Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Why Do We Do What is Right (Like Not Voting for Donald Trump)?

An Excerpt from Cyrano De Bergerac, Act 5 Scene 6

Why, I well believe
He dares to mock my nose? Ho! insolent!
(He raises his sword):
What say you? It is useless? Ay, I know
But who fights ever hoping for success?
I fought for lost cause, and for fruitless quest!
You there, who are you!—You are thousands!
I know you now, old enemies of mine!
(He strikes in air with his sword):
Have at you! Ha! and Compromise!
Prejudice, Treachery!. . .
(He strikes):
Surrender, I?
Parley? No, never! You too, Folly,—you?
I know that you will lay me low at last;
Let be! Yet I fall fighting, fighting still!
(He makes passes in the air, and stops, breathless):
You strip from me the laurel and the rose!
Take all! Despite you there is yet one thing
I hold against you all, and when, to-night,
I enter Christ's fair courts, and, lowly bowed,
Sweep with doffed casque the heavens' threshold blue,
One thing is left, that, void of stain or smutch,
I bear away despite you.
(He springs forward, his sword raised; it falls from his hand; he staggers,
falls back into the arms of Le Bret and Ragueneau.)
ROXANE (bending and kissing his forehead):
'Tis?. . .
CYRANO (opening his eyes, recognizing her, and smiling):

Let Us Do Evil

I sometimes ask the kids the question "Why do we do what is right?". They now know to answer with "Because it's the right thing to do". That is to say that morality is unconcerned with outcome because both morality and outcome belong to God. We God-fearing people are to do what is right. No matter what.

Some so-called evangelicals who plan to vote for Donald Trump simply haven't paid attention. They'll vote for a duck if it has an "R" in front of its name. The rest, who say they will vote for Trump simply because he claims he will support the conservative agenda and put conservative judges on the supreme court are much worse. They have said "Let us do evil to bring about good". This is a man who has doubled down on evil statements like "we should go after their families" and has suggested that he'd have sex with his own daughter because she's hot. He's used bankruptcy law, whimsically, as a business tool. He has publicly made misogynistic comments and then laughed them off instead of apologizing. He regularly puts people down. He mocked a crippled guy for crying out loud. His depravity is documented. He is un-apologetically evil. Yet many are under the dangerously mistaken supposition that either (A) He will impose moral legislation and thereby he will save America from hell or (B) voting to keep a progressive out of the white house means that somehow we will save America from hell. Only God saves folks, and to consciously elect an evil person to office to stop the progressive agenda is oh so clearly doing what is evil that good may result. And the irony is, good won't result.

On Voting Libertarian

Now, I'm not necessarily a libertarian, but the libertarian party platform rightly points out that the government does not have the constitutional authority to impose moral behavior on its citizens. A citizen may do anything so long as it does not deprive another citizen of life, liberty or property. That is the full extent of the law, according to our constitution. Its framers, moral and intelligent men, were very careful to craft it that way. The "evangelicals" talk out of both sides of their mouths when they scream for constitutional, limited government and then demand that we amend the constitution to define what marriage is. To force the government to unify the country under our beliefs, however righteous, or even practical, they may be, is no different, in principle, than the various utopian visions that have been advanced by communists and populist despots throughout modern history. Furthermore, in principle, it's no different than Sharia. The difference is only what, specifically, the government is forcing all of its people to be. The Moral Majority agenda, while benign compared to other faith-based sociopolitical movements, is the very definition of fascism as set forth by Mussolini, plain and simple. Look it up.

The framers, who were mostly Christians (some were Deists), knew that the very act of building a system of government on Christian principles required that it not force those principles on its people, except to prevent behavior that suppresses the God-given rights of others. They knew that it is not a moral function of government to make people behave morally, in the same way that God himself did not simply force Adam and Eve to stay away from the Tree of Carnal Knowledge. When it comes to living rightly, the chain of command prescribed by the Bible doesn't have the government in it at all, so why do i care whether or not the government condones it? I thank God that i live in a country whose laws don't collide violently with my ability to do so. 

It is really simple. With the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I choose to submit myself to God's authority and my family chooses to submit themselves to mine. In other words, it's my and my wife's job to make sure our kids learn to behave morally in an immoral society, not the government's. It does not take a village. It takes parents. And as for others in America, well, I will share the gospel with them as I strive to put my own sin to death, but I will not demand that the government try and do so of them.

The Panache

Let me be clear. I love America. I love pledging allegiance to its flag. I cherish, honor and respect all that is good about the legacy of this country. But, should Hillary Clinton be elected president and should she then shout "Ha Ha!" and reveal herself to be the sinister hell witch that conservative media has painted her to be, and should she put progressive activist judges on the supreme court, and should our economy melt down because of excessive social spending, should drugs and prostitution and gambling and (gasp) gay marriage all be legalized and should all of the horrible things that the Fox News fear mongers pound their fists and warn us about come true and America sink into the Ocean (it won't, by the way), I will never ever regret my decision to not vote for Trump. Why? Because it's the right thing to do. But why? Because it's the right thing to do. Period.

There is only one name under heaven by which we are saved and it certainly isn't "Trump". It isn't "Ballot Box" either. Pray for America, Church, but vote your conscience. That's what I'm going to do. And whatever happens, when I enter Christ's fair courts, and, lowly bowed, sweep with doffed casque the heavens' threshold blue, one thing will be left, that, void of stain or smudge, i bear away from this life. My white plume.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

With a Spark

" do not fail in obedience through lack of love, but have lost love because you never attempted obedience"
- C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength

We All Live In a Yellow Submarine

There is a scene in James Cameron's film, The Abyss, where Bud and Lindsey Brigman are trapped in a research submarine that is rapidly filling with water. Once they realize they can't plug the leak, they guage the distance back to the research rig and consider swimming for it. They're already equalized to the depth, so this would be a viable solution except that the rig is much too far away. They have one thermal suit and oxygen tank between them. Lindsey convinces Bud to put the suit on and carry her back. Though she will die, the extreme cold of the water will slow her system such that she can be revived by the team on the rig. Just before she draws her last breath, she begins to panic, but then she gives herself to the water and is calm.

This is a picture of how we participate in the death and ressurection of Jesus. We trust him. We die. He carries us. He brings us back to life. He knows this process will work because he's done it before. And this is necessary, because with or without him, we all live in a sinking, yellow submarine. The difference is what happens when the air is gone.

A Sickness Unto Death

Soren Kierkegaard described this dynamic in relation to the account of Jesus and Lazarus in John 11. In John 11:4, Jesus tells Lazarus' family that "this sickness is not unto death". This was to provide an illustration for the necessity of death in the process of restoration. According to Kierkegaard, all of us are sick, but it is only for those who are disconnected from God that this is a sickness unto death. You see, in the absence of God, there is a tension here between what is possible and what is necessary. It is necessary that we die because of sin. But if we die, it is necessary that we be reborn. But ressurection is impossible. Impossible, that is, for everyone but Jesus, which is why we participate in his death. So that we can also participate in his ressurection.

To Love and Obey

Another reason that there is a tension here, is because we have a natural instinct for survival; a fear of death. This is what triggers the panic. It's the reason that we can't reach out and sieze the gift that Jesus offers us, but depend on being seized by him instead. So our participation is really just that we let him carry us. This is the only way. The problem is that we fear. And this is the reason that we can't understand love. Let me explain.

Remember the discussion about love and approval from one of the earlier posts. This is man's idea of love. We encounter someone who has attributes that we admire. They are desirable to us and therefore we seek their approval. Instinctively, we give our approval as an offering, in hopes that it is returned. We place ourselves before them in subjection to their review. These are the mechanics of human love. But this is not love at all, it's fear. We're afraid of rejection, of isolation, of humiliation. Fear is the primary way in which we relate to other people and it is why, without God, we can never truly love.

This brings us to the necessity of obedience. You cannot have true love without it. We all seek this kind of love, but it is out of fear that we are obedient to those from whom we seek approval. And this is why, in failing marriages, obedience quickly disintegrates. You see, if what we call "love" (which is really fear) is a prerequisite for obedience, then marriage is doomed because it requires impossible obedience, the type which is unconditional, not based on fear. Inevitably, in marriage, the fear goes away and then so does the obedience, and so love is dead.

Even if they wanted to become obedient, most people would ask "How can I be obedient to somone that I don't love?" Jesus would respond "How can you love someone to whom you are not obedient?" Unconditional obedience is required for unconditional love. But this kind of obedience is impossible without God. This is the paradox of our faith. And, this is precisely why we must die; because death is the ultimate act of submission and obedience. Jesus was obedient to death, even death on a cross. And he was, therefore, glorified and seated at the right hand of God. For us, this death and ressurection gives us the fruits of the spirit, the greatest of which is love; the real love. Love that conquers all.


Why does death require obedience? Because it doesn't make sense. It's contrary to our basic nature. It's a vast and impossible expanse of icy water through which only God can carry us, and only if we allow ourselves to die first. We cannot first understand and then die. This is not possible. Death, by its nature, cannot be understood. We know we are sick. But only God knows that this sickness is not unto death. Even still, Jesus does not want us to have to die, and in this way, he participates in our obedience even as we participate in his death. Remember that when he heard the news of Lazarus' death, Jesus wept. He wept because he had the power to stop it, but out of obedience to his father in heaven, he could not. He wept because he missed his friend.

Panic. This is how the end begins. I feel like i had this kind of moment on this journey. A moment where i realized that though i had offered myself when the water was low, I panicked when the water was high. And the only reason i had to continue was blind obedience. God carried me through and now i have so much more understanding, so much more wisdom. Now i have love that compells me to act. It was backwards, you see? This is what it means, when i tell you how it ends. This is God's design. Turn it around in your mind. This is valuable for faith, for marriage, for career, for personal success. It's something i've suspected for a long time, even written songs about, but now i know it to be true.

I want to leave you with the entirety of the song after which this blog was named. It has so much more meaning for me now. Please remember to pray for the people of South Africa and I encourage all of you to give yourselves to the life that God has for you, even if you don't understand it. When you get to the other side, it'll all make sense.

It Ends With a Spark

Some say it begins with a spark
That our lives are made in moments
Strange that we are born in the dark
Till our eyes are made to open

Witness, climb the mountain and face
A cathartic wound to pride
Stumble we into the unknown
And the courage comes behind

We will fall headlong
But we must be strong
For their eyes look on

Some say we should love and obey
But they violate the sequence
One day when you quiet your voice
You will understand the reason

And you will fall headlong
But you must be strong
For their eyes look on

And when it ends, and the angels raise the chorus
We will search for a light to shine behind us
And find our hands are burning
We understand the journey
Though we began in the dark
We will find that it ends with a spark

God bless, everyone.


Day 12: Back Seat In the Middle With My Feet On the Hump


Baboons trashed our kitchen last night. No joke, I heard them outside about 330AM just jammin. In the morning we found the window to the kitchen yanked open and the whole place was wrecked. It...was...AWESOME!

That's how our day started at 6AM. Then we got to freeze to near death on a game ride where, once again, no elephants were produced. Killer sunrise though. Time to haggle with shopkeepers and get some souvenirs.


That's it then. I have gifts for the kids. I have new friends. I have some kind of chest infection. I have a plane ticket. I have a new understanding of faith. I have new reasons to pray. I have no more clean socks. I have no more excuses. I have a broken heart. It's not a journey if it doesn't change you.

Time will tell.

Day 11: Monkeys...Monkeys Everywhere


Our second game drive began at 630 this morning. My coldness was like unto the coldness of a thousand arctic winds. Today, that stupid crocodile turned his nose up at a delicious spoonbill duck. Our disappointment was epic. He's lucky I didn't come down there. We also saw hippopotomai. Hippopotomai are tiny gray smudges.


I need to introduce the team.

I'm Stu. I'm awkward.

Robb is our spiritual leader. All the black people in South Africa think he is Taylor Lautner. For the longest time I couldn't figure out why people would get excited and bring up werewolves whenever they met him. Robb is a great teacher and, according to the musicians we met here, has an African soul.

David is smart. He knows alot of stuff about alot of stuff. He was homeschooled, apparently by Pythagorus. With the help of his Nikon, he has doubled the amount of digital data in the world since we've been on this trip.

Jared's name has only one R. So I apologize for misspelling it so much. Jared kicks complete tail on the drums, is an extremely smart and funny dude, and he does not snore. Jared instituted story time on our trip which was easily one of my favorite parts of the whole experience.

Bob is an excellent left-side-of-the-road, right-side-of-the-car driver. His record for number of times accidentally turning on the windshield wipers on a drive is 5. Bob found out he had to come on this trip when he got here and he was still cool with it. He's single-handedly responsible for the upcoming outbreak of Chinese jump rope fever in Soshanguve.

Lori and Emily are mother and daughter. They are both really nice people. Emily is the youngest on our trip but she did an awesome job. They are really good with the kids.

Patsy is a really sweet lady. She is team mother. We would have been reduced to a lord of the flies existence if she weren't here. She also wears really jaunty hats.

Becky and Alyssa are sisters. They're from Bridgewater, Virginia, home of some baseball player's grandpa. Alyssa tells awesome stories about her days at Turner Ashby High (Go Green Hornets). She and Becky are both awesome with the kids. Becky tells great stories too but we didn't know until like day 8. She also knows some kind of Kung fu or something, and all cats are afraid of her.


Oh and there were monkeys today. We saw monkeys too.


We made up a game today. It's called African Battleship. African Battleship is where you throw rocks at each other. Thulani won. When we got back from the hospital, we played some other games. We found out that Robb is secretly a ninja. He beat up everyone with a stick and then made it levitate. It was flippin rad.

Willem makes this mushroom sauce that makes me weep it's so good.

We've just been hanging out at this house all day, goofing off and playing games while woodland creatures scamper around outside. What a fantastic way to end the trip. Time to go home.

Day 10: The Back of a Van


This is a call and response culture. The preacher says hallelujah and the people say amen. Everything is directed in this way when the black South African church assembles. It means they don't really have to plan anything. This is evident in the musical worship. There is no form. They simply move from one phrase to the next when the leader directs it. This can seriously go on for 20 minutes before the worship leader brings it to a close. Even teaching is participatory. It's actually a really handy tool. Get ready, GBC people, cause I'm coming back with a brand new bag.


We're driving to Mabula. It's about 100 km north of Pretoria. There, we will go on a game drive (safari). Our work here is done and it's time to pet some giraffes. I'm in the back of Willem's van cooling out with Thulani, Jared, and the Pennington sisters.


I saw a Nile crocodile today. Nile crocodiles are greenish oblong objects that lay on the ground and never move, even when foolish and tasty antelopes get within a few feet. Stupid boring crocodile...

Day 9: It Takes Courage


It takes courage to speak. Nevermind the rest for a moment. Let us simply speak about speaking. Here at the rally, a woman just performed a poem she had written in English.

She said "Life is no different than death when it is unmentioned."

To the other introverts like me: If Christ is alive in you, then you must tell someone or he might as well be dead. You must speak. Find your voice first. Your courage will find you.


We just finished another set. I'm sitting on the side of the stage. Africa time has taken hold. It's 2 hours past the scheduled lunch time. I have no idea what's happening right now. There's a guy reciting a poem. It's really good. Occasionally people go up to the stage and dance. Others preach. Man, I'm hungry.


Forget courage! It takes a sandwich!


Finally fed, we took to the stage once more. What ensued was utter pandemonium. You would not believe me, which is why I stopped playing guitar and started taking video. When I get home I'll link to it. OMG.


ITC is about hope. People who have no hope for a better future have no reason to make good choices today. What I saw today was 1700 people alive with hope. There were people sharing with me impossible dreams and I could tell they were convinced that God would make it happen if it was his will.

I actually cried when we were saying goodbye to the local teams. These guys will wake up wednesday morning while I'm watching machine gun preacher on the airplane and go right back into the trenches again. Giving people hope. It takes courage to do that.

Day 8: Christ Centered Church, Block L


I want to talk about Willem. Willem is cool. He has rolled with so many schedule changes and miscommunications it's ridiculous. He drives everyone everywhere, is constantly on the phone working stuff out and wears the hell out of a sweater, button-down combo. I appreciate him so much.


Inasmuch as art is ever done, we've finished the wall. One guy who walked by told Andrew that the painting had hijacked his attention. Andrew, you're a good art director and a great artist. I may never get this paint off my hands, but that's cool. In 6 months when I'm scrubbing a T6 spot on my thumb in desperation, in between curses I will think of the engin petrol station in block L and find peace.

Time to play some hot jams for Jesus. Where is the white half of my band?


I just want to take this opportunity to point out my awesome use of the word inasmuch earlier. That's for the ladies of my small group back home.


By the way, the United States has got to get with the meat pie program. Man, those things are good.

I'll tell you what else is good; Township Burgers. Soul brothers and sisters, you may have been born again, but you haven't lived until you've had one. It's a big-ace piece of bread with a hot dog, french fries, some kind of spicy vegetable, mango and sausage. It's freaking killer.


And I'll tell you something else that's good: our band. Our band is going to bring the dang thunder to Christ Centered Church tomorrow. I'm so thankful to the guys here; Mandla, Terry, Thando, Israel, Zachele, Harold. I'm messing up all their names but I love those guys. We had church today for about 5 hours on that stage. I'm tired. Tomorrow is the big day.


I realized today that each one of us is specially made for a purpose. It's one of those things I should have already known but didn't. I've been so down all week feeling like I'm defective. But I'm not defective. I'm just specialized. When I got on that stage today I came alive. This is what I can give. Am I'm ok with that.

There's a lesson here. If you're good at performing, don't be afraid of that. Just like if you're good at teaching, or caring for people, or doing the behind the scenes things, thats what you should do. Some think that all Christians need to be the kind of people that are good with kids and good at comforting people and always have the right thing to say. Forget all that. Find what you were made to do and do it. And don't let anyone tell you that's not good enough. We are the body of Christ and you are an individual creation. Amen. Let's eat.