Faith vs. “Knowledge”

Post #1 in response to Avant Garde’s comments on All Roads Lead to Heaven?

“…how did you come to conclusion that jesus is ultimately right – was my question. I am not saying he is not right, all i am asking is how do YOU know that?”

Before I wax philosophical, let me give you the most personal answer I can give (the short version, at least). I came to the conclusion that Jesus was right because he saved me from myself. I was raised in a church-going, though not especially churchy family. During middle school, at the encouragement of the youth pastor, I began reading the Bible on my own. Convinced that, if God exists, he could and would use just such a means of conveying his truth, I became open to Christianity… and to the fact that I was an egotistical bastard (you know the type: the one who looks down on others for getting B’s). During this time, I had a vivid dream in which (abbridged) I was drawn through darkness into the light and warmth of God’s love in Christ. Since then, there have been many cogent moments of experiencing his presence, such as my near-death in a car crash and my one serious, multi-month bout of manic-depression. But, most importantly, he has transformed me into a more compassionate and loving person (though I still have a long way to go).

But that might not be what you’re asking. What I believe, I cannot prove. I can give you my reasons, my doubts, and my areas of relative certainty. Yet these bits of information are of a different quality than the fact that I exist today, depending on how you define “I” and “exist” and “today,” because Descartes can build a pretty-much air-tight case for the existence of me. No one can build an air-tight case for the need for Jesus. Such is the nature of faith. Many have tried. But this looks less like a science experiment, rooted in things tangible, and more like a court case with a preponderance of evidence, much of it circumstantial, from which you, the jury, must arrive at a verdict.

“Faith is the evidence of things unseen.”

People usually believe in Jesus first in a personal way and then grapple intellectually with the implications of this. In light of my personal faith, why have I concluded that Jesus is ultimately right? Because of the faith the he has planted in me. This is a circular argument, no doubt. But I don’t mind that, as long as you don’t. Circular arguments are only a problem if I’m trying to convince you… and I’m not. Only God can do that. But like any decent, anonymous cyber-friend I can shoot back attempted answers and counter-questions to your questions.

I apologize if this raises more questions than it answers. Faith is about the Person more than it is about the ideas of theology. Questions drive us closer to the truth and a good question is better than any half-assed answer.

Now I still need to address the elephant in the room. Avant Garde further exclaimed: “[you write] in the guise of questioning the denominations/churches of christianity, and saying “no religion but God leads to heaven”, you really meant your God the Son alone leads to heaven!” In my next post I will address the exclusive claims of Christianity.

Raisins vs. Midwest Floods

My priorities are clear.  I know what they ought to be.  But I also see very clearly in my actions what is actually going on.  A sizable chunk of this and neighboring states are underwater.  Few lives have been lost, but many have been ruined.  And I want raisins.

Human suffering matters.  I care.  God cares.  People care.  But I do not care as much as I ought to.  At the end of the day, the only human suffering that really matters to me is my own.  My blood sugar is getting low and we are almost out of raisins.  This is a problem.

But there are two bigger problems.  1) Iowa is covered by waves of mud, not amber waves of grain right now.  And 2) I don’t really care.  Maybe it’s the distance, or the overstimulation of my senses, or the fact that my news source is CNN without audio while I’m at the gym.  I don’t know.  But the bottom line is that right now raisins are vying with the suffering of my neighbors for first-place in my consciousness… and the raisins are winning.  God, help me.

We Hate the Wedding

“Which do you hate more,” I asked, “the wedding or the jewelery store?”

She replied, “That’s like asking who was meaner, Hitler or Stalin?!?”

We’re 35 days away from the Big Day.  I now approach it with stoic resolve.  Then again, I don’t have to wear the dress.  Or go to the fittings.  Or suffer through the shower.  Or have my gender identity questioned because of failing to embrace glitter and glam, but that is exactly what jewelery stores do to women with simple tastes.   And so the love of my life now hates the day that everyone tells her should be the best day of her life.  Damn.  We should have eloped.

The Price of “Growing Up”

The Epic Shenanigans of Adulthood Part II: Why

Sometime around the age of twelve, the transition begins. While our bodies reach maturity fairly quickly, I am convinced that the vestiges of childhood linger until there is some grave change of heart. It happens in secret and catches many of us by surprise when we realize, long after it has happened, what has taken place. Hence the classic, Baby Boomer mid-life crisis. We, their children, have tended to specialize more in the I-refuse-to-commit-to-what-I’m-doing-for-the-rest-of-my-life “quarter-life crisis.”

What fits of misfortune drive us to the margins of our own hearts?

When I consider the elements of adulthood largely foreign to childhood, I discern duty, success, failure, and physical freedom.

Duty is present in some childhoods, though I would characterize most childhood duty as “negotiable responsibility,” in the sense that it is more optional. No matter how numerous the chores of childhood, the stakes are markedly lower. The presence of dependents – spouse, children, and aging parents – can create a sense that not only is there no “safety net,” but the livelihood of an entire clan is dependent on my ability to fulfill my duty, i.e., to succeed at my career. Those minors who take on such duties lose their sense of childhood the soonest, in ways that will become clear in the second half of this post.

Success, too, is present in some form in the lives of many children. But these accomplishments are without the ambition and mastery achieved by “successful” adults. No child faces the temptation to believe, “I have such control over the task at hand that I am like a god!” Your childhood doodle will probably hang on the fridge no matter what. Your grown-up oil painting could fetch $1.2 million and hang in the Guggenheim.

But the flip-side of success is failure. My heart goes out to any readers who grew up with a sense of abject failure. My guess is that sense was imposed from outside, either directly or indirectly, by adults who were all to cognizant of their own failures and looking for someone to take it out on. As an adult, you have the potential to loose it all. You could “squander” your best years throwing paint on canvas and have nothing more than a handsome debt to show for it.

Adults have great physical freedom, in that we can go and do almost anything humanly possible. But possibility comes at a price. The long list of could quickly becomes rivaled by the long list of shouldn’t. I could go run, but I shouldn’t, because of my bad knees. Our bodies’ slow betrayal renders us the slaves of our own limitations. Adulthood comes at a price.

The Epic Shenanigans of Adulthood

Part I: What

My long hiatus from blogging has brought with it much writing material. It’s not just an excuse. The “interruptions” in life can be a source of great blessing.

I am engaged and the wedding is in two months. I am nearly finished with my first year of Ph.D. studies. I am in the process of maybe selling a house, which has been complicated by ant number of issues. Unbeknownst to myself, I was without homeowner’s insurance during the earthquake, for example. But I digress.

My question is this: in what ways is adulthood qualitatively different from childhood?

I ask this because I am convinced that far too many adults have not abandoned their childhood selves and that, unless I am careful in the big decisions I face in my present, I will become one of them.

For the purposes of this essay, I will disregard such nuanced stages as “teenager” and “young adult.” I assume that if you are somewhere between 12 and 40, my discussion applies to you, as well as to many people outside that age range, which is simply my best guess at classifying those who are trying to figure out what it means to be grown up.

Children dream of becoming adults. Most of them do, anyway. Their games reflect this. But they do no want to become just any adults. While stereotypical roles reflect this –firemen, soldiers, astronauts, movie stars, princesses, and mothers – I think that even non-stereotypical playtime reflects this trend. My earliest career aspiration was to live in New York and own a costume shop, helped by a giant rabbit. My favorite book, “Busy Day, Busy People,” had somehow given me an inkling of the Big Apple. But I think, too, of my recent summers spent mowing the campus at the seminary. I wore a broad-brimmed hat to protect me from the sun and a bandana over my mouth and nose to keep out the dust and pollen. I heard from several seminary parents that their sons enjoyed “playing cowboy,” i.e., mowing the lawn like me.

Why do children want to grow up? Adults have apparent freedom and endless possibility. They come and go as they please. They stay up as late as they want. They spend money on whatever they want. They have power, beauty, strength, and knowledge to a degree that is barely imaginable for a child. A boy who longs to be strong knows that he will be stronger when he is a man. A girl who longs to be beautiful knows that she will be more beautiful as a woman. All children who long for adventure know that they will have greater means to travel and explore when they are older.

Yet if the standard children’s attitude is “I can’t wait to be an adult,” the standard adult response: “bills! [gripe, gripe] duty! [gripe gripe] if you only knew!” Too fraught with duty to dream of childhood, gripey grown-ups nonetheless know that they are missing something. As to what and why, I will devote my next post.

If you don’t believe that Jesus is God, why not Tom Cruise? Or FM-2030?

If you’re not sure Tom Cruise is crazy, check out his interview expressing his hope to “create a new reality… with enough love, compassion, and toughness.”  I miss Jesus already.  (Helpful explanations of his jargon here.)

Yet Scientology is part of the larger movement of transhumanism, and they’re not even the craziest ones in the movement.  Not to be confused with transsexuality, which this is not the place to discuss, transhumanists hope to incorporate advances in technology and “spirituality” to become immortal, post-human entities (and sometimes cyborgs).

I originally entitled this post “Science Fiction + religion – God = 😦 ” but changed when I realized that some might infer atheist non-cult-members, many of whose views I greatly respect, as being lumped along with self-theist psychos. I value dialog with people of other beliefs, but even I have my limits and and some point have to cry, “Dude, that’s loco!”

Worship someone, please, but not your future self.

King’s Pawn

Lyov Myshkin.  The Idiot.  The master.  It was a clever alias, perhaps, or a twist of fate which named my chess mentor after Dostoyevsky’s “fool.”  Homeless by choice, he rode his bike up and down the parkway, spending nights in parks and under bridges, wherever he could find freedom and his next fix.  No bills to pay, no women to interfere, he passed his days in strategy.  The game was his only source of joy, other than sauerkraut and the occasional gyro.  He passed out of sight after the last big snow.  Perhaps he is already gone.  Or maybe he’s in Vegas, reveling in his latest tournament victory.  I will keep playing, either way, compelled if not yet addicted by moments of pure mind, of my best move against yours, uninterrupted by luck or chance or fate.  Did he know what moved him?  And how will he be transformed when he reaches the other side?

A Very Waterpark Michael Jackson Karaoke Christmas

I love my family.  I have always been aware that my family is a little bit weird.  I am, too.  But the older I am, the more openly weird my family becomes.  And so it was that we all spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day at the indoor water park at our hotel, going down the slides, singing karaoke, and watching old Michael Jackson music videos. 

 

The warm water rushed us down, giving birth to us a few dozen times.  Our voices frayed after hours on end singing songs to which only my father knew the words, laughing ourselves silly.  Our eyes blurred before the slow metamorphosis of the King of Pop, who managed to dance his way out of every imaginable crisis:  The thugs attack?  Dance!  Your peers question your badness?  Dance!  The pharaoh tries to kill you for your past fling with his wife?  Dance! 

 

And so it was that we, too, used music to resolve each crisis.  Grandma and Uncle Bob have subjected the love of my life to three hours of family history and show no sign of stopping?  Let’s sing!  Grandpa has lost his ability of speech and sits staring blankly at the nursing home ceiling?  Let’s sing!  Sing of the newborn King, of healing, of hope!  More than the presents, more than the laughter, and the reason for them both: Christ is born!

The Curse of Cool

Yesterday’s David Hasselhoff is Today’s David Hasselhoff

There are few curses as grave as coolness.  Why?  Because to be cool is to be in style, and to be in style today is to be out-of-style tomorrow.  Like Patrick Swayze.  And just remember Louis XIV — and look-alike Fredrick the Great — vying to rule the known world with his hair parted like a big poofy butt right down the middle. 

I hope you’re not as cool as you used to wish you were.

The Joys of Not Blogging

It has been a while.  I love to blog.  But for everything there is a season and sometimes being a good student means being a bad blogger.  So I sympathize for you, if you love my work, for there hasn’t been much of it up here of late.  I sympathize, but I should not apologize.  My priorities have been elsewhere and rightfully so.

Trying to sell a house.  Trying to read six books a week (because that’s how many are being assigned?!  PhDdom…).  So in order to save a buck and cut off my primary source of procrastination, we cut off internet at the house, which means that all of my online time is compressed into 30 minutes MWF.  Cramping my style.

It is a joy to be online, to connect, to express to the multiverse shades of truth.  And yet, it is a joy to unplug, to breathe the fresh air, to dance with a beautiful woman in the rain, and to get some sleep for a change.

 Not blogging is just as blessed as blogging, sometimes more.  Have you been skipping out on anything in order to blog?  I know I did!  Now, back to the books….