Archive for March, 2008

30
Mar
08

Notes from the battlefield

armor-of-god021.jpgThis blog is very young still…and while visits are growing, I’m still a pretty modestly visited destination compared to a lot of blogs. I think I’ve done better than most in getting traction early, but there’s still a long way to go. Still, while I’m early in this journey, I think I see signs of what is to come. I’ve hit a tipping point of sorts, with some folks who are atheist (or at least very seriously skeptical agnostics) having found me and presenting some very fine arguments for their side.

I don’t shy from this, and I don’t begrudge them being here. If you click through my blogroll and “other places I like to visit” links in the sidebar, you’ll see that I am encouraging people to go to all kinds of sites, some of them authored by people who are very critical of religious faith. I’ve never promoted ignorance or narrow-mindedness among the faithful or the unsaved. The people who have come to my blog so far to question my stands have been very articulate and interesting.

But it does remind me that however civil it may be, I am waging a battle here on a field that is littered with souls thanks to an ongoing battle on Satan’s part against God. To be more clear though, I am not in battle with atheists or people of other faiths though. While there may be discussion, debate and even arguments/fights around here, I am not at war with individuals. I may have to defend myself and my faith against some of them, but my fight is not with them. My biggest enemies are the world itself and the guy who still pulls a lot of the strings: Satan.

The simple fact is that the day-to-day world we live in is a creation of us flawed humans. Flawed out of the starting gate and born in the image of Satan. Few people think they are bad, but that’s because the “badness” isn’t something obvious. It isn’t evil so much as it is a desire to be totally a part of the world and not a part of God. It’s insidious and we can do good things while still being pretty dirty inside.

Now, I’m sure many atheists and agnostics would argue that with so many people who have religious beliefs in the world, I am obviously mistaken that the vast and overwhelming majority of people are of the world rather than being about religion. But how many people are seeking spiritual growth in those religious systems as opposed to simply doing what they were raised to do or doing what they are told to do or going through the motions because it looks good to be in church, or synagogue, or temple, or wherever?

Most people are derailed both from spiritual growth and evangelism because they get caught up in the world. And that’s the way Satan likes to keep things. And he stays in the background, doing very little directly, and letting people (including many Christians) believe that he either doesn’t exist or is a funny looking red guy with a pointy tail.

The early Christian church, the one the apostles were forming, did it right. What it stood for, what it taught and how it promoted a spiritual community was spot-on. But it existed in a world where people have agendas and desires. The Word of God became something that would ultimately be used to keep people in line or derive power and privilege, and it got misused. The religion of Christianity got tainted and while it still holds something powerful and good at its core, there is a constant desire by many folks to keep it in the realm of control and power instead of people gathering around it to become more godly and spiritual and useful to the world.

So too does the temporal and carnal world around us give us many reasons to be distracted and weak. We live in a world where generally speaking, you measure success by money or power or prestige or a combination of them. How many people are lifted up and held as a positive example because they spread the Word of God? Very few. How many religions start drifting from their core to begin preaching rewards instead of service and humility? Probably all of them eventually. Let’s take the virgins promised to Muslim men in the afterlife in certain strains of Islam or the prosperity ministries in the Christian faith as just two examples.

And then there is pressure from academia against religion. Even if you go back to more “god fearing” times like the 1800s or first half of the 20th century, you will see that scientists and researchers and teachers were rewarded for what they could bring to the world to advance it monetarily, technologically or in other material ways. Nothing wrong with that, of course; I like progress as much as the next guy. But how much encouragement was there, really, to focus on research or defense of things spiritual? Much less. And so, once again, the ways of the world helped to reduce religion.

People see Christianity as something in decline and say this is because “reality” is rendering it irrelevant. But I see it more as people who are focused on almost everything but God (a tragic element of the human condition) increasingly marginalizing spiritual matters and thus creating the illusion that it is nonsense…or misusing religion for their own ends and damaging its reputation.

And so, I stand with others in the faith who know that what we know is right, but who don’t have the ammunition that the temporal/carnal world has. I’m a guerrilla fighter, not a soldier in some organized army, and that’s a hard way to fight the good fight for God and win people’s hearts and souls over to His side.

People will no doubt continue to challenge my beliefs here in the comments, and that is a good thing. Keep it coming. But I will be honest up-front that I am not going to always be able to counter their deep research and logical theories with something that seems equally ironclad. In other words, my ass will get kicked sometimes. My recent blog suggesting that atheism was a religion had some good points, but even I have to concede that there were logical flaws in my arguments and some stretching of words’ meaning. I am a writer, and I like to think critically, and I have a lot of generalist knowledge…but I’m not an academic and I’m not a debater. I’m not even much of a fighter. But I will continue to do what I must to raise up the Lord Jesus Christ here. I hope that my heart and my love and my spirit will shine forth, because those are my key weapons in this war. Because it’s all about faith, and while I can spew out logical and scientific and historical evidence to back up some of what I talk about, there is only so much that such things can be applied to spiritual matters.

Anyway, back to the trenches, folks. War is hell…and the guy at the top of the heap in Hell no doubt would like to see me lay down my armor and weapons. My words may be crass at times and my weapons not always as sharp as they could be, but I didn’t come into Christianity with pollyanna beliefs and an expectation for things to be easy. Being on the right side isn’t always the comfortable thing. I don’t doubt people in general and Satan himself will get some good shots in at me, I don’t doubt that I will be wounded…but I’m not ready to give up.

(Image from Hellgate: London video game from Flagship Studios)

29
Mar
08

Witch hunt

OK, quick post today. Still too much work on my plate. It won’t come as a surprise to any regular readers (and if you aren’t you only have to go back to my March 19 post to see) that I am a Barack Obama supporter. As an Obama fan, and as a Christian…and as a guy with a black wife and two biracial kids…I am sick to fucking death of all the attention being heaped on Obama’s former (now retired) pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

FOX News started a lot of the current mess by endlessly repeating some soundbites with inflammatory comments, having taken them completely out of context and made Wright look like a raving lunatic. And then everyone else got on the bandwagon without doing any freaking research. Not only were the soundbites, particularly the “God damn America!” comment, taken out of context, but they were used to infer what Obama’s beliefs were.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t engage in a mind-meld with anyone and take on their beliefs in replacement of my own. And I’m even more pissed off as folks continue to dig into Wright’s sermons and speeches in the past looking for more “proof” that he’s a bigot, a nut and a menace to society and that this should equal all of his congregation being the same. Worse yet, even with the man retiring, the new pastor, associate pastors and deacons at his former church are now getting death threats. How screwed up is that?

This shit has not, to my recollection, ever happened with a white candidate and his or her religious advisors or pastor. It seems that when a political candidate who’s white has connections to religious leaders with controversial views and comments, some of them vitriolic when taken in or out of context (and many of them worse than anything I’ve heard Wright say so far), they get a little play in the news and then people move on. But with a black pastor who says something negative about the way things are going on in America, at a time when a black man might finally be in the White House after more than 230 years of these United States, people not only won’t move on but continue to try to dig deeper and deeper and deeper to see what else they can either discover or manufacture.

There’s plenty of news out there. More relevant news, in fact. Let’s everyone start covering that shit why don’t we?

28
Mar
08

Blinded me with science

da-vinci_man2.jpgBeen a bit busier this week than normal with the kind of work that pays me cash as opposed to spiritual dividends, so I’m a bit more spotty than usual with my posts. Might go for two today to make up for lost time, but we’ll see.

Some of the blogs I like to frequent, especially ones dealing with politics, arts and social commentary, are authored by folks who either don’t want to deal with church or God, or who flat-out don’t believe in any kind of higher power. (You didn’t think a guy who swears while spreading the word about God would just go to religious sites, did you? The Christian Coalition would have a collective seizure if they saw my Favorites on MSN and YouTube.) And something hit me recently, and maybe I’m crazy, but I don’t think anyone in this world lacks a religion, not even atheists. Bear with me a moment on this. Maybe I’m just spouting nonsense, but I think I’m on to something.

A lot of folks seem to think that somehow the world is a game of science vs. religion. I disagree completely. Plenty of great scientists have believed (and continue to believe) in God or some other deity. And science itself has provided support for events and people in the Bible, like the existence of the Hittites, whom a lot of Bible critics claimed were just made up, and the existence and destruction of those rockin’ capitals of sin, Sodom and Gomorrah.

So, we cannot say that science and religion are mutually exclusive. If that’s the case, what separates atheists from theists (Christian or otherwise)?

It’s the god we worship.

Yes, atheists have a god of sorts. And in most cases, their god is science. Science and faith don’t cancel each other out, but when God or any other spirit-based power is taken out of the equation completely, science (or pure reason, or some other similar thing) becomes a god. Atheists look to science to answer all the questions. If something cannot be seen, detected, measured or inferred from existing scientific knowledge, it generally isn’t worth considering its existence. Even love becomes a biochemical reaction, not a spiritual connection. Sure, it’s a damned fine-feeling biochemical reaction, but its just a product of hormones ultimately.

Yeah, that’s right, I believe atheism is a religion. It is a religion that lifts up science and intellect above the unseen world of the spirit. For most religions, their God or gods are essentially spiritual and that doesn’t wash with the atheists. Anything that puts an unseen entity above what atheists see as the pinnacle of evolution (humans) is utter dog crap to them. They see it as some comforting delusion that people would have faith in something unseen and unmeasurable. To them, it is as freakish as people who used to not believe in germs because they couldn’t be seen. Or who thought the world was flat as a damned pancake.

The thing is, I understand where they are coming from. I don’t even knock atheists for feeling this way. Truth be told, I think it takes a lot of faith to be an atheist. I’m serious. And isn’t that what religion is about? Faith. A hardcore atheist would probably whup my ass in a dark alley for saying that, because of course we can see the fruits of science, and they would say they are logical or rational, not faithful.

But what about that part of the human nature that seeks spiritual things? It seems odd that if evolution is such a wonderful process that keeps making creatures better and better and more adapted to their environment that it would give us all this intellect and reasoning and install some freaking flaw that has us looking for the divine. Just as the non-atheists have faith in the existence of spiritual things, so do atheists cling to a faith that such feelings are flawed and that no spiritual aspect exists. No soul. Nothing but a really advanced collection of water and trace minerals in a two-legged sack of skin.

Shit, that’s some serious faith. Because humans long for spiritual connection. I think that’s because the connection was broken by the first two real spiritually developed humans (I touch on this a little in my post Who Really Blew It In Eden?). God had to let us stew in our own juices for a while and work through the world and his “chosen people” the Hebrews to get us Jesus, who would restore that connection. Not everyone accepts that Jesus is that spiritual missing link, but then again, no one agrees that we’ve found an evolutionary missing link yet bewtween apes and primitive humans either. But atheists have to write that spiritual longing off as a flaw, just as I, as a man of spiritual faith, have to deal with the fact that God wants me to approach Him with faith and not show Himself to me in some rational, physical way. We all have our crosses to bear in maintaining our religious faith, whether theist or atheist.

Sure, you have atheists who believe in unseen and unmeasurable stuff, like psychic powers, the idea that extraterrestrials built the pyramids and stuff like that. But I think of that no differently than misguided Christians, for example, who insist the earth is only something like 7,000 years old and that the Virgin Mary actually remained a virgin after Jesus was born. And then, owing to a shared delusion, some people in both camps hold to the concept that Sarah Jessica Parker is actually sexy, but that’s a whole other story.

And I guess this is why I find the most ardent atheists both fascinating and at times frustrating. I and many other Christians I know don’t try to disprove science. So, in an odd way, I feel like Christians, at least those who maintain some critical thinking, are more well balanced overall. We don’t deny either the rational or spiritual aspects of ourselves. Yet atheists often won’t give an inch and will not be convinced at all that spiritual things could be real.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that the most fundementalist religion on the planet is atheism. Ain’t that ironic?

26
Mar
08

Less is more by Miz Pink

mizpink03.jpgSure, I believe in God but that doesn’t mean I can’t see the beauty in the words and sentiments of doubters and outright atheists. Some of the most moving things I’ve read have been by those folks.

I found a blog recently called The Word of Me and I read two posts there that really got me thinking about stuff. Didn’t knock me off my faith or nothing, but it did get me thinking. I don’t want to invade the author’s blog by commenting there and sounding all self-righteous, but I did want to respond in some way to others who may have similar concerns. So taking a page from the to-do between Deacon Blue and Nsangoma, I’m going to pull some quotes out of the posts over there and comment on them here. Except I’m gonna be sweeter than Deke was. 😉 You can view the original posts here and here.

Yes, the universe and all in it would seem to have come from somewhere or something. But religion cannot have it both ways; to say the universe had to have a creator and a God does not, is like having your cake and eating it too, it makes no logical sense. I cannot seem to wrap my mind around a spirit being that is supposed to have always existed, and is everywhere, and in all humans brains at the same time.

I’ll just refer you to the Deke’s post here folks. If the universe has always existed in some form without a creator or came out of nowhere that’s just as illogical. Right? Even if the creator wasn’t God the universe still had to be created by something or you have to believe that it always existed, and then you kinda lose your credibility about ridiculing the God-always-existed thing.

He spoke to the Hebrews, how about giving a modern world that has much better linguistic and comprehension skills something to work with here. What would it hurt to materialize above earth and speak to the Pope or Billy Graham, or Pat Robertson?

I’ve often wondered why God doesn’t speak to us directly, too. But then I thought back to the Bible and realized God never talked directly to the Hebrews. He talked to specific people like Abraham, Moses, Isaiah. He chose the Hebrews to be his Chosen People because he needed one group through which to show himself and to work toward the birth of the savior but he didn’t just show up in the sky to all of them. Even with the parting of the sea and the pillar of fire and all that they never saw God himself and they could have simply written it off as Moses being some kind of sorcerer if they wanted. That’s what the faith thing is about.

And it makes free will a little tricky if he gets in our faces about stuff. If you see God up in the sky all the time and he lets you know in no uncertain terms that he’s there and you need to do what he says or else, that would make him a dictator, wouldn’t it? Our big bad ruler looking down on us like hamsters in a cage. He make things based on faith so that we will seek him with our hearts and with love. Otherwise we’re just being whipped around.

Do some people pray in earnestness? Yes, of course they do, well lets have some perceivable, tangible proof that there is someone listening. Many honest God-fearing people (and even me) have prayed down through the centuries for the end of pain and suffering, the end to child abuse, the end of evil men hurting people, the end of hunger, the end of war, the end of everything bad…Never happened….Not even once. Why?

Oh sweetie. Do you really want God to just fix all our screw ups so we never have any accountability for our actions as a race or as individuals? No responsbility for our actions. Just give us all a cushy life even though we don’t act right much of the time. I left home because I didn’t want my parents controlling my every move and trying to fix my life for me. We aren’t babies.

A real, loving God, would not subject untold billions of people to the misery that this world has dished out before modern times…and still does to third world countries. There is no apologetics in existence that can make this right-No God works this way; unless he is a Dark God. Can you imagine yourself being born into Darfur, or any of a dozen or more countries in Africa, and sitting in the desert as a child, starving to death? Now imagine tens of thousands or millions of your brother and sisters starving right along with you. A God, who sits back, sees this and does nothing, is not a competent God.

But why should God fix our messes? Doesn’t the U.S. get slammed often enough for trying to fix other countries’ problems? We have free will and that comes with consequences because of that fact we don’t put our faith in God and walk the path he waned for us.

It’s easy to point to wars or child abuse or genocide and say God should fix this if he exists. But what are the things that are big enough he should fix and what isn’t? Something one person might think is terrible is something someone else thinks is good. Let’s take it down to the personal level. I was devastated that Kevin Klotz wouldn’t date me in high school. Should God have made him love me to make me feel better? I turned away the immensely freaky-seeming Andy Parker but what if my rejecting him really screwed up his life? Do you think I’d want God taking away my free will to make me be with him? Even if it was the right thing?

People want God to fix things, but what it really comes down to is they want him to fix what they don’t like and give them what they want. People criticize the idea of a loving God who allows suffering in the world for the same reason that they won’t admit that people are inherently sinful and that God might send people to hell. They want it both ways. Give me everything and let me do whatever I want but don’t let anything bad happen to me or expect me to be responsible.

My folks weren’t the sweetest people. They let me lie in the beds I made many a time. They did it because they figured I should fix my messes and because I might learn something from them if I didn’t fix them. They they were right most of the time.

God has a bigger view of things. He’s looking at eternity. Much as he loves us, he also knows what happens here in a single lifetime or even hundreds of generations is still a drop in the bucket. He doesn’t want us to suffer but we made our bed and sometimes we need to lie in it.

God wants me to do things in certain ways. But I am oh so thankful that he doesn’t make me do them. I’d rather be a difficult child than a slave any day of the week.

(Ok, folks. This time the image really is of me. Stars and flowers flying out of my hair and everything. I’m just that magical.)

24
Mar
08

A story already written?

Just a quick thought today about predestination vs. free will. It’s a not uncommon argument that if God knows everything that’s going to happen, that that somehow means we don’t have free will. That reality is already written and we’re just working from a script.

Well, if I see a child reaching for a live power line and I don’t stop that child, I pretty much know what the future is going to be. But in no way have a removed the free will of that child to electrocute himself.

It’s a crude example, but applicable. First off, just because God knows what we’re going to do doesn’t mean we didn’t choose to do it. If God can see the future, that doesn’t mean he made that future happen.

Second off, I’m not entirely sure he needs to know what our individual actions are to know what’s going to happen. Does God really know every single thing we’re about to do, or does he just have enough of a long-term view and enough experience with reality to know that despite what some individual folks do, certain things are going to play out in a certain way regardless because of the mass of humanity pushing things forward?

Finally, maybe God can know everything that is going to happen but chooses not to. Sounds weird, I know, but maybe He chooses not to know what I am going to do five minutes from now so that He can be surprised. But perhaps he can move forward in time to see what events transpire when needed or desired.

Again, just some random crap. I didn’t really expect to be posting today, but Miz Pink says she has something a bit more detailed in mind than her previous posts and needs another day or two. 😉

23
Mar
08

Shepherd and the Wolf

wolf-angry.jpgBusy weekend around ole Deke’s house with it being the Easter weekend and all, so just a quick bit of original poetry for this weekend. Monday will see a more typical post, either by myself or Miz Pink.

Shepherd & the Wolf

A helpless and a wayward flock
A wolf beholds them all
Hunts them, stalks them, hounds each one
And slays them when they fall

Unless the shepherd intervenes
Steps up and swings his staff
Strikes the wolf, protects the sheep
Denies the beast its wrath

The wolf, he is the Fallen One—
Satan hunting souls.
But we’re defended—safe, secure
With Christ in shepherd’s role.

21
Mar
08

11 frightened men

So, it wasn’t that long ago that I got into it with Nsangoma about the evidence of Jesus’ existence. I won’t repeat that topic so soon, though I would like to point you to some great material on the very reliable historical evidence of Jesus’ existence (knowledge I didn’t have logged away to fire at Nsangoma at the time). Not only did a number of noted historians confirm his existence, some of them even confirm or support that he worked miracles (even if they didn’t think his powers came from a divine source).

Now, I say that as preamble because with the historical existence of Jesus pretty much a given, one has to pretty much admit to the existence of the 12 apostles, who are also mentioned in the historical record and some of whom penned gospels and other material in the New Testament.

So, with a supposition that Jesus and his apostles existed, let me tell you that the only logical reason for the 11 surviving apostles to have so courageously promoted what would later be called Christianity is that they knew Jesus had risen from the dead. They didn’t assume it. They didn’t convince themselves of it. And they damned well didn’t make up the resurrection.

The only reason all 11 of them would have done what they did was because they knew Jesus to be divine and had seen him alive and well following his execution on the cross at Calvary.

Why? Simple human nature.

The gospels are brutally honest about the weaknesses and failings of the apostles. They cut themselves no slack in telling people where they had doubted and failed Jesus. So let’s take one of the darkest hours in the apostles’ lives, in the days following Jesus’ crucifixion. Where were they at that time? Hiding in a house, fearing for their lives.

They had thrown in their lot with Jesus thinking he was the son of God, and then he died on the cross. He didn’t come down from it. He didn’t hurl lightning against his accusers. He died. Hardly inspiring, is it?

Certainly, these 11 remaining men from Jesus’ inner circle (Judas Iscariot having hung himself for betraying Jesus) were sad over Jesus’ death. Whatever their feelings about his divinity after the crucifixion, he had been their friend and teacher. But, make no mistake about it, first and foremost they were scared shitless and weren’t thinking he was the son of God at that point. Would you?

Now, imagine that you’ve been running around with a guy who has been preaching a new covenant with God and rousing the masses and undercutting the overbearing religious intolerance and hypocrisy of the Jewish priesthood. Now imagine that he has been very publicly executed and the Jewish religious leaders want your head. So do a lot of the masses that Jesus riled up with his teachings who now feel betrayed. Oh, and the Romans aren’t too thrilled with things either.

Faced with this, which of the following three options would you choose if you were in any one of the apostles’ shoes:

  • Wait until things die down a bit and then run away as far as you can, as fast as you can
  • Wait until things die down a bit and then tell everyone how sorry you are that you were duped by this blasphemous sorcerer who convinced you he was the Messiah and subsequently renounce him and hope no one kills you
  • Go out when everyone is still mad at you and say he was indeed the son of God and he rose from the dead, and we should reverence him as the Messiah

Any normal human being would choose one of the first two. A few zealous or deluded individuals might choose number 3. But how on earth can you believe that 11 men would choose to take that third option? And not only those 11 men but later Paul, who was a learned and devout Jewish man charged with hunting down Jesus’ followers and who was both very successful and very well-liked for doing so.

The answer is that it doesn’t make sense, unless Jesus appeared to them (and to many others, since 11 guys hooting and hollering that Jesus rose from the dead isn’t going to convince very many people). For these core people to continue to stick by Jesus, and for Christianity to survive and flourish in those early days against all reason and logic and under serious persecution, you would have to have something as serious as a dude rising from the grave.

I’ve heard it argued that the apostles were just trying to save their necks by continuing to preach Jesus and say that he had risen from the dead and ascended into Heaven. But this ignores a couple major facts. If he didn’t rise, why would I support and promote him? Damn it, I’d be pissed as hell at his crucified ass for lying to me, and I would sell out his memory in a heartbeat. Unless, of course, I had proof positive that he had come back and was in a position to restore the lost connection between God and humans. Also, who would believe that spreading lies about Jesus’ resurrection would actually save them? It would seem to be a sure path to getting stoned to death to me.

I’ve also heard it argued that they were in it for personal gain. That somehow by forming a new religion based on Jesus they would get power and money and influence. A ridiculous notion, since the public was pretty much against them at this point and so was the political and religious leadership around them. Hardly an ideal environment for creating a prosperous new religion. Also, it completely ignores that fact that the apostles and early church leaders didn’t enrich themselves but instead lived simply and shared what they had with others, encouraging everyone else to do so as well.

Again, those arguments above might hold water if only a couple apostles had continued forward. But 10 of those original apostles spread the faith boldly and even martyred themselves in the end. John survived to live a long life, but was ultimately exiled to an island for his teachings. Paul, who came to the party late but went beyond the Jews to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, was imprisoned multiple times and ultimately martyred.

Furthermore, how did something as unlikely-to-believe-in as Christianity manage to take hold? How were the apostles and the other early evangelists and teachers able to survive long enough to get Christianity a foothold? People, the only thing that explains that is some serious protection from God. He didn’t keep them from all harm but he gave them sufficient backing that they would be able to survive what should have been a death sentence for all of them out of the starting gate: Preaching Jesus as the risen son of God.

20
Mar
08

To arms

armor-of-god01.jpgWe’re at war. And I’m not talking about Iraq, folks.

Satan is alive and well and still pissing in God’s general direction, and he isn’t interested in taking prisoners.

If you don’t have Christ as your lord and savior, Satan wants you to stay that way and die that way and never find salvation. If you do have Christ, he wants to render you impotent to bring another single soul to God. Spiritual though it may be, it is war all the same.

I believe in seeking God’s blessings and graces. I believe in the fact that God comforts us and strengthens us. I believe many good things can come to us. But I worry when churches and individuals lead people to Jesus simply by talking about all the good stuff. They promise a bed of roses and tell people to roll around in it, but they forget to mention all the thorns.

My Shit List post ranted a bit about the Word of Faith movement and that should tell you how much I value ministries that focus only on prosperity or health.  The cool-sounding stuff. No ministry, either within the church walls or without, should ever get tunnel vision. And that means the other side of the debate needs to watch out, too. Preaching only salvation, for example, is nearly as bad as going the Word of Faith route because it means you may prepare people poorly to deal with the challenges of being born again. You may lose them before they accept Christ or you may get them to salvation only to have them go limping into Heaven.

Giving your soul to God pisses Satan off to no end. And he’s not going to let your ass get away with that and not hurt you for it. And he’ll hurt you not only out of revenge but to wear you down so that you either seem so pathetic that no one will want to give your path of Jesus a try or so that you are too damned tired to do anything for God.

As a Christian, if you know you are at war, though, you can prepare yourself. If you know you have an enemy who’s out to get you, you can keep an eye out for him. And if you’re going to be going into battle, you need to do so with intelligence. That means in prayer. Lean on God to give you strength and give you victory. You’ll have challenges, but you cannot be utterly torn down unless you leave God out of the equation.

Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:10-18

So, what’s the message if you haven’t accepted Jesus as lord and savior?

Wake the hell up.

Look at this world and see what a mess we’ve made of it. Look inside yourselves and realize there is something more in there than viscera and bones. You have more even than a complex mind. You have a soul. You aren’t a random collection of atoms and molecules. You aren’t an accident.

There is a war on for your soul, and the sooner you realize it, the sooner you can decide to choose a side or simply give up and hope for the best. But wandering through the battleground and being ignorant of what is going on is even worse than accepting God’s way and thinking it will all be sunshine and good times.

War isn’t just hell, folks. Hell is at war with us.

(Image from Hellgate: London video game from Flagship Studios)

19
Mar
08

Shades of gray

obama.jpgMany Christian bloggers whom I respect greatly and read regularly will never vote for Barack Obama if he gets the nod to be the Democratic candidate for president of these semi-United States. Of course, they probably wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, either, but the point is that they see Obama as a liberal wingnut who will rabidly support abortions and wild social spending and who won’t support family and spiritual values. I respect their views because we all have it partly right and partly wrong. But for my part, I tend to look at the other side (read, the GOP) and see a bunch of folks who have no problem spending our money on pointless wars instead of rebuilding our infrastructure, systematically enriching the wealthiest at the expense of both the middle class and the poor, and claiming to want government to stay out of our personal lives while simultaneously trying to legislate our morality (OK, the democrats do that last one, too, I have to admit, plus they try to legislate healthy behaviors at the expense of personal freedoms).

Guess I just see it differently. I always did, because I’ve supported Obama from damn near day one and if I hadn’t, his speech yesterday on race in America would have won me over. (For a transcript and audio recording, click here…for a YouTube video of the speech, click here.) Because this wasn’t just a speech about race; it showed a real Christian who holds faith close and admits his imperfections. He represents spiritually a lot of what fills and drives me, except that unlike Obama, I don’t have a church home right now.

But from past experience, I know what it’s like to be deeply involved in a church and not agree with everything the pastor saysnor feel like I have to.

People have called Obama to the carpet to answer for why he’d go to a church where a pastor makes inflammatory statements and yet they’ve glossed over the multitude of white candidates over the years whose pastors or spiritual advisers or religious supporters have views and statements every bit as fierce and inflammatory, if not worse.

As the husband of a black woman and a father to two biracial children, I have an insight into black life that most white people don’t enjoy, so let me tap into that just a little bit to let any confused non-blacks in on why we shouldn’t give two shits about what Rev. Jeremiah Wright had to say when it comes to Obama’s presidential ambitions:

The black church ain’t like the white church.

Stop expecting that a black pastor would refrain from incendiary political talk from the pulpit at times. Especially if that black pastor is old enough to have experienced institutionalized racismgovernment sanctioned abuse of the black race long after constitutional amendments and various laws should have settled once and for all that blacks were every bit as entitled to things as whites were.

I’ll say it again. The black church ain’t like the white church.

Argue all you will that blacks are social services leeches, despite all the numbers that show whites use way more social services dollarsbut long before before the government was willing to give blacks shit for help, the black church had to serve as the social service center for blacks. And because whites were so terrified of blacks gathering together in groups it had to be a political gathering place as well as being the religious gathering place. It even had to be the fucking health clinic in many communities.

So if you wonder why passions run high in black churches and why politics are ingrained in themand even why a black Christian church like Obama’s church, Trinity, might recognize Louis Farrakhan for good works in a communityremember it’s because for too long, America hadn’t been willing to give shit to black folks…and when it finally did, it gave it out sloppily, made blacks feel bad about it, structured it to help continue to destroy family stability, and then f-ing expected it to make up for centuries of mistreatment.

We’ve come a long way in this country, and that’s good. But we have a long ways to go, no matter how much white America just wants to have the race issue just go away.

Obama made clear why it isn’t going away, and why we need to face it together for once. This is a man who is black…because that’s the way the people of America see him for the most part. But let’s not forget he is also half white.

This is a man who can tell it like it is, who can stand up for himself and others, and take what is so often presented in black and white and show how much gray there still isand how we can make the gray into something more dazzling. He ain’t perfect by a long shot. He might not even be an earth-shattering president.

But he’s our best chance right now for a fresh start racially and a chance to get a real Christian in the White House who wears his faith proudly but also won’t hide behind it (you hear me, Dubya?). He can question his pastor’s views without having to cast him aside; he makes his faith part of his life without blindly following some script handed to him from some religious body.

Yesterday, Obama told it like it was, and I’m proud of him. He’s my brother in Christ, and by God, I hope he’ll be my president.

(There’s a lot more that one could say about Obama, but if you want some of that, visit some of the sites in my blogroll that are related to African-American topics and check out the posts from March 18 in particular. And if you cannot figure out which blogs are the black ones by looking at the names, you need serious help 😉 )

18
Mar
08

Hands

hands01.jpgWell, I couldn’t come up with a list of things I like that I thought was (a) connected enough to my faith and (b) would be interesting enough to y’all to warrant a post. So, instead of a “Hit List” today (I’ll keep plugging away at it sometime), I’m going to give you a little original poetry. Hope you like.

Hands 

The Wounded Hands uplift and heal
their grip is sure and strong.
They do no harm, they never steal
they’ll guide your soul along.

The Foul Hands, like puppeteers,
manipulate and bind
will help you sin and help you err
and wrongful deeds help find.

The Wounded Hands are scraped and raw
they do what work needs done.
The Foul Hands, unmarred they are
they maim and think it fun.

Grasp the Wounded Hands and feel
a love that’s freely given.
Take the Foul Hands and reel
by hatefulness they’re driven.

When times are ill, call to the Lord
the Wounded Hands will save.
But if to Foul Hands you turn
you’ll find yourself a slave.

Be not dismayed by bleeding hands
their blood was shed for us.
Pierced on behalf of sinful man
and yet, we do not trust.

Beware seducing hands that stroke,
but leave you when you cry.
Those hands will scratch and strike and choke
… once they’ve drained you dry.

The Wounded Hands, the Savior’s hands,
are open to us all.
The Foul Hands are Satan’s hands
they beckon; shun their call.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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Jeff Bouley

To find out more about me professionally, click here. To find out more about me generally, click here.

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