this special partnership can provide and protect from outside threats, the other can nurture their children and organize their shared space.  It can be the best of human arrangements.

Unfortunately, with the good comes the bad, and what can be the best of things can also be the worst.  The gender wars, that endless battle for control between abusive men and their feminist counterparts, is how the most wonderful kind of diversity can go very badly and be anything but strength.  Diversity is, therefore, also a source of deep division and strife.  What can make a strong composite can also lead to corrosive interactions and unwanted drama.  Sparks flying.

Homogeneity is our strength?

While the West, the ‘woke’ Anglosphere in particular, is obsessed with “diversity and inclusion” as the highest order of priority, not all in the world do.  

Japan, for example, is very happy to remain Japanese and feels no need to host foreign refugees on their own ancestral lands.  This homogeneity of their culture and ethnicity does seem to help to reduce the friction in their society.  Crime is extremely low.  During the disaster at Fukushima older engineers were willing to sacrifice themselves for sake of their younger kinfolk.  And there’s just a sort of harmony that exists with everyone pulling in basically the same direction.

This has never really been the case in the United States   There were wars between the natives and new arrivals.  With every new immigrant wave arriving there was mistrust and contempt between these groups.  It is what led to sentiments like this:

Only a damn fool can expect the people of one tradition to feel at ease when their country is flooded with hordes of foreigners who — whether equal, superior, or inferior biologically — are so antipodal in physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup that harmonious coalescence is virtually impossible. Such an immigration is death to all endurable existence and pollution and decay to all art and culture. To permit or encourage it is suicide.

H.P. Lovecraft

It is notable that Lovecraft, the famed atheist writer of existential horror, had his strong opinions about various races, including Italians and Jews.  His racism, xenophobia, disgust over the intermixing of people or fear of contamination, has the markings of an obsessive-compulsive disorder.  And yet he was not entirely wrong about the “melting pot” being chaotic and creating a place that’s lacking social cohesion.

It is no big surprise that after a decades long assault on policing and national symbols that, with the ‘woke’ takeover, military and law enforcement recruitment is falling off a cliff.  Nobody, in their right mind, would ever sacrifice themselves for a country or cause that doesn’t represent them and their own values.  Participation requires buying into the common vision and is not possible when there’s competition for that spot.  Nobody wants to die for those who lack appreciation or are completely divorced from what matters to them.

Unequally Yoked: Understanding Biblical Warnings

There is a sort of distain, even amongst professing Christians, towards the Old Testament law.  The various cleansing rituals, dietary prohibitions and other restrictions can seem to be quiet arbitrary our modern ears.  Why does it matter if we mix several materials in our clothing, plant diverse seeds or crossbreed different animals?   

First, I believe this was more about teaching a concept of Holiness or being set apart for good.  

Second, it is a completely practical point about our greater potential when being of the same mind or spirit:

Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

(Amos 3:3 KJV)

Third, this principal didn’t end in the Old Testament:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

(2 Corinthians 6:14‭-‬16 KJV)

The whole point of Old Testament law was to reinforce the things that St Paul explains above, we cannot expect good results when we are paired with those who are pulling in a completely different direction.  It’s simply reality, we need to have a boundary between ourselves and those who have nothing in common and want to destroy us.

Is Diversity Our Strength?

It depends.

I don’t think complete segregation of sexes or making all people androgynous is a good solution to gender difference.  Nor should we erase subcultures in the name of unity either.  We want diversity, we want people of different strengths.  But there needs to be some kind of common identity or bonding agent, otherwise we end up with a bunch of competing identities and a fight for the supreme position.  It takes a powerful adhesive to make composites work and this can mean a national identity that overrides all others.

Christ: The Ultimate Bonding Agent 

All composite materials rely on some kind of bonding agent to work.  And early Christians, likewise, were also trying to bridge some vast cultural differences.  In fact, much of the struggle, in the early church, came down to the difference between the Jewish born and Gentile coverts.  Should those newly converted, from non-Jewish background, be required to follow same requirements of faith or be exempted?

 There was plenty of compromise, a new vision (Acts 10:28) and joint identity formed in Christ:

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

(Ephesians 2:11‭-‬18 NIV)

It is Christ who eliminates old social barriers:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

(Galatians 3:26‭-‬29 NIV)

So, diversity, if bonded in Christian love, can be an amazing strength.  But, when lacking any kind of joint identity it is a horror show, it is corrosive.  It leads to a bloody and violent competition for supremacy between rival groups.  Without Christ it becomes man versus woman, black versus white, class versus class, and there is no strength in this kind of arrangement.  The ‘strength’ of diversity is only possible when all, despite differences, are seeking after the exact same overall goal.

It is okay to have our own separate identities, even to celebrate our own cultural or ethnic heritage. But, when are being black or white, male or female, rich or poor, puts us at enmity with each other, when it is corrosive and causes is to react with hostility to those of a different perspective, then it must be brought under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and repented of rather than to be a source of pride. This is the higher order priority: “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19 NIV) And, “over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:14 NIV)

Life is a Comedy—Impossibilities, and Absurdities

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The other day, driving home through a picturesque valley on a Sunday afternoon, I came across an Amish buggy with three young women, probably teenagers on their way to some activity after church. When it was my opportunity to pass, I noticed one had checked me out from the corner of my eye, and up the road about 100 yards past, I looked in the rearview mirror and the one girl waved.

So, of course, seizing the chance, with a goofy grin, I waved at my mirror. Instantly the waving girl covers her mouth as if shocked or embarrassed for having been caught. I would love to be a PA Dutch-speaking fly on the wall for that conversation.

Anyhow, I was out with my twenty-something cousin the other night, talking to the nineteen-year-old waitress about her older boyfriend when she declares, “I will never date any guy under thirty again!” it really did floor me. I mean, the complaint of the ‘impossibility’ was that I was “thirty years old living in Milton” and here is a young woman, far more attractive in some regards, saying that she would only date guys that age!

I guess it’s just how the cookie crumbles.

Prior to even considering the ‘impossibility’ I had a teenager who had shown interest and ruled her out simply on the basis of her age. Sure, I really enjoyed her company, we even went out on platonic dates a couple times, but a gorgeous person like her would never want a guy like me, given my age, average looks, and height—especially since I was a truck driver at the time.

Do you know the profile of the guy she married?

Yup, he’s older than me, no taller, very average as far as appearance and—a truck driver.

That’s one of the reasons why I felt confident about the impossibility, that I would not make the same mistake of assuming her disinterest or letting these things be a factor. But I would have no such luck, I would be disqualified by my age, despite my accomplishments, and there was no convincing this young woman otherwise. She felt I was useless concerning her ambitions.

I really can’t figure it out, but maybe I have gained perspective:

“I used to think that my life was a tragedy, but now I realize, it’s a comedy.”

Joker

The absurdity is that when I was serious and sincere the girls that one would think would be most attracted to me ignored me. It really did hurt. My confidence took a serious nosedive after years of this kind of treatment. But since then, I’ve learned that the impossible odds that I faced were a result of false advertising, not reality, those who I thought had great faith were fake.

It’s better to laugh at these kinds of people and move on to those who can appreciate what you have to offer. They aren’t worth your disappointment or tears. Treat them like the absurdity, not an impossibility, and move on. They’re the joke, not you.

And 9 out of 10 giggling Amish girls agree!

Edit 07/16/2022: Upon reflection of my tone, I realized that my fleshly desire for justice had leaked through and had taken the blog down to avoid looking bad.  However, it has never been my desire to sugar coat of gloss over my own failures.  That is why I have decided to republish this blog with this disclaimer added.  The real point is that there has been progress.  It is far better to finally see the absurdity of it all than to be so serious and linger in the hurts.  Absolutely, I do believe there is unfinished business there, things that would be wonderful to resolve over a cup of coffee with the woman who said I would “make a wonderful husband” and yet my life no longer needs the approval or validation of the culture that she came to represent.  No, I’m not 100% free, I have my moments of sadness.  Nobody said that leaving father and mother (Matt 19:29) would be easy nor that we wouldn’t foolishly long for Egypt and slavery again.  Still, my hints of lingering bitter aftertastes aside, things are going well when I’m able to laugh rather than cry about the devastating events of my past.

Empowerment: When One Plus One Can Equal Three

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The pro-choice versus pro-life argument is only one manifestation of a bigger divide in worldviews.  For some it may be as simple as dichotomy between Patriarchalism and Feminism, the latest iteration of the gender wars, or an oppressed versus oppressor narrative, but the truth of the matter is a bit more complicated in that the dividing line is not where the two competing ideological extremes put it.  

Rather than Patriarchalism versus Feminism, there are actually three distinct hierarchies, two that are openly male-led (and are often lumped together) and one that is covertly male-led in that it both minimizes the most unique female strengths and is almost entirely defined by masculine pursuits of power.

The first is what is what is most commonly referred to as Patriarchalism and refers to a male dominated social structure, it is where the stereotype of men that keep women barefoot and pregnant originates, it is what motivates Feminists everywhere.  The second is that of the secular world, the American mainstream, where the focus is career, success is about earning more money, climbing the corporate or political ladder and sacrificing anything that stands in the way of these ambitions.  In these first two hierarchies the leadership role is about imposing our own will through brute force or coercion.  The third, which I will get to later, is vastly different than these two and inverts the power structure.

The Rejected Patriarchalism 

It is no big secret that traditional hierarchy, in the West, has been on the decline since the Protestants pulled out from under the Papal authority and rejected their kings.  There is certainly a case to made against Rome and their abuse of power over the centuries.  But that hasn’t stopped their wayward children from following in their footsteps.  

Like Father, like son, right?  

The misuse of authority did not end or begin with the Pontiff and the Patriarchalism of the most defiant fringes of American Biblical fundamentalism is clear evidence.  You won’t ever tell these men what to do, but they sure like invoking God’s will to make their wife and children submit to them.  The far extreme of this small minority, if they could ever agree on anything, may even resemble the fiction of Handmaid’s Tale if given power.

However, there’s about as much chance of this type of hierarchy gaining prominences as there is of Joseph Smith resurrecting himself from the dead.  This is the strata of internet trolls who post memes and enjoy calling women whores for prudently avoiding men like them.  And, this, incidentally, is what feminists happily use as a stereotype and strawman version of all men on the religious right.  Misogyny is a good term, as these are men threatened by strong women and see their rule as entitlement rather than a respect that is earned.  These men *do* stifle women because it is the only way they can feel strong or significant.

Opposition to abortion isn’t really isn’t about the babies, for the loud mouths of this particular patriarchy, rather it is about the competition and gaining back the social position they think they deserve.  In their cult groups women play the role of enabler, they must smile sweetly as their dear husband speaks of his superior role.  The great irony is that this is the kind of narcissistic man who creates his own mortal enemy, the angry ‘liberated’ woman, because he’s the embodiment of unqualified, irresponsible and just plain bad leadership.  No intelligent woman wants to be his baby making machine.

The problem with this hierarchial structure is that it is all about male dominance without male accountability, it is entirely populated by morally (or otherwise) deficient men and abnormally weak women.  It always spawns rebellion.  It is precisely what has led to the alternative, which has risen up in reaction to abuses, and is the ultimate expression of an American ideal gone off the rails.

The Dominant American/Western Order 

Industrialization has changed the world.  The United States was once envisioned as an agrarian society, of small communities, but the rapid technological advancements of the past two centuries have rewritten the vision.  The American dream of upward mobility and greater economic independence has now inspired generations in the working class.  This ideal of more more more has given birth to our age of consumerism.  But the thing is, this has not lived up to the promise, those who do achieve find their success to be a hollow victory and those who do not will always be chasing the next fad.

Many believe more money and increased independence will make them happier.  It started with men, the bread winner, leaving the home in the wee hours, with lunch pail in hand, working in the factories or mines, but since WW2 it has ‘progressed’ to include women.  I mean, Rosie the Riveter, who started her life as cynical war propaganda tool, has taken root as women have both increase labor supply (driving down wages) and have also provided a generally more compliant workforce for our powerful corporate overlords.  

The sad reality is that the rapid changes have not provided additional security for women.  Women told that their significance can only come from following masculine pursuits are not any more empowered than their grandmothers a couple generations ago.  Indeed, this idea that happiness comes earning more money or that empowerment comes from women filling traditionally male roles is the greatest myth of our time.  

Worse, unlike husbands or children that have a real emotional connection to their wives or mothers, these corporate and government bosses only see women as ‘human resource’ to exploit.  Sure, they might promote this idea and image of the emancipated woman, claim to care about rights, but it’s all a lie to keep women enslaved.  We are made to think fulfillment comes from our next paycheck, but it’s all a ruse.  The working class is benefitting less and less from their long hours, big corporations make record profits at our expense.

It is no big surprise that corporations are offering to pay for abortion and even the travel expenses.  The bottom line is that they can’t make their huge profits without docile and compliant employees.  It is simply much cheaper for them to end a pregnancy than it is for them to pay maternity leave benefits and potentially lose the services of a female employee forever.  It is never actually about her well-being or the future of the nation, it is always about the parasitic self-serving elites and their political or financial interests.

The whole system is structured to downplay the most uniquely feminine contribution to our future and that being childbearing.  Men cannot do this.  Sadly, many women, due to corrupted patriarchy and various narratives designed to subdue her potential (climate change, overpopulation, etc.), have been convinced that their most wonderful asset, the ability to bring new life into the world, is a liability and that they should work for ‘the man’ rather than invest in the only ones who would ever truly love them.  

Abortion is truly a result of female despair and not empowerment.  It is a ‘choice’ that is brought about by insecurity, a fear of being alone raising a child or their own inadequacy, and stifles the real strength of women.  The most insidious thing about this patriarchy is that it is sold as Feminism and freedom, but it is truly as denigrating of female achievement as the widely rejected traditional version of patriarchy.  In this new order women are simply the lower cost, lower maintenance, rented mules to replace the poor immigrant men of a prior generation.

Unfortunately, many will realize too late that they’ve been fooled into giving up their youth to the soulless industrial machine.  Women, in particular, with their narrower reproductive window, will carry regret as their only lasting reward for their academic excellence and being the employee of the month.  No, not at all saying that we should not have a career, or that money is unimportant, it is nice to have financial freedom, but who will care for this current generation as they age?Communities and social structures, like marriage, things that provide stability, have faded.  The patriarchy of corporate boards and government bureaucracies is only truly concerned with expanding their power or profits.  Even if the intent isn’t explicitly to subjugate, this regime run by controlling men and women attempts to monopolize our choices.  To corporate bosses even the competition of a baby is too much for them to handle, that’s why they promote and pay for abortion.

The Faithful/Healthy Patriarchy 

Patriarchy gets a bad name because most people see the first two manifestations and not the ideal.  There are patriarchs just like there are matriarchs, some are very good while others are very bad and, therefore, we must approach the topic with appropriate nuance to sort the better examples from the worse.  

The ideal role of the patriarch is to use their male strength as a means to provide and protect.  He is not a tyrant nor a pushover, he is never in competition with or threatened by a strong woman.  Instead, he lifts everyone around him up, is the model of submission to authority and willing to sacrifice himself fully for the good of others.  He is, like the Centurion commended for his faith, “a man under authority,” and a stark contrast to the abusive Patriarchalism of small men.  This is an authority that comes through actions and example rather than through his physical stature, his feelings of entitlement or bellicose demands.

It is the way of Jesus, who both spoke with an authority not matched by the religious elites of his day and yet was also gentle to those of lower social status.  In saying, “the last will be first, and first will be last,” (Matthew 20:16 NIV) Jesus points to an inverse hierarchial structure—one that is led by humility and repentance, defined love and faithfulness, rather the power to dominate others through brute force or disparaging comments:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles Lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

(Mark 10:42‭-‬45 NIV)

Men who do not lead by the self-sacrificial example of Jesus, who as a man equal to God still fully submitted to the will of the Father, are not worthy of their position and make a mockery of the leadership role.  We live in an era where there are flamboyant displays of gender stereotypes, but none is more ridiculous or absurd than these grown little boys who try to dress themselves up as men and yet have nothing to offer the world besides shit posting on social media.  

Some need the male genitalia dangling from their loud smoke spewing vehicles to try to prove what would otherwise be open to question, they call women whores for being single moms or sexually active (in a way that excludes them) and yet seem to forget for every sexual encounter there is another party involved.  Women certainly do not impregnate themselves.  And most women would not seek to terminate the life inside their womb if they were in a relationship with an emotionally secure and Godly man.

No, the alternative of soft and sanctimonious men is not better. The enablers of the current political establishment, who appease women in a desperate bid to gain sexual access, are just as much an embarrassment to masculinity as their fake tough guy ‘conservative’ counterparts.

Women could be fully actualized as women if men were adequately filling their role.  No, this is not to say that women are incapable of sinning, of being power hungry or evil, but only to say that good men will be like Jesus and even take responsibility for sins that are not their own as a means to bring salvation to the most damaged individuals and lost sheep of this world.  Sure, laws to protect the innocent and vulnerable are important, but they themselves cannot hold back the rising tide of self-centered abusive men and angry reactionary women.

True empowerment is about giving life, not in taking life.  It is about creating, not controlling others.  It is found in the soldier’s sacrifice and also in the woman who bravely and courageously carries her pregnancy to term in an uncertain world.  Salvation came through Mary’s womb and was finished by the life-bearing Cross of Christ. Two plus two can become three when men and women both contribute to the whole, by selfless participation in the transcendent space of loving relationship. It is when two are brought together in spiritual union with the Divine that a new generation can find a good home.