Tag Archives: History

Holy Week (Monday)

This week is Holy Week. Friday is Good Friday. Even though I know what comes after, I’m dreading it because of what happened on that day 2,000 years ago. This post is not about that, though. What I intend to do, Monday through Friday of this week, is to write precisely about what Good Friday tried to destroy. Life. What I mean is that Good Friday stood for Death. It stood for hopelessness.

Probably some, and possibly many will take my posts this week as political. I urge you not to. Some of the things I will post about are tied to political issues, but they are not political issues in themselves. All that being said, I’ll get started on my first topic.

What does it mean to be pro-life? What does it mean to live life to the fullest? These two questions are closely related. As many readers already know, I am pro-life. Yes, I do strongly oppose abortion and the death penalty, but that is not the extent of what it means to be pro-life. It means supporting discussion and if that fails, civil disobedience when it is necessary. It also means helping disadvantaged people in constructive ways that build relationships and boost confidence. It involves being creative. It requires time, effort and sacrifice. My dad used to use a cliche every so often: “If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. If you teach him how to fish, he will eat for a lifetime.” Do I always know how to “teach a man to fish?” Nope. Am I always capable of it? Nope. I do, however, think that there are people who are willing and able, and that this is the best solution to dealing with a multitude of social and economic problems. Again, this is getting borderline political, so I’ll leave it at that.

However, none of this addresses what it means to be pro-life on a spiritual level. One of the most commonly known things that Jesus said to his disciples was, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” Jesus is our connection with God the Father. Another Christian cliche is that we’re meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Relationships are a two-way street. He can chase us forever, but if we’re not interested, he won’t force us to pay any attention to him. To be spiritually alive means to enjoy the relationship that Jesus is offering us. To be pro-life from a spiritual standpoint, then, is, I think, to simply encourage people to acknowledge the invitation, and if they choose to pursue things further, to help them along. People never have only one relationship. Everyone has to ask for advice or direction in many relationships. A relationship with God is no different. What strengthens a relationship with God is worship (both individual and communal), prayer, and reading. Even fiction can help. Let God enjoy life with you, whether it’s playing with your pet, or taking a walk, or eating too much ice cream.

This addresses my second question. What does it mean to live life to the fullest? To an extent, this is a matter of opinion and preference. However, it also depends on one’s personality in general, and one’s overall situation. Some are happy living with the bare necessities, while others strive for extravagance. However, when one cannot attain what they want or need, living life to the fullest means accepting what one has and what one can attain. It also means being able to adapt and go outside one’s comfort zone. This will mean something different for every person. Sometimes it will mean watching a movie in a genre you might not usually pick. Sometimes it will mean skydiving. Lastly, living life to the fullest means allowing one’s self to let loose, and let go of one’s ego. It means learning to laugh at yourself with genuine joy.

Of course living life to the fullest also has a spiritual dimension. To address this aspect of it, I think I need to ask another question. What constitutes a full or fulfilled life? Every person will have a different answer for this, but I think it is possible to find a partially objective answer. Every human requires and seeks a handful of things in life. These are reflected in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, with physiological/biological needs being the most basic, and self-transcendence being the highest. Self-transcendence refers to the need to give oneself to something outside of oneself. As an example, he specifically refers to spirituality. Maslow also describes his idea of self-transcendence as “ends rather than means” to oneself, significant others, and even the cosmos. In other words, oneself is something sought after by things outside oneself. God seeks us out. God is infinite and perfect. We are not. God has no actual need for us, but he has a desire for us. It seems that to respond to that desire positively is exactly what Maslow means by self-transcendence.

However, there is one aspect of this that I have not addressed. In both sections on our relation to God, I have primarily focused on what God gets out of it. What do we get out of it? I think the best way to close this off is to address that question personally. Strengthening my relationship with God has made me more creative, more outgoing, more honest, more altruistic, and more patient. It has raised my self-esteem, and given me immense comfort when things aren’t going quite right. It has made me more positive and less egotistical. That all has happened in the span of seven or eight years. I certainly won’t claim that my life is perfect, but it’s good.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

 

 

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Complementary

I had an interesting conversation with a new acquaintance a few weeks ago. I haven’t really thought too much about it, but I thought it would be worth sharing. Our conversation, of course, started with small talk, but for some reason, we both felt very comfortable with each other, and I found out in a fairly short amount of time, that this person was also Christian.

The interesting part of this is that she and I had very different views of things like science, philosophy, mythology and logic going into the conversation. It also turned out that she and I came to faith through very different means, had different upbringings, and were part of different denominations within Christianity. All this being said, I want to explain, in particular, my view of science and logic, as well as some broader sociological issues from my personal Catholic point of view.

As I mentioned in a recent post, there was a time (mostly through middle and high school) when I was Catholic in practice, but Agnostic in belief. I went through the motions without actually knowing what any of it meant. A lot of this has a lot to do with where I grew up, who I hung out with, and what my education was like.

I grew up in a suburban town in Massachusetts where the political standpoint on many issues tends to be relatively liberal, and the line between church and state is drawn boldly. When I was a kid, the most important things in my family’s life were our extended family in Maine, and my education, including the cultivation of my imagination. Often, these things superseded God entirely, so our church attendance was infrequent, and we didn’t really talk about God at home.

My education as a kid was delivered from an atheistic standpoint. I went to public school, and no one, kids or teachers, talked about God. Therefore, my initial understanding of Truth was from a scientific and mathematical standpoint. 1 + 1 = 2. The Big Bang created the Universe. God was there somewhere, sure, but at the time it didn’t really matter to me. Then when I got what you might call the equidistant of an internship in high school developing a disability advocacy program, I ended up working with a devout Jewish guy, my brother’s age, and a Muslim woman,  who I’d guess was in her twenties, and it was interesting to work with people of other faiths who were also far more invested than I was.

Then I went to a Christian college, as I have previously mentioned. Although we were saturated with the culture and Christian worship, I ended up taking a few philosophy classes where the whole point was to think logically and atheistically. All of this comes back to my conversation a few weeks ago. My acquaintance was surprised that I put so much faith in physics, for example. However, this also relates to another question she asked me. She asked, “So how do understand Greek mythology, since it was once an actual belief system?” I told her that this was a belief system based on what was inferable and observable at the time. I put faith in science because it can prove what is inferable and observable to be true. I also explained that I have never thought God and science were at odds, and that God often works through, natural, scientifically verifiable means.

One last thing I would like to add is that I have come to understand that a belief system has stages, and is personalized invariably by everyone. What I mean is that the primary stage of one’s belief system informs their secondary, their secondary informs their third, etc. Specifically this refers, in my case to my understanding of science through Christianity, my understanding of politics and culture through both, and my understanding of economics through all three. In other words, certain beliefs hold priority over others, but they all inform each other to some degree. If science can help me understand what God is doing, then great.

What I Know

It’s taken me a long time to write this post. I’ve been feeling for a long time that God wants me to tell people about him. I didn’t want to tell people what they’ve probably already heard a thousand times. This is simply what I know about God.

I know that God answers prayers.

Truthfully, he doesn’t always do this in the way I expect or the way I want. The cliche is true. God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes I have to wait, and sometimes I even forget about what I prayed for, and he answers anyway. I try very hard to be a peacemaker. Because of that, I haven’t got into too many fights. I’ve witnessed some pretty deep resentment among people I love, though. I’ve prayed about it, and the problems have been resolved. God always provides. I have epilepsy, and while my medication prevents me from having full seizures, I still have symptoms. Usually this is because I’m too hungry or I’ve spent too much time on the computer, so most of the time I can get rid of them just by changing my behavior. However, sometimes it’s out of my control. In these situations, I often pray, and the problem often goes away. Sometimes I just need something small. I need to make sure I wake up on time or I do something stupid and get my wheelchair stuck and need someone to rescue me. There are so many examples I simply can’t list them all. When I pray for small things, however, God often answers those prayers almost instantly. I have to mention however, that sometimes God’s answer to a prayer is “No” because it’s the best thing for you. It’s also important to remember that God works in real time. God can make difficult, complicated things happen, but because they are difficult and complicated, they will take time–sometimes years. One example I do want to mention, though is that when I was in middle school, my cousin had Cancer. It was treatable, but it definitely wasn’t easy. One night he told my aunt that he really felt like he was going to die. I desperately wanted him to live, so I prayed hard, and soon after, things changed drastically.

I know his love is intense.

I was born with Muscular Dystrophy. Because of this, I couldn’t run around and play on the playground with the other kids when I was little, so God gave me a playground in my head. I constantly made up stories and characters and drew pictures and made up better reasons for why snow fell instead of what science told me. This playground in my head is always getting bigger and bigger as I continue to write stories and learn about philosophy and contemplate my place in the world. Eventually, however, I realized that my imaginary playground wasn’t enough. I am asexual. In short, I find sex repulsive. This was very confusing for a lonely high school student who wanted love and didn’t understand it. I thought I needed a boyfriend. At the time I believed in a god, but not necessarily a God one could have a relationship with, so I prayed that I would find love. In retrospect, I realized that a part of me, though not necessarily a conscious part of me, knew that I needed God. I was confirmed as a Catholic in the first few months of my Junior year. Though I had not exactly intended to, I kept going back to church for no real discernible reason. It wasn’t until October of my Freshman year of college that I knew he loved me. I went to a very Christian school and as a requirement, went to chapel services three times a week. It was the first time I had heard contemporary worship music, and that made something click. Still, I was lonely, but one night I prayed and the part of me that needed God somehow became conscious and I said “I love you” basically by accident. As soon as I said it, I felt an overwhelming feeling of love and peace.

Over the next several years I learned many things, though how I learned some of them isn’t entirely clear. It took a while for it to sink in, but I learned that Jesus loved me and had me in mind when he took on the sins of the world. He took on my sins, too. I learned that it’s not enough to love God. You have to trust him, and I do. I learned that God loves us no matter what, and he always will. Jesus hung out with people that his contemporaries literally wouldn’t talk to and wouldn’t even touch. He said that he didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save it. That means a lot. I learned that the more time I spend with him, and the more I come to know him, the more I need him. I learned that his love is unfair in the most perfect way. Most importantly, I learned that God made a way for us to literally see and touch him in the Eucharist, and this will last for all time until he comes back.

I know that God has a sense of humor.

If you had told me in my Freshman year of high school that I would be considering being consecrated to God, I would have told you that you were crazy. If you had told me that I would start going to Church every day, I would have told you that you were crazy. I didn’t know God. I didn’t like the Church. It was lame and boring, and Catholics were all old and annoying and judgmental. If you had told me that I was going to go to a Christian college and major in English, I would have told you that you were crazy. Even if you had told me what kind of music I would be writing, I would have told you that you were crazy. I wanted to be in a punk rock band. If you had told me I was going to write a novel, I would have told you that you were crazy. I tried twice and gave up twice. Among my closest friends, I am the only practicing Catholic, and I was the first to graduate college. I find irony hilarious. You would be laughing too, if you knew just how much irony I’ve lived through.

I know God’s voice.

Some people at my school said that they felt a connection to Jesus from the age of five. It took me literally twenty years and then some. I know God is infinite, and I know God is love. Love is patient, and love is kind. God has infinite patience. His sense of time is not like ours, but he still had to watch me wander around without knowing him for what, to me, was a long time. God’s call is not like a voice in my head. It’s more like I feel him pulling on my soul. I can resist. I can ignore him, but I don’t want to. At the moment I’m feeling the pull, I can’t always put it into words, but I usually can eventually. After I was confirmed I felt the pull, and it was like he was saying, “Stay with me, okay?” The pull has become more and more obvious as I’ve come to know him better. It’s not the same for everyone. He relates to everyone in the way that makes the most sense to them.

I know that sometimes God gives us more than we can handle.

You read that right. It’s a matter of trust. The month before finals in the second semester of my sophomore year of college was a nightmare. I was overworked and got very little sleep. On top of that, the dosage of my medicine wasn’t right and I was dealing with some nasty epilepsy symptoms. During that time I had one prayer: “Get me through this.” That year Tenth Avenue North released their album “The Struggle.” Through the month of April I practically had their song “Worn” on repeat. That song made me feel like I wasn’t alone, even though it’s about a completely different kind of struggle than what I was going through. The point is that I knew I couldn’t make it through on my own. I trusted God. It was my turn to say “Stay with me, okay?” and he did. I passed all my classes, and after finals, went home and slept. On occasion God has asked me to do the impossible. He has asked me to do things that I am terrified of doing. I’ve found that I can’t do these things unless my answer is “I’ll do it, but I need your help because nothing else is gonna make it happen.” If I don’t do the impossible for him, I often can’t do the simpler things that I want to do. This may seem unfair, but God wants what’s best for us, and he wants us to be happy. If we want what God wants, and if we do what he wants, we will be happy. This doesn’t meant that we’re robots. God has an individualized plan for each of us. We are all unique, and God uses and relates to all of us differently. He understands our quirks and desires and fears and preferences and works with us in the way that will cause the most good and the most happiness for us and for the people around us.

I know that God is emotional.

Jump to any part of Scripture, and you will find that things people do please God or make him angry. In the Gospels we see Jesus having fun at a wedding celebration. Later on, he gets angry at the people who were buying and selling animals in the temple. The night before his death, he stays up and prays because he’s afraid. God feels what we feel, and what we do matters to the Father who knows us and loves us more than anyone else ever could. He loves us even though we’re broken. He loves us despite everything we’ve thought or done, and he forgives everything. He’s willing to go to extremes for us because he wants us to love him back. To many, the story of salvation sounds unbelievable; crazy. To me it often sounds unbelievable and crazy. I don’t understand all of it. It’s not possible to. That’s the whole point of faith. God is way smarter and way more loving than any human ever. He gave us stories and metaphors and teachings in his Word, but he also gave us the Church so we would never be alone in our faith, and he gave us souls that will lead us to him if we allow them.

Wicked Cool!

In a recent post I said that I have decided to officially dedicate myself to Jesus. I’m happy to say that that’s still the plan. I’ve been learning a lot lately. Apparently, there are several different ways in which I can do this. It’s a little intimidating because there are apparently a bazillion different orders of nuns and Sisters who all do different stuff and follow different philosophies and what have you. I also learned, as of last night, that there’s a thing called a “consecrated lay person.” Basically, as far as I can tell, there are three different categories of religious life, and my first step is to figure out where I fit best. At the moment, I like things about all of them.

The first is that of cloistered nuns. These are generally ladies who live together away from secular society and dedicate their lives almost entirely to prayer. They live extremely simply, which allows them to not be distracted by outside influences.

The second is another group of Sisters who generally live together, but are much more a part of society, doing work to help people, etc.

The third group are “consecrated lay people,” which are people (dudes and ladies) who have chosen to forgo marriage and family life in order to serve Jesus as best they can. Like nuns or Sisters, they take official vows in the church, but don’t necessarily live together and tend to have “regular” jobs.

I like the idea of removing myself from the distractions of the world and focusing entirely on God, but I desperately want to help people in any way I can. I don’t think I’m very good at praying. The fact of the matter is, I probably need to “practice” more. I’m also realizing that I want to serve God, and I want to be free. I want structure, and I want to be able to randomly change and randomly do things. I know serving God doesn’t mean I’m not free. I just don’t presently know what the solution is or what the best fit is for me. Maybe, once again, I’ll end up doing something I never saw coming.  I am leaning towards one particular thing, but I’m not going to say what it is yet here. I have to see if it’s right first.

Last night I watched an awesome video by Father Mike Schmitz. At least for me, that guy is a rock star. It was actually the first time I’d ever even heard of him, but I ended up watching several hours worth of his stuff.. actually I listened whilst playing Minecraft. He’s funny and brilliant. But anyway… the point he was talking about was that love is physical, and love is a gift. When you love someone, you want to give them all of you. This can mean a lot of different things, in different relationships. He asked the question: what does that mean when we’re talking about a relationship with God? Obviously an infinite, omnipotent God doesn’t have a body–at least not now.

Two thousand years ago, he did. Jesus came to Earth as a finite person. He was both fully God and fully human, and he had every single person ever in mind. That’s why he gave us the Eucharist. In the Eucharist Jesus is giving us all of him. When we literally eat the body of Christ, we become one with him. It’s literally Jesus. I “believed” this, but I didn’t understand what it meant until I started thinking about being a religious person. He literally gives his entire self to me. I want to give my entire self to him. I have to.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Nonsense!

NOTE: This is a rough version of a project I’m working on. I’m posting it now because I would like some feedback, so comments are much appreciated.

I can’t prove God’s existence. A lot of people want proof, and as much as I would love to, I cannot provide that. What I can tell you is that proof comes with faith. Proof comes with a willingness to follow, even if you don’t know where you’re going. That’s not the end of anything. That’s where things start. Once you have faith, God will answer your questions, but nothing will happen unless you are willing to suspend disbelief in the first place. My advice is to do your research. You won’t find conclusive evidence for God’s existence, but you will find numerous evidence in history and various scientific fields that point to it. I will leave that up to do because, as I said, I’m not here to prove God’s existence. I’m writing this to try and help make some things make sense.

This is about the big questions. Why do good people suffer? Why, if Jesus promised to return, has it been 2,000 years? How do science and faith relate? How do you explain impossibilities in the Bible? How do you explain the violence that is not only prompted, but often orchestrated by God? I see these questions come up a lot. Christians and Atheists alike ask them, and I would like to try and address them from a personal perspective. I will try to remain unbiased where I can, but much of my discussion will be coming from a Christian perspective and will be driven by personal experience. Furthermore, this article will not offer an exhaustive study of each topic, but serves as an overview of each and a study of how they relate to one another. Lastly, you will note that I do not cite conventional sources. This is because I am not a Bible scholar. I have a degree in Creative Writing, and secondly, this is, in part, an opinion piece, and although it might help, I don’t think you need a degree to study theology. If that doesn’t interest you, then I’d suggest moving on.

If this does interest you, we’ll start here: why do good people suffer?

I use the word “good” instead of “innocent” on purpose. People tend to ask why innocent people suffer when I think this is the wrong question. It’s a dicey topic because, for one thing, “innocent” means different things to different people, and secondly, there are no truly innocent people in the eyes of God. I get that this seems harsh. It doesn’t seem fair that some people get to be born in America, completely by chance, eat what they want when they want, and watch football on Sunday night, while a poor family from Syria has to flee their country and seriously worry about where they’re going to get their next meal. Furthermore, it’s entirely possible and even probable that the people who suffer more have more faith than the people with very easy lives.

Then there are those who choose more difficult lives. They choose to suffer a little to help those who suffer a lot. Sometimes the most wonderful, selfless people suffer the most. There are people in this world who would sacrifice everything to help someone else, whether it’s their child or a stranger who really needs their help. These people go out of their way and make their own lives difficult to help others who have it worse than they do.

And what about the child who is born with a serious birth defect and dies before he’s a year old? Surely he was innocent. Surely a loving God wouldn’t let something like this happen to him and his parents. But it does happen. People die of starvation: are forced to leave their homes: contract treatable diseases that kill them because they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I can’t provide a completely satisfying answer. The answer I can provide isn’t even completely satisfying to me, but it’s the best I can do. First, a quick explanation of what actually happened when Jesus rose from the dead and what it meant. The resurrection meant that humans were saved from sin. It did not mean that we were no longer sinful. Even saints are sinners. Quite frankly, it’s extremely difficult, and probably impossible to live a completely sinless life. Whatever happened a long, long time ago, it infused our human nature with something nasty, whether it literally involved an apple or not. Secondly, we need to remember two statements that Jesus makes that help understand the context of this question. He states in Mathew 26:11, “The poor you will always have with you…” and in Mathew 20:16, he says, “The last will be first and the first will be last.”

From the beginning, God tells his people to take care of the poor and vulnerable. He constantly makes mention of orphans and widows, and makes sure that these people are remembered by the Israelites. What I think we have to remember is that humanity is much more interconnected than we think or even want it to be at times. We’re one big dysfunctional family, and whether we like it or not, it is our duty to take care of the people who need us. God has a special place in his heart for those who suffer, so he certainly hasn’t forgotten them.

But why will the poor always be with us? I think there are several answers to this question.

  1. It’s human nature. Whether we like it or not, people have selfish tendencies. No matter how good of a person we are, we naturally take things that we want and whether by accident or intentionally, we keep things from other people. This isn’t always a bad thing. It’s partly a survival instinct. All animals do it with territory, water, and food. We just happen to do it particularly with money because in a civilized society, money is a survival resource.
  2. Socialism doesn’t work. There will always be haves and have-nots. For a similar reason as I just explained, a society will never be entirely equal. There will always be people who work harder than others, and those who want more than others. For some, living on the bare minimum can be satisfying, while to others, it’s just not. Ideally, in a socialist society, the people who are more ambitious or simply have better-paying jobs or just have more resources would freely share those resources with the less fortunate. It’s a nice idea, but it doesn’t work because a) there are selfish people in the world, and b) too many people take advantage of the system. You can’t receive if you don’t give anything.
  3. This is also related to my previous points. Along with money comes status. While it isn’t necessary to have money in order to have status, they are generally related. Furthermore, regardless of the means by which it is achieved, people strive for status, and while a given social structure may be fluid, there is, and always will be a status quo. In order to be high on the social ladder, by necessity, there needs to be people below you.

When it comes to the question of child labor, child death, sex slavery and other such tragedy involving children, there are a few things to remember. These things by no means make any of it okay, but they can shed a little light into some dark places. First of all, children who die before the “age of moral accountability” are automatically saved. They go straight to heaven. This could mean that a child who would otherwise have a short and miserable life is now in paradise with their heavenly Father. Again, I’m not saying it makes it any more okay. It’s still tragic and quite frankly, unfair if you ask me. But what about the children who do grow to be a little older, only to be cut short without ever hearing about Christ? I think the answer can be intuited. Never hearing specifically about God or Jesus isn’t necessarily a problem. It’s rejecting him that causes problems. Want proof? “The truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God” (Romans 1:19-20, New Living Translation). I found this after a very brief Google search.

That being said, it doesn’t give us license to slack off when it comes to telling people about God and his promises. We are clearly told that we must spread the Gospel throughout the whole world. It’s a pretty clear job description for anyone who calls herself Christian. On the flip side, it also doesn’t give us license not to seek the truth about God when we have the resources readily available. This actually helps answer our question: why do people suffer? It also leads into the question: why has it been 2,000 years since Jesus’ resurrection? First, good people suffer because the rest of us don’t do enough to stop it. Remember that the Church, which ideally encompasses all of humanity, is the body of Christ. Most people just think about it in the context of salvation, in other words, we tend to think of it in a very spiritual sense. What it actually means is that we are here now to do Jesus’ work in the world. We are here to literally heal the hurting and feed the hungry. We are literally here to be his voice and hands and feet in a very physical, real time sense.

This means finding a cure for cancer through serious medical research. This means starting schools in places where education isn’t really available for kids. This means volunteering for or donating to nonprofits that help refugees. This means blogging and trying to answer the hard questions. This means standing up to the bullies who just want to tell you you’re an idiot for believing in something. It also means praying. It means being proud of what you believe in. It means not trying to change the subject when people bring up religion, even if that’s way easier than having that difficult conversation. This is as much a reminder to myself than anyone else, so bear with me.

One thing to remember is that we are a significant part of God’s plan. The other thing to remember is that God has a different understanding of time than we do, so what seems like a really long time to us, can seem like no time at all to him. At the same time, we’re told to be ready because Jesus could return and things could drastically change tomorrow or within the next hour. We could argue that so much more could get done and the world could be made a lot better a lot quicker if God chose to be more directly involved. In the Old Testament particularly, he is depicted as doing absolutely miraculous things for the Israelites, singlehandedly winning battles for them. These days it seems that miracles aren’t quite as noticeable, if they even happen at all. On the other hand, we cured Polio; we figured out how to use electricity; we figured out how to make a smart phone, for crying out loud. Are any of these things not miraculous? While things happen slower, I think we should consider it a privilege to be so involved in making God’s world a better place. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that the Jewish religion, which was the context in which the Church was born, started out pretty tiny. This could explain why God had to really directly help them out. Jump ahead to the present day, and not only are we much more advanced in many ways, but Christianity is now the largest religion in the world. These two factors really seem to be significant.

So the question is, do we ever see miracles that could only be explained by the existence of God?

These medical miracles took place mainly in the 1960’s and 70’s.
http://www.collective-evolution.com/2015/05/17/the-top-5-medical-miracles-that-science-cant-explain-or-can-it/

Here is the story of an unexplained miracle rescue.
http://www.godvine.com/God-Sent-a-Mysterious-Angel-to-Pray-with-Victim-of-Terrible-Car-Crash-3762.html

Here is a story of a little girl whose accident cured her of two diseases, and who had a near-death experience, in which she claims to have gone to Heaven.
http://insider.foxnews.com/2015/04/14/miracles-heaven-near-fatal-fall-cures-sick-little-girls-symptoms

This is a Facebook page where anyone can write in their miracle stories. There are a lot

Miracles can happen in many ways that we take for granted. Many times we see them just as coincidence or luck. I have a few miracle stories of my own that might change your mind, though.

  1. My friend told me that he has often had dreams about things before they happen, and they often happen exactly as they did in the dream. This has been happening to him for years now, and is usually the only kind of dream he has these days.
  2. My friend also told me that his girlfriend’s family sometimes gets premonitions and intuitively knows things about the past or future that wouldn’t make sense unless they were told these things. For example, my friend’s girlfriend intuitively knew that her aunt’s house once had a balcony that was taken down before she was born.
  3. Towards the end of high school, into my first year of college I was starting to have emotional problems. I felt very lonely a lot of the time, even though I knew that my family and friends loved me. I was missing something. I thought I needed a romantic partner, and I prayed about this a lot, though at the time I didn’t quite know God. One night, two months into my Freshman year I said “I love you” for the first time in a prayer, without really even meaning to, and an indescribable feeling of love and peace came over me. I’ve felt different ever since.

Then consider the fact that life on earth exists. The conditions had to be exactly perfect. The planet had to be an exact distance from the sun. There had to be water. The conditions in the air had to be just right. Narrow it down to human life. I don’t know the exact odds, but it seems unlikely that any species on earth would be intelligent enough to learn to use language, learn to write, understand abstract ideas, or be spiritual. None of these things help us survive, so from that perspective, they are completely useless abilities. There are explanations for why these things happen, but at the same time, they are extremely unlikely. A miracle is something that seems impossible but happens anyway. Maybe one day we will find a scientific explanation for every miracle, but I see science as a way of understanding God.

In some sense, the answer to any prayer can be considered a miracle, even if it looks like coincidence. Many people assume that God only does or would do miracles through supernatural means, but often, God answers prayers by putting people in the right place at the right time or allowing natural events to happen that allow a person to get ahead or even save their life. God is the commander and creator of both the natural and supernatural world, and these two aspects of reality are much more interconnected than one might suppose.

However, many of the events that are written into history are natural impossibilities. We have already seen that God uses natural and supernatural means to do the impossible, but many of the events in the Bible seem quite unbelievable. They just don’t make any sense. How do we explain things like the Creation story, or the flood in the story of Noah, or the parting of the sea in Exodus? To answer this question we need to look at several things. We need to look at the Bible as a whole and determine what, if anything, is supposed to be taken literally or figuratively, we need to look at the historical and cultural context, and we need to look at what these stories are actually trying to tell us if the Bible is supposed to be believed as the timeless Word of God.

First let’s look at the Creation story. The first story we are told in the Bible is about the six day creation of the world. Scientifically, this story is completely inaccurate and could not have happened, if it is taken literally. A world cannot be created in six literal days, and even if it could, everything is created in a completely nonsensical order. The theory of evolution teaches that all species originated from one life form and branched off from there. Species were born and went extinct and continue to do so and will always continue to do so. The Big Bang Theory goes back further and teaches that the Universe was created after a singularity exploded and all matter developed from there. If you want the details, I’m afraid you’re reading the wrong article. The question is, where did the singularity come from? To me this seems to be an unanswerable question, at least for a girl who studied creative writing with a little philosophy and theology thrown in. However, what we do know, in terms of scientific facts seems very compelling, and some use these scientific theories, which however compelling, could still be proven wrong, as evidence against the supernatural. This is where we must look at two things: historical context, and the use of language.

While many teachings in the Bible are timeless, one must remember that many of the stories, particularly in the Old Testament were written at a fixed point in time, about a fixed point in time. The writer of the Creation story would have had no knowledge of evolution or the Big Bang Theory. They would have had no idea about how atoms interact or how life was created, from a scientific standpoint. Therefore, they pieced together from their understanding of the universe, an explanation of how the Earth was made. However, it isn’t the creation that is truly the focus of the Creation story. The focus is God’s relation to his creation, and most importantly, his relation to humanity. God creates the universe peacefully, and it is greatly emphasized that this creation is good. It is also emphasized that humans were created in God’s image and that we are here to take care of his creation. This is the point we are supposed to take from Genesis. God’s creation is innately good, and we are a significant part of it.

So then what about the story of Noah? What are we supposed to take from a story about the near destruction of the whole human race by the God that created it? The point of this story, it seems, was not to describe literal events, but to demonstrate a point about human nature, the nature of faith, and what a relationship with God provides and entails. Noah survives the flood because he is faithful, while many do not survive the flood because of their sinful behavior. I would like to pause and address a related question before moving on. Stories such as this, including stories in Exodus, Joshua, and Judges depict horrible violence, largely orchestrated by God himself towards large groups of people.

It does seem that many of these stories are meant to be taken literally. The Israelite conquest of Canaan was, in fact, a real, traceable series of events. Jesus tells us in Mathew 5 that we are to love our enemies as well as our neighbors. However, the depictions in the Old Testament of conquest and violence make this command seem almost hypocritical. There are several reasons why the violence committed by God and his people may have been exaggerated, for one thing, and also may have been justifiable. Professor Lawson Stone from Asbury Theological Seminary explains in this article, which I will provide in full.
http://seedbed.com/feed/violence-in-the-old-testament-starting-points/

“It’s hard to imagine anyone today who is familiar with the Bible not being concerned about the violence in the Old Testament. It’s a fashionable bomb tossed by the so-called new atheists, and the easiest way for critics of Christianity to dismiss the Bible. To hear them talk, on every page of the Old Testament cities are burned to the ground, whole populations annihilated. Yahweh, the God of Israel, is in turn portrayed as a wrathful tribal deity constantly calling his people to commit atrocities in his name.

The problem of violence in the Old Testament centers mainly around the stories of Israel’s struggle to settle the land of Canaan. These stories center on the books of Joshua and Judges. So establish some starting points by looking in a general way at the question of violence and war in the Old Testament. Then in the installments to follow, we’ll turn specifically to Joshua and Judges.

All these presentations will share one important conviction: central to getting the Bible right is hearing it in its own cultural and historical setting. This is not just good scholarship; it’s good listening. That’s why I’m excited to be sharing with you from a place called Bedhat es-Sha’ab, a little-known and infrequently visited site just west of the Jordan river that is possibly one of the earliest places where Israelites assembled and worshiped as they settled in the land of Canaan. Being an outsider in this barren, desolate place reminds me that the biblical characters didn’t live in a world of civilian police, ambulance and 9-1-1 service. Nor did they have 2000 years of reflection on the whole Bible. The Old Testament characters need to be seen and heard in their own time, not dismissed from the perspective of our time.

With that in mind, here are seven facts to to help focus the question of violence in the Old Testament:

FACT ONE:

Jesus and the NT writers never complain about the violence in the Old Testament. That should flash at least a yellow, caution-light on our hasty dismissal of the Old Testament. Are WE more morally sensitive than Jesus and the New Testament writers? Did they see something in the Old Testament that we miss?

FACT TWO

Secular historians and the Bible itself tell us that the land of Canaan at the time of the Israelite settlement was not inhabited by a uniform, indigenous population. Canaan was a crossroads and a diverse culture of many different groups: You know, all the “-ites”-Canaanites, Amorites, Perizites, stalactites, stalagmites… If you’d asked a random inhabitant of Canaan “Whose land is this?” You’d have gotten different answers. It was a no-mans-land.

FACT THREE

Genesis 12-50 tells us the Israelites’ ancestors had actually lived in Canaan for centuries before their sojourn in Egypt. They were not outsiders trying to take a land from its original owners. In fact, the Pharaohs of Egypt would have seen no real difference between Canaanites and Israelites. They came from the same place, spoke the same language, had the same physical anthropology, i.e. they looked alike. So there is no parallel between the book of Joshua and, say, the European settlers in North America displacing the earlier inhabitants.

FACT FOUR

This a biggee. By Joshua’s day, Canaan had long suffered under a harsh political system. Canaan in the time of Moses and Joshua had been ruled for centuries by Egypt. Egypt had been ruled by foreign kings known as the Hyksos, who possibly came from Syria-Palestine. A native Egyptian dynasty expelled these foreign kings, pursuing them into Canaan. To insure they never came back, Egypt annexed Canaan and ruled it with two aims: first, never-ever would Canaan be a corridor for anyone attacking Egypt!

Second, Pharaoh exploited Canaan economically. He administered Canaan by appointing rulers in the top 30 or so towns. They managed the country like a giant agricultural plantation, a kind of “factory farm.” They focused on producing a small number of crops valued by the Egyptian upper classes, mainly olives and a type of grape that thrived only in Canaan.

This reality had serious consequences.

The focus on massive production of a few crops not only risked depleting the land, it also destroyed the locally integrated, self-sustaining economies of small villages and towns throughout the hill country. These  communities needed mix of farming and herding just to survive. The Egyptians also yanked the best of the work force out of these towns and villages to toil as forced labor, emptying the rural hill country of Canaan. Many people from Canaan, not just future Israelites, wound up slaves in Egypt. Settlement patterns in Canaan about 1300 B.C., just before the exodus and conquest, show the central hill country of Canaan was largely emptied out.

Under this kind of regime, Canaan was unstable and violent. The city rulers fought each other, hired mercenaries, sometimes cruelly treated the local populace. Bandits terrorized the highways. Men stripped of their land and living gathered around warlords, some of whom were good men, others just thugs or gangsters.

So, by the time Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan, the place was dark and bloody ground. It’s just possible that, far from being seen as invaders, Joshua and the Israelites represented the arrival of order, justice, and even peace.

FACT FIVE

The Old Testament shows us that, even in the conquest stories, the Israelites were not a militarized nation. While other nations boasted of their weapons and crack troops, the Israelites were not a professional army.  Likewise, the Israelites were not a huge group. The idea found in some textbooks that there were at least 2.5 million Israelites comes from a  misunderstanding of the Hebrew terminology for numbers. Archaeologists tell us that likely weren’t 2.5 million people living in all of Canaan and Syria combined!

The books of Deuteronomy, Joshua & Judges stress that, from a military perspective, the Israelites were out-numbered, out-maneuvered and out-gunned. After Joshua, they had no central authority. They were only a coalition of tribes, often divided, often untrue to their own religion. The Bible says they needed miraculous divine intervention just to survive. Hardly the profile of a nation of bloodthirsty, imperialists!

FACT SIX

Warlike nations, and all of Israel’s ancient neighbors, gloried in their superior weapons and firepower. Images of Pharaoh portray him holding his hapless enemies by the hair and smiting them with a mace or battle axe. Or, we see Pharaoh thundering along in his war chariot, horses’ reins tied around his waist, unleashing arrows at cringing, fleeing foes. The Old Testament, in contrast,  stresses that the Israelites were poorly armed, confronting fortified cities or huge chariot forces on foot. The Old Testament also emphasizes Israel’s lack of metal workers. Again, not exactly a warrior nation.

FACT SEVEN

Finally, the world of Moses, Joshua, Gideon and David was a world of unspeakable violence perpetrated by massive, well-armed professional armies. The kings of Egypt, Asia Minor and Mesopotamia gloried in their brutality and savagery. In countless inscriptions throughout the history of the ancient Near East, the great kings boasted of  boring through their enemies’ bodies, ripping their entrails out, galloping their horses and chariots through the gore of enemy bodies, splashing through enemy blood as if crossing a river, impaling thousands of “rebels” on stakes around conquered cities, flaying the skin off of their defeated enemies in full view of their families, and hideously mutilating the dead. And you know, almost nobody in the ancient Near East found this shocking. Rather, most thought it glorious proof that the gods had favored the king. Compared to the graphic detail, intensity, and sheer mass of these ancient descriptions, the Old Testament looks rather tame, even modest.

Whatever problems we might have with the violence in the Old Testament, it was One who claimed to be the fulfillment of the entire Old Testament, Jesus, whose Hebrew name was Joshua, who appealed constantly to the OT witness. Schooled in the Old Testament, Jesus called his people to love their enemies and to be peacemakers, not in spite of his Old Testament heritage, but because of it.

That’s something to think about.”

This, to me, is extremely compelling. However, does it justify the killing of women and children? This article may help answer that question. Note that I personally do not agree with everything that is said in this article, but as I said, I want to stay at least somewhat neutral.
http://www.gotquestions.org/Old-Testament-violence.html
There are two main points I want to focus on.

  1. “A basic knowledge of Canaanite culture reveals its inherent moral wickedness. The Canaanites were a brutal, aggressive people who engaged in bestiality, incest, and even child sacrifice. Deviant sexual acts were the norm. The Canaanites’ sin was so repellent that God said, “The land vomited out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:25). Even so, the destruction was directed more at the Canaanite religion (Deuteronomy 7:3–5,12:2-3) than at the Canaanite people per se. The judgment was not ethnically motivated. Individual Canaanites, like Rahab in Jericho, could still find that mercy follows repentance (Joshua 2). God’s desire is that the wicked turn from their sin rather than die (Ezekiel 18:31-32, 33:11).”
  2. “… The Scripture teaches that we are all born in sin (Psalm 51:5;58:3). This implies that all people are morally culpable for Adam’s sin in some way. Infants are just as condemned from sin as adults are….  an argument could be made that it would have been cruel for God to take the lives of all the Canaanites except the infants and children. Without the protection and support of their parents, the infants and small children were likely to face death anyway due to starvation.

It’s worth noting that most people, myself included, like to see the supernatural with rose colored glasses. We like God’s love, and ignore the parts that are scary. God’s justice can definitely be scary. As with more allegorical stories like the Creation story, the Flood account, and parts of the Exodus, there is a timeless takeaway from all this. God is serious, and God is righteous. He isn’t just one-sided, and he expects us to live a certain way. That being said, he does give us a lot of chances to change, and he helps us out in that effort.

One final point I would like to make before we beat this topic into the ground is that these stories are told from the point of view of the victors. In this next article, Professor Stone narrows his focus down to violence in the book of Joshua. You can find the whole article via the link, but I would like to focus on one thing that, I think, is really key.
http://seedbed.com/feed/7-keys-to-understanding-violence-in-the-book-of-joshua/

“Scholars of ancient military texts remind us that in the ancient Near East, battle accounts used very stereotyped, extreme language. Nuance was not their strong suit! A king would claim he killed every single occupant of a land, only to report how much tribute the presumably dead enemies had to pay each year! Clearly, the claim of annihilation there only meant to convey total victory.

We should also remember that our modern notions of genocide and total war come from our knowledge of weapons of mass destruction and the actual experience of genocide by these means. The ancient world, for all its ferocity, couldn’t do better than spears, arrows, swords and catapults. They had no way to envision the literal extermination of whole populations. The language was stock military rhetoric that conveyed an unquestioned, uncontested victory. Maybe that could help us with those statements in Joshua too.”

I think that, with caution, this understanding of exaggerated and allegorical language can be applied in our interpretation of many parts of the Bible. Some would argue that if the Bible is not taken literally in its entirety, then none of it can be taken literally, and therefore, many significant teachings can be dismissed. I disagree. If all parts of the Bible are taken literally, they become inapplicable to our modern world. In some sense, they become meaningless. If the book of Revelation is taken literally, it becomes an interesting, but very confusing, and quite frankly, very unbelievable story. Perhaps what is written in Revelation is literally what the Apostle John saw, but even that does not require that the vision be interpreted literally. On the other hand, it is clear that most, if not all of what is written in the letters of the Apostle Paul should be taken literally, though it is still important to keep in mind historical and cultural context.

The most important thing to remember when trying to answer any of these big questions is that God wants us to know him. His Word is timeless, and it will always reveal truth to us. That being said, the things God says and does won’t always make sense. People don’t always make sense, even when they have the best intentions, so we especially shouldn’t expect an all-knowing, all-powerful God to always make sense. God is good, though, and he does love us. This is a personal and emotional issue, and it’s been proven through the personal experiences of millions of people. Yes, many believe simply because they want to, and yes, faith provides an emotional crutch to lean on sometimes, but if the stories and teachings we believe in are nothing more than just stories, then a very large portion of the world’s population is certifiably insane, claiming to have seen, felt, done, and experienced the impossible. Beyond that, though, it seems that if it weren’t true and if it weren’t still relevant today, Christianity would have died out a long time ago.

That’s not to say that Christianity can’t change. There are many examples of how God’s people have changed over time, most notably with the birth of the Church shortly after the Resurrection, the official adoption of Christianity by the Romans, and the Reformation, which marked the birth of Protestantism. However, Christianity constantly goes through much more subtle changes. Worship style may change slowly, but the music that is used changes much more quickly with whatever genre of music happens to be popular at the time. This is a good thing, and there are many other examples of similar changes. The Church and the broader culture are meant to be amiable partners.

Freedom of religion means we have the right to believe whatever we want, and we also have the right not to believe anything without being bothered about it. However, it seems that because of this freedom, we’ve largely given up on the idea of absolute Truth for several reasons. Firstly, postmodern society, particularly in America and other first world countries, has become extremely relativistic. In other words, most people believe that anything could be true, but nothing is necessarily true. No one can claim to know the full truth about anything, but there is nothing wrong with asserting that a particular belief system or philosophy is true. This assertion gives us conviction and direction. In fact, this claim is actually made by those who firmly believe that there is no higher power. It is important to practice humility when claiming something as the truth. This means admitting that, while we know something to be true, we can never know the full truth.

This brings us to my second point. No one is willing to claim any knowledge of absolute Truth because we have become so concerned about offending people. In any given conversation about religion or philosophy, you will often hear phrases such as, “This is just what I believe,” or “I don’t know for sure, but…” There’s nothing wrong with claiming something is true as long as we can back it up with sufficient reasoning, whether it’s scientific or historical evidence, or logical explanations, or even personal observation. The problem is that people often see disagreement as a personal attack, and many have the mentality that if you strongly believe something to be true, and if you are unflinching on the matter, you are arrogant and self-righteous.

Third, “Because God says so,” is no longer a valid reason for anything outside of Christian circles. To be fair, it’s often not a satisfying answer to me at all. I find it extremely frustrating when I’m trying to figure out the reasoning behind a particular teaching, and the only reason I can find is “Because God says so,” or “Because the Bible says so.” The truth is, this should be a valid reason for things, but it’s not a satisfying one.

Lastly, we’ve become impatient, and we’ve turned elsewhere for answers. Biology, Chemistry and Physics tell us about how the world works, and how life works in it. Psychology and Sociology tell us about how the human mind works and why we do things the way we do. Economics and Politics give us a social structure to live in. The list goes on. There’s a field of study for just about every question imaginable, but we’ve erased God from the picture. Some would disagree with me, but I see this as a problem for several reasons.

  1. Having faith in God gives me a reason for seeking answers. It gives me a reason to keep on living. It brings purpose to life. Knowledge without purpose is empty. One might argue that the purpose of seeking knowledge is simply so we can be better at what we do; so we can have smarter and smaller technology, so we can cure diseases, so we can be more efficient and have a more productive society. But what’s the point? If there’s nothing after this life–if there’s no greater purpose–then why does any of that matter? There are surely selfless people who would want to make life easier for the next generation, or for a few generations down the road, but they would have no reason for doing it other than, simply, they were nice. It’s much more compelling and motivating to me to believe that there is something to look forward to after this, and I am part of a bigger plan.
  2. Faith in God provides the most stable moral code. Many would argue that you don’t need a god to have a moral code. In a sense, I agree. Whether we have a concrete idea of God or not, morality seems to be partly built into human nature, partly because a lot of it is just common sense. If I’m nice to you, you’ll be nice to me. We know intuitively that we shouldn’t steal or cheat or commit murder. Furthermore, many belief systems share very similar ideas when it comes to morality. However, without God, morality can change over time, which changes society, sometimes for better, but sometimes for worse. Also, without God, our morality is based on faulty human ideas. With God, the rules don’t change.
  3. If I can’t be reliant on God, I have to be completely reliant on myself. Having faith in God, at least to me, allows “I don’t know” to be an acceptable answer. Furthermore, if I have to completely rely on myself to get things done, not much will get done. I’m only one person. Not only that, but I’m not physically capable of doing a lot of things. If I can rely on God, I can do the impossible. Prayer works, and if I can rely on God I’m never alone.

God is absolute Truth. Therefore, yes, I believe that everyone should believe generally in the same thing, and our world should strive for that Truth as one. I will not back down from that belief. However, what is also true is that God wants us to have the freedom to choose what we believe, and so do I. I support peoples’ right to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster if they so choose. I support peoples’ right to believe in absolutely nothing at all. While it is the duty of the followers of Christ to tell the Truth, it is not our duty to impose it. We should all surround ourselves with people who do not share our beliefs. We may not ever change each others’ beliefs, but we can promote respect, tolerance, and good listening in the world. Remember that Jesus hung out with weirdos and sinners. He didn’t have status or power in mind. His mind was set on love, and so should ours.

Miracles And Disasters And Storytellers

I read something yesterday talking about God’s worthiness (e.g. he is worthy of honor, respect, etc). It’s hard to understand the notion that one should fear God, but I don’t think it’s strange, nor is it opposed to the notion that one should love God. For one thing, God is scary. It makes sense that us puny humans would and should be afraid of the most powerful being in the universe; but on the other hand, this same all-powerful being, who could destroy all human life without lifting a finger, is the epitome of love. That is precisely why he is worthy.

I read a post on another blog that was talking about how some more vocal (and in my opinion, obnoxious) atheists are hellbent on presenting the God of the Old Testament as some kind of serial killer. It’s not an excuse to say that he did what he did because he had a plan and he was bringing his chosen people to their promised land. The fact of the matter is that, in a lot of those stories, he killed people, either vicariously, or by supernatural means. The fact of the matter is, however, that many of the Old Testament stories are allegory. Take the creation story, for example. If one believes in The Big Bang and evolution, which I do, then one has to read the six days in Genesis as perhaps six periods in the beginning of time. The earth was not made in six literal days.

Over and over, people cite Noah’s adventure as an example of where God just arbitrarily decides to kill off all of humanity. To be honest, I don’t have a good, literary interpretation for that story, but the truth is that I don’t need one. God didn’t wipe out all of humanity because we’re still here. There is no scientific evidence indicating a global flood, but some argue that there is sufficient evidence to suggest a “local” flood (i.e. a flood that devastated or disrupted the general area in which Noah and his family resided). Historically, peoples’ ideas of what one meant when describing “the entire earth,” were much smaller than ours. Most of the world was uncharted territory.

Perhaps there was a flood, and the people of that time attributed it to God. This is understandable. When one has no modern science, it is easy to attribute catastrophic events, and miraculous ones to God. But we don’t attribute earthquakes and tsunamis and hurricanes to God these days. Those are generally understood, by believers and nonbelievers alike, to be freak accidents. I think it is dangerous to attribute natural events to any supernatural being without some serious thought and investigation. That is not to say that God does not orchestrate natural events. Events like the creation and birth of a child are nothing less than miraculous, no matter how you slice it.

What this all boils down to is that sometimes I feel the need to defend my faith in a God I know is good and loving and merciful. I don’t understand everything in the Bible, and I can freely and openly admit that. I feel that it would be untrue to say that God doesn’t pick sides. I think he does pick sides, but often, he is on the side of the losers. He was, and still is, on the side of Israel, and Israel killed their enemies and took their land. This is true. His ultimate plan, however, is to unite the entire world under one flag. Until then there will always be wars. There will always be violence. There will always be winners and losers; but in the end there will be peace, and that peace will be unending.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Hope For The Waiting

I am a huge fan of epic stories. Most people are. I think this is in large part because they are a lot more interesting than our own mundane lives. Last night my dad and I finished watching the Lord of the Rings series for the umpteenth time. I don’t think either of us will ever get tired of those movies. The thing is, after you’ve seen them so many times, you begin to see different things that you’ve missed before, or you begin to view the characters differently. You begin to look at the movies as a whole from an artistic standpoint in some ways. They just never get old.

It’s the same with any good story, but what exactly is it that makes a story good; what makes a story timeless? I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, the Inheritance Cycle, the Hunger Games, and other stand-alone novels and movies. In some ways, all of these stories are very different, but what they all have in common is the triumph of good over evil. I think it is precisely this that makes a story great. Of course they are well written, and employ elements of suspense, high stakes, etc, but ultimately, what the human heart wants is for everything to work out. The human heart wants love and justice and some kind of redemption. Furthermore, we like things to be black and white. We like heroes and villains because we know who is right and whose side we should be on.

Real life doesn’t always give us that, and our stories aren’t usually that epic. Perhaps we are side characters in someone else’s epic story, or perhaps we’re really just not that exciting. Everything isn’t as cut and dry as we would like it, and we find that between shadow and light is a lot of gray area. Truth becomes a loaded word and white lies become useful. Stories are confused, exaggerated and changed to fit the situation, and the future is uncertain. The truth is that even though real life is less exciting than epic stories most of the time, it’s a lot more complicated. We have some guidelines for right and wrong; good and evil, but even so, we often have to trust that what we’re doing is right based on our best guess and a hope.

I think stories give us that hope: especially true stories. We have to remember that there are plenty of real-life stories about good triumphing over evil. There are plenty of real-life stories about human redemption. It happens in small, unlikely places, in weird, unexpected ways. We believe in these stories because they make real life a little more interesting and a little more bearable.

This is Easter weekend, and whether you believe in it or not, I think the resurrection of Christ is an excellent finish to a really good story. The Old Testament is filled with trials and adventures and triumphs and failures. It’s filled with danger and suspense, and in some cases, peace and redemption seem impossible. Even the Exodus alone is an excellent story, as evidenced by the fact that it has been portrayed countless times and different ways in movies.

Even if it is taken simply as a story, I think the implications of Christ’s triumph over death is enough to bring people a little joy and hope. It is the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Of course some might argue that, from a literary perspective (if we are only taking it as a story), it’s a little bit cheap to have him rise from the dead, but Gandalf did the exact same thing in Lord of the Rings, and I don’t know of too many people who would argue with that. Lord of the Rings clearly falls into the category of fantasy, and taken only as a story, the Bible does, too. I suppose that’s why it is rather hard to digest: it is a fantastic story of epic proportions that is taken as true.

If the Gospels are taken as the last several chapters of an epic story, it seems like a rather anticlimactic conclusion. A baby is born in a barn. He grows up in a good, but poor family. As he grows up, he begins to realize who he is and his importance. Eventually he starts teaching and his message is one of peace, acceptance and love. He is condemned and killed for it. He comes back from the dead to give hope to his followers and to show the world who he really is. He goes up into Heaven and sends his Spirit as a moral and spiritual guide for humanity. He leaves his people with the promise that he will make the world right.

This is the end of one story. However, it is the beginning of another, and each of us is writing our own version. Ultimately, the story will end like this: Jesus will come back and bring his Kingdom with him. The world will be made right and evil will finally be eradicated. That is why the resurrection is such a good ending. It might be seemingly anticlimactic, but it makes a difference in our real-life stories, and it gives us hope for the waiting.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

It’s Complicated

I understand why people find it difficult to believe in Christianity, or any religion for that matter. I understand why people find it difficult even to believe in any kind of benevolent deity. I acknowledge the terrible things that so called Christians have done and the things they still do today. The truth is that they are not Christians. The truth is that the Gospel is less complicated than it sounds. The truth is this:

We are all born into a broken world and we are all inherently sinful. However, we were all created in the image of God; we all have good in us, and we are all forgiven because of what Jesus did 2,000 years ago. His sacrifice allowed us to have a relationship with God, but in that, he wants us to uphold a promise: that, in the simplest terms, we will love everyone no matter what.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Merry Christmas. Sorry For The Whining.

I don’t want to be bitter, and I’m sorry that I have been lately. Ironically, Christmas does that to me a little bit. I think it has that effect on a lot of people. It was simpler when I was a little kid and didn’t really know about Jesus. I just knew that a guy named Santa was going to sneak into my house late at night and give me stuff.

Lately I’ve been liking Santa Clause less and less, but today I looked up the history behind the myth because, honestly, I didn’t really know much about where it came from. I knew Saint Nicholas was a real, historical person, but I didn’t really know anything about him other than, presumably, he was generous. What I found were two details about his life that made me like him quite a bit more. I found out that Saint Nick was actually a bishop in the Church. At one point he found out that a poor nobleman had three daughters who were getting married, but he didn’t have a dowry for each of them. Nick wanted to help, but he wanted to do it anonymously, so he threw three bags of gold through the nobleman’s window. Eventually people did find out who did it, which started the tradition of associating charitable giving with Saint Nick. I also found out that at one time, he was imprisoned for his faith, but while he was there, he spread the Gospel to the other prisoners. In fact, he was super generous because the Gospel says we are supposed to help the poor.

So I like the guy. I have a cousin who doesn’t celebrate Christmas at all because it has essentially become a secular holiday. I know plenty of people, including my friends, who celebrate Christmas even though they’re not Christian. While the consumerism of it does get on my nerves, I still love it. I love Christmas. I love going bananas with the decorations. I love hanging out with my relatives. I love going to midnight mass on Christmas eve and then coming home at 1:00 in the morning and opening presents then. I love driving around with hot chocolate to go look at people’s insane decorations. I love that there’s tons of junk food.

I love that Christmas is kind of like starting over. It’s a reminder that our savior came as a tiny human baby, born to a family who couldn’t even get a room in the inn. It’s where his story, and therefore, really, our story begins.

There are some things I want to do differently in the coming year. I want to read Scripture more, and try to figure out to the best of my ability what is objectively True about some things (as best I can, anyway). I also want to lose a little weight and build up some upper body strength. Skiing is on my bucket list, but because of my disability, I would have to ride a sit-down ski thingy and use my arms to steer. I’m not strong enough to do that yet, so I’m going to work on it. I have to figure out exactly how I’m going to do it, but these are sort of my New Year’s resolutions.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and this makes me happy. Long story short, I want to thank everyone for reading, and I want to wish you all a very merry Christmas.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Independence, Counter-Culture And Christianity

Today is July 4th. Today we celebrate the day that we as Americans declared our independence from the British so many years ago. It’s an important thing to remember for so many reasons as this holiday has morphed and changed and become something new over the centuries. It’s a day to gather with family and eat junk food and weather permitting, watch the fireworks. It’s a day to wear red, white and blue and celebrate what we deem to be truly American. Maybe it’s a day to let loose and behave badly, and maybe it’s a day to remember those we have lost in the various wars we’ve been involved in as a country. Whether it’s fun or silly or patriotic or what have you, today is an important day.

Many people simply refer to this particular day as The 4th of July and forget that it is our Independence Day. Perhaps this is because we have forgotten who or what we are independent of. As Americans, we have been an independent nation for over 200 years. As human beings we are free thinkers, inventors and artists. While it’s true that there is some degree of censorship in the United States, it’s also true that to a very large degree, we have freedom of speech, expression, freedom to organize, and freedom to disagree. The freedom to disagree, particularly with what the government says and does is a very precious freedom. It is a freedom worth protecting and cherishing.

I took a four-week theology class in June. We covered a lot of material in a very short time and it was a lot to process. However, something I remember distinctly is our discussion of Church and State. How dependent are they upon each other, and where should our loyalties lie? I am conflicted on this issue. On the one hand, I feel that they should not be separate at all because the Church offers a stable morality that I think is neglected in our leadership. However, while I firmly believe that Christianity is the only proper way to form a relationship with God, I do not believe that it should be imposed on anyone else. Freedom of religion is very important to me. Freedom of religion is directly related to freedom of choice. If it were up to me, I would not have the United States government be a theocracy, but I would have the Church directly involved somehow. I suppose that in some ways it is.

I also know that the Church as an organization is capable of corruption and atrocities. It is made up of people, and people are flawed. Jesus is the exception, and it was his teaching and example upon which the Church was originally based. Jesus was counter-cultural. He taught forgiveness and love where the standard was justice. He promised life where the expectation was death. By extension, Christianity has often been thought of as counter-cultural, especially in the postmodern era.

When I was a child I developed a thick skin. I was never one of the popular kids, and I was never picked on, but I was usually ignored. Because of this I thought I had to be tough to survive. I had to learn to fend for myself and to be indifferent to what the other kids thought. It worked for a while, but then I developed an overwhelming sense of loneliness. This was partly due to the fact that one of my friends went to a different high school, and many of my other friends became interested in different things than I.

Loving is hard. It’s a lot easier to see people as enemies, but it’s a lot more rewarding to see them as brothers and sisters. It takes humility to look at the people on the other side of the planet who hate you and to pray for them. Many of them want to kill you. They see you as enemies of God who deserve death. It’s easy to say that the Nazis were evil and deserve to go to Hell. It’s even easier, for me anyway, to look at the persecution of Christians in various parts of the world and condemn their persecutors.

I don’t like to be angry. It’s easier to condemn people, but it feels better to forgive them, and if I can’t, at least to pray for them. So what does this have to do with Independence Day? I guess it’s a declaration of independence from cultural norms. You don’t have to get the message from Christ. Plenty of philosophies and religions say the same thing: live a good life and love your neighbors; whether you like them or not. They all say this because it’s something worth striving for. Love is freedom. It’s freedom from loneliness, anger, distrust and fear. Love is the catalyst for everything good. We do and feel everything good because we love something, whether that is a person or simply life itself.

Happy Independence Day! Enjoy the fireworks (if it’s not raining where you are).

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!