Marriage Is A Beautiful Death

Sometimes you read a poem or hear a song or experience something so profound that you have to drop everything you’re doing (in this case, homework) and share it.  Ironically enough, I wrote a blog last week about how Pat Robertson was missing the point about marriage.  Today I saw this song on my Facebook wall.  It’s called “Dancing In The Mine Fields” by Andrew Peterson.  When it comes to marriage, Andrew Peterson gets it.

“I do” are the two most famous last words
The beginning of the end
But to lose your life for another I’ve heard
Is a good place to begin
‘Cause the only way to find your life
Is to lay your own life down
And I believe it’s an easy price
For the life that we have found

This is the beauty of marriage: Marriage is death.  It’s death to self.  It’s death to the letter I.  Our culture has turned individualism into a virtue and that model just doesn’t work with the model of marriage.  This death is hard and it takes a lot of work.  But the reality is that two people that give themselves completely to each other, are completely vulnerable to each other; that die to each other will have the most joyous and unbreakable relationship on the face of this planet.  This is counter-cultural.  It’s a paradox to logic.  In the book of Ephesians, Paul calls it a “mystery”.  What he means is this is something that we wouldn’t have figured out with our human logic.  This is a model that was given by God.

But I’ll stop talking now.  Listen to the song – then go hug your spouse.

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Oh Pat Robertson, when will you learn?

Pat Robertson has been found yet again saying something that has made the masses wonder why on Earth this guy still has a following.  On a recent show, Pat Robertson gave advice to a viewer “who has a friend” that is cheating on his wife who has Alzheimer’s.    Pat’s advice: Divorce her and start all over again, just make sure she has custodial care.

I feel that anytime Mr. Robertson opens his mouth, my IQ lowers a bit. But that didn’t happen this time.  His words, while I strongly disagree with, gave me some good observations about marriage and where our ethics lie.

Let me first start off by saying that I hotly disagree with Pat’s advice.  I believe that his advice is wrong on so many levels.  I take the vow of “…in sickness and health, until death do you part” very literally and very seriously.  Pat talks about this on his show as well and defends him claim by saying that Alzheimer’s is a form of death.  Well that may make some logical sense, this interpretation of “death” opens up way too many slippery slopes. What makes Pat Robertson qualified to make this claim?  How do we know everything that goes on in the mind of someone with Alzheimer’s?  If we allow for this to be death, what other things can we justify?  Where do we draw the line?

Second, Pat’s advice is completely self-centered and shockingly against Biblical principles of marriage that talk about self-sacrifice and two becoming one flesh.  Marriage isn’t about what you can get out of it, it’s about what you can give to the person you’ve chosen to love more than anything else in this world.  The moment you start making guidelines and loopholes for getting out of a marriage, you’ve completely missed its point.

And third, if you’re the type that believes in a soul, how can we just easily divorce someone on the basis of them being “dead” if the soul is still there?  If my wife had Alzheimer’s, the functioning part of some of her body might be dead, but there is still so much that is alive, including the divine spark within her.

When I first heard this story, I found myself discussing it with people whom I greatly respect that disagreed with me.  One mentioned a story about how a man did divorce his wife and married another but they both – husband and new wife – live with her and take care of her together.  Another mentioned that it’s hard to give a point of view on this when we haven’t been in that situation.  Perhaps we might be more willing to understand if we could feel the man’s aching desire for companionship.  And these are really good points.  And then I realized that I was looking at this from a different ethical structure than my friends.  Where I am more principle minded and feel that you should do the right thing every time, no questions asked, my friends were approaching it from a more consequential view that said  if it’s not hurting the wife, then why shouldn’t the man be happy?  Both points of view make for a good argument and maybe there’s no fully correct point of view – just different approaches to the same metaphorical chess game.

But I still think I’m right.

But beyond the whole ethical debate, I learned something about myself and my marriage.  Even though I wouldn’t divorce my wife with Alzheimer’s in a million years, I asked myself, “Would I want Sarah to stay with me if my Alzheimer’s meant I couldn’t even recognize her anymore?  Could I give her away if she could be much happier with another companion?”

I answered yes.  I had to.  I love Sarah more than I love myself.

After I thought all this, Sarah came into the living room where I was sitting.

“Hey babe,” I said, “let me tell you something.  If I ever go crazy…”

“WHEN you go crazy,” she chuckled.

“Okay, when I go crazy.  If I’m so far gone that I don’t even know you and you need a companion and you find someone, you have my permission.”

“Thanks babe,” she smiled, “but I don’t see that happening.”

I believe the conversation we had is a small glimpse of what true marriage sounds like.  Marriage is a contest to see who can practice self-denial better.  Marriage should be full of arguments like “You take the last piece of pie –  no YOU take it!” and “I love you more and I’ll show it  – no I love YOU more and I’ll prove it!”  Marriage means you should be willing to let the other one go but would never – NEVER even consider it if the tables were turned.  Marriage is indeed one flesh and there’s just no separating it.

Paul talks about the sacrifice of marriage in Ephesians 5. He calls it a mystery, meaning that we wouldn’t have figured out how to do marriage this way on our own, it was advice given from God.  And he’s right.  In our self-centered world, a self-sacrificial marriage sounds crazy.  But when both husband and wife do this, marriage becomes the most joyful, wonderful, passionate thing in the world.

If Pat Robertson viewed marriage like this, we should have answered it this way:  “Why would you want to get out of your marriage?  Why would you even want the cheap beer that is your current affair when all your life you’ve had the finest champagne?  Your wife may now be a sliver of who she used to be, but that sliver is more soul-nourishing than this other relationship.  Why even bother?”

Until death do us part…and maybe even a little longer than that.  I’m going to try and make a deal with God to see if I can have Sarah again on the other side of eternity.

Today Is A Day Of Mourning

Today is a day of mourning.

Today I am corporately mourning the events of 9-11-01 alongside every American.  The pain manifested from that horrible event can be and should be shared by everyone in this country.  Today, it is more than appropriate to remember the victims, honor the fallen heroes, and support those who are still dealing with the very real pain of having a loved one taken from them.  I suspect the wound of losing someone who possessed a piece of your heart never fully heals – much less after ten years.  These people need our unyielding prayer and support.

But this is only a fraction of my mourning.

This is one of those bitter realities of human nature:  For those of us who did not directly suffer from the events of 9-11, we choose one day of the year to corporately reflect and mourn on behalf of those who directly experienced pain.  But come tomorrow morning, the hubbub of life and chaos of a new week will kick in and the emotions of the day before will largely fade into oblivion.  I suspect this is normal and acceptable.

But the mourning and discontent I’m experiencing will bleed over into tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that…

The theme of my mourning is particularly evident on a day like this.  At a 9-11 tribute today, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said in his speech,

 “From this place of wrath and tears, America’s military ventured forth as the long arm and clenched fist of an angry nation at war…And we have remained at war ever since, visiting upon our enemies the vengeance they were due and providing for the American people the common defense they demand.”

At the same tribute, Joe Biden vowed to keep fighting, “until Al-Qaeda is not only disrupted, but completely dismantled and ultimately destroyed.”

And then the Navy chorus sang “Amazing Grace.”  Because nothing wraps up a speech about wrath, anger and vengeance quite like words of Amazing Grace.

My mourning is derived from my Christian perspective, but much of it is simple common sense.  Many of my atheist friends see the faulty logic as well.  A war that was sparked by a terrorist attack that killed less than 3,000 has claimed more than 1 million lives.

And ten years later, we’re still spouting off about vengeance and anger.

Now, I can understand how someone who isn’t a Christian can adhere to the logic (even though it’s wrong) that you must make war to have peace.  But for those who are followers of Christ, there is no excuse.  Jesus emphatically preached non-violence.  You can’t argue the fact.  You can’t get around it.  Jesus’s teachings go directly against the War on Terror.  And if you are one of the many Christians out there that have mixed your nationalism with your religion and believe that the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives is somehow God ordained, you’re grotesquely perverting the Gospel of Christ.

Truth burns like a hemorrhoid sometimes.

So this is my mourning:  I’m mourning the deaths caused by the 9-11 tragedy.

I’m mourning the American and Muslim deaths caused by this ridiculous war.

I’m mourning the deaths of thousands who die from starvation and disease daily that could have been saved with money that was spent for bloodshed instead.

I’m mourning our country’s financial situation that can’t afford this war.

I’m mourning Christians who feel uneasy about this violence but have been taught that asking questions and going against the grain is wrong.

I’m mourning Muslims and Christians who have been brainwashed by their pseudo-religions into thinking that this violence is the answer.

I’m mourning Atheists who have never been shown the real Jesus, only a fake one who is a warmonger.

I’m mourning for the broken heart of Christ.

I’m mourning for those who have lost someone in this violence that has been sold a false hope by our government that says healing comes through vengeance.  Healing never comes through vengeance, it comes through forgiveness and reconciliation.

And those of you whom I have offended should know that I am also mourning my own hypocrisy.  3 years ago I would have been on the other side of this proverbial fence and argued that we need to bomb those godless bastards into submission.  I still deal with my own violence every day.  But I realize that my own warring nature is a result in a lack of trust in a God who showed the ways of peace through Jesus.

Today is a day of mourning.  Tomorrow will be as well.  May we all mourn until that day where we finally become intent on reconciliation and peace and not bloodshed.

Rob Bell is going to be able to sleep tonight, because finally, drama and controversy has sparked elsewhere in modern Christianity.

Macho pastor Mark Driscoll gets a wedgie from a 100 pound girl.

Of course I don’t mean this literally, and I know better to never guess a woman’s weight…but the mental picture gives me a chuckle, so I’m keeping the metaphor.

Here’s the story:  Mark Driscoll, posted something inappropriate on his Twitter.  Big surprise, right?  Well, this time, he struck a nerve with someone who actually gets more than 20 people reading his or her blog.

(Many humble thanks to my 20 fans out there.)

Queue Rachel Held Evans to the scene.  She’s a fellow blogger/writer – only she’s about 1,000 times more successful than Fourfingerculture.  I’d be jealous of this fact if she wasn’t freaking amazing.  I’ve been a fan of hers for a few months now and she’s never disappointed me. So Rachel blogged a response to Driscoll’s beef-headed comment that, in my opinion, was absolutely brilliant. The bully gets a wedgie.

But like any good drama that’s discussed over the internet, people on both sides of the spectrum got and are still getting a little too passionate.  Rachel’s blog is less than 24 hours old and I’ve already seen numerous Facebook conversations about it.  Because I’m such a phlegmatic person, I get a little squeamish when Christians take arms with each other.  I’m still hiding under a rock due to the whole Love Wins “controversy”.  But there are some good points that both sides seem to be making, so I have to write about them.

Oh, and if you haven’t stopped reading this blog to Google Rachel Held Evans by now, here’s the direct link:  http://rachelheldevans.com/mark-driscoll-bully

Let me begin by saying this:  Rachel’s blog was spot on.  Too many times Mark Driscoll  has harmed Christianity with his antics.  You don’t need a theology degree to see that some of the things he says and does are simply wrong.  And even if you’re a Driscoll fan, you have to admit that he has a really strange passion for picking on guys that aren’t of the lumberjack persuasion.

I’m trying to be objective here but I have to assume that I’m a bit biased.  I’m one of those guys that Mark Driscoll loves to hate.  I’m kind of a chick.  I love art and music.  I write poetry and songs.  I love children.  I cried like a baby while watching “August Rush”.  But I’m also very much a dude.  I love risk-taking.  I like beer and action flicks, and things that go “boom”.  And I’m fairly confident that if Driscoll and I were to put on boxing gloves, I’d drop him like a bad habit in the third round.   So ultimately Mark Driscoll doesn’t personally offend me and I can say with objectivity that he needs to be accountable for his words and grow the heck up.

But I’ve also been reading the opinions of those who are for Mark Driscoll and against Rachel Evans.  While I think most of these opinions are incredibly misguided, they’ve been making me think.  And as much as it pains me to say this, if you take Mark Driscoll and strip away his misogyny and bully tactics, there’s a little tiny kernel of truth that he carries that is worth mentioning.

Our culture has somewhat emasculated the man.

Turn on the TV and you’ll find a mass of sitcoms and commercials where men are portrayed as ignorant buffoons that only care about the basic necessities of food and sex and that are scared to death to do anything outside of their wives’ expressed, written consent.  These men always get portrayed as being completely clueless to their wives’ needs and continuously drop the ball at being good fathers.  But at least they’re good at swinging a hammer and catching a football.

We live in a society where the jock is always dumb and the guy who works with his hands is always devoid of emotions.

This stereotype goes beyond society.  It’s landed in our churches.  I’ve seen countless of times where macho men get somewhat of a bad rap at church because many of them are more stoic during worship and dry-eyed during prayer time.  I’ve seen macho men on the outskirts of church fellowship because they have a hard time relating to more touchy-feely times of discussion.  But if you want someone to hang dry wall, help with a prison ministry, or to grab a young punk by the scruff of the neck and give some much needed tough love, that’s often where the macho man shines.

So I’m glad that Mark Driscoll is putting some gristle back in the church…but only a small part – like 10%.  The 90% that is Driscoll’s bullying  should go away.

Because the truth is, It doesn’t matter if you drive a motorcycle, can bench 400 pounds, or if you read Tolstoy or have gotten teary eyed at a commercial (don’t judge me) – these things don’t define you as a man.  A real man has valor.  A real man is faithful.  A real man has integrity and honesty.  A real man loves his family and takes care of them self-sacrificially.

Real men don’t hide who they are and don’t ridicule other men for not being like them.

If you’re looking for what a real man looks like, look no further than Jesus.  He is both a lion and a lamb.  He was a manly carpenter and still found the time to hold some unhindered kids.  He said things like “blessed are the meek” but went commando on the money changers in the temple.

Jesus was the ideal man. Mark Driscoll is not.  And nether am I.

But I still think I knock him out in the third round.

Blogging is a strange thing.  This whole phenomenon of taking your thoughts, putting them into text, and wrapping them up in a pretty package for the world to see is not so strange.  But doing so without being researched, well-thought out, grammatically accurate (all things I’m guilty of); and without getting paid is strange.  Spending hours blogging as if your opinion deeply matters and having only a few people read your stuff…strange.    Even the name sounds funny…blog.  Go ahead, say it out loud.  It’s funny. 

You actually said it out loud, didn’t you?

To date, there’s over 50 million blogs out there (according to Google).  Obviously, people like blogging.  But a lot of people also hate blogging with the fire of a thousand suns.  I get that.  With 50 million blogs, there’s a lot of good fodder available to make fun of the entire culture.  I understand the thoughts of those who go to school to learn how to write professionally and just can’t stand that Joe-Schmoe down the street feels sooooo important with his blog. 

But blogging does have its uses.  Blogging address that fundamental need we all have of wanting to be heard.  That’s why there’s over 50 million of them.  But people address this in different ways.  Some people have a burning need to communicate, so they spend time making a pretty blog only to realize that they have no idea how to convey their thoughts into words.  Others will spend a few weeks or months writing what’s on their chest and abandon their blog after they feel better.  And I’m cool with both types of people.

But there are the few strange ones out there, like myself, that are a bit blog crazy.  We write AND read other people’s blogs.  I absolutely love reading other people’s blogs because there is some crazy good stuff out there.  And I’ve never met a blogger that didn’t reply to me when I had a question to ask.  Good blogs are like reading amazing books for free and having direct access to the author.   

I write on my blog not because I have some amazing unique opinion that the world must hear, although I feel I’m allowed to take some pride in what I write.  I mostly blog because I consider myself to be a writer.  And writers need to write.  It’s that simple.  I can’t go a single day without seeing something that I want to capture into words.

So I’m making another blog site. 

I created this site, fourfingerculture, with a specific goal in mind.  This site was meant to be a project to encourage people from all walks and perspectives of life to share and converse without judgment or ridicule.  This site has done its job to a point.  There’s been some variety and some good discussions, but it’s mostly been a place where I can throw down my philosophical musings.  And I want to get away from that. 

While I will still write some philosophical/theological stuff for fourfingerculture, I don’t want it to be the majority of its content.  I want to get perspectives from Protestants, Catholics, lesbians, Mexicans, Mexicants, atheists, midget priests, people who like Jersey Shore (do they exist?), and people who just have a burning desire to write (so long as its respectful and relatively enjoyable).  I believe that respect comes from understanding, and I want to understand people who don’t think the same way I do. 

I’ve also realized that I have a lot of thoughts lately that I really want to flesh out, but don’t want to polish up and advertise.  Diary thoughts.  Thoughts that aren’t written in an attempt to change your mind; or thoughts that I may not hold a week from now.  Just thoughts.  We all have them, and they don’t necessarily have to be correct or good in their infancy.

This new site will be almost like a diary of mostly theological musings and poetry (and anything else I dang well feel like putting on there).  But why not just keep a diary?  It’s all about motivation.  Writing words in a book or on Microsoft word, knowing they’ll never been seen, is rather dull to me.  Posting your thoughts, raw and naked for the world to see (even though only a few will see them)…I don’t know…I enjoy the concept of it.

I’m advertising it, just this once, because I know that I have…like 3 people out there that actually do enjoy my stuff.  So if you’re a fan, please check it out.  If you’re not interested, that’s totally cool. 

The site is http://thoughtsofaplatypus.wordpress.com

Since the link is a little wordy, I’ll also put a permanent link over on the right hand side. 

 

Oh, and seriously, I’m looking for people to contribute to fourfingerculture.  If you’re interested, read the FAQ and send me the idea for an article. 

 

 

SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY!  Two champions of thought will battle it out on the philosophical battlefield on a quest for fame and glory.  These two mental heavyweights will tackle the world’s most difficult problems.  Two opinions enter the arena, only one comes out.  Who will be victorious?   It’s…..DUELING LIBERALS!

Okay so it’s not exactly like that.

My friend Tony and I have decided to go tandem on some writing.  In this article, (the first of hopefully many) we will tackle a deeper question or issue from our own perspectives.    We have a unique relationship.  We both went to the same Bible college, both are avid writers; and we are both incredibly out-of-the-box.  We’re both “liberals” in a sense that we both strayed from the milieu of our conservative alma mater.  But we strayed in very different ways.  And this will show in our responses.   Tony writes from a more naturalistic perspective while I write from a more progressive Christian worldview.

Oh, and if you’re excited for some heated debate, we don’t actually ever “duel”.  The title just sounded cool.  Sorry about that.

The question we’re discussing is, “How should we respond to the death of Osama Bin Laden?”

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Tony’s response:

I’d like to open with the two-fold challenge often put forth by Christopher Hitchens.

First, imagine some moral act that a person of religious faith could perform that is inaccessible to an atheist or agnostic.

I can’t think of anything, and in the many years Hitchens spent debating the brightest theists and apologists of our time, he has yet to encounter a compelling response.

Second, imagine an act of immorality, something truly horrible or destructive that could only be performed by a person who believed they were operating on divine command. A person of faith.

You’ve already thought of something.

You know that somewhere, at this very moment, a suicide bomber is content with the thought that before long he will be in paradise and the infidels he immolates along with himself will be sent to Hell. He believes he will be reunited with Osama bin Laden, but not before greeting his seventy-two virgins.

To once again echo Hitchens, somewhere, right now, a little girl’s face is being burned with acid for the crime of wanting to learn to read. A young woman is being blamed for her own rape and urged by her father to kill herself in order to preserve the honor of her family.

Somewhere a Christian is telling their child that a classmate or friend will burn in Hell because his or her parents go to the wrong church. This year, millions of children will be born under a death sentence because The Church believes that AIDS is bad but condoms are worse. These people are told that condoms cause, rather than help prevent, the disease, and this lie comes directly from the Vatican.

We can all agree that these are truly evils of our time, but they are committed in the name of belief, of faith, and quite often against a person or group because they cling to a different ancient holy book.

In contrast, nowhere, right now or ever, is there an atheist, scientist or philosopher destroying a telescope array, a nuclear facility or research laboratory. Nowhere is there a free-thinker or skeptic leading a suicide cult or brainwashing their children to hate people of other cultures, religious backgrounds or sexual orientations. Scientists don’t declare fatwa against other scientists over differing interpretations of peer-reviewed research in a journal of medicine, or for drawing cartoons of Albert Einstein.

But somewhere, a person whom many might deem a “militant atheist” is sipping a cup of coffee, reading a book on philosophy or evolution or studying one of the various world religions, and they are thinking long and hard about how to make this world a better place. One thing you can be sure of is that he will never blow himself up, he will never threaten you or me with torture or death, to accomplish this goal.

What I’m arguing for is the virtue of non-belief in unproven, unverifiable metaphysical claims. I’m not necessarily arguing for atheism, agnosticism, skepticism, the scientific method; I’m only standing against unmerited belief.

It’s not that metaphysical speculation isn’t interesting or worth pursuing, but that this speculation, unchecked, can all too often give otherwise rational people unwarranted confidence that some atrocity is not only moral, but required of them by their creator.

I ask you, has a building ever crashed to the ground as a result of too much intellectual humility, rigorous research or skeptical inquiry?

So what do we do with the news that Osama bin Laden is dead?

Sadly, the culture that created him, the culture which believes certain unverifiable propositions about the after life and God’s will, still exists. It only takes another brainwashed child or teenager to take his place, and there are myriad prospects. The root of the problem, the basis for the belief is still fully intact. And the problem is not confined to radical Islam. (Notice I said “radical” Islam, certainly not all facets of the culture.)

* * *

Let us assume Christianity: Millions of good people are burning in Hell right now. But the Inquisitors and Conquistadors, the Popes who looked the other way amidst centuries of rampant Anti-Semitism in Europe, even during Hitler’s Final Solution; they’re all enjoying the company of Jesus and the Saints.

Let us now assume Islam: The aforementioned are in Hell alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Theresa, but Osama bin Laden and thousands of suicide bombing terrorists are in Paradise, each with their many virgins.

Morality in both of these paradigms is not contingent upon your actions or the quality of your relationships, your impact on or contribution to society; but upon your belief in unverifiable, brute statements about this world and even more incredulous assertions about the nature of the next. You simply must be irrational to be good in this life and thereby gain a reward in the next if either of these systems are true.

As a Christian, there must be some measure, however small, of irrationality present to want to spend eternity alongside Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer who accepted Christ on death row, instead of, say Ghandi, who is consigned to Hell for the evil deed of not accepting Jesus as his personal human sacrifice.

Consider the Christian image of being washed in the blood of the sacrificial lamb, I mean really imagine it, and try to tell me with a straight face that this image represents the height of moral achievements.

However, up until now, all this rhetoric amounts to little more than an emotional appeal. I don’t want either of these scenarios to be true, but that doesn’t make either of them false. I don’t want either Dahmer or bin Laden to be rewarded eternally given the lives they lead, but emotional weight adds nothing to Truth value. Luckily, there are many other options on the table.

* * *

What I offer is a firm basis for morality, a morality that improves with the frequency, quality and precision of our moral inquiries; inquiries which religion (in the developed world) has only recently given up punishing with torture and death.

More to the point, what I offer is the same moral progress for which Christianity often tries to take credit. Why don’t we, here in America, burn witches any more? This still happens in Kenya in the wake of Christian missionaries spreading the “good” news. It’s still in every Bible in every hotel, on every coffee table and in every church pew, that we “shall not suffer a witch to live”. In America we ignore this verse. In other countries, to this day it spells death for schizophrenics, seizure sufferers and unruly children.

What’s most telling is that we can pinpoint a moment in history when these things were acceptable in Europe and America and, by comparison to that point, make a positive assertion of moral progress between then and now. We can track it with unbelievable precision. Whether or not the God of the Bible really achieved the atrocities for which he is given credit in the Old Testament is of little consequence on this matter. A more salient point is that we used to hold it moral to kill not only the guilty, but entire families, because we believed they had offended God.

On that point, would anyone who believes in the Bible honestly assert that Jeffrey Dahmer’s parents should have also been executed for his crimes? How about his extended family? Of course not. That would be a severe injustice and terribly immoral. But there is clearly a time in history to which we can point when this was considered not only moral, but obligatory. Today it most certainly would not.

This is moral progress, and it does not come from any religious text or belief. It comes from free thinkers and doubters and heretics. Consider that the word heretic literally translates from the Greek to mean, “One who is able to choose.” We commit heresy every time we challenge some notion of morality according to some ancient religious text, and I would suggest that we are virtually always better off for it.

* * *

In my worldview, Osama bin Laden is simply dead. So is Jeffrey Dahmer. So is Hitler, Stalin, all the Inquisitors and Crusaders and Jihadists and suicide bombers. They’re gone, and those of us who are still here are faced with handling the aftermath of their choices.

In my worldview, Ghandi is also dead, but we have no need to be sad that he didn’t make it into heaven. Ghandi’s impact on the world remains. So does Buddha’s. And the same goes for Jesus. We can be happy that all these people not only lived, but left something positive in their absence.

In my worldview, we progress morally every time we object to any religion’s oppressive, hateful, divisive or exclusive claims about how to live in this world.

Moral progress is clearly moving away from bronze age sentiments on how to live and who to kill. This is demonstrably true. If God does exist, I believe it is more than probable that he, she, or it has very little to do with most of those who claim to follow him.

This does not tell me anything about the afterlife, and I cannot argue one way or another on that front. I have no evidence upon which to judge such claims. But as far as this life goes, we’re still here, and the belief systems which gave us both the Inquisition and the Taliban still exist. This is the world I am concerned with as it is the only world of which I can reasonably speak or change.

In my worldview, it falls to us to make things right, here and now, and one of the most immoral things we can do is leave it up to some idea of God to settle accounts after we die. But what is arguably more evil than inaction would be to give billions of people permission to raise their children to hate infidels, homosexuals or people of other religions or races, all so we can feel “tolerant”.

It is our responsibility as rational, reasonable moral agents, as equal members of our race, to hold both people and cultures responsible for their impact on our world, to speak out against the indoctrination of hate and oppression with an appropriate measure of criticism. These conversations have never been easy, but in a country where slavery is now abolished, women can vote and own property rather than be property, where homosexuals are on the verge of being equal members of society, I can tell you that we are, slowly but surely, moving in the right direction.

Osama bin Laden is dead. We, the living, must decide how we want the world to look in his absence.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Joshua’s response:

Osama Bin Laden has a new secret location, and there’s been much speculation of exactly where that’s at.

Bin Laden is in hell, wrapped in a gasoline Snuggie, while all the people that were killed in the Twin Towers are in heaven throwing rocks at him.

Or, he’s enjoying his virgins…but they all look Chris Farley with the body hair of Robin Williams and the voice of Kathy Griffin.

Or heck, maybe Bin Laden is indeed being lavishly rewarded by a militant Islamic god.  After all, there are about 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, and they ALL share the same extremist beliefs.  And 1.5 billion people can’t be wrong, right?  (I really wish there was a universal symbol to denote sarcasm).

Approximately 150,000 people die around the world everyday (according to Yahoo Answers – and you know they’re always legit) and yet the eternal fate of one man is still talked about weeks after his death.  And the world ultimately disagrees with itself.  Bin Laden is in hell.  Bin Laden was reincarnated and came back as dung beetle.  Bin Laden’s life force was returned to the universe.

Even my own religion, Christianity, can’t agree on an opinion. God is in sorrow that he lost Bin Laden’s soul.  God is rejoicing that evil was eradicated.   Bin Laden is in hell with Gandhi, Hitler, and everyone else that wasn’t a Christian, regardless of how good or evil they were. Or, he’s in the deepest part of hell with Hitler while good people like Gandhi are in an easier part of hell – like hell with room service.  Or, Bin Laden’s body and soul were completely annihilated.  Or maybe he’s in purgatory, which is unfortunate for him because I don’t see any Catholics volunteering to pray him out.

But here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. Here is my wise and well-studied opinion about where Bin Laden’s soul is as we speak…

I don’t know.  And I really don’t care.  *Cue gasps from the audience*

I mean seriously, with only 24 hours in the day and a finite amount of brain power, don’t we have better things to do?  Do we really think that whatever we believe about Bin Laden’s new secret location will change the inevitable, whatever the inevitable may be?

“Holy crap, Josh!  Aren’t you a Christian?  Shouldn’t you be all freaked out and passionate about where souls go in the afterlife?”

I wasn’t planning on putting a Christian spin on this, but since there’s a good chance that you, the reader, at least know enough about Christianity to be shocked at my apathy, I feel I should explain myself from a Christian perspective.

To put it in really simple terms, there are things in the Bible that are really clear, and there are things that are super ambiguous.  Jesus’ commands to love and take care of people: really clear.  The Bible’s descriptions about the afterlife: super ambiguous.  This is where I feel Christians get it wrong.  They’re so concerned about the afterlife that they fail to take care of the here and now.  And this has all sorts of ramifications.  When Christians get this backwards, they care more about being pious and how to act instead of emulating the one they choose to worship.  And being pious has cornered the Christian market.  Don’t do this.  Don’t do that.  “Oh be careful little eyes what you see.  For the father up above, throws lightening down with love…” 

Just the other day I was reading an article by Chuck Colson where he addressed a concern about how more and more Christians are being more concerned about poverty and the environment instead of homosexuality and the sanctity of marriage.  This is a concern?  Really?  It sounds more like progress to me.

But this isn’t just about Christianity; this is about good old-fashioned common sense.  Why be concerned about one dead man when there are hundreds dying and suffering in our neighborhoods that we can actually help?  Osama Bin Laden is dead, and I have a lot of thoughts about this – it’s a mixed bag of logical, psychological, spiritual and emotional perspectives.  But ultimately, they don’t matter.  But my thoughts and emotions on poverty, racism, and social injustices, those are things that count.

If you’re still unsatisfied with my response and really want to know my humble opinion on Bin Laden’s new secret location, here’s my official stance.  I believe that Bin Laden wasn’t killed – he escaped the Matrix and is now fighting the computers with personality handicapped people like Neo, Trinity and Morpheus.  And that pretty much sounds like hell to me.

Oh great, yet another person talking about end-times.

 If the above is your sentiment, I completely understand. I’m pretty sick of it myself. But if I didn’t address this one last thing, I wouldn’t sleep tonight. Oh, and I wrote this in an hour this morning with no coffee. I won’t be doing much proofreading. Sorry to all you anal-retentive English majors out there 🙂

 There’s been a lot of weirdness in human history lately. Osama got whacked, the Jews and Pallys aren’t getting along, earthquakes, tsunamis, Oprah is ending her show…

Most recently we’ve had everyone’s new favorite nut-job Harold Camping still insisting that the world will end in October. And we’ve also had the worst tornado in modern US history devastate Joplin, MO. It’s tempting, and maybe even a little logically permissible to look at all this and think, “Wow, is all this a precursor to something else?”

And then there’s the belief that all this is the wrath of God, or his means of trying to get our attention. I would like to (hopefully in respect) address two different misconceptions that have popped up about all this. Here goes.

I was discussing the Joplin and Minneapolis tornadoes with a friend at work. He shook his head and said, “Wow. God’s trying to get our attention”. It stunned me a bit. Was God really trying to get our attention? Does God level homes and kill over 100 people just so we’ll stop and pay attention? Is he that wrathful – or that big and clumsy?

The answer, in which I’m unequivocally convinced, is no, no, no, nope, no way, no chance, not even close.

And if it is your opinion that all this destruction is God’s will, I understand and respect that. We’ve been taught a lot of things throughout our Christian history. We see a lot of crazy wrathful things in the Old Testament. And I have to admit, a lot of it makes me scratch my head and say, “God what were you thinking?!” But we don’t see this kind of thing after Jesus’ death and resurrection. We just don’t.

I believe this opinion is also a byproduct of people desperately wanting to hear from God. We are always hearing that God is speaking to us. And if you hear this long enough, but never experience God speaking, then your mind is going to go to other places. You’re going to start believing that death and destruction are the ways in which God communicates. Let me say this, and if there’s only one thing you take away from this article, let it be this: “GOD DOES NOT WORK THROUGH EVIL. BUT HE CAN WORK IN SPITE OF IT”.

Let me put it this way. It is not God’s will that a lot of people died in the Joplin tornado. It is not God’s will that your aunt has cancer or that your child tragically died. All the world’s suffering, the hate, the devastation – God has nothing to do with it. But there is one thing that he will do. In the midst of extreme suffering, he CAN work it out to bring some good. He’s just that awesome. BUT HE DOES NOT CAUSE THE SUFFERING IN ORDER TO MAKE GOOD. That’s putting God in a very small box.

And yes, God speaks to us if we let him. The problem is that we struggle with a very secular mindset and much of our thoughts and actions and plans revolve around working, making money, entertainment, and just being way too busy with projects and responsibilities. And it’s hard to fit God in our daily schedule – and more importantly – in our thoughts of every minute of every day. But the closer we get to having days where our thoughts are constantly on Him, that’s when he speaks to us. And it’s not destructive. When God speaks, it’s awe-inspiring, heart melting, soul shivering – and it changes our perspectives, worldviews and our life. And no tornadoes get created in the process.

The second misconception is that with all this recent activity, the world is coming to an end. The truth is, no one has the slightest clue of when, or even if, this will happen. In my own theological order (which has about 2 members) we’re amillenialists, which is just a very big word for believing that the end of days isn’t going to play out like it does in the “Left Behind” books. Now, I pay a lot of respect and consideration to the other side, because hey, I can admit that I could be wrong. But the point is, no one knows, and the Bible commands us not to freak out about it.

 The reality is, every time period in throughout history has had weird events and devastation. This time period is no different from 10, 20,100, or 1000 years ago. Every decade in modern times has had events in to which people were absolutely convinced that the end was nigh. But the end never happened. And in this case, history will probably repeat itself.

But who cares what people believe right? What does it matter? It’s not hurting anyone!

I believe this misconception matters a ton. If you see the suffering going on around you and your thoughts do nothing but constantly dwell on this being evidence of the end-times, then you’re missing the point of the gospel. Jesus commanded a lot of things to do in the here and now. We’re commanded to feed his sheep and take care of the poor and love each other to the point of self submission and sacrifice. NOW. Not later. Caring too much about when the world is going to end distracts us from that.

So what should we do whenever the world experiences devastation? Two things. The first one is simple: help out. God calls us to play an active role in his redemption. Helping out is God’s will. Besides, it’s common sense.

If you find you don’t have the resources of time or money to help out, the other thing you can do is pray. If you’re looking for some cryptic, epic, mystical weirdness in your Christian faith, look no further than prayer. Prayer is so much more than giving lip service to God as he arbitrarily decides what to do. Don’t look towards the end-times if you want a little mystical drama in your faith. Read Daniel chapter 10, and then go pray with that in mind. It might change the way you do it.

But don’t…PLEASE don’t sit idly by and try to decipher God’s words or actions in the world’s sufferings while doing nothing to contribute. There’s little more that makes Christianity look ugly.

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