The Log and the Splinter

When I see on the news or hear people within my circle lamenting incidents of Islamaphobia, I have to scratch my head. There is a principle that Jesus taught, and it does well to keep society balanced. The principle is, “First remove the log from your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from someone else’s eye.” You can see the humor in the statement. Someone running around with a huge log stuck in their head knit-picking about someone else with a tiny splinter in their face has a problem with denial and reality.

I am aware that many Middle Eastern people are not Muslim. Large populations of Arabic peoples are of varied religions or no religion at all. Some are Christian, of varying sects; some are Hindu, Buddhist, or follow regional and tribal religions; some are secularists, espousing no religion; but most are Muslim of varying degrees. Some Muslims are in name only; others are radical fanatics, and so on. It is the same in Christianity. Some sects are Christian in name only. Some are obviously fanatical, such as the KKK, for example, who espouse some elements of Christianity while in truth practicing a rather warped, garbled, and ungodly doctrine, cloaked, ostensibly, in Christianity.

For the most part, the era of the KKK reigning terror on society is gone. Many good and authentic Christian people helped bring about an end to that era. Simply not participating in the actions of the KKK was not enough. True Christianity demanded that we as a people stand against it and help bring it to an end. The same was true of Hitler’s regime. He claimed to be operating out of some form of Christianity; however, regardless of what he claimed, he obviously did not follow the teachings of Christ. Many true Christian young men died on the battlefields to help bring an end to Hitler’s reign of terror.

Now, the terrorism that we face is the radical elements of Islam. So when episodes of terrorism occur in which certain elements of Islam are on display in all of their murderous, horrendous gory, and certain elements of that culture are lamented as being biased against, I have to swallow pretty hard.

In a culture where deception, lying, and propaganda are used as means of presenting a front to the public in the hopes of gaining converts (the truth of that culture and religion would make people run); in a culture where “honor killings” are permitted and endorsed; in a culture where beheadings, mutilations and terror are condoned, used as weapons of war, and are often considered as ‘bonus packages’ in recruiting warriors; in a culture where  unnamed horrors are inflicted upon captives, enemies, and non-combatants, ummm….let’s see….where terror and mayhem get you into “heaven”, hhmmm…Can someone steeped in this culture have a legitimate gripe? I don’t think so. Their complaining of not being liked and accepted is tantamount to someone who kidnaps and dismembers children and then complains about the neighbor who spanks his/her child.

That’s not so say that we as a country do not have areas that need improvement. We certainly do have a few splinters in our face; but Islamaphobia is not one of them.

This brings me to the word “religion”. What is religion? It is a construct made by human minds that has taken bits and pieces of the Truth (the Great I AM, Creator of Heaven and Earth, and the One True God) and built an ideology that appeases the particular culture where that construct has been built. In other words, the Great God Jehovah, who came in the Person of Jesus Christ, is beyond human ability to understand. However, He has revealed Himself to us in various ways, including through His Holy Spirit, the Bible, and through the lives, writings, and words of those who are faithful to Him (the word of their testimony).

Because He is so big, and beyond human comprehension, humans often create what we think we know of Him and construct a framework that says, “Okay, this is the God we serve. He wants us to do this and this, etc. and to act in certain ways.” This framework is what we call religion, and those who agree with that framework follow the same religion. Unfortunately, throughout history, religious zeal and fanaticism has often forced a particular framework of religion (ideology) onto others, using the sword, shame, imprisonment, ostracization, etc. In effect, in trying to please God by following what they think they know of Him, zealots and fanatics go around terrorizing those who don’t follow Him correctly, in their opinion, and end up doing the opposite of what He is…killing, maiming, terrorizing in His name…to force people to follow a benevolent and merciful God…hmmm. I see a problem with this.

Any religion that through “honor killings”, “blood atonement”, or any such practice that purges their society of people who challenge the tenants of that religion cannot be a religion based upon the One True God. An honor killing is the legal or condoned murder of a woman in Islam because the woman shamed or dishonored the family or a member of the family by violating a precept of the family’s religious practices. Honor killings are usually carried out by the woman’s husband, father, brothers, sons, and other male relatives. Honor killings are typically justified because the woman has refused to enter an arranged marriage, she has been accused of being in a relationship that is not condoned or approved of by the family, she is accused of having sex outside of marriage, she has been a victim of rape, she has been accused of dressing inappropriately, or she has renounced her family’s faith (i.e. become a Christian, etc.). Some victims of honor killings are male, but this is a rare occurrence. In most cases, a male who has violated a precept of the religious community is ostracized or perhaps imprisoned, or his wife and children are taken from him and given to someone else who is a faithful follower of the religion.

In early Mormonism, “blood atonement” was a similar practice. It teaches that the blood of Jesus is not enough to remove someone’s guilt, and so that person who has violated a precept of the religious law must be killed, and his/her blood shed in a manner similar to a lamb being slaughtered. Most of the time, these killings were done in a “sacrificial” manner, such as the person being held down, and his/her throat slit. Often, the victims were women who refused to practice “plural marriage” (polygamy) or were men who refused to participate in various tenants of the religion. In modern days, blood atonement killings are rarely carried out and typically occur only in certain sects of fundamental (radical) Mormonism. I personally know a family who was a victim of such. But, in this case, the family members were shot and killed, not having their throats cut. They were guilty of leaving the religion and were required to “pay for their sin.” They had actually not committed any kind of a crime that would require that they receive the death penalty. In Christianity, the reason someone would receive a sentence of death is just the opposite. The “death penalty” is practiced only when the guilty party has committed an actual crime against someone. Usually the death penalty is reserved only for murder. In Christianity, the perpetrators of honor killings and blood atonement killings would be the ones to receive the death penalty—not the victims of such plots.

Culture(s) in which ungodly religious constructs are nurtured can become more and more horrific and off-based, resulting in outright barbarism. The precepts of God are constant, but the human application of such precepts can become horribly bent. In such cases, true Christianity steps in and says, “Hold on. You are no longer allowed to force people to do such and such, neither are you allowed to punish people for not doing such and such.” An example for us in this country could be the issue of homosexuality. For those who espouse it, they are not allowed to force others to participate in it; neither are they allowed to persecute those who choose to abstain from such practices. We, as a culture, are not forced to do it, neither are we punished for not doing it. In cultures whose religious constructs have gone so far, those who do not participate in a certain behavior are punished.

As horrific and off-base as some of these religious systems can get, not all of the precepts of those religions are false. This is a fact that often perplexes people. Why are some tenets of various “other religions” similar to tenets of Christianity? The answer is simple: Because there is only One True God who made heaven and earth, you will find elements of His truth in all religions, and among all peoples in all regions of the earth. Elements of His Truth are even found in humanist and communist teachings (belief systems that espouse varying degrees of atheism). Why is that? Remember that religion is a human construct of what humans think they know about the One True God, but the construct is faulty because of two factors: human ambition and doctrines of demons.

Human factors run the gamut from accidental oversight to gross corruption with obvious and knowing violations of the Truth. Additionally, demonic influence can take the Truths of God and pervert them so shamefully as to accomplish the exact opposite of what God actually intended, thus creating major diversions from the Truth and still cloaking these diversions in religion. One of early Christianity’s main influences, the Apostle Paul, warned followers of Christ about doctrines of demons and the garbled mess they can make of truth (I Timothy 4), blinding people and seducing them to follow the untruths of “religious construct”, rather than the Truth of the Living God, the One and Only Creator God Who came in the Person of Jesus Christ. Only one religion is founded on the Rock—all other religions of the world have bits and pieces of gravel in it (pieces of the rock, but not the whole rock). A solid rock is vastly different than a bed of gravel. One is stable, one is shifty, depending on where the weight is applied.

Sadly, as “Christianity” becomes more of a religion, it also slides further and further from the Truth of its Founder, Jesus Christ. Christianity, wrested from the headship of Christ, and placed into the hands of humans, twisted with doctrines from hell, becomes more and more of a religious construct, with fewer elements of the pure Truth. In the beginning of the Church, believers in Christ were called Followers of the Way, because Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; however, once followers diverge from the Way, the Truth, and the Life, then “Christianity” just becomes another religion (a construct of bits and pieces of the truth).

Because of the corruption of truth, we have seen throughout history, and still see today, warring religious factions, so called “holy wars”, “jihad”, etc. This is because those who follow one construct of truth want to force everyone else to follow that same construct. In order to do so, they must conquer through war, brainwash through ideology, and bring into submission those who do not subscribe to that particular ideology.

But, there is hope. There is such a thing as pure religion. It is found in the Living person of Jesus Christ. It is found in the Great I Am. In this pure religion, there is Truth, there is a Way, and there is a Life where the Holy Spirit reveals, guides, cleanses, and inspires. This is an arena free of “human religious construct”, but few there be that find it. Why is finding this pure religion so difficult, and why do so many people not find it? The answer is again simple—to do so, they must give up the “religious construct” that they so cherish. They must give up man’s religion to follow Christ. Man’s religion promises so much, and it is hard to put down. Man’s religions promise “virgins”, “paradise”, even your own planet where, if you are male, you can become your own god and have as many wives as you desire. Man’s religion promises power, money, and authority, in the here and now. Man’s religion promises knowledge and immortality, etc. Notice how these fantasies often center around sex and power for males. These things are very seductive. But, they are just that…they are not Truth…they are tempting fruit that many swallow, and it is a delusion. But, because these seductions look so real, they are fought over, killed for, etc.

You can see that the promise of “paradise” is close to a Christian promise of a heavenly home. In the various religions that offer paradise outside of Christianity, the person who subjugates others and who works hard enough on this earth will eventually be his own ruler or god in paradise. In the Christian paradise, Jesus is ruler supreme, where, “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.” Additionally, men and women will not be in marital relations in heaven. So, there go the fantasies of sex and power in paradise. You see the difference?

Jesus understood that religious men tend to “strain at gnats and swallow camels”. This means that while they would themselves commit atrocious acts against their own family members, community, and other members of humanity, they would fuss and fume over a minor detail that someone else was not adhering to—this minor detail may or may not even be a real issue in God’s eyes, but it may be an issue in the eyes of a certain religion (human construct).

Another tenet of various religions that is close to Christianity is that “good works” get you into heaven. In Christianity, only a person who has allowed Christ to remove the sin and replace it with Himself gains heaven. After that conversion has occurred, then the person lives out his/her life not serving self, but serving Christ (good works). In religious constructs outside of Christianity, a person does not need a religious conversion in which he lays down his self and allows Christ to enter in and replace the sinful self with Him. In man’s religious constructs, only a self-realization that one should be good is necessary, and therefore, one must work hard to do “good works”. You see the difference? One is because of Christ and is done through Him. The other is because of self and done in your own strength.

Because Jesus is a living person, He is not an abstract construct of theologians or prophets who formulated a theory of a deity. Jesus is God who came in the flesh. Because He showed the falseness of the religious constructs made by man versus the Truth of pure religion, He was murdered by the very religious people whom He revealed as false. After He was killed, He was buried. After three days of being dead and buried, He rose out of His grave. His resurrected body ascended into heaven. Skepticism of such incredible statements in warranted and welcomed. I understand how this seems impossible. However, all of this was recorded by witnesses who saw these actual events. After his ascension (last week was Ascension Week and is celebrated in various countries around the world), He sent his Spirit to guide people here on earth in the absence of his physical body. His comforting Spirit is well known to his followers. The Holy Spirit guides, speaks, directs, and enlightens. Once you encounter the Holy Spirit, you will understand what I mean. It’s one of those things where you have to experience it to understand. Trying to tell someone who hasn’t is a bit impossible. But, the good thing is, it’s not an exclusive club. He is available to anyone who calls on His Name. He and all of the angels in Heaven rejoice when even one person lays down his/her religion and turns to Him in truth.

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Let’s Pretend to be Real, so we don’t come across as Fake.

We read some dialogue between two theologians recently. I use the word “theologian” with a grain of salt. You will understand in a minute. Dr. X and Dr. Y (seminary professors and pastors in our locale) were discussing the youth of today. In that discussion, they mentioned that regarding religion, youth “just want realism today”. Ironically, the solution that these two “theologians” agreed upon was that religious leaders in churches and colleges should mold themselves into, and present themselves as, what the youth are looking for because, “youth can spot ‘fake’ a mile away.” HHHmmm. Okay, so, let’s pretend to be real and sincere because that is what the youth want. Because, let’s see again…oh yeah, they don’t like fakes. What can you say?

This is on the heels of another conversation yesterday with an individual who has been a religious leader for decades. We have known this person for many, many years and have never really heard them express gratitude for much. In fact, the opposite was often true. Their attitude was obviously, “you owe me that and a lot more.” Imagine our surprise when this person was loudly expressing thankfulness and gratitude for multiple things that we and others had done over the years. I sat in slightly stunned surprise. What had created the change? Even some tears accompanied the platitudes. Later, I spotted a book that this person had been reading and that they recommended to me. The book was, “Be Thankful or Lose Your Mind…Literally”. The book went on to explain that because of the way God made us, expressing gratitude is important to mental health. Okay. I get it. I agree that thankfulness is indeed important, just as forgiveness is. Holding on to bitter or negative emotions is dangerous to one’s health. But, I sadly realized that this person, although well intentioned, was not expressing gratitude because they were truly grateful…they were expressing gratitude out of a mental health exercise. They wanted to be sure they had healthy mental attitudes…Wow. What can you say? Just the fact that they are doing that shows that they are already in a sad state mentally.

This is the kind of “fake” that youth can indeed spot. Christ doesn’t need “fake” representatives. He is the real thing. He expects the real thing from His followers.

This is along the same theme as another article we wrote but wanted to wait for the Memorial Day weekend to pass. The article is about “Selling” the Gospel. We will post that one a little bit later.

The Reality of Prejudice

A young woman called one day to take me up on an offer. I knew that the company where she worked had given her and several other employees notice of impending layoffs. The company had been courteous and had tried to give their employees at least two weeks to line up other jobs. On a previous occasion, I had told the young woman that if she wanted help with her resume, or if she wanted moral support in looking for another job, that I would ride along or drive her to various companies to pick up applications and/or to hand out her resume.

She did not have a college degree, but she was professional and preferred working as an office aid or assistant at places such as lawyer’s offices, dentists, medical clinics, banks, insurance offices, etc. We made the rounds to places such as these. After one stop, she returned to the car with a scowl. I asked her what had happened. She said, “That’s the first time I’ve ever been discriminated against. I guess they don’t like _________.” (She named her particular ethnicity.)

My eyebrows raised. Whether or not the discrimination was real or perceived, it ruined her day. I could see the hurt and anger in her build. The rest of the afternoon had clouds over it, emotionally speaking. By midafternoon, she had handed out all of the resumes that she had prepared, and we decided to call it a day. I encouraged her to let go of the anger and resentment she had toward the individual who had treated her with aloofness and disrespect. She looked at me and said, “That’s easy for you to say. You’ve probably never been treated like that.” I carefully looked at her and said very seriously. “Yes, I have been, but it’s not who I am, and it’s not who you are.” I was concerned that this episode could sour her young life, and I didn’t want that for her. Prejudice is a long road to take, and it leads to a hellish end.

Later that day, my husband and I discussed the episode, and he said, “Well, some of what we call prejudice is just life. It happens.” I had to agree. But, his comment made me ponder on this particular problem in life.

I was fifteen years older than my young friend and had experienced either prejudice or forms of snobbery and unjust treatment on many occasions. I knew she had, too, but it had been closer to home, and she didn’t recognize it for what it was: I remembered my young friend’s difficulty in her relationship with her mother. Her mother treated my friend who was the oldest child with much less affection than she treated the two younger children who were boys. This had been a point of pain for my young friend.

I realized that favoritism, snobbery, and prejudice are all fruits of the same, rotten tree.

In the family, if you are treated with less fairness than your siblings, then we call this treatment by parents toward their children “favoritism”. In some families, one child is the “golden child” and the rest are ignored or treated with less favor. Or, in some families, one child is ignored, abused or neglected, while the others are treated with favor. In a society where most of the people share the same ethnicity and culture, if you are treated with less fairness by your own people, then we call it “snobbery”. The word “prejudice” typically comes in when it is applied to a person who is of different gender, ethnicity, or culture. Prejudice is typically a stranger-on-stranger action. For some reason, we, as a culture, find this more appalling than we do parental favoritism or societal snobbery; however, favoritism and snobbery typically cause much more long term psychological difficulties for a person than does prejudice by strangers.

I believe that favoritism, snobbery, and prejudice come from four possible sources: 1) negative experience with a particular person; 2) information about a particular person from someone whom we consider credible; 3) a sense of superiority that produces a dislike of a particular person based on appearances or social factors; 4) a dislike for a certain people group that has no basis in either personal experience or first-hand knowledge, but is more ingrained, like a belief system, i.e. dislike for women in general, dislike for men in general; therefore, even if you don’t know the individual standing before you, because he/she belongs to a particular people group, you have a dislike of him or her personally.

Additionally, I concluded that favoritism, snobbery, and prejudice produce dislike of individuals based on three basic categories: 1) What they are (genetically—how God made them and what family and nation they were born into); 2) How they are (culturally—how their culture has shaped their mannerisms, appearance, and speech); 3) What they do (personally–what they themselves, as individuals, act out in their lives regarding their belief system/religion/world view/life style/habits/actions).

I began to ponder on some of the ways I had experienced favoritism, snobbery, and prejudice by my fellow human beings. Looking back, I had to be honest and admit that some of the dislike that others had demonstrated toward me may have been caused by my attitude and demeanor. Other acts of favoritism, snobbery, and prejudice had, indeed, been inflicted upon me unjustly. I remember one day being treated frightfully badly by a man who was intoxicated at his place of work. As a representative of another company, I had shown up to discuss some matters with him. He yelled and cursed, and ordered me out of his place of business, stating that he wasn’t going to talk to “No God-________ woman.” I thanked God that I wasn’t damned, after-all, and just kept right on going. I don’t think we ever did business with him or his company again.

The truth is, some people are simply not going to like you. They can and do come up with all kinds of reasons. On the flip side, you may be treated better than someone else, simply because of race, gender, national origin, etc. One story that comes to mind was when I was traveling overseas. The people in whose country where I was a guest could not tell by looking at me what nationality I was. They had to see my papers or hear me speak to pinpoint my national origin. Because of my nationality, they often favored me over some people who looked like me but who came from different countries or different parts of the world. With my passport, I could pass easily between checkpoints. Other people who looked just like me but who sounded different or who had different national origin were often detained and harassed. There was a bias in that region for/against various nationalities, and I happened to be on the “favored” list. It could easily have been the opposite for me.

Bias can come for/against someone for many other reasons, such as, choice of church attendance, chosen profession, economic level, political views, and education level. The list can go on and on. The reasons others choose not to get to know someone or to X someone out of their lives can be infinite. But, guess what? It happens. The best response is to move on, courteously.

My personal opinion is that if a person has displayed no cause for alarm (his or her behavior does not indicate that you need to keep your distance), then treating him or her with less dignity than you would anyone else simply because of his or her gender, ethnicity, economic level, etc. seems trite and petty. In some cases, it can cause more prejudice to occur, and the ball just keeps rolling.

Having said that, I can completely understand the preference to mingle with certain groups and the preference not to mingle with certain other groups. Living in the rural countryside, I look at nature a lot and learn many life lessons from it. Where I live, one may often see multiple types of livestock in the same pasture. Most of the time, the cows will hang with the cows; the horses will hang with the horses; and the goats will hang with the goats. That’s okay. That’s natural. However, when the goats start denying the horses pasture rights, and the cows start denying the goats drinking rights, then we have a problem. It’s perfectly okay not to want to mingle with someone or a group of someones. But, to treat them with disdain or to deny them human dignity is another matter. One would hope that such things are relegated to grade school, but alas, they are not. They occur at family reunions, class reunions, community meetings, church gatherings, political gatherings, and many other venues where otherwise rational adults meet.

If you are on the receiving end of a mild prejudiced act or attitude, remembering who you are and Who your Maker is should bring things back into focus after an unjust hurt has been inflicted upon your psyche or person in the form of prejudice. However, if the prejudiced attitude is justified because of an action or attitude on your part, then it is best to do some soul searching and try to remove the stumbling block that perhaps others are falling over.

Obviously, forms of favoritism, snobbery, and prejudice can run the gamut from mild to severe. In some cases, a mild dislike of a person or people group is all that surfaces; in other cases, assault, terrorization, or murder can result. This can be true of a domestic situation in which a spouse or child is the targeted victim. This can be true of societal bullying or snobbery, in which a member of “one’s own people group” is the victim. This can be true of racial or cultural episodes where strangers or people outside of one’s own people group are targeted.

Can prejudice be eradicated? I wish it could be, but realistically, let me ask you, “Can you force your daddy to treat you as well as he treats your brother or your sister? Can you force your mamma to think of you and do little things for you like she does your sister or your brother? Can you force your classmates and community members to include you in their cliques and clubs? Can you force a stranger to acknowledge that you are a child of God, just like he is? This problem runs to the core of who we are as sinners. It is the mentality of, “Me and Mine, and Down with Everyone Else.” Prejudice against a member of the family first occurs in the home; prejudice against a community member occurs in schools, churches, and shopping centers right in the heart of where you live, against “your own people.” As grievous as stranger on stranger prejudice is, it causes far less damage than what we do to each other at family reunions, class reunions, church gatherings, social events, and political venues.

My young friend who had experienced the emotional pain of prejudice that day when we were handing out resumes was able to move on. The next day, a company who valued her skill level and her professionalism, and who recognized that she could be an asset to their business called, and she gained employment virtually right away. She is now a dental hygienist and very happy in her career. She doesn’t seem to have a chip on her shoulder, and I have never seen her treat others with less dignity because of their natural born (God given) place of birth, gender, or ethnicity, or their economic status in this world. She remembers that there is a world to come, and she must answer to God for how she treats others in the here and now.

 

 

Points from a book on Quaker Spirituality: The writings of Hannah Smith, touching on Human Loneliness

In the paperback book on Quaker Spirituality that I have recently been reading, a number of letters by Hannah Smith were included. I found them deeply insightful into the human condition. The fact of the Maker and His Creation ultimately being meant only for each other, to the point that nothing else can or will suffice, has been a point I have been discovering and exploring over the last couple of years.

Hannah Smith (1832 – 1911) was a Quaker lay speaker and author. Her husband, Robert, was also a Quaker preacher. Together, they impacted many people inside and outside of the Quaker faith. Later in life, Hannah and her husband moved to England where their children and grandchildren remained, identifying themselves as English, rather than American.

They were greatly active in the Women’s suffrage movement and the Temperance movement on both sides of the “Pond”. Life was not necessarily kind to them. Through all of life’s many, many struggles, Hannah’s faith remained strong. She encouraged and admonished others to do the same.

In a letter to a friend, Hannah touched on the very real issue of human loneliness, even in the midst of worldly activity and companions:

“The loneliness thou speaks of I know. For do not think, darling, that it is confined to unmarried people. It is just as real in lives that have plenty of human ties, husbands, and children and friends. It is the loneliness of this world life, the loneliness of hearts that are made for union with God, but which have not yet fully realized it. I believe God has ordained it in the very nature of things by creating us for Himself alone. And I believe He very rarely allows any human love to be satisfying, just that this loneliness may drive us to Him. I have noticed that when a human love is satisfying something always comes in to spoil it. Either there is death, or there is separation, or there is a change of feeling on one side or the other or something, and the heart is driven out of its human resting place on to God alone.

Sometimes God permits a little taste of a satisfying love to a human being, but I do not believe it ever lasts long. I do not mean that the love may not last, but separation comes in some way, and the perfect satisfaction is taken out of it. Now, darling, thy loneliness is not only because thou art unmarried and hast no very close human ties, it is the loneliness of a heart made for God but which has not yet reached its full satisfaction in Him. Human love might for awhile satisfy thee, but it would not last.

If thou can only see this and settle down to it, it will help thee very much. Thou wilt give up, as I have, any expectation of finding satisfaction in the creature, and will no longer suffer with disappointment at not finding it. And this will deliver thee from the worst part of the suffering of loneliness. Thee will accept it as a God-given blessing meant only to drive thee to Himself.

Thy loneliness is only different in kind but not in fact from the loneliness of every human heart apart from God. Thy circumstances are lonely, but thy loneliness of spirit does not come from these, it is the loneliness of humanity. Therefore, nothing but God can satisfy it. No change of circumstances, no coming in of the dearest earthly ties even, not my continued presence even, could really satisfy for any length of time the hungry depths of thy soul. I am speaking, darling, out of the depths of my own experience when I say this, and thee may believe me.”

A Godly Moral Compass that Regulates both Private and Public Affairs

We have noticed a trend that seems to have escalated in the last few years. This trend troubles both Sarah and me. We believe that a capitalist based economy is the best economic form for a society. Capitalism not only rewards hard work, ingenuity, creativity, etc., but it encourages it.  I stand to reap the economic rewards for my efforts and creativity; therefore, I have a reason to excel and achieve in the marketplace, much like an athlete has a reason to excel or achieve in his or her chosen sport. If I run the fastest in a race, I am rewarded with a 1st place ribbon or trophy. Actually, that held more true when I was a kid in the days before “participation trophies”; but that is another subject for another time. But I’ll just say that, if in the Olympics, everyone only received participation medals, the games wouldn’t be the same.

While we believe that capitalism is the best economic form, it needs to be kept closely in check by another force. That force is not government, because government is not capable of the task.  Only one entity is capable—it is He who imparts us with the ability to govern ourselves and our actions. I am speaking of God and the Godly moral compass He imparts to his followers.   Without a Godly moral compass or governor, capitalism over time becomes controlled by greed, which results in dishonesty, selfishness, and a list of other vices. These vices, in turn, create all kinds of misery for society at large. Does any of this sound familiar? Has anyone reading this experienced any unscrupulous marketing or business practices of late? This is the trend that we were speaking of earlier. It has always been around, but it is escalating in mainstream, and even small town America. Why? Because we have removed God from most of our society; hence we have removed the Godly moral compass that should keep our business practices in check. Without this governor, our business practices become ruled by profits and bottom lines. If we remove regard for God’s laws and compassion for humanity from the equation, price gouging doesn’t exist, neither would deceptive marketing. It would be about a business extracting as much money as possible for the least amount and least quality of a product or service as possible. Sound familiar? Because we have deemed ourselves too good for God, we now live in a world of escalating deceptive advertising, deceptive packaging, and deceptive pricing of products that are often shrinking in quality and size, all in an attempt to maximize profits. We have lost our Godly moral compass of what is right. While you might expect this type of behavior from the world at large, sadly many people who attend church and claim to follow Christ have developed the attitude that church is  church, and business is business, and they need to be as profitable as possible: it is just good business. God has become compartmentalized; He no longer has complete rule of our lives. We have become out of control. We have in essence removed ourselves from the principle stated in the Scripture passage, 1 Cor. 10:31, which states, “whatever we do, do unto the glory of God.”

Why can’t government step in to remedy this situation? Simple: because without a Godly moral compass, Government is just as corrupt as the businesses they are supposed to keep in check. In our society, “government” is a group of elected or appointed individuals, most often from within our own communities. There is no such thing as a mysterious entity called “government” absent the people. Government, is, in its very essence, people who are in positions to govern. Some societies choose a monarchy and are ruled by royal families. Some societies are prone to dictatorships and are governed at the point of a sword or gun. But, even in those situations, it is still people who are in a position to govern. In our society, those who govern are most often chosen through an election process and are consequently put in charge “at the consent of the people” to manage public affairs. However, they can, and often do, go awry with the power with which they are entrusted. We must return that internal governor of God awareness in order for both private and government affairs to be fair, just, honest, and effective. Otherwise, the strongest one wins, the one with the most money, power, influence, or intimidation techniques runs over the “governed”, and it most certainly does not represent the ideal of “with the consent of the governed.”

Just a Few Thoughts on an Evening Campfire with Friends

Last night, we enjoyed a pleasant evening with a small group of friends who brought all of the fixings. We grilled hamburgers, made homemade french-fries, and sipped on our drinks of choice. Each friend who was there has a particular talent or passion that often enriches their own lives and the lives of others. As we sat around the campfire, I began to think of the various parts that were brought together in this circle of friendship.

Two of them are excellent gardeners. In fact, one had brought some starter oak trees that he had grown from acorn seeds. I hope to plant them and have some great shade in years to come. Another friend had brought lettuce and onions from his garden. They were delicious on the hamburgers. One is talented in baking and homemaking; she had brought the homemade hamburger buns as well as a special homemade herbal beverage that was delicious and fresh tasting. Another friend is kind of like the glue that keeps the group together. Among her many, many talents, skills, and passions, she is deeply compassionate for people. But, the one talent that she has that came to mind as we sat around the campfire, was her talent with knitting and crochet. She is highly skilled and has created many masterpieces with yarn.

As I thought about each friend in turn, I realized that each one replicated a little bit of what God does with each of us. We are all familiar with the gardening aspect of the Gospel—planting, watering and nurturing seeds into fruition and harvest. Another way the Gospel is represented is the taking of small parts that seem insignificant, such as individual elements of a recipe or a small piece of yarn, and mixing or spinning, until a beautiful end is achieved. No one wants to sit down to a bowl of flour and baking powder—but you add a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and apply some heat, and a delicious loaf of bread is achieved. No one wants to wear a spool of yarn on his head; but you pull a little piece here, and wrap a little piece around this needle, and soon a beautiful cap, sweater, or perhaps a pair of socks emerges.

One of my husband’s talents is taking pieces of junk that once were valuable and restoring them. One of his passions is lights. He has always liked making lamps. His equal passion to lamps is lanterns. Some of the lights in our home are made of old lanterns that were either salvaged out of the pasture or trash, or redeemed at a flea market for very little money. With time and expertise, that rusty, valueless piece of junk slowly begins to emerge a masterpiece that graces a lampstand or mantle. If the lantern is fixable to run as a lantern, then it is restored to its initial purpose; however, if the lantern is too far gone to function as a lantern, then it is often turned into an electric lamp. Either way, it is no longer scrap metal destined for the furnace to be melted down. It is salvaged and beautified.

This is also an aspect of the Gospel. God takes what was perhaps supposed to be, but due to sin and corrosion of the soul, it became damaged and is not able to function as it was meant to do. He sends someone along to salvage and redeem. This person then brushes away the rust, repairs the bent parts, replaces the missing parts, and turns it into something that lights the way for others.

 

“They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”

I was seated at an outdoor restaurant on the San Antonio Riverwalk. My date had been thoughtful and had chosen an upscale and picturesque venue. He ordered wine and made light conversation. He was in his mid 30’s and was a professor at a university. I was in my mid 20’s and was writing for a publishing company. Both of our professional futures had promise.

Soon, the conversation turned more serious, and he asked me if I would date him exclusively, with marriage in mind, a little bit down the line. It wasn’t exactly a proposal, but it was a request for a more serious dating relationship with marriage being the goal in a few years.

I paused. I couldn’t fool myself or him. It just wasn’t there for me. He had everything a woman could want; just not this woman. I smiled. It was an awkward moment. I said, “No. I’m looking for something different. I just can’t commit to anything more serious.” He was a bit surprised. He was quite a catch, and he knew it. “Well, what do you want?” He asked, taken aback. I sighed. What did I want? I could feel it, but could I articulate it?

While in college, I had attended a church where I had met a married couple who made a profound impression on me. They were in their 50s at the time. Their children were older than I was and were out of the home. My senior year in college, I was looking for a place to live closer to the university I was attending, instead of having a long commute. I refused to live on campus and had never even considered it. My mother suggested that I ask the couple I so admired if they would rent a room to me. While at Bible study one evening, I mentioned it to the woman. She was delighted and made me feel very welcome. I moved in without delay. They treated me like a daughter and would not take rent money from me. Over the course of the year or so that I was there, I witnessed an amazing marital relationship—such as I had never seen—it was one of love and devotion, respect, fun-loving jabs and retorts, laughter, and eye-rolling at “honey do’s”. It was real. There were no pretenses. She adored him, and he was her everything. He loved her more than he loved himself, and it showed. I subconsciously tucked these things away, not knowing that I had observed in them a standard that no one whom I would date from then on could live up to. I could not get over it. I had to have that, or I would have nothing. I didn’t mind being single. But, being in a pretentious marriage was more than I could bear.

On the Riverwalk that night, when the professor asked me what I wanted, I found myself describing a man that somewhat fit into an old western movie: I wanted a gentleman who said, ‘Yes ma’am.’ I wanted someone who was at ease with either presidents or peasants. I wanted someone with a plain name—John, Tom, or Sam, or something like that—I didn’t want someone named Wellington, Davenport, or Piccadilly. I wanted someone who was confident in who he was and who didn’t obsess in the mirror over his hair gel. I wanted someone who would give you the shirt off his back and who worried more about pleasing God than padding his bank account. I wanted someone whose ‘Yes’ meant ‘Yes’ and whose ‘No’ meant ‘No.’ I didn’t want someone who squabbled over insignificant details and differences. I wanted a self-made man, not a company man or a union man. I wanted a one-woman man—his heart had to be true toward me, and he had to genuinely love me.

My list included a few more items along these lines. My date interrupted me often as I talked. He didn’t agree with me. I had named nothing of ‘importance’ in his mind that made a good marriage: career, social connections, family connections, ambition, politics, religion. “Besides,” he said, “they don’t make them like that anymore. You are describing a throw-back, not a modern man. I’ll bet you can’t even name anyone like that—except maybe your grandpa.” I smiled. No, not even my grandpas (both of whom were deceased) fit this description.

Months later, when God saw fit, He introduced me to the man who would become my husband. Ironically, he was so real, that he once told me that I was a “little snot” who was spoiled and bratty. And he was right. I was selfish and lost in my own little selfish world. My ideals had not met reality, even in myself. For three years we were simply “friends”. I dated; he dated. We would get together and talk about our dates. We admitted one time that whenever we were on a date with someone else, we thought about how much more fun we had together instead of with others. We talked about what we really wanted in a spouse. One day, it hit us. What were we doing? It was right in front of us. He was the first one to broach the subject. Would I consider going on an actual date with him? I said that I was afraid to mess up what we had. It was so good and so real. I said that maybe we could try it. That night, he kissed me. That was it. It was real, and we knew it. Two months later, we were married. That was thirteen years ago this month. He is still the man of my dreams, and so much more. They do still make them like that. But, they are rare. I’m so blessed to have one of those rare models.