Dear Children

Letters From A Father's Heart

Number 3, Awesome Assumptions That Can Destroy​ Your Happiness: Assume That Equality Is A Real Thing And Is Attainable

Dear children,

When it comes to assumptions that kill, I suppose this one dwarfs the rest. Millions upon millions found themselves dead because enough people assumed that the end goal of equality for all was achievable. It isn’t. It never was and it never will be. The more you reject such foolhardy notions the more unhappiness you’ll be avoiding.

I’ll mention a couple of ways to approach this assumption starting with the language of equality.  This language consists of lofty-sounding expressions and buzz-words, all of which have one thing in common which is that they are vague. They have to be vague because they don’t express ideas; instead, they express emotions. We can talk about how we personally feel about everyone getting their “fair share”, but don’t dare think about specifics. We can express what we perceive as a “social injustice”, but the minute someone starts asking what that actually means, and all the variables are brought to bear on the matter, you end up long on obscurity and short on clarity.

Most of the words used in the cry for equality are really nothing more than empty boxes into which the speaker and hearer can put their own personal meanings based on their own personal feelings. Whether those feelings are more self-righteous or vague it’s hard to say. One thing is for sure though, if any of us really do want to feel righteous about desiring equality, vagueness and obscurity are indispensable assets.

That’s pretty much how it goes with everything in the equality crusaders’ world. To be outspoken for the poor is to be saintly. But to be outspoken necessarily means the use of vague ideas of what and who poor people are, and to present vague notions of how it’s not fair that some people don’t have nearly as much as others. Likewise, to have disdain for whatever one’s vague notions of “rich folks” are, and to desire that those “rich folks” be forced to have some of their richness confiscated so that they will then have some vague notion of less, can give the out-speaker a saintly glow.

The premise upon which all this vague self-righteousness is built is the assumption that “I am a good person because I care so much about the poor I am willing to complain about their poorness.” For the political class, it’s the golden goose. Since there will always be poor people, there will always be a reason to blame political enemies for their poorness, no matter how relatively unpoor those people actually are. The second assumption is one that empowers this political class and ensures there will be plenty of poor people to exploit. It is the assumption that every last human being deserves to not be poor and not one human being deserves to be rich. And then there’s the granddaddy of all of these assumptions, the assumption that brings all that self-righteousness and entitlement to bear like a German Panzer rolling into town, and that is that it is actually possible to build a society that has neither rich nor poor nor good nor evil folks in it. But then there is reality. It comes like a thunderstorm threatening the Utopian picnic, making all the Utopian dreamers angry and unhappy.

All of this ambiguity and feelings of self-righteousness get confusing because it winds up looking like a confederacy of victims, all of them vying for victim privileges based on their victim status. It begins to look kind of like a layer cake with each layer consisting of its own set of felt inequalities, assumptions, victims, and grievances. The layers have little in common beyond seeing a big mother government as the starting point for making everything equal and fair.

One layer might be filled with poor folks mad at rich folks, and another might be filled with rich black folks mad at poor white folks. Another might be materialistic. Equality in that layer would mean that everyone having nearly the same amount of money, and live in the same size houses, and be able to afford the same sorts of things. That some people might be rewarded nicely for working harder, taking risks and creating things that raise the standard of living for all is not only outside of the layer, it’s also outside of the purview of thought. That someone who works as little as possible and spends most of their time on porn sites and their money on dope might end up poor is also outside the cake. It is assumed that all people are equal in their abilities and gumption, and to desire more than one’s own fair share is immoral. What is someone’s fair share? Well, “fair share” is one of those empty boxes that requires you to fill it up with your own personal feelings. But it’s a safe bet to assume that a victim’s fair share is a little more than he’s got, and that is true even if he’s got quite a lot.

Another layer might be all about morality. In this layer there are no morally superior or inferior people because there is a vague notion that there is no such thing as morality. Truth, and as such morality, is relative to the individual. To judge someone, therefore, for poor choices is the same as suggesting that some choices are more moral than others, which would mean that they’re unequal, and that would be anathema. That it is righteous to feel these things and unrighteous to disagree, again, is outside of the layer, outside of logic, and outside of reality. But nevermind that, it feels righteous.

Then another layer yet might concern all the things that make us unique. We may be fat, skinny, beautiful, ugly, smart, dumb, energetic, lazy, fortunate, unfortunate and so on. Nothing causes inequality like these sorts of things, and so they must be equalized.

As a final example of a layer, think of nations. Just like an individual is not supposed to be better, more moral, or even richer, neither are countries. All of them are to be seen as equal in morality and are to be made equal in wealth. If one nation has more than another it isn’t because that nation has a better system of commerce or the people in it are free to be productive without harassment. No, it’s because that nation has exploited the poor nation. To see all nations as equal and to make all nations materially equal, just like all individuals, will bring about the hoped-for Utopian Eden that the religion of equality is aiming at. Wars, poverty, judgementalism, sexual boundaries, and hate will be obsolete because with everyone equal conflict will end … or so it is assumed.

These are just a few of the isolated layers in the brains of the equality worshipper. There are many more. Unfortunately, these layers are not based on reality. No, reality throws all of these conveniently separate layers into a mixing bowl and then turns the mixer on. The cookie dough that is life is just that. It is a mixture of everything all mixed up. The end is a thing that is on the opposite end of the spectrum from equality. And in spite of all these attempts to bring about equality and fairness, the world you will be living in will remain both unequal and unfair. And the more this world strives, kills, legislates and hates to bring about some vague notion of equality, the more unequal things will become. If there is one thing about history that we ought to understand as it pertains to fairness, it is that it’s really never about equality as much as it is about who gets the most advantage out of the layers. It also gives irreligious people a religious-like cause to fight for.

In the end, this cause makes its adherents arrogant and hypocritical. But worse than that, it makes them arrogant about their hypocrisy. That they are hypocritical is one thing. But that they arrogantly levy accusations of hypocrisy against any who would challenge their sentiments is another thing altogether. Everything that they hate and everything that they preach against is everything that they are, and they haven’t the slightest clue that this is the case. Such knowledge is outside the cake.

On the other hand, Jesus told us that we would always have the poor with us, as well as those who hate Him and who will hate His followers in His proxy. He told us that they would be false teachers who teach vague assumptions, and self-righteous do-gooders who would kill those who belong to Him in God’s name and feel righteous about it. He pointed to a higher concept of happiness that transcended these temporary and short lives we’re living. True happiness is not, therefore, found in more so-called justice, or stuff, or the verbal risk-less crusades in the name of equality, but rather in thanksgiven for inequality. The real unfairness in this world and life you see is not that so many don’t get what they deserve and that so many who don’t deserve what they got, got more than their fair share. No, the real unfairness is that Jesus, who really did deserve all good things, got what he didn’t deserve and we, who deserved nothing but the wrath of God got access through Him to what we don’t deserve. To have true any chance at true happiness in this world then, one must realize this unpopular fact, fall headlong before a holy and righteous God who judges righteously, and beg to not get what is deserved.

Your father,

Number 2, Awesome Assumptions That Can Destroy​ Your Happiness: Assume That Your World Is Static​

Dear children,

When I was about four it occurred to me that I ought to taste everything in the house… starting with the medicines. I reasoned that if baby aspirin tasted like candy, maybe there were other sweets that I didn’t know about. It was, however, a short-lived enterprise. It came to a close when I took a swallow of whatever that stuff was that Mom put into the Vick’s Vapor Machine. We are all born stupid; some stay stupid longer than others.

At present, after having children myself, I realize that it is a miracle that any of us survived the early stupid years. But babies and toddlers have an excuse. For the rest of us, the number of excuses we can muster goes down as the number of candles on our cakes go up. If someone hasn’t figured out a few things after a handful of candles it’s a good time to suspect that he might be a moron. It’s better to suspect that you’re a moron and not be one than to live a hapless life not realizing that you are one.

One of the tell-tale signs that you might be a moron is that you see this world as static. Now, this is a difficult one to get across because, while none of us actually sees the world as sitting still, we can unknowingly suppress the fact that it isn’t, or ignore that it isn’t, or the room in our brain where all the thinking happens can remain a ways down the hall from the room that knows these things.

A decent example of this is the public school system. Most of us, I think, get an education because that’s what people do when they’re young. I’m also of the opinion that most people are like I was when I was there, though definitely not all. For me, it was being there that equaled the education. I got a diploma for showing up which was supposed to unlock a few doors later, which I suppose it did. But while I was there, the knowledge that I ought to maybe do something besides play… something like, oh, I don’t know… like actually trying to learn something, was not allowed into my thinking. I’m sure I had that knowledge, but it never translated into action.

All of us should look back and evaluate our past selves from time to time. It was in doing just this that I determined that there was a period in my life that I assumed that I would always be in high school, or at least a high school-like setting. The rules would be the same, as would the culture, my outlook and the ramifications for my bone-headed decisions. For one thing, in my imaginary fantasy world, folks who were younger than me would always be plebes while older folks would always be authority figures to outwit. Then one day I realized that my boss was born when I was ten. I have paid dearly for being this sort of a moron.

I can also remember the day I grew up. I was in my early thirties and was sitting at a restaurant bar in Dallas, Texas. The girl tending it was pretty and so I asked her if she’d be interested in having dinner sometime. When she inquisitively cocked her head and asked, “How old are you?” the realization that I was no longer in high school came crashing down on my head. Up until that very moment I had never given it any consideration that I was getting older. Of course, I knew that I was, but that knowledge, like I said, was down the hall. I realized at that very moment that, not only was I no longer a 16-year-old, my youthful appearance had also forgotten to stagnate with my brain.

During that same time, most of the people I worked with were married and owned homes. Home ownership was a daunting proposition for me at that stage of life. It required way too much commitment. My friends bought 60 thousand dollar starter homes and when the operation we were working for shut down in Nashville, they sold them for nearly twice that. Money was falling in value but houses weren’t. It never occurred to me that the dollar bill was as dynamic as the rest of life. I assumed it was as static as my thinking.

I’ve heard that it’s when a man reaches his mid-40s he is prone to experiencing a midlife crisis, but I never had one. My midlife only lasted for four days and 45 minutes. Before those four days I was going to live forever on this earth. After them I didn’t have but a few years left. The knowledge that it’s too late to do very much with yourself, and even if you did you didn’t have enough life left to enjoy it, eventually kicked the door down in the thinking room. It was about then that I defined the “mid-life crisis” for myself. It is the point at which your ever-increasing regrets in life overtake your ever-diminishing hopes and dreams.

You can’t really grow old thinking that you live in a static world; there’s just too much change. But you can live out the consequences of not realizing just how dynamic life is while you’re young. You can take people for granted, and then one day they’re gone, leaving you with regrets that you didn’t spend more time with them. You can procrastinate, thinking that the opportunities that are available today will be available tomorrow. You can fritter and waste the hours away.* Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding will not be your partners, rather they will mock you. Regret and disappointment will become your sidekicks, or worse, your kicks in the side.

Psalm 90 speaks of asking God to teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Proverbs 22 says, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it”. To grasp your dynamic world requires vision and thoughtfulness. It was Socrates who said, “the unexamined life is not worth living”. For him, to not contemplate things made life worthless. It takes effort to move all of your knowing into the thinking room. There is an old word, acedia, that does a fair job of describing me in my early years, and to some degree, I’m ashamed to admit, still describes me today. It means to be mentally and spiritually slothful. It’s one thing to know something. It’s another thing altogether to contemplate that knowledge, to examine it, and to consider the ramifications of it. Knowledge isn’t enough. It does little more than to raise you one step up from ignorant, from not knowing much to knowing a few things and still being stupid. There’s a big difference between knowing that there is a car parked in the street in front of your house with a growing pile of cigarette butts next to the driver’s window, and paying it no mind and seeing the same thing and becoming concerned.

What is now certainly will not be. This is a truth that the wagon wheel maker shed many a tear over in days past. Knowledge properly handled gives you insight. Not contemplating the ramifications and implications of knowledge, or worse yet, not even caring, will keep you on your heels, and that is not a happy place.

The difference between realizing you live in a dynamic world and not realizing it is the difference between riding a wave in the ocean and being smacked by it from behind. Diversion is the symptom. Rather than watch for the waves of reality, endless diversions into fruitless wastes leave you standing on the sand oblivious, and being knocked this way and that. Never underestimate the hard work involved in thinking. Anyone can dig a ditch, but to understand how wide and deep the ditch needs to be to handle the flood that might happen in the next half century is another thing altogether. No one can see everything coming, but that’s not my point really. It’s not whether we see stuff coming, it’s whether we know it’s coming whether we can’t see it or not. It’s looking beyond the present, the knowns even, and understanding, anticipating, and preparing for your future and the future.

All of life is moving along. You, your children, your wife or husband, your parents, and the world around you are all on a trajectory of some sort. Nothing is where it was in the past and the future won’t look like the present. It is all moving like a ship through the fog. We can know something of the future simply by looking at our bearings and exerting force as we are capable and able to adjust the course of those things which courses we have some sort of influence over. We do the best we can. But we should consider all the while that misery enters when we realize after we hit the rocks that all the indicators were there that there were rocks ahead. We noticed them. We may have even complained about them. But they never left the realm of knowledge. They became the life that happened to us rather than the obstacles that we made every attempt to overcome or avert, or at least prepared for.

Read the Proverbs my children. Listen to them. Let them grow your wisdom and understanding, and in so doing live as happy of a life as is possible. To see your world as a static place, and your existence in it equally as static will bring you sadness and regret. Think, look, listen, anticipate and contemplate and though happiness may not be the result, sadness and regret will be kept at bay.

Your father

 

Awesome Assumptions that can Destroy Your Happiness Needlessly

Dear children,

As your father I naturally want you to be happy. And I wish I had a magic formula for just that. I don’t. I do, on the other hand, have some ideas on how you can ensure that you will be a generally unhappy person, and live a mostly unhappy life. Most of these are things that I learned by experience. Others are garnered from people who, by all observations, are unhappy when they have more reasons to be happy than most.

(This is installment one. I’ll be adding many more in time as they occur to me. They will be posts all their own, but will also be incorporated into this one.)

One, assume that life is fair. I’m not really sure why anyone would assume that fairness has a chance in a civilized, free society, especially a society that has tailor-made a new religion for itself with diversity as one of its pillars.

Societies have long grappled with the problem of unfairness. Collectively, humanity wants fairness for all. But Individually the desire is for an advantage. In the name of fairness, societies have tried all sorts of things. Germany, the most vivid in recent memory, tried to help increase fairness, or perhaps better put, tried to eliminate unfairness, by helping evolution along. It did this by attempting to wipe out the undesirables whose genetic circumstances were making those who had an advantage feel a little guilty. Perhaps life would have been a little fairer for the survivors. But doing something like that does nothing to advance real fairness, nor happiness. And it wasn’t very civilized either. It goes without saying that for most schemes that hold fairness up as the goal, there is much more loss and cost than gain because there are simply too many variables.

One of those variables is genetics. When I was a teenager Farah Fawcett was a beautiful actress. Her picture was hanging on the walls of most of my friends. She did nothing to earn her beauty.  Meanwhile, all across America, there were girls and women whose natural looks were keeping the cosmetic companies chugging along. That wasn’t fair to all those girls, though I’m sure it seemed more than fair to the cosmetics industries. Then Farrah died of cancer.  That wasn’t fair either when so many others lived on. We can all dream of a magic world in which the god of beauty suddenly waves a magic wand and makes all the girls equally beautiful like she was running a sex-doll factory. But would that be fair to Farrah? To suddenly evaporate her advantage in life as cancer had done?

Furthermore, being a beautiful star most certainly meant that Farrah was quite well to do. That wasn’t fair to the rest of us either. But then again, she could have divided up her richness equally and sent everyone else in the world a check for .37 cents. That would have had some semblance of being fairer I suppose. Or she could have hired someone like Bernie Sanders and his bureaucratic hordes to do it for her, and then that, I also suppose would have seemed fairer. If not to her maybe to everyone but her.

Kurk Vonnegut used to write about this. In various stories he talked about beautiful people making themselves as ugly as they could in the name of fairness. He talked about the government implanting devices in smart people’s heads to interrupt their thoughts impede their ability to think making them more like their less fortunate neighbor’s. He wrote of a world where diversity was an anathema, indeed fairness demanded it be. What a confused individual he was. He lived through the firebombing of Dresden, then became an unfairly rich author, an atheist that rendered the whole idea of fairness void, and an unhappy soul because the world was so unfair.

Another variable is the individual. As for me, I realized early in life that I was going to be an underdog. I remember my Dad’s mom telling my Dad on more than one occasion, “Son, you were born poor and you’re going to die poor.” I went to government schools and I can remember not understanding when to fill in the blank with “see” or “seen” on my government worksheet because I depended on how it sounded. And when you lived in rural Georgia that wasn’t enough. The teacher never pulled me aside to explain what I was doing wrong. She just wrote a bad grade on my paper and then fixed supper. I had no idea what a double negative was until I was in my mid-twenties. A girlfriend taught me about grammar, which then plagued me with embarrassment for the first quarter-century of my life.

I also had a southern dialect. What’s worse, my dialect was so thick that even rural southerners saw fit to make fun of it. Once I started interacting with non-southerners in the military, I realized that if I was going to get anywhere in life I was going to have to learn to speak. There’s something about people laughing at you as they caricature what you just said that gets you to thinking. As you know, I still have the drawl, and I can still sound stupid. But then again, I’ve always been a tiny bit suspicious that I might just be a little stupid. Life isn’t fair. I had to work with what I had.

On the other hand, some people’s grandparents told their parents that they could be successes in life if they would just apply themselves. They understood the English language, pronounced words properly, and they passed all of that along to their children who passed it along to their children along with a little more wealth and a little more good looks. Those were the guys that I was competing with in life to eke out my existence. It was stiff competition.

On the other hand, other people’s grandparents were drunks, or they had children who would become drunks, or they were stupid, or lazy, or child abusers, or were black and were so convinced that they were victims that they didn’t bother even trying. I had an advantage over such as these. Somewhere in the midst of all this diversity was a little electron-sized being that became your Dad. I had unfair advantages and disadvantages. Of course, I wasted my early years, as the youthful are wont to do, focusing on the unfair ones. As such, I had an affinity for political clowns who were going to even the score for me. Now I don’t concern myself so much with fairness. I accept the unfairness along with all that that unfairness cost me, and along with all the advantages that it gave me.

To be sure though, fairness versus unfairness is a thing. But it’s kind of like climate change, nobody can do anything about it. A benevolent dictator could outlaw fossil fuels, but he can’t outlaw being cold and hungry. It’s worse even than the disease in which the doctor might could kill it, but he couldn’t kill it without killing the patient. So we manage it as best we can. There are two schools of thoughts on the matter of managing it. One is to provide an equal opportunity for all. Of course, this will cause enormous diversity. Another is to cause equal outcome which calls for a massive, all-powerful government. Neither is truly fair because people are going to be people; they’re going to get drunk, get knocked up, get hooked on drugs, or spend their college money on a hopped-up motor for their Mustang. Others will listen to the hustlers and buy into the Christian charlatans selling favors from God, or buy into the victim mentality, or buy into the conspiracy theory mentality, or invest all their money into lottery tickets. Others yet will try to become musicians and artists. Then many of those who have exercised their liberty to be morons will have children causing fairness to fly out the window. It is reality. And it is all horribly unfair, and there’s nothing any man, system, government, or Democrat can do to fix it. Man can conquer a lot. But when faced with conquering himself, all are on some level, failures.

But there is good news, and it is the unfairest of good news. God is holy and righteous. We are not. We have not only failed ourselves and each other we have failed God too. His condemnation is one of the fairest things you’ll ever receive. On the other hand, his grace and love through his Son Jesus, who died on the cross for your sins are two of the most unfair things you’ll ever receive. That is the only glimmer of hope that mankind has, and it’s found in the unlikeliest and most hated concepts of all, the concept of unfairness. Once we accept that we don’t have to receive our fair reward for this life, but have an opportunity for an unfair one, that has a way of bringing us happiness. But not only that, and even better, it will bring us joy in the midst of our failure in an unhappy world.

2. Assume that your world is static

When I was about four it occurred to me that I ought to taste everything in the house… starting with the medicines. I reasoned that if baby aspirin tasted like candy, maybe there were other sweets that I didn’t know about. It was, however, a short-lived enterprise. It came to a close when I took a swallow of whatever that stuff was that Mom put into the Vick’s Vapor Machine. We are all born stupid; some stay stupid longer than others.

At present, after having children myself, I realize that it is a miracle that any of us survived the early stupid years. But babies and toddlers have an excuse. For the rest of us, the number of excuses we can muster goes down as the number of candles on our cakes go up. If someone hasn’t figured out a few things after a handful of candles it’s a good time to suspect that he might be a moron. It’s better to suspect that you’re a moron and not be one than to live a hapless life not realizing that you are one.

One of the tell-tale signs that you might be a moron is that you see this world as static. Now, this is a difficult one to get across because, while none of us actually sees the world as sitting still, we can unknowingly suppress the fact that it isn’t, or ignore that it isn’t, or the room in our brain where all the thinking happens can remain a ways down the hall from the room that knows these things.

A decent example of this is the public school system. Most of us, I think, get an education because that’s what people do when they’re young. I’m also of the opinion that most people are like I was when I was there, though definitely not all. For me, it was being there that equaled the education. I got a diploma for showing up which was supposed to unlock a few doors later, which I suppose it did. But while I was there, the knowledge that I ought to maybe do something besides play… something like, oh, I don’t know… like actually trying to learn something, was not allowed into my thinking. I’m sure I had that knowledge, but it never translated into action.

All of us should look back and evaluate our past selves from time to time. It was in doing just this that I determined that there was a period in my life that I assumed that I would always be in high school, or at least a high school-like setting. The rules would be the same, as would the culture, my outlook and the ramifications for my bone-headed decisions. For one thing, in my imaginary fantasy world, folks who were younger than me would always be plebes while older folks would always be authority figures to outwit. Then one day I realized that my boss was born when I was ten. I have paid dearly for being this sort of a moron.

I can also remember the day I grew up. I was in my early thirties and was sitting at a restaurant bar in Dallas, Texas. The girl tending it was pretty and so I asked her if she’d be interested in having dinner sometime. When she inquisitively cocked her head and asked, “How old are you?” the realization that I was no longer in high school came crashing down on my head. Up until that very moment I had never given it any consideration that I was getting older. Of course, I knew that I was, but that knowledge, like I said, was down the hall. I realized at that very moment that, not only was I no longer a 16-year-old, my youthful appearance had also forgotten to stagnate with my brain.

During that same time, most of the people I worked with were married and owned homes. Home ownership was a daunting proposition for me at that stage of life. It required way too much commitment. My friends bought 60 thousand dollar starter homes and when the operation we were working for shut down in Nashville, they sold them for nearly twice that. Money was falling in value but houses weren’t. It never occurred to me that the dollar bill was as dynamic as the rest of life. I assumed it was as static as my thinking.

I’ve heard that it’s when a man reaches his mid-40s he is prone to experiencing a midlife crisis, but I never had one. My midlife only lasted for four days and 45 minutes. Before those four days I was going to live forever on this earth. After them I didn’t have but a few years left. The knowledge that it’s too late to do very much with yourself, and even if you did you didn’t have enough life left to enjoy it, eventually kicked the door down in the thinking room. It was about then that I defined the “mid-life crisis” for myself. It is the point at which your ever-increasing regrets in life overtake your ever-diminishing hopes and dreams.

You can’t really grow old thinking that you live in a static world; there’s just too much change. But you can live out the consequences of not realizing just how dynamic life is while you’re young. You can take people for granted, and then one day they’re gone, leaving you with regrets that you didn’t spend more time with them. You can procrastinate, thinking that the opportunities that are available today will be available tomorrow. You can fritter and waste the hours away.* Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding will not be your partners, rather they will mock you. Regret and disappointment will become your sidekicks, or worse, your kicks in the side.

Psalm 90 speaks of asking God to teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Proverbs 22 says, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it”. To grasp your dynamic world requires vision and thoughtfulness. It was Socrates who said, “the unexamined life is not worth living”. For him, to not contemplate things made life worthless. It takes effort to move all of your knowing into the thinking room. There is an old word, acedia, that does a fair job of describing me in my early years, and to some degree, I’m ashamed to admit, still describes me today. It means to be mentally and spiritually slothful. It’s one thing to know something. It’s another thing altogether to contemplate that knowledge, to examine it, and to consider the ramifications of it. Knowledge isn’t enough. It does little more than to raise you one step up from ignorant, from not knowing much to knowing a few things and still being stupid. There’s a big difference between knowing that there is a car parked in the street in front of your house with a growing pile of cigarette butts next to the driver’s window, and paying it no mind and seeing the same thing and becoming concerned.

What is now certainly will not be. This is a truth that the wagon wheel maker shed many a tear over in days past. Knowledge properly handled gives you insight. Not contemplating the ramifications and implications of knowledge, or worse yet, not even caring, will keep you on your heels, and that is not a happy place.

The difference between realizing you live in a dynamic world and not realizing it is the difference between riding a wave in the ocean and being smacked by it from behind. Diversion is the symptom. Rather than watch for the waves of reality, endless diversions into fruitless wastes leave you standing on the sand oblivious, and being knocked this way and that. Never underestimate the hard work involved in thinking. Anyone can dig a ditch, but to understand how wide and deep the ditch needs to be to handle the flood that might happen in the next half century is another thing altogether. No one can see everything coming, but that’s not my point really. It’s not whether we see stuff coming, it’s whether we know it’s coming whether we can’t see it or not. It’s looking beyond the present, the knowns even, and understanding, anticipating, and preparing for your future and the future.

All of life is moving along. You, your children, your wife or husband, your parents, and the world around you are all on a trajectory of some sort. Nothing is where it was in the past and the future won’t look like the present. It is all moving like a ship through the fog. We can know something of the future simply by looking at our bearings and exerting force as we are capable and able to adjust the course of those things which courses we have some sort of influence over. We do the best we can. But we should consider all the while that misery enters when we realize after we hit the rocks that all the indicators were there that there were rocks ahead. We noticed them. We may have even complained about them. But they never left the realm of knowledge. They became the life that happened to us rather than the obstacles that we made every attempt to overcome or avert, or at least prepared for.

Read the Proverbs my children. Listen to them. Let them grow your wisdom and understanding, and in so doing live as happy of a life as is possible. To see your world as a static place, and your existence in it equally as static will bring you sadness and regret. Think, look, listen, anticipate and contemplate and though happiness may not be the result, sadness and regret will be kept at bay.

Your father

The Argument

Dear children,

Don’t confuse an argument with an argument. While two people yelling at each other might be called an argument, as it concerns the student of logic, or the logician, an argument is much more involved and will require you to endure the task of thinking. I heard a man once argue that the earth was fixed and that the cosmos spun around the earth, and not the other way around. He then made his case and explained why he thought it was true. Unfortunately, for him, he failed to think much about his argument before he made it and ended up looking foolish.

So to start with, decide if you should even bother making an argument. I could make his case using a different argument, but I realize that to do so I’m fighting an uphill battle, and that I will be seen as foolish from the get-go. And whether our reference point for understanding the movements of the planets and stars in the sky is the earth’s surface, the sun, or some other point further out, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. The sun still rises in the east, the South Pole is still on the bottom of the map, and the moon still orbits counter-clockwise. All of these understandings are based on deep-seated reference points, and to ask someone to dig them up and look at them is a tall and fruitless task. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

You should also know when it is pointless to bother with your argument. An argument requires rationality from its maker, and it requires a rational hearer. When I was in the third grade I saw a cartoon one morning before school that explained how a steam-engine locomotive worked. I was fascinated and so told my friend, Harold, at school that day all about it. His third-grade mind totally disagreed. He said that the way it worked was that they build a big fire in the thing, and they keep making it hotter and hotter until it just went. He really believed that, and he believed it in the face of my drawings showing steam, valves, pipes and pistons. I said nothing in return. Why would I? Where would I start? But we had both put forth an argument and a conclusion. We both agreed that the engine pulled the train. We both agreed that there was fire involved. But our agreement ended there. I suppose he assumed that steam locomotives were like people, and when you lite them on fire they start running. I’ll never know how he came to his conclusion.

Arguments are the basis of your thinking. One person says one thing, another says another, and you are left to think through their positions. One thing you can know is that at least one of them is wrong unless they can be logically reconciled… emphasis on logically and “at least.”  You ought to, therefore, listen to arguments and make responses, if not to the person making it, at least make it to yourself.  So I’ll throw a few things out to think about while you’re considering these arguments.

One factor to consider is emotions. We are not robots. We feel. And sometimes truth makes us feel bad and so we suppress it. When we’re thinking through our arguments, therefore, we need to be aware of this lest we fool ourselves into delusion. I was working in Vancouver once and my co-worker asked me if I had gone to the strip club the night before. I told him no. So he began to make his argument as to why going to strip clubs was okay. In his words, “It’s okay to look isn’t it”? My mind shot past the fact that he had presented no basis as to why it would be okay to look, or even why it would not be okay to do more than look. I instead locked onto an emotional argument. I couldn’t help but think of his three-year-old daughter and the response that I wanted to make was that I would wait until his daughter turned 18 and worked there… and then I would go look at her. But I thought better of it. Emotions have a way of inlisting violence when sufficiently assaulted. For one thing, he was bigger than me, and he already didn’t like me. Rather than take that tact, I instead built my argument on an objective point that exists outside of humanity and time. I pointed to God’s law as expressed by Jesus when he explained that lust was adultery. He said nothing in response to my argument. I could tell however that he didn’t like me even more.

We can always expect our emotions to come to our rescue. That lust equals adultery means that we are all adulterers, and that causes negative emotions. That I see myself as a good person causes positive emotions. So we run with the I-am-a-good-person conclusion and spend our thought life trying to justify ourselves by concocting arguments like, “It’s okay to look isn’t it”? Dealing with these emotions in yourself will be difficult. Dealing with them in others will be even more so. Just realize that emotions cloud thinking. Our emotions will run interference against the truth that threatens the lies into which we have invested. And the greater our investment, the more emotional we will become in response to the threats.

Nowhere is this truer, for example, than on one of the most caustic issues of your time, abortion. The truth is that abortion is murder. But the thought that I’ve murdered my own child is an emotional avalanche for most of us. So you will hear lots of bad emotional arguments based on things that are not true. And when the bad arguments fail, then you can watch “arguments” deteriorate into chants with an attempt to drown out the truth. You will watch speakers being shouted down. “If I can’t win my argument,” so goes the thinking, “then by golly I’ll keep you from making yours”.

Others, when they have either bad arguments or no argument at all, will resort to name calling. Rather than to make an argument as to why they are right, they attempt to force their opponent to make an argument as to why they are not a fascist… or a racist, or some other evil thing. Once someone starts throwing words like that around you can know that you are dealing with emotion mixed with an unhealthy dose of thoughtlessness. You can present your argument to them, or you can present them to a wall. It won’t really matter much which.

Another thing to be on the lookout for is how arguments are framed. Bad arguments properly framed can be winning arguments, and by winning I mean convincing. Take the issue of a man putting on a dress and saying, “Look! I’m transgendered”. Once we agree to the term “transgendered” we have conceded the argument because we have already agreed to a falsehood. How does one make an argument against a thing that does not exist? Answer: He can’t. There is no such thing as a transgender. These men in dresses and women doped up to grow beards will all die the same gender that they were born, and all the king’s surgeons and all the king’s pharmacists can’t do a cotton-picking thing about that fact.  So as you are considering the arguments you are going to hear in life, run them through the reality filter. Ask yourself, “Is this an accurate description of reality”?

You’ll also see this also in the abortion debate. The pro-legalized-murder-of-children advocate will always frame their arguments in ways that exclude the baby. They attempt to force you into arguing against women being free to choose, or being free to make for themselves decisions regarding their own body.

As you’re considering these things, also realize that arguments are conveyed to you via words. If something doesn’t make sense to you, pull out the keywords and make sure what you’re hearing is what is being said. Words can sneak bad thinking into your thought life. Nowhere is this more prevalent than with the use of the word love. There are also words like fair, good, evil, justice, greedy, and of course now, male and female that deserve special attention. Also realize that when a word that once described something is redefined, that which it once defined is without a word to describe it. If the word marriage, for example, now describes two men contracting to share everything, and not to stick their penises into anyone else’s rectum, then what word does one use to describe the two who are biologically designed to become one and to produce offspring?

I was once in the process of purchasing a copper fitting that was called a “male adapter” at Home Depot — a corporation by the way that fully embraces the redefining of all these emotion-laden words. And right there on the box that I got the fitting out of it said “1/2 in male adapter.” The cashier didn’t know anything about adapters I guess, and since it didn’t have a barcode sticker on it she had to look it up. As she was poking around on her computer she asked me if this thing was a male or female adapter? I told her that I didn’t know, that she would have to ask the fitting. In earlier years it would have been a simple teleological deduction. But in earlier years the words male and female had definitions that corresponded to reality and which had not been subjected to emotional madness.

One last thing I’ll bring up when it comes to arguments, and that is the Is-Ought fallacy. This is a clever one because not only will you hear it from other’s arguments that you are wrong, your emotions will employ it to ensure you that you are right… or vice versa.

On the one hand, there is the idea that what is is not what ought to be. Our world is broken. Something is horribly wrong, that sort of thing. Then on the other hand, we look at what we experience, or what is normal, or in other words “what is,” and we say that that is what ought to be. The is-ought argument is kissing cousins, in my opinion, with what is known as the “Argumentum ad populum,” argument, which means, an appeal to the masses, or the majority, or to the society. Someone is going to look at you and say you’re wrong because you’re out of sync with what the society considers normal and right. Or, put differently, your thinking is alien, strange, and quite possibly dangerous.

At first glance this is/ought idea may seem like a simple thing to think through, but it isn’t. It requires for you to first filter through your own thinking, your own conclusions that may be false and your own emotional connections to your conclusions. Then you must do the same with your culture’s, your society’s, and your community’s collective thinking. I can almost guarantee you that once you head into this swamp, if you don’t have an objective reference point you are sure to get bogged down and confused. You will need to have a clear sense of what ought to be, why it ought to be, and a source outside of yourself, your culture, and your time as to what ought to be, to not get lost. Truth is not subject to the calendar, your emotions or your society. History will teach you that. Every age has its sins. And they are committed in any particular age righteously, because the people listen to the arguments from within and/or from without, and were convinced.

Having had the opportunity of living in two different countries, one being America prior to about 1975, and the other being America since about 2000, I believe I have an advantage. I can contrast what I experienced in both with each other. I can judge the present in light of the past. Or I can judge the past in light of the present. Or, I can judge them both in light of objective truth. My emotions argue that the past was a good standard. But my mind argues that change is a given, that empires rise and fall, that evil is ever-present in different forms, and that without a compass I am doomed. It also argues that not all times and places are morally equal, that there were times and places where righteousness was more prevalent in spite of the presence of evil, and that in other times and places evil was more prevalent in spite of the presence of good. All of this must be thought through, and spades must be called spades even if no one likes spades, and apples must not be called oranges because everyone loves oranges.

I personally spend a lot of time thinking about arguments. Someone postulates, for example, that we evolved from nothing. They then present their evidence. I then toss it around. Apply it. See if it makes sense. I saw an article just recently about how possums are born, how they crawl into a pouch, how they swallow a nipple and are further nourished from the mother during their continued development. I asked myself how does such a thing as this evolve? How do even a million trillion years of survival of the fittest ever create a nipple that must be sought out somewhere else on the mother’s body by a blind premie baby possum and then swallowed? No. We were designed. It is the ramifications of that fact however that inlists our emotions to go to war against it. For if we were created, there is a creator, and if there is a creator, there is one to whom we are accountable, and that is just too much to bear.

You too ought to spend a lot of time thinking about such things. Read your Bibles. Observe your surroundings. Ask questions. Make the pieces fit. Consider the possibility that you may be wrong about something. Consider the ramifications of your conclusions. Build arguments in your head. Pencil and paper help. Filter out folly and foolishness and keep emotions at bay. There is a God. He has revealed Himself to us. You are not left without a compass, though you may not always like the direction it points.

Your father

 

 

 

 

 

 

By All Means, Judge Others

Dear Children,

To listen to those around us one would think that Jesus’ command to “judge not” was the most important thing He ever said, so important in fact that it supersedes common sense, wisdom, discernment, and most everything else He said. As a matter of fact, it’s so high on the importance scale that even the Pharisees agreed with him. They agreed for the same reason that all humanity agrees, because all of humanity sees itself as righteous, and it finds the idea of anyone challenging that notion offensive. And like the Pharisees, it wasn’t as if all don’t want to reserve the right to judge, but that we all want the right to be judged by no one.

The Pharisees were the priests. They were the men of God, the spiritual leaders. It was their job to be righteous and, apparently, they loved their jobs. They would signal their virtue by standing on corners and looking pathetic, and they would pray monotonous prayers loudly so that everyone could see them doing it, and hear what they prayed. They wore long robes and tassels that set them apart from everyone else and they enjoyed sitting in places of honor. And here was this Jesus fellow judging them, threatening to upset their honorable position in the community, and calling them out on their facade.

The Pharisees were also proud, and pride blinds. A Pharisee looked at the publican and thanked God that he wasn’t a sinner like that. Someone looks at the murderer and feels righteous because he’s not like that. The one who says “judge not” looks at the judger and is glad he’s not like that, except this one feels righteous twice. First, because he pretends to not notice the sin in anyone else’s life, and again because he has insulated himself against anyone noticing the sin in his own life. Rather than face the dual realities of his and his fellow Man’s sin he ignores them both and feels superior for doing it. Rather than to desire to help his brother with the splinter in his eye his greater desire is to have others ignore the plank in his own eye.

On the surface, Jesus’ command to not judge creates two dichotomies. The first is setting plain good sense against Jesus’ command. The murderer, for example, is not immune to the murderer. When a stranger wearing a hoodie knocks on Bob-the-murderer’s door at 3 AM, Bob is no more likely to invite him into his home than the stranger knocking on the door would his, unless, of course, he exercised poor judgment. The second is setting the Bible against itself. Paul actually commands us to judge our brothers in Christ. That leaves us with only two viable options. One is to discard the Bible as untrustworthy because it is self-contradictory and so can’t possibly be the “Word of God.” The other is to read Jesus’ command to not judge in its context.

It’s only reasonable to think that Man doesn’t want to be judged. We can all empathize with each other on this. Jesus agreed. He said that men loved the darkness rather than the light because they didn’t want their deeds to be exposed. Jesus is speaking here of our normal and natural dispositions. It only follows then that the Man who doesn’t want his deeds to be exposed would have an affinity toward the command to not judge, because what is judging if not the act of someone else noticing something that we’d much prefer to not be put under the light? We, like the Pharisees, want to continue in our facade of righteousness with our evil deeds hidden in the dark. We can be proud, like the Pharisees. We can be righteous, like the Pharisees. We can be upstanding members of the community, like the Pharisees.  And we can deceive ourselves into thinking that our sin is hidden from our fellow man’s sight, just like the Pharisees. The only difference then, between the modern-day us and the modern-day Pharisees is that we have made a compact with our fellow man: You don’t judge me and I won’t judge you; I’m okay, you’re okay… okay?

The goal of this compact is peace. I can have peace with my fellow man, or I can have peace with God, but I can’t have peace with both. God forces us into a choice. We can create a faux peace with our fellow man through a covenant of proud blindness by agreeing to hide ourselves and each other from God’s law. Or we can find true peace with God through a covenant of grace where God agrees to hide us in the cleft of the rock, His Son.

At the root of the present exaltation of this one command to “judge not” is pride. A man does not suffer well the perception that another might think himself morally superior. And at the same time, a man likes to be thought of as morally superior. He likes to be praised for being a good person, saying good things, and doing good stuff. When he serves the poor he wants those cell-phone cameras rolling. He champions the causes that get him the most praises on Facebook. He sees himself as a good person because he doesn’t judge others and he judges harshly anyone who breaks the compact. Just don’t make a pass at his wife or burn his house down. (1) Jesus, on the other hand, was crucified. He gave up His peace with God and Man both on our behalf.

With this disposition, one has a difficult time cutting through all the pride and getting to the point that Jesus was making. To say, “Hey brother, I think that you might have something in your eye” is translated in a world where calling a thing a sin is taboo as, “Hey hypocrite, you’re a rotten human being and I’m not, because I’m righteous and you’re not.” Even to think that something might be a sin, or even to give someone a reason to think that you might have thought it, is not only the same thing as thinking of them as being morally inferior, but it’s also the same thing as thinking yourself as morally superior. And to do such a thing as that, dear children, is an assault on Man’s pride. (2)

There currently exists an entire movement based on fighting back against this sort of “judgmentalism” in the name of pride, and because of pride this movement has succeeded in hamstringing and confusing many in the Church. Its message is that, even though we commit this particular sin, we are not morally inferior. We are, in fact, proud of or our behavior, and anyone who thinks otherwise can take our place in the dock. Lost in all of this pride are the specks and logs in our eyes along with the chance that they might be removed. We become like the Pharisees and are unaware of the pits all around, and worse than that, we are unaware that we are unaware. We’re not worried about falling into a pit as much as we are about falling out of our facade. We seek moral equality by insisting that equality of all morals is itself moral, with the only exception being a suggestion otherwise.

As a Christian, humility ought to reign in our hearts and minds. Assuming the best in others, and realizing the truth in ourselves, ought to make humility the only option available. No man has any reason to be proud. According to Jesus, not one of us is not condemned, and not one of us can do anything about that fact. The only realistic response to our fellow man’s judgment, therefore, ought to be, “You don’t know the half of it.” Pride does nothing to get us closer to the end that Jesus was pointing to of removing logs, specks and everything in between. We’re all inferior before God. Building other believers up ought to be one of the marks of Christianity. Who in God’s name loves his brother and yet is satisfied to see him in sin?

The world, on the other hand, is different. It, by its very nature, suppresses the truth. So it only stands to reason that anything that reminds it of what it is suppressing will become its enemy. The question is raised then, what is this truth that the world is suppressing?

Jesus referred to himself metaphorically as a light, and He said that men hated it. He also said that His followers would be the light of the world and that this world would hate His followers also. That the world suppresses the truth and hates the light go hand in hand in the same way that law and judgment go hand in hand. A person is judged innocent because he has not run afoul of the law. He is guilty, on the other hand, if he has. His innocence or guilt has nothing to do with the judge and everything to do with his action set under the light of the law. It is the law then that exposes our deeds as good or evil.

So to get to the answer to the question concerning what the truth is that this world is so eager to suppress, we should start by asking an altogether different question regarding what it is exactly that determines what is evil.  That question is, “Who writes the law?” Because whoever writes the law is the same entity that gets to determine who and what is righteous or unrighteous. This world would beg to differ. It would claim that law is not capable of making anyone evil or righteous. It will tell you that you cannot legislate righteousness. It would point instead to empathy, personal feelings, not harming each other, what’s best for the community, being non-judgmental and accepting, and to emotions in its appeal to determine how evil is defined. Then it will base its laws on these things. It’s a reality that there’s no getting around. A mother feels that the law should give her a choice on whether her unborn child should live or die, for example. Killing her child will definitely cause it harm. So killing preborn children is, according to this appeal, evil and ought to be against the law. But it’s not. God’s law says do not murder and Man’s law says have at it in this case, so God’s law must be suppressed lest it inform us that our deeds are evil. There really isn’t anything new here. Wars are fought over who writes the laws of a land.

But what might be new is the extent to which Christians are now assisting in suppressing the truth. The book of Revelation speaks of “the accuser of the brethren.” One of the accusations that continues day and night is that the Church is judgemental. But what is the Church to do?  It is God’s law that judges this world in the same way that it is Man’s law that judges the Church. It’s not a matter of whether judgments are happening or not, the matter is, on who’s law will the judgments be based? The best course for Christianity then is the same course that it has always been. Ignore the accuser and listen to God, not the other way around.

The accuser’s promises are lies. The more we listen to him the worse things get. He appeals to our natural desire to re-enter Eden on our own terms. In his Utopian paradise, there won’t be any judging because there won’t be any morality, and there won’t be any morality because there won’t be any supposed law by which to judge. We’ll all have the same amount of booty, the same amount of power, and the same amount of righteousness. It’s warmed over Marxism applied to morality. (3) But getting there is the problem. It will require harsh judgments in the meantime against the inequalities of resources, control, and virtue. It’s the hypocrisy of the Pharisees all over again except that Jesus said of His Pharisees, do as they say, not as they do. With the modern Pharisee, you’d be better advised to do as they do and not as they say when it comes to judging.

As it concerns who it is acceptable in the eyes of modern man for the Pharisee to judge, the church-goer gets special consideration, especially if it’s a conservative church that he goes to. He gets special consideration because he considers God’s law special. And considering God’s law special has the effect of pushing above the surface what this world wants to be pushed under the surface. And it’s trying to hold it under the surface because it doesn’t like the evil that God’s law exposes. When Man’s evil deeds are exposed by the law he feels morally inferior, he feels judged, and at the same time he despises and hates those who have dared to shed light on the law that is causing these negative vibes.

Most of modern American evangelicalism has succumbed to the accuser. It has set out to prove that we Christians are not, after all, judgemental. To accomplish this goal it had to join forces with this world in its suppression of God’s law. It suppressed it by downplaying it, ignoring it, reinterpreting it or rejecting it outright. It focuses instead on helping the poor, which is the new gospel. The homeless man has usurped the sinner in this gospel because giving someone else’s resources away to the poor soul in need is much easier than revealing to the spiritually-impoverished wretch that they have a need for a savior from the wrath of God, who judges righteously, and who will judge. Having dispensed with God’s law, and so His wrath, a one-sided God is all that remains, a God who only loves and who never judges, because everyone wants to be loved and nobody wants to be judged. This God doesn’t care how much of a mess living according to Man’s law makes of people’s lives. Jesus is sold as a loving Jesus who doesn’t want anyone to feel judged or morally inferior either, even though He warned often of a final judgment and set the bar for morality far higher than it already was. Christians were as sinful as most of the world all along, but now, not only are we sinful, we have suppressed the law that would have been the schoolmaster teaching us how to live, how wonderful mercy and grace are, and how to restrain evil in a rotten world. In short, we have nothing to offer the world except virtue-signaling, hand-outs and a one-sided view of a God who only loves, but has nothing to say about the life we live, nor bothers to warn us of the judgment that He has promised is to come, nor how to escape it. We are all, after all, loved as we are. Why change? And even if He did have something to say about sin, we’re not about to tell anybody because we know how it feels to feel morally inferior, and we know that feelings of moral inferiority are not happy feelings.

Dear children, please don’t buy into the God of your zeitgeist. It’s not only okay to judge, but wisdom would dictate that you make proper judgments, starting with yourself. Compassion and love for your fellow Man would also demand it. Simply keep in mind that the goal is not to crush, or to see yourself more highly than you ought to, but rather to help and be helped in the process of sanctification and transformation from the rudiments of your world to a new mind in Christ. I pray for you in your gaining of wisdom, knowledge and understanding. I pray that you would love grace, have compassion, and would be courageous in truth.

Your father

Notes:

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1— In the ’90s an arsonist started one of those massive, California forest-fires that burned down a lot of houses. The front page of a USA Today on one particular morning had a picture of a woman standing in front of the smoking ruins of her house. Reading the story I learned that the woman had always been against the death penalty, but now she had changed her mind about the whole affair because she thought the person who did this deserved to die. In my admitted judgment of her, I remember thinking that for her the idea of the death penalty must have been an abstract thing. It wasn’t real. It was just an idea on which she could take shet seh thought was a virtuous stand. She had more empathy with the murderer than the murdered. That is, after all, why people get the death penalty. They don’t get it for setting forest fires, even if they happen to burn someone’s mansion to the ground, not even if someone’s mom was burned to death in the process. In fact, you’ve got to do something exceedingly rotten in our day to warrant that kind of punishment.

It struck me that this woman was more offended by the loss of her house than she was the horrible deaths of other people’s mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and so on. But the idea of evil had now transformed from the abstract to reality. Having been slapped across the face with a dose of reality she was ready to discard her non-judgmental attitude concerning the murdering of her fellow human beings and was ready to string someone up for causing her house to be burned down. The harsh realities of her existence brought her closer to God’s law and took her further from Man’s corrupt idealism in that the reality of evil had come home to roost in her living room… and now her living room was no more.

2—More times than I can count I’ve made mistakes driving that impacted my fellow drivers. Not always, but still more times than I can count, my fellow drivers have looked at me and shaken their heads like I was the worst sort of moron. But being judged by my fellow drivers is, of course, a two-way street. One way is my propensity to look down on others when they do something that gives me a reason to think they’re stupid. Another is feeling stupid in front of others when I’ve demonstrated that I’m not beyond being moronic myself. When I’m on the receiving end it’s a sort of double hit to my pride: once by my own suspicions that I might actually be a moron, and again by the glares of my fellow man who don’t bother to even suspect.

We find ourselves on both sides of this coin at different times. We know what we think of others and when we suspect that they’re thinking the same of us we are highly offended, and our pride bursts forth. But Jesus said to judge not lest you be judged in the same manner. I’ve always thought that our judgment of others has a way of coming back to haunt us in our own heads. When we judge others harshly, we assume that others are judging us in the same way. When we think someone is a moron for paying that much for a particular car, we fear others might think the same about us when we buy a car, so we make sure to not tell anyone what we paid for it… unless we’re sure we got a steal of a deal; in that case we brag about it and the guy who sold it to us makes sure not to tell anyone what he sold it for.

Rather than my perception of another’s reactions to my failures being a mirror image of my potential reaction to theirs, I believe that Jesus is teaching us here that it is their failures that ought to be a reflection of my own. When you see someone else fail, your first question ought to be, how do I fail in the same way? This is taking the log out of your own eye, giving you empathy with your fellow sinner, and helping you to help him out of his sin, and perhaps vice versa. It is for this reason that I believe that those who are constantly prone to feel like they’re being judged have a bad habit of being judgmental. But I am prone to judging also, so I understand their plight and desire only to help them grow out of their constant feelings of others judging them, and into the reality that, in Christ, we don’t have to live that way.

Grace gives us the ability to beat the accuser to the punch and agree with him before he accuses, whether the accuser be the devil, or our fellow man speaking in his stead. Paul said that he was the worst of sinners, and I tell you the same thing about me. I know who I am better than anyone else ever could, and I’m telling you that if one hour of my thought life was broadcast for all to hear it would remove any doubt in anyone’s mind about my being a chief. This has allowed me to not ever feel judged, which is not to say that I don’t think people notice when I’m being a rotten human being or a moron, or that when they notice, that they’re experiencing feelings of moral superiority, or that they think I’m morally inferior. On the latter, I can only assume they’re right anyway, at least at the moment. By faith in Jesus, I feel as though I am no longer under condemnation by God, whose judgment is all that matters anyway, and which has already been passed, and which has already been paid for. If anyone else judges me my response to them in my heart is, you say or think these things without really knowing me. If you really did know me you would know how wrong you really are, and that I’m way worse than you suspect.

3—We were watching Mission Impossible the other night and I heard Rollin Hand indignantly ask a prison warden, “You’re still flogging? In this day and age?” The scriptwriters based these lines on the premise that progress is constantly moving us forward toward a better world and that morality is in a constant state of change, and that that change is always for the better. Similarly, I had a co-worker once going on about how evil our CEO was because he didn’t pay all his employees what they thought they deserved. I mentioned in response that at least he wasn’t putting us into chambers and gassing us. Realizing that I was referring to Hitler, she was incensed and insisted that humanity had evolved since then. I can remember thinking that that was a lot of evolution for only a half-century, and if that was actually true, she shouldn’t have to wait all that long for her raise.

This mindset goes by the name of progressivism. As odd as it may sound, this view is based on Darwin’s view of Man’s origins. It takes the evolutionary model and applies it to morality and civil society. It sees morality as not being based on anything absolute but rather on evolving mores. On matters of importance, for another example, no president ever says things off the cuff. (…at least not before 2016. More evolution?)  So when then president Obama informed the nation that he was changing his mind on a position that he had supposedly previously held, he framed it in evolutionary terms. His statement to the nation was that his view on so-called homosexual marriage had “evolved.” By giving us the theory of biological evolution Darwin gave us much more than an alternative to God and especially His law. He has also given Man a rubric by which he can view himself and morality in the context of time and change.

In addition to Darwin, Karl Marx’s economic views were also borrowed and applied to morality. This application is what you might call cultural-marxism. Marx had a huge problem with wealth disparity and sought to get rid of it by forcing all people to have the same amount of material stuff.

To understand cultural Marxism, just insert morality into his narrative in place of wealth. Out the other end will come multi-culturalism, political correctness, so-called diversity, inclusion and yes, non-judgmentalism, all of which are based on the idea that morality is relative to the individual and as such is equal. No one’s morality is supposed to be better than another’s and no culture is supposed to be better than another, and the emperor’s clothes are supposed to be invisible, and you dare not differ in opinion on these matters. To make it all happen, and to progress us toward our for-sure coming Utopia, an all-powerful government, of course, must be enlisted to force everyone into compliance with this new equality of morals. I’m fairly certain that you’ll see people put into prison during your lifetime for persisting that all morality is actually not equal. Now, if you find it odd that the idea of amorality would require a big government to enforce, you will actually be one of the few who does. You can thank the government’s schoolhouse that you are one of those few, and homeschooling that you’re not one of the many.

 

 

 

 

The Evil Of Thoughtlessness

Dear children,

Some years ago I called a talk-radio station and asked the host what right America had to attack Germany and kill Germans? My question was based on a belief he had that no nation, religion or person had a right to impose their or his moral views on another. Not that I agreed with the premise of my question, I had simply based it on his assertions. Personally, I’m glad the allies killed Germans. I, like many–though a shrinking number–of others, understand that there is such a thing as evil, that the restraint of it that law accomplishes is necessarily an imposition of morality, that it exists regardless of whether or not I agree with its evilness, that it exists independent of my definition or awareness of it, and that it is just as capable of indwelling me as it is a German under the false assumption that it’s not evil at all but good. But this host was talking out of both sides of his mouth. He was against moral absolutes on the one hand and accusing President Bush of being the next Hitler on the other. But accusing Bush of being the next Hitler was just a typical smokescreen to hide what he was really saying, which was that Bush was wrong because he, like Hitler, was violating the host’s own personal preferences.

So I put in a call thinking that I might hold his contradictory positions up to the light of each other and see how they fared. That there are insurmountable challenges in defending the notion that it’s wrong to judge someone based on one’s own personal morality while at the same time judging someone based on one’s own personal morality seemed to occur to the host shortly after he took my call, and just before he hung up on me.

There is a thing called Godwin’s law that says the longer a discussion goes on the more likely it will be that someone or some action will be compared to Hitler. I have long held that Adolf Hitler has ceased to be just another of those typical intersections in history where the path of a human being especially industrious in the arts of rottenness happened to cross the path of power. What sets him apart in this day from the other monsters of his time is that his name is recognizable in a world where precious few are interested in knowing anything about history beyond what the rich, beautiful, girl-clan, pop-culture icon did last week. Hitler’s name is recognizable when his mid-century, monster contemporaries, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, and Pol Pot are not.

Your own contemporaries know who Adolf Hitler is for the same reason that they know who the pop-culture icon-girls are. It’s the effect of the moving picture overlain with emotional music that is the motion picture, or television, or in its rawer form, the Youtube video. One could learn about Pol Pot if he had a mind to, but he’d have to endure the drudgery of thinking that reading about him would require. Or, instead, by one click he could sit back and let the various forms of motion media feed him Hitler. But watching and feeling doesn’t hold a candle to reading and thinking when it comes to growing your wisdom, understanding, and intellect. The word, Hitler, is no longer a name as much as it is a replacement for the word evil which moral relativism has destroyed. It is a name otherwise shrouded in ignorance. The context of his rise to power, the philosophies that paved the way for it, and the thoughtlessness upon which it was carried along by the masses are largely absent from the word Hitler. This is a testament to the power of the medium of the motion picture with emotional music, which is not, by the way, a medium made for the age in which you live but the age in which you live was made from the medium. Your only escape from playing your own dutiful part in propagating evil is to be conscious of evil’s existence, not so much in others where it’s easiest to spot, but in yourself where you have prepared a place for it to set up housekeeping unharassed.

After being sent packing from the radio show I changed stations. But I did go back later for a quick listen. They were still talking about me and were referring to me as the Hitlerite. Why? Because I was evil, and the word Hitler was the only means they had of conveying their emotions on the matter without having to commit the sin of imposing their own subjective moraity on me.

In 1962 The New Yorker magazine sent Hannah Arendt, herself a refugee who escaped Hitler’s Germany, to Jerusalem to report on Adolf Eichmann’s crimes-against-humanity trial. Eichmann was one of Hitler’s concentration camp administrators who had escaped to Argentina after the war and was there found and brought to Israel. Her report was titled, Eichmann in Jerusalem, A report on the banality of evil, a title that would start a firestorm in the media with her at the center. Her crime? Her description of a man who had perpetrated untold evil in none-evil terms. We like our monsters ugly, noticeable and disparate from the norm. In short, we like them to be not-us, and more specifically, not-me, and if anyone, even a German Jew who herself had to flee Nazi Germany tries to tell us different, then she must be a monster too.

But Arendt, like many others who were confronted with the reality that Hitler’s monsters didn’t act like monsters, nor did they look like monsters, was not only confounded, she was honest with herself about it. These monsters were mere human beings who had every appearance, in a setting far removed from the Nazi uniforms and gas-chambers, of being just another average soul. A court-appointed psychiatrist who examined Eichmann likewise found him to be a “completely normal man, more normal, at any rate, than I [was] after examining him.” Those who looked evil eye to eye didn’t see evil, what they saw was a human, and it terrified them, and it should have.

Arendt, for her part, saw past the monsterness of his actions and indicted him on a more fundamental and portentous crime. She didn’t see his greatest offense being the mass-murder of Jews as much as she saw it as his utter thoughtlessness on the matter:

…in his final statement to the court he spoke of the “revaluation of values prescribed by the [Nazi] government.” He was not stupid. It was sheer thoughtlessness–something by no means identical with stupidity–that predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of that period.

The challenge that humanity faces is not so much the thwarting of the evil that it detects but detecting it. And it is not so much humanity detecting evil in humanity as it is the human detecting it in the mirror. And the human can’t detect it in the mirror unless he has, in the first place, a clue as to what he’s looking for and in the second, the honesty to see it where he would least expect to, and where he is most predisposed not to. And to do all of this he needs a definition made of words that mean things and which describe a standard that transcends the self, the place, and the time. Evil needs to be definable with words that cut inward as well as outward. In short, it needs a definition based on objective absolutes which are more often than not at odds with inner feelings.

To Ferret out evil requires thoughtfulness which leads to examination and inquiry, not only outwardly into those we have painted as monsters, but also inwardly into the one we have painted as a saint. When we assume the best concerning ourselves, and the worst concerning our monsters, we are ripe for the plucking. And the reflexive act of our repulsion at the very notion that evil is not a problem on the outside of humanity seeking entrance but rather that it lurks within our own hearts seeking enterprise, affirms that we are in no position to detect it, much less thwart it.

Throwing the word Hitler around like it’s the final say on a matter is lazy, careless, and reckless. It is the fallback philosophy of slackers and ne’er-do-wells built on nothing less then than epic self-righteousness that just assumes, based on an unreasonable and inflated view of the self, that we’re too good to be evil. Hindsight is mistaken for righteousness while the evils of the present abound all around. Our descendants will laugh at our self-righteousness louder than we laughed at our ancestor’s evil because, if they are thoughtful, they’ll know that there was never an ounce of difference.

Thoughtfulness is the starting point for fighting one’s way clear of the tyranny of the normal, the present, the assumptions, the peers, the prejudices, and the emotions. Thoughtfulness considers an argument and is compelled to refute it, explore other options, or to be persuaded. Thoughtlessness contrarily dismisses an argument with an accusation that the one making it is morally flawed a racist, or homophobic, or any number of other names chosen from an ever-growing list. A woman will walk into a clinic to have her unborn baby put to death and be satisfied, like Eichmann, that her actions were moral because they were legal and then she’ll judge as evil anyone who says that she murdered her child. Thoughtlessness never even considers the possibility that evil might reside within the self. Emotions won’t let it. And not being able to see the evil that resides within forces one to look for it out there somewhere, like in the Jews if you were Eichmann, or the capitalists if you were Pol Pot.

In the age in which you will be living, if you’re a thoughtful person, if you ask questions, if you seek answers, if you’re willing to be honest with yourself, and if you’re willing to, as they say, call a spade a spade, you will be dismissed by the thoughtless with a label that was fed to them by an equally thoughtless culture, so don’t be surprised when it happens. It’s a self-defense mechanism designed to allow the name caller to acquit himself while indicting you. Evil will shout down everything contrary while providing a warm, cozy place for itself to incubate. It will counter a thoughtful, well-reasoned argument with a mind-numb chant. It will inlist the magistrate to outlaw opposing views in the name of freedom. It will enlist the court to decree what the majority rejects and declare it democracy in action, and it will actually believe its declaration. In short, evil will be thoughtless. Don’t you be.

Your father

Binary Thinking

Dear children,

The urban dictionary — a “dictionary” that defines idioms and phrases that are particular to our age and place — says that binary thinking is considered to be, “unintelligent and unimaginative.” I was once having a discussion once with a fellow worker who defended the courts ruling to starve a poor woman named Terri Schiavo to death because she was in a vegetative state. Because I was against this barbaric thing won me the judgment that I saw the world in black-white terms. I reckoned that he missed-judged me a little. I understand that some things are gray. I also understand that the grayness is due to our ignorance of a black and white reality, and such is no place to find cover for our actions. The idea that an area is considered to be gray gave me no consolation in the fact that we’re all happy to starve a defenseless soul to death simply because she was a defenseless soul. How gray does murder have to be painted for any one individual to make peace with it and call it good and righteous?

Those who control what we see on lighted screens don’t like the fact that they live in a binary world so they pretend it doesn’t exist and set about creating a new reality. This is done through a two-pronged approach. First, all the lighted screens you look at will present a world to you that pretends that the world that they wish existed always has since the beginning of time, and second, anyone with a memory is lampooned and accused of being short on brains and morality. The new morality molders will yell like a Baptist preacher that there is no real right and wrong, nor boys and girls either for that matter, but instead there are only shades of gray, and that we, as evolved pond-scum, can’t really know the difference.

Solomon told us that there is nothing new under the sun, and I’m sure that there’s nothing new about this either. Jesus said that men hated the light because it exposed their evil deeds, so this is just another way of dousing the light, preferring instead to live in a gray world where, not only are our evil deeds hidden, men can make up their own good and evil and then shine their own lighted screens all over it.

Though the goal is a good one according to those who set such goals, that doesn’t really matter very much because to claim that there are shades of gray is to claim that we can wade into evil just enough to keep from getting our belt-buckles blackened by it and still qualify as being a good and decent human being. Such anti-binary thinking, for example, can convince some poor confused soul that his confusion over his gender is not confusion at all but rather a shade of gender gray, and in so doing the convincer can rid himself of the misery of thinking about such things by declaring that the confused soul isn’t in misery at all, and at the same time present himself to the rest of the world as a more righteous human being for having done so. That’s just one example. There are hordes more.

Those who would espouse the sort of emotion-based philosophy on life that undergirds contemporary compassion are vocal about their rejection of binary thinking even though their own so-called philosophy is binary. And if they actually thought about it, or even perhaps evaluated their endeavor enough to see if they should keep endeavoring toward their good end, they’d see that their compassion is not compassion at all but rather evil with a shiny belt buckle. But when you’re starting point is the baseless assumption that you can’t be wrong because you feel so right, then any evidence to the contrary must be ignored. It feels good, for example, to send someone else’s money to help the poor. It feels even better to not judge the poor if they spend it on booze and cable TV.

But the thinking man says, not so fast. It’s one thing to empty your pockets out of compassion for your fellow man. You can do that sort of thing and keep the souls of your shoes as clean as your belt… if you’re so inclined. But it’s another thing altogether to employ another agency, say a big government and its sword, to steal your neighbor’s possessions and give them to the poor while holding tightly to your own, all in the name of compassion of course. Such deeds conveniently obscure evil in the fog of gray and is compassionate only in the heads of the thoughtless. The philosophy of those who are warriors for this brand of compassion is based on emotion and as such is no philosophy at all. It does not love wisdom but rather hates it. It prefers good thoughtless feelings over hard thinking about reality. It has peered out from the comfort of its emotions and has reeled back from what it has seen. It has closed its eyes and mind and all its thinking has been relegated to la la la la … I can’t hear you.

Don’t let this be you. This world is an evil place. It always has been and it always will be. It is smothered by darkness. That is the harsh reality within which you will have to eke out your existence, all the while knowing that you must fight this evil with the knowledge that, not only can you not win but also that you won’t win, at least not in your day. But there are islands of happiness to be found and there’s still beauty to be enjoyed. But the beauty and happiness are in spite of the ugliness and sadness. You establish one in the midst of the other. And here we find one of the many thoughtless contradictions to those who hide in the forts constructed of nothing more than fog-gray emotion. For them, this world is a binary proposition of all or nothing. If there is a man anywhere on the planet to be found without a house to live in, and who is hungry, or who has been slighted in the least by anyone, especially if that one has the ability to understand his existence in certain binary terms, and regardless of the wisdom the poor slighted soul had to willfully forego to arrive at that station, then beauty and happiness is an impossible thing. For self-righteous goodness’ sake, the war-path is the more righteous path to take. And it is that path that paves the way for wading into evil for the good of all. And the deeper they wade, the deeper they need to wade for the good of all because evil does no one any good at all, but only brings more hell on earth to be on the warpath against.

God created us to worship and live for him. He is our cause. And it is the worshipping and living for him that not only defines happiness and beauty, it also creates it. Once we reject God, and his order, we will find another sad and ugly thing to worship and live for. We can’t not do that. So it’s not a matter of if you will serve and worship something, it’s only a matter of if what you serve and worship will bring about good or evil. God gives us himself as a reference point. But man prefers himself as a reference point. And oriented to himself, good is turned on its head so that when Man sets out to do evil, he thinks he’s doing good, and he suppresses his knowledge of this by hiding in his own gray fog.

It is my belief, therefore, that most of the evil in this world is not brought to us by masses of people who are setting it as their goal to bring more evil into the world. I say this knowing that the thoughtful person will be provoked by such a statement. He will have to wonder about all that gory bloodletting as recently as the last century, and consider whether or not those at the top who tugged it along, as well as the complicit masses, realized that their very actions were bringing about evil, or whether they were confident that beyond all that dark gray into which they had set their course could be found some bright white. I would argue that Adolf Hitler, our modern-day supplanter of Satan as a reference point for the very notion of evil, had as his goal a better world. In other words, he was not being evil for evil’s sake, he was being evil for goodness’ sake. And like the modern day warriors for good, he was sure that there was going to be some lighter gray beyond all that black. There would be a new world order, an order in which he would bring about the authority of Fredrick Neitcies’s “superior man,” an order wherein that that same superior man would emerge from the violence to be a benevolent dictator for a thousand years. Why and How? By shaking free from God’s eternal reign in favor of righteous Man’s reign, a near perfect world with perfection being defined by those with the might to decree its definition. In the end and in retrospect, even the most God-hating must admit that it was pure evil, even though, much to their chagrin and denial, they would have been prime candidates to hop on board with the “greater good” had they been alive in that day. As they say, hindsight is 20-20.

Taking a prideful stand against the evils of others who did not have the advantage of seeing their own lives from the perspective of another time and place does not render one righteous enough to discern the whitewashed evils with which one is faced in the present. There are a million ways to be evil, but being good requires a reference point beyond the self. In this way, no one in the present should see himself as morally superior to those who were deceived into carrying the water for evil in the past, and the worst thing we can do is to think that we are morally superior based on other human beings who were immersed in their own day and were being pushed along by the flow of the society around them. Like those who failed in history, we will fail also when we reject the existence of objective truth. Lost people in a lost world will keep stumbling into evil, all the while filled to the brim with self-righteous pride that they are better than the others before them who stumbled into evil. It is bad binary thinking to assume that we are not lost because we are not with those who we think are. We can only not be lost because we know where we are. And the only way to know where we are is to have a reference point that exists outside of ourselves, and by which we can establish our position. Your best bet in going with what is good, therefore, is to go against the flow, to be the underdog, to endure the hatred of the masses if they really knew what you thought on a given matter.

Some want to do evil I suppose, but I would not suppose it’s very many. And I don’t suppose that you have as your aim to be evil. On the contrary, I suppose that you want to do good, both for yourself and others. I suppose you want to carve out a little happiness and beauty during your short lives. Well, to do that, you’ll want to begin by coming to terms with the reality within which you exist which will require the toil of thinking. And as you toil away at exercising your brains you will discover a few truths, such as the fact that humanity is not predisposed to good, and, therefore, when it uses itself as a reference point for good you can bet Hell is on its way.

Second, because humanity is not basically good, evil will be a permanent feature around you, a feature that you must do battle with, but a permanent feature all the same. It’s like death I would reckon. We know we’re going to die one day, yet we live rather than simply declare, what the hell, and get done with it, seeing no point in life because of death. You fight for your own house and life, and in changing your own house and life, you change the neighborhood for true good.

Third, because all things, whether they be individuals, families, churches, municipalities or states, will be laced with evil, they will never be truly pure. But it’s one thing to be laced with evil, and another thing to, for goodness’ sake, reject the good because it is laced with evil and favor instead evil that is whitewashed with good in the fool-hearty attempt to abolish evil. You can cherrypick anything, and see only the evil within, and as such declare it impure and then do your best to destroy it. If you hop on that band-wagon, you’ll not only erase happiness and beauty for yourself, you’ll probably also do a fairly decent job of erasing it for others who are doing their best to claim a little land for the sake of goodness.

Keeping these three realities in view will help you live in reality. It will also allow you to get past the sin of Man and enjoy just a little bit of beauty and happiness during your short stay here.

Your father

On Writing

Dear children,

Like most people, I realize that I am the sum total of a lot of different parts. One of those parts wants more than anything to hang out with you guys. It thinks that that would be the best use of what little time I have. But my other parts get jealous. Another part wants to sit alone in a room and read, and another wants to create something with the hands dangling at the ends of two arms, and still another wants to write out a piece of wisdom for you to enjoy long after all the parts have been gathered and presented to eternity. As you might discern, all of these parts are in constant competition and I, as the agency in charge, must supervise them like a good manager at the Waffle House night shift. But instead of making waffles, my team must make something else entirely. It must make me: husband, father, friend, pilot, provider, protector etc.

The part of me that likes to read has read one and a half of G. K. Chesterton’s books. The half-read one was a novel by the name of, The Man Who Was Thursday, which I found to be boring. .The book I completed was Orthodoxy. It, on the other hand, was quite the challenge. In my opinion, Chesterton’s field of eloquence was in discussing complex ideas and not so much in telling stories. Orthodoxy is a smaller book, as those sorts of books go, but it’s difficult to unpack. Still, I judged that it was worth my while to grapple with every line. And having taken the time to do all that grappling, I also discovered that there could be a sort of art to grappling with Chesterton, and so having developed an entry-level, amateur grappler-of-Chesterton inside of me by the time I had finished, I turned immediately to the beginning to see if I couldn’t make better sense of the first few chapters. I ended up reading the entire thing again. It was, in retrospect, a profitable endeavor.

But having invested the time I did there, I also found another nugget that stood out in that particular book. It was not in the actual writings of Chesterton’s but instead in the forward.  I thought it to be equally as profound as Chesterton’s own writing. The fellow who wrote this forward was an author by trade also I presume. Drawing from my memory, the part that struck me most went something like this: “I learned at some point that Chesterton did not write his books per-se, but that he dictated them to his secretary, and that what he dictated was printed with very little editing.” The writer went on to say: “When I learned this, I was too depressed to write for weeks.”

After reading Chesterton I related with this author’s sentiment, though I was not depressed for weeks. I’m still depressed. The thought that a man could dictate his complex thoughts, and juggle all the ideas that were required to dance around the main idea without resorting to pen and paper gives us insight into the genius of Chesterton. But it doesn’t take the genius of Chesterton to put me in a funk. I can read a no-name blog and fall in love with the way the writer paints his thoughts on my mind using nothing more than the brush of a computer keyboard, and get depressed.

All of this taught me something about a piece of knowledge that I had always deep-down known or suspected, but that I had never dredged up to inspect more closely. That knowledge is this: The evidence that someone is good at something is when they make it look easy when it isn’t. That piece of knowledge was probably kept in the depths for good reason, which is that it is so depressing. What is worse is when, not only do they make it look easy when it’s not, it actually is easier for them. After investing lots of time, energy and effort into a thing only to discover that you’ve only reached the starting point for some other soul is not encouraging, especially when you consider that you don’t have enough years of living left to press on in getting to the starting point of the talented.

So if you ever decide to climb a high, formidable mountain, and you invest effort, frustration, setbacks, tears, anger and time… lots of time, and then you finally pull your chin up just enough to see over the ledge onto that flat place at the top, and you see there a man sitting back having a cup of tea, almost uninterested in the fact that his natural habitat is the very place that you have scrapped and clawed to get to, you will have some clue as to what I feel like writing. I have this to say though, it has been worth it. Had I not experienced it, I would have no appreciation for God’s beauty displayed in his gifts of writing to some. Am I jealous? I’d be lying if I said that at least one of the parts that make up me was not. But in other ways I am blessed. I am convinced that the best of the best has a more difficult time appreciating what comes naturally to him in a particular field than the worst who aspires to be better, or even good, in the same field. And having no appreciation for one’s own talent, which I believe is the norm, is the reason that so many put their talents on a shelf, or forgo investing their time and effort into turning them into something beautiful.

There is a reason that textbooks cost a hundred dollars or more, and that they don’t tend to make a best-sellers list. They are cold, dry, and personalityless, and one must be forced to agree to be gouged in their purchase through motivations having nothing to do with the textbook’s charm as much as with college credit. They bear the beauty of the asphalt on the road that transverses the beautiful scenery of snow-covered mountains. But even that analogy falls short because there is beauty to be found in the talent that it takes to build a decent road on the side of a mountain. Yet, it is not the asphalt that demonstrates the beauty but the engineering upon which the asphalt lays. Textbooks serve only as a function by taking you places with ease that others had to brave the elements, dangers, and doubts to discover. But they are still just ugly asphalt that no one wants to buy and read for the mear joy of it. I say this because of my honest assessment that most of my writing is textbook-style writing. My chin has not even reached the top of the hill upon which sit a host of tea-sipping, no-name bloggers. But at least I can say that I appreciate their efforts, possibly even more than they do.

Orthodoxy could be called a textbook I suppose. It takes you through the mountainous, snow-capped terrain of ideas that resides in the depths of the thinking man’s soul. So we can know that it is possible to make textbooks enjoyable and beautiful, at least for the thoughtful. But it took a lot of talent to do it, and it’s a rare talent at that, and unfortunately, a talent that I don’t possess any more of than textbook writers. But I love trying. It’s one of the things that one of the pieces of me wants to do a lot of, to admire the beauty of the efforts of others and then to try my own hand at the same.

For the talented, I’m sure that a quiet place without distractions tugging at the mind is not a requirement. For me it is. I’m also sure that for the talented time is not an issue. Like Chesterton, they sit down and dictate through their fingers. For me, time is the major ingredient in any of my portraits. The older I get, and the further along I come with this hobby, the more I’m not even willing to try if I don’t have at my disposal this most necessary of ingredients. Along with this, I must be convinced that my efforts have merit. Age brings with it the recognition of the shortness of time. The rich man may blow most of his money on useless and wasteful enterprises and excursions, but after he has exhausted his wealth a little money becomes a lot more than it once was and he aims to make the best of what he has left. Such is time for the aged who managed to get a little wisdom in exchange for the years that were wasted.

All of this rambling is to give you some insight into your father’s relationship with his hobby of writing, which is a love-hate relationship. On the one hand, I can’t write and on the other I can’t not. In time I hope that you will suffer the same fate with reading your father’s ramblings.

Your father

Finding Love

 Dear daughter,

As a young lady, I know that your heart longs for the love of a young man. That is as normal and natural of a thing as could ever be because your God designed you in just that way. Leaving my care and putting yourself in the care of another is the way things are supposed to be.

It’s hard for you to imagine now, I’m sure, that there would ever be a time when living in my house is not your all-encompassing, experiential reference point for life. But, the fact is, your childhood will begin to fade now and your adult life will become the new normal. But have no fear, your childhood will remain with you for the rest of your life, and you will draw on your experiences there to help you understand your pilgrimage into the future. 

I would, however, like to point out something about your childhood that deserves a little thought, which is that much of it was out of our and your control. You really didn’t have a choice when it came to whom your parents would be, or where you would come to live out your childhood, or the gifts and liabilities with which you would be born. And, in many ways, your future life won’t allow for that many choices either. Yes, you will have the choice of whether or not to agree to marry a young man, but once you’ve made that choice the rest becomes life, much of which will simply seem to happen, and which you will have little or no control over. The pastor who married us told us that when we got married it would be like two rivers coming together, after which the rivers would become one. After the rivers become one, that single river must bend and twist between mountains, around rocks, and through the rapids as it makes its way to its final destination. Such will be your life as a married woman, just as it was for you as a child. Many will balk at this, such is Man’s hubris to think of himself as wiser than our Creator. The bottom line is that as far as it is up to you, let wisdom rule in your life. But also be aware that there is much that is not up to you.

I say these things under the heading of “finding love” because when we do find love we experience it in the present. The feelings that we feel are in the now and can they make being married to the worst of a human being seem almost romantic in that moment. They can make you confident that the two of you can deal with anything that comes your way with ease. They can make you willingly blind and cause you to turn away from anything that would threaten your present euphoria. In short, these feelings can be horribly deceptive. They become a valley of sorts which you must pass through, even though they won’t feel anything like a valley at the time. The hope is that the valley will give way to a love that is dependable and deep rather than to regrets. You can be sure of this though, those blissful feelings will ultimately prove to be made of paper and they won’t carry you through the storms.

Some might say that I’m being a dream-killer by telling you these things. But my goal here is to not feed a common deception that we wish were actually true, but rather that you would have realistic expectations in life and marriage. I can promise you that no matter who you marry you will have problems. So it’s not a matter of if you will have a fairytale marriage, but whether or not you and your husband will ultimately be able to bend, teach, learn, forgive, admonish, grow, and love in your marriage. The happy times are easy. Nothing is required of you in those. It’s the hard times that your husband and you must practice for… even now before you’ve even met him. But it’s these hard times that will grow and mature you, and drive your love deep so that it rests on a sure foundation as you are both actively fighting for your marriage.

It’s common in this age to think of love as a feeling, and while I suppose there could be a smidgen of truth to that notion, it’s also true that those feelings are fleeting. For many, as go the feelings so goes the marriage. Divorce is rampant. In your marriage, love will have to be a decision that you both make. You will have to make that decision yourself, and you will also have to be married to a man who understands how to make it. As you meet people in your life who are divorced and who have only rotten things to say about their former spouses, remember, no one forced them into their past marriage. They were most likely led and deceived by their feelings. A life of singleness is much better than a rotten marriage. Never forget that the best divorce is the marriage that never happened.

With all of this in mind, I’ll give you a few brief pointers on finding the love of your life, drawing from a very shallow well I must admit. It’s actually the things that I wish someone had told me when I was your age. 

First, by the longest stretch, is that you should pay no attention to the young man who does not express a deep love for God. He will not be able to love you in the right way if he has not loved God first. Also, as far as this is concerned, don’t be fooled. A young man can be convinced that he loves God because he has fallen for you and the fact that you love God. He will deceive himself first on this matter, and then you, all to get his bride. You should look, therefore, for a history of him loving God before you happened along.

Second, and closely related to the first, is a young man’s willingness to submit to authority. The lover of God will be a lover of His Word, which not only has authority over him but which will place other men in authority over him. The Godly husband will be a man of authority, under authority. And unless your suitor understands humble submission, he cannot understand gracious authority, and this ought to be a trait that you keep your eye peeled for. 

Third, when your ship moves into the fog of “love,” you lose your bearings. First, resist the fog. Look to your friends and parents to see things you cannot, and by all means, trust their words more than your own feelings. Ask for honest input, yes, demand it. You’ll know you’re being lied to if you’re told the young man has no problems for you to contemplate, for that would be impossible.

Fourth, the Bible tells us that we are wasting away. You will grow old, and his and your beauty will fade. There has got to be, therefore, something more than a mere attraction to beauty if your marriage is to be sustained.

Fifth, some may suggest that you take a look at how much money he may have, and determine whether he can afford to be married. I’d rather not so much take that advice because young people, as a rule, don’t have any money. I’d rather talk about work ethic. The working man will be able to take care of you, and you need to be confident that this young man will be able to provide for his family. But not only this, he must not love money so much that he is willing to sacrifice his family because of it. There are at least two ways to do that. One is to put money and status that are earned by work above family. The other is to force you into the workforce with children at home. This is a popular thing to do these days, and also a tragic thing to do. No amount of sheetrock and car brands is worth that sacrifice.

Sixth, you need to know that it can seem way worse than it actually is when you’re young and faced with watching the young man that you consider to be the best thing that has ever happened to you walk away. Always be willing to let that happen. If he wants to leave before marriage, marriage won’t fix him. You need to know that marriage in and of itself is not what holds two people together. Dragging your young prize across the finish line of matrimony is a bad plan. It would be much better to simply endure the heartache. 

When it comes to losing a love, or the seeming inability to find love, it will help if you’ll trust what I’m about to tell you. The most important thing I encourage you to do is to not get discouraged. No person is so great that everyone loves them. This means that even if you were the most lovable and sought-after woman on the planet, there would still be those out there who would not be attracted to you. Knowing this helps you to have understanding when someone doesn’t have feelings for you. Always remember that there are going to be those who will be attracted to you. And by “those” I mean more than one, a lot more actually, even though most of the time it won’t seem like it. I am confident you will meet a young man who will love you. You need to have that same confidence lest you cling to someone simply because they expressed an interest in you. My advice is to live your life, achieve goals, and enjoy the liberty of your singleness. There will be young men who will find you interesting and will approach you, and that takes us back to choices.

Seventh, when you marry a man, remember that you are, to some extent, marrying his family also. You can learn a lot about a person by their family. You can also learn even more about a young man by the friends he keeps. Birds of a feather flock together. looking at your young suitor’s friends can give you an unveiled glimpse into what he’s really like. If you find that you don’t trust or care for his friends, that ought to be a serious red flag.

Eighth, don’t date just to date. There’s no shame in the fact that you are looking for a husband. A woman once told me, upon me telling her that I wanted to get married, that she saw people like that as losers. I didn’t care. I wanted to get married. Dating for fun is a waste of time and can prolong your singleness because you are designed to become one with another person, not to hang out with them when it’s convenient. It will take you down a road that has no destination and will cost you precious time. You can become attached to someone that you could never marry, and there you’ll be, not able to go forward, but too attached to separate. I’ve heard it said about some people, “they had to get married just so they could get a divorce.” Don’t let this be you. 

Remember that we, as humans, are designed to be married. A half-century ago I wouldn’t have had to say this, but now it’s necessary. Man thinks he has found a better way by following his fleshy desires. But all he has really done is given himself over to slavery. Being who you were designed to be is but a piece of the puzzle in living a fulfilled life. Having said this, please don’t misunderstand me. You can be happy and fulfilled without marriage. But you can’t be happy and fulfilled in seeking the drug called affection for the sake of being happy and fulfilled. Singleness is much better than being married to a person who doesn’t Love God, and so cannot love you. It is also better than being married to a man who does love God even, but who is not gentle with you, and who does not Love you like Christ loves His Church.

I do pray for you that you would get everything you dream for. I’ve heard your dreams, and they are good ones. May God give them to you.

Your father

Beyond Eros

Dear son,

I didn’t have very many girlfriends in high school. I met one girl at the skating rink when I was fifteen. Her infatuation with me lasted for a couple of months before it shifted to one of my friends. Still, I have warm recollections of the feelings I felt when she was my “girlfriend”. It was magical, unlike anything I’d ever felt before. There was another girl that bears mention as well. It lasted for two weeks I think. I had dreams about her for years afterward. She was one of the most beautiful girls I can remember ever knowing, much less being able to call her “girlfriend” for a couple of weeks. I would learn a mere 7 years later while working at a gas station that beauty for some girls comes much easier at fifteen than at twenty-two.

And then there was a relationship with a girl right out of high school.  She was a couple of years older and was in college to boot, which really impressed me at the time. But, as it would turn out, it was only a summer fling for her, and a severely broken heart for me, the first one in fact of such magnitude. I still think of her occasionally.

A couple of years later I entered into a relationship that would last more than a few months. It would, in fact, last for a whole year… or thereabouts.  I experienced the same magical emotions that I’d had on those rare occasions before, but this girl didn’t fly away after a few weeks. She was a sophomore in high school and I was in the Air Force some three hundred and fifty miles away.  I would drive home almost every weekend to be with her.

That this relationship lasted a year brings me to the point of this letter. The experience allowed me a glimpse of life with a girl beyond infatuation. It would teach me a little about myself concerning what follows romantic love. Although I couldn’t have articulated it then, I now know that life is never static. You are always going somewhere which means that you will ever be in transition and process. No matter what you set your hand and mind to, there is a reason behind it, a goal so to speak, and a destination. Your relationships with girls will be no different than mine–or anyone else’s for that matter–as far as such things are concerned, so it would behoove you to understand this truth concerning intersex relationships as best as you can, and at as early of an age as you can. If you don’t know where you’re going you certainly won’t know how to get there. That was my challenge in life at the time. I didn’t know where I was going, and worse I didn’t know that I didn’t know. In many ways I still had the mind of a child. There were no tomorrows in my world, there were only the todays to live for. And when the “tomorrows” did impose themselves into my thinking, they brought fear and loathing.

Ten years later I would learn from the mother of another girlfriend that I was a “Peter Pan.” I had no idea what that meant then, but I learned much later that Peter Pan was a boy who didn’t want to grow up. So I now accept that this mom was dead-on accurate in her description of me. Her daughter would pay a high price for not listening to her advice to move on.

But back to the point of this letter. As it would turn out, that first year-long relationship would expose a deficiency in me beyond being a Peter Pan. I was deficient in that I was simply not capable of loving another human being. My experience in that relationship would become the pattern for all my relationships for many years to come. I would begin with a drug-like high on infatuation, then as the novelty wore off I would move on in search of that one girl who would be able to hold my interest. I did this as if I would forever be a young twenty-something-year-old man with millions of years to kill in my search for a non-existent thing. And worse, my unexamined assumptions of myself were so high that I just took it for granted that this perfect, golden-haired girl would have forsaken all other men in her wait for me. Such was my folly.

It’s amazing how we can learn things when we least expect it and even that we can learn things and not even realize that we did until years later. Early in the third decade of my life, this happened to me. I had a chance meeting with a fellow slightly older than myself.  He was a friend of my roommate and was also an outwardly devout Christian. I’ll never forget our conversation as he sat on his motorcycle in someone’s front yard–I don’t remember whose–on a warm summer’s day.  I can’t remember the entire conversation, but, as these sorts of conversations go, I do remember the one part that drove home a particular point. He was telling me about his own upcoming wedding and how his father didn’t approve of it. His Dad thought he should play the field longer, have experiences with different women, sow his wild oats as we put it back then. But here was the crux of it all; it was the point that would stick with me even to this day. He shook his head with sadness concerning his father’s desires for him and said, “You see, my father is not capable of loving anyone. He’s never been able to do that.” I didn’t know it then, and I would not know it until I could consider it in retrospect after Jesus filled my own heart, but I was suffering from the same thing. I could not love anyone; anyone that is except myself.

I also now know that this affliction was not common among many, if not most, of my peers. There were plenty of people then who understood and embraced the thoughts of a tomorrow.  They could look past the flaws in their fellow human beings as well as themselves. The looming chance that there would someday be a few extra midlife pounds on the object of their affection didn’t threaten their concept of happiness and love, nor did the possibility of the responsibility of children. On the contrary, it was a wonderful thing. The bottom line is that they were capable of loving someone beyond themselves. For me, that I wasn’t capable of this, was an important discovery. We can’t fight demons that we don’t even know are there.

Looking back, as that first year-long relationship lasted beyond a few months I grew weary. The “high” that I’d experienced in the beginning wore off and I began to seek a way out in order to search for it elsewhere. That is, after all, the life of a Peter Pan. This particular girl would go on to marry a fine young man who had direction and who was able to love her. I’ll never forget the two of them pulling into the gas station where I worked a few years later. I filled his tank with gas, checked the air in his tires, and washed his windshield as I peered through at the two of them sitting next to each other. It was an awkward moment for me, and perhaps her too, I have no way of knowing. But it served to drive home a point. They were out of high school and moving along with their lives together as a family, and I was, as far as it concerned relationships with women, still a high school boy looking for a golden girlfriend with no concept in my mind as to where such a thing would ultimately lead, or should ultimately lead.

Little did I know throughout those years, but I was taking part in a generational shift. Minds and attitudes toward marriage were changing. Everything was becoming more liberal. The children of the post World War II parents were being raised in prosperity never before experienced by the masses and the advent of television had begun to play an unforeseen role in influencing those masses. There was birth control which relieved women of the procreation responsibilities that had, until then, been part and parcel to sex. And if that didn’t work, abortion on demand became legal when I was still a child myself. Men and women began to abandon their wives, husbands, and children in increasing numbers. My own father, shortly after that first significant relationship abandoned the wife of his youth and set out to sow those oats he had so yearned to sow.  Love was sex and sex was love, and there was nothing beyond that to be experienced, to be sought, or to live for.

As for me, by my early thirties, such a view of my world had lowered me into an abyss of cynicism. I had obeyed the world with diligence. I had done all that it had said would make me happy. And yet I was not at all happy. I was miserable. Dating as a thirtysomething was like pretending that those dying embers from the high school bonfire were still ablaze and casting their light onto a romantic evening where everyone was still having a great time. But it was self-deception. There was no direction, no purpose, and everything had become increasingly meaningless. As I aged time was growing short. That I wouldn’t have eternity to get to wherever it was that some purpose would have demanded that I go was becoming glaringly clear. And there was a dread haunting me that I just might hit 40 as a single man. It was then that I met a woman who would change the course of my life for eternity. This woman was not your mother.

At that point in my life, my experience with church people hadn’t been completely positive, to say the least. Little did I know then, but the great apostasy that we are witnessing today was well underway. I can remember being out on a boat at the Lake in Nashville with some friends when, after I expressed my feelings of meaninglessness, the conversation turned to deeper issues. I’ll never forget one of the guys, who happened to be inebriated and who also happened to be living with his girlfriend at the time, telling me all about how Jesus was the answer. But I wasn’t buying it. His life was just like mine. Hopelessness and despair marked them both. This was a fairly common thing among church folks even then.

But there were those who would occasionally cross my path who were sincere in their faith. On one particular day, I would meet one of them at the apartment pool where I lived.  She was an attractive woman about my age who had a strong and assertive will, and who had the grace to endure cynicism long enough for God to change the very essence of who I was. We spent a lot of time hanging out together and talking.

In a short amount of time, everything changed: my friends, my habits, my words, but most importantly, my desires. The scriptures speak of us being made new.  Jesus spoke of being born again. Paul spoke of our minds being renewed. Whatever the case, I became a new human being, and best of all, I became a human being capable of loving someone else enough to commit the rest of my life to her. One day, right around that time, I walked into a little chapel worship service and down front was a woman.  Her hands were in the air, her head was bowed and she was worshiping her Lord. And, if I didn’t mention it, she was very beautiful.  My first thought when I saw her was that that’s the kind of woman I want to marry. And marry her I did. But in the beginning, she really didn’t want anything to do with me which was just fine by me because for the first time in my life I was experiencing a new sensation, joy.

Your mother and I will celebrate our twentieth anniversary very soon.  It wasn’t that long ago that we watched some videos of ourselves on our honeymoon and there was one thing that struck me about them, and that one thing brings me back to the actual point of this letter. Although I thought that I loved your mother when we got married, I didn’t. I was only infatuated as I had been so many times before. As I watched those videos I realized that the “love” I was feeling at that time was at best shallow and probably didn’t qualify as love at all. It could not be compared to the love that I feel for your mother today.

It’s kind of a sad thing, but when you see the word “love” in the Bible it will have been translated from any number of Greek words, all of which have different meanings but are still translated into the one word, love in English. One of those words is “eros”, which is the same root from which we get our modern English word, erotic. It describes our natural and God-given desire for sexual relationships. Don’t ever forget that your desires to “know” a woman is a God-given desire first, and as such, it is a good desire. It can and does involve deep and wonderful feelings, but it’s only one of the four kinds of love that God gave you. But by itself, it’s not the kind of love that will endure. It’s a very fleshy kind of love and indeed I’ve had that kind of love for your mother and still do… very much so.

Phileo is another Greek word that is translated as love. We can see it expressed in words like philosophy, the love of wisdom; and Philadelphia, the so-called city of brotherly love. We generally think of this love as between friends, though I think it embodies much more than that. It ought to also be the love you have for the girl you marry. Here I will admonish you to be careful about the general mindset of the culture in which you live. The values it places on the different kinds of love can be misleading. Phileo is considered an acceptable love for you to have for another woman besides your wife. I would strongly disagree with that. As you live your life you will watch your friend’s marriages disintegrate, and not a few of the failures will have begun with innocent-seeming “friendships”.  Phileo is a powerful love. It can cause one man to die for another. Don’t underestimate it when it comes to women who are not your wife.

There are two more words translated into love, “storge” and “agape”.  Storge is the kind of love one has for a family member, like your love for me as well as mine for you. I don’t understand this concept enough to say whether or not you should have this kind of affection for your wife. I will, however, say this: your relationship with your wife is closely related to the relationship of Jesus to His Church and the Church to Jesus.

And then there is agape. We think of this love as the highest form of love because it is not based on emotion. In a sense, it doesn’t even qualify as love in our carnal minds. We are so used to associating love with self-centeredness and our feelings that this kind of love makes no sense. Yet, it is a love you must be willing to pledge to any girl you ask to marry you. It is a decision that you make. It is wholly cognitive. It is not confluent with your nature but instead defies it. Your will must be subject to it, and not the other way around. And, it is only by the grace of God that you will be able to give it. And also remember that if your family is destroyed due to infidelity, statistics show that this destruction is a little more likely to come to you by way of your wife. So it is just as important for you as a young man, especially in a culture that sees women as more righteous by virtue of their gender, to make sure your would-be wife understands this kind of love as well. In short, if she loves God with all of her heart, mind, soul, and strength, and she loves him enough to be obedient to him by being obedient to you, then I’d say that she can love you for a lifetime.

I once read an article discussing lasting marriages. The article interviewed people who had been married for over fifty years. They were asked if they had always loved each other. Their answers were no, that love came and went throughout their marriages. But this statement makes my point about agape. It was their agape that kept them together. But they didn’t consider it love because it was during those times that they either had no feelings or perhaps even feelings of hatred toward each other. But still, they stuck by their pledge until “loving” feelings returned.  Marriage counselors tell us that most people experience the loss of those loving feelings. But they also tell us that if people are willing to stick it out that the feelings return and the love and commitment are even stronger. In this day of disposable marriages, many never learn this. They discard the marriage in hopes of finding that eros feeling again.

One of the reasons we’re prone to rejecting God’s ordained order is because of the images of his order that have been implanted into our heads by our culture. How was it done? In the same way that a tank-top t-shirt has come to be known as a “wife-beater”. In the world’s images, not yours, we see a man in this sort of tee shirt with a bottle of whiskey in his hand and a woman with a fresh black eye crying on the floor because she didn’t “obey” his commands. That’s the picture that’s been painted for us of patriarchy. But like most images painted for us by this world, it is also a lie; and it’s a powerful and destructive one at that; and unfortunately, it’s believed by most. Still, even in light of the current rebellion against God, we as humans are going to generally behave the way God programmed us to behave. Men are going to be the heads of their households and will generally rule over it.

One of the most challenging, one of the most exciting, and one of the riskiest things you will ever do is to take a wife for yourself. And, I shouldn’t have to say it, but due to the nature of man, the same can be said about any woman who adventures to submit to your authority and leadership by accepting you as her husband. It is an exciting thing to discover the beauty of a woman. It is an enticing thing to contemplate a sojourn in search of the paradise that she promises. I believe such a paradise exists, yes, but you won’t discover it, nor can you, by following the most vivid and readily available of roadmaps that this world offers. The cardinal is able to fly and build a nest because that’s what God designed it to do. I can’t imagine any bird desiring to walk and live in a hole in the ground because somehow he figures that’s the best plan. But we humans think we know better than God, and so implement our own plans. In the same way, your life will be best when you live as God designed you to live. God designed you to rule over your wife and family and he cursed you to earn your bread by the sweat of your brow. He designed your wife to be your helpmeet, and he cursed her to thwart your authority. And as sad as it all is, that’s the bottom line, the reality in which you will exist.

My advice to you is to pay attention to how married couples interact even now. Watch as wives, either lovingly submit to their husbands, and revere and respect them, or as they command their husbands around like pets, as well as everything in between.  Reverence, respect, and service are great qualities. Run, don’t walk, from manipulating women, they will guarantee you a life of misery. Keep a keen eye out for such things. Pray for discernment, and ask for help from those who love you. Wisdom is found in the counsel of the wise.

Your father

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