Worms in the Wood

30 05 2009

Change always brings the crazies out of the woodwork.  Here, you’ve got one man walking through town naked, telling everyone that some Middle Eastern nation is going to kill, destroy and maim.  The end is near, they say.  There, you’ve got a man lying on his side for days next to a street, talking to a cake made with mud, babbling something about how the country has lost its faith in God, bringing down wrath upon everyone.  The end is near, and the sky is falling.  One man even married a prostitute, just so he could write verses about her and compare her to the sinfulness of the country.  We’re all going to Hell in a hand basket, and we forgot to pack a lunch.  The country was once founded in faith, dominated by one set of beliefs, but something external worked its way in.  The country once served a higher calling but now serves only itself.  The people who once were in love with God, who founded the country for the sole purpose of unifying under one religious code, now love only themselves and revile any rules that would suggest that they not do exactly as they please.  Now we’ve got self-proclaimed prophets and conspiracy theorists trying to make everyone afraid that the end is near, because their religion is waning, and they’re afraid of seeing the country change.

 I could be talking about the United States of America, but I’m not, yet.  When the ancient nations of Israel and Judea were adopting the beliefs and lifestyles of the nations around them, compromising faith and purity, all kinds of people claimed to have a word from the Lord, threatening punishment.  The prophet, Joel, told that an army would come from the north and take over the region, that they would be unstoppable.  The prophet, Isaiah, said that Babylon would prevail and take his entire nation into exile.  Yet, even though that nation of Judea was, in fact, far less faithful than it had been in times past, it was still far more in league with the laws of Yahweh than was the nation that came to conquer it.  Prophets predicted judgment on God’s nation, which still retained some faith, but where were the prophets of Babylon, which never had any such faith?  Seemingly, the nation that had never followed God was getting rewarded at the expense of a nation that had once followed God, and even yet still followed him a little.

 Why is it that a man is deeply angered and hurt by the woman he loves, who once loved him but turns her back on him, but he is unmoved by a woman on the street who never loved him in the first place?

 Joel was right, though.  Assyria from the north conquered Israel and led them out with cruel hooks through their jaws, like fish.  Isaiah was right, too.  Babylon besieged Judea until the people started to eat their own children, and then the Judeans were taken away and scattered.

 Ever notice how loud the religious conservatives are getting?  Notice how they portend disasters and coming storms; how they believe that there will be a great war in the Middle East and calamity will befall the United States?  Ever wonder why a halfway Christian nation would expect the wrath of its own God, while the same God fairly ignores the faithlessness of pagan nations like Nepal and China?  To some, it seems like the whining of a losing team.  Ground that the Christians could once take for granted is now probably lost forever.  To others, it seems like history repeating itself.

 We love those who love us.  We are most easily hurt by those we love the most.  We believe that God loves us, but we don’t seem to think that he has feelings, ironically.  God is only love, never resentful, right?  He only rewards, but he never punishes, right?  We expect him to let the country slide until it has completely lost its faith and looks exactly like the nations that never believed, and then we think he might do something about it.  Punishing a faithless nation is like beating a dog that hasn’t got a clue that it did anything wrong.  Try yelling at a coyote, “Bad dog!”  What do you think it would do?  If you’re lucky, it would walk away.  You can’t train a dog that has no loyalty.

 Yes, the End-Times crowd is really in their wheelhouse now.  The nation is on the brink of falling into a pit that it can never crawl out of.  We’ve got industrialized infanticide and legitimized homosexuality.  Some despot, somewhere, is itching to show us a little divine nuclear punishment.  The screams of the religious right keep getting louder.  Their tactics seem to get nuttier by the day.  They’ve been stricken from the schools and the textbooks.  They’ve been defeated at the polls and denounced by the press.  They’ve been censored here and there, yet they keep coming through with their absurd claims of conspiracy.  They claim that the government is out to silence them.  I can’t imagine why they would think that…just because it’s true.  You start changing society, and the voices of the old way warn of bloody murder.

 The only problem, though, is how starkly frequent the nuts prove to be right.  The only thing worse than crazy people everywhere warning the world of impending doom is crazy people everywhere accurately warning the world of impending doom.


The Leash and the Pooper-Scooper

20 05 2009

signIn one hand, he holds the leash.  In the other hand, he holds the pooper-scooper, or a bag for collecting his dog’s feces.  One is a symbol of mastery.  The other is a symbol of abject servitude.  Is he the master, or is he the servant?  If I were to put a leash around your neck and jerk you around, deciding where you walk and how fast, how long would you put up with that?  On the other hand, can you imagine having to follow someone around and pick up their poop, wherever and whenever they feel the urge?  With a dog, it comes naturally, and we take it for granted.  It poops where it wants to, and we must pick up its feces.  On the other hand, we hold the leash, and we control its destiny.  The human is both the servant and the master.  The dog is neither.

Generally, we regard the servant as the opposite of the master.  The servant might have his own servants, and, therefore, be master to them, but we would not expect him to be both the servant and the master to the same person.  Without a servant there is no master, and vice versa.  At least, that’s the common understanding.  However, in a relationship between a human and a dog, or between a parent and a baby, the servant and the master are the same person.  The object of that servitude and the object of that mastery is neither a servant nor a master.  The dog contributes little or nothing to the relationship.  The only tangible thing it produces is defecation, and it does so with a profound sense of satisfaction.  Dogs produce their excrement not just in one confined area, but in as many places as their colons will allow.  Then, to be sure of fecal quality, they sniff the poop as though it were a flower.  They sniff each other’s poop, sometimes while it is in mid-production.  They spread it around the neighborhood.  In fact, the entire purpose of going on a walk, in the dog’s mind, is to lay a mushy one wherever possible.  What must they think when the human bends over to pick it up?  That good, is it?

The master is the servant.  She provides the food, shelter, medicine and anything that the dog requires.  The servant is the master.  She builds the fences, holds the leash, decides the training and determines the dog’s destiny.  A similar relationship exists between a parent and a baby.  The parent provides the food, shelter and clothing.  The parent even wipes its butt.  However, the parent is in complete control of the baby’s life, including everything from place of residence to hygiene.  The baby provides nothing in return.

A similar situation exists between us and God.  He needs nothing from us.  Seriously, there’s nothing that we can do for him that he can’t do for himself.  On the one hand, he’s the master.  He makes the rules, regardless of what we want.  Some of those rules are absolute, like the laws of physics.  We run too hard in the wrong direction, and we get yanked by the leash.  Other rules rely on obedience, like the Ten Commandments and such.  When he calls us to come to him, we are expected to obey.  Maybe we’ll get a reward.  Maybe we’ll just get a pat on the head.  The great thing about dogs is that they have the capacity to obey commands that make no earthly sense to them.

On the other hand, God is a servant.  He provides on this little rock everything that we need to live.  He provides within this body every organ needed to live life.  He provided the Christ to save us from our sins, effectively picking up our poop.  Some people seem to take pride in their sins.  For some, it is a thing to be done anywhere at any time the urge is felt.  One thing is common to us all, though, which is that we all produce it all of the time, and it must be cleaned up.  We can not clean it up ourselves.  The baby cannot wipe its own butt, and the dog cannot wield a pooper-scooper.

What, then, is the purpose of having a dog at all?  To some extent, it might provide protection, but this is not its primary purpose in most cases, nor is it ever the definitive function of a pet.  In every case where the servant is the master, and the object of that servitude and mastery is neither the servant nor the master, the sole value of that object is sentimental.  The dog is man’s best friend because he is filled with joy at seeing his master return.  Loyalty, devotion and trust endear him to his master.  His master loves him, because he loves his master.  Emotion drives the relationship.  Love is the bond between a parent and a child, wherever this relationship is healthy.

Therefore, it is the love of God that draws us to him.  Our primary purpose is to love God.  Everything else is secondary.  We contribute nothing tangible to the relationship; at least, we provide nothing that God needs.  However, there is one thing that we can give God that he cannot effectively give himself.  The only way to really fulfill our purpose in life is to love God with everything we’ve got.  It’s the reason we’re here at all.

Some people would not stoop to behaving like a pandering little puppy, not even to God.  The master comes home and the dog growls at him, as if to ward him off.  How do you keep a dog that threatens to bite you at every turn?  It denies the human of mastery, but it also unwittingly denies itself of the human’s servitude.

The pet waits anxiously for its master’s return.  The feral cur does not.


Assimilation and Regurgitation

16 05 2009

While it is true that you are what you eat, it is not true that a person who eats strictly beef will become a bull.  Every ounce of muscle on your body existed at one time as the flesh of some other animal, mostly, and to a lesser extent the flesh of a plant.  Vegetarians can claim exception to this.  This meat that we eat does not retain its original form when we incorporate it into ourselves.  People are well aware of this on the macroscopic level, that one does not simply take a side of beef and slap it onto one’s shoulder to increase the volume of that muscle.  People seem less aware of this principle on the biochemical level.  Every now and then I hear about how some food or supplement is supposed to be good for me because it contains some necessary enzyme.  It plays heavily on ignorance.  Enzymes (not to be confused with coenzymes) are molecular machines, working to perform precise functions, and they are tightly controlled by hormones and other enzymes to keep them from performing those functions too well, too weakly, at the wrong time, in the wrong place, and so on.  Survival depends on these things doing exactly what they were intended to do.  They exist in abundance within and without the cell.  Everything that a living thing does happens as the result of one or more enzymes.  All actions, even life itself, are the work of enzymes. 

 A slab of steak is loaded with enzymes, but these were made by the beef, for the beef.  If our bodies were to simply accept them in their native form, attempting to use them as the animal did, we would, most likely, die.  If you cut your shoulder open and inserted a steak, you’d be left with a festering, rotting wound.  It doesn’t belong there.  If you break it down into its constituent enzymes and insert it into your body, it would also not belong there.  The material must be broken down into its most basic form before it can be used to construct a proper human body.  It must be chewed and fully digested, assimilated and then reconstructed to fit seamlessly into the human form.  Anything that doesn’t get fully digested ends up in the toilet.  Without full processing, it does not get absorbed.

 My organic chemistry professor, years ago, stressed repeatedly the importance of understanding over knowledge.  He gave one example of a chemical reaction in class, but he used a different example in the test.  Without understanding, a person could not make the mental jump from one example to another.  I remember my classmates using flashcards to memorize all of the different chemical reactions.  Everyone who studied this way did very badly on the test.  I heard someone complaining that the reaction mentioned in the test was not mentioned in class or in any of the texts.  The reaction wasn’t mentioned, but the underlying principle was addressed extensively.  It was explained in terms of other molecules and other reactions.  In a sense, logic trumped memorization.  Flash cards did not yield problem solving skills.  If anything, they interfered.  Understanding came from breaking down the examples to their constituent principles, and using those principles to reconstruct an understanding of different reactions in different situations.  If I learned a concept using acetate as an example, then I had better be prepared for similar reactions where acetate is not even involved.  The test question might make no mention of acetate, but it might require the use of the same principle reaction.

 Digestion is key.  Everything must be broken down into fundamental principles and then reconstructed to fit our own situation.

 Similarly, many Christians rely heavily upon memorization of scripture.  Those who do are still faring better than most “Bible-believing” Christians, who never read the Bible.  However, walking around with memorized verses is one step up from walking around with a Bible under one arm.  We treat scripture like a talisman.  If ever we meet a demon or some monster in the dark, we’ll be ready to show him our Bible and quote our verses.  Yet, anyone can quote verses but have a godless heart.  My aunt was taken in by a scripture-quoting gigolo.  My wife received a sales-pitch from a scripture-quoting scam artist.  I see people online trying to impress other Christians with their ever-ready employment of relevant Bible verses, as though a person couldn’t simply copy and paste verses at will from an online concordance.  It’s very easy, really.  One hardly needs to have a biblical view of their own on a subject these days.  If someone gives you a question, then you give them a Bible verse.  If they question it, then you shrug your shoulders and say, “It’s in the Bible.”  Do you hide behind a mask of papier-mâché,  made from pages of the Bible?

 I’ve seen bloggers fill an entire post with a quote from an online news source.  At the end of this, they post one or two sentences of their own opinion.  Wholesale quotes of any source at all amount to nothing but a regurgitation of information.  It comes out in smaller pieces, but it remains distinctly identifiable for what it was.  I am not impressed with academic vomit.  I only care about the condition of a person’s mind that leads to the construction of his own original thoughts.  The essential ideas can be borrowed,  but they should be digested, assimilated and then synthesized to fit the exact situation at hand.  Anything less is not real understanding.

 The Bible says nothing on abortion.  The word does not exist anywhere in there.  No quote will suffice.  However, the concepts necessary to make a judgment in the matter are spoken plainly in the Bible.  I know the biblical stance on the matter, because I understand the underlying principles.

 The Bible makes a huge list of sexual sins.  At first glance, the list appears to be exhaustive.  However, I’m sure that there are highly creative people in the world who can invent myriad ways to gratify themselves without ever once violating a stated restriction in the Bible.  Does that make it acceptable to God?  Probably not.  If we rely strictly on quotes, then we leave room for loopholes.  If we give no care to the underlying spirit of the scripture, then it is only because we do not love it enough to swallow it, digest it and incorporate it into everything that we are.

 This is not to say that we should not quote scripture.  This is to say that the commentary that we place before and after the scripture should be just as laden with the very same principles that gave rise to the scripture, itself.  In truth, our words hold the potential to be even more relevant than the scripture, itself.  Before you stone me, hear me out.  Paul wrote his epistles to other people in another place at another time.  He wasn’t writing to us, but everything he said is useful for learning and developing a sound theology.  It is this theology that must be used to make assessments of our current situation.  We must use this theology to make statements regarding the world around us.  Scripture is a toolbox for building who we are and designing what we do.  Don’t hand me a pile of tools and expect me to be impressed with your handiwork.

 Let your theology be made manifest in all that you say.  Take ownership of your own words, instead of hiding behind someone else’s.  If you really believe the scriptures, then they will naturally slip into the words you use, without really trying.  They may not look like the original text, but the intent of the verses should be there all the same.

 Walking around with chapter and verse dangling from my phrases is like leaving the price tag attached to my clothes, like I haven’t broken them in, and I’m thinking of returning them for a refund.


He Stands Behind Me

13 05 2009

My first memory of feeling that emptiness inside, a longing with no apparent solution, was at the age of four.  It was a gnawing angst that was neither hunger nor thirst, but had something in common with both.  I needed something, but I couldn’t put a name to it.  I asked my mother what it was, and she said it was God, tugging at me, making me aware of my need for him.  I sometimes wonder what life would have been like for me if the answer had not been so readily available.  How does a person satisfy a need for which there is no physical solution?  When people live on a diet that is deficient in a necessary nutrient, the body responds by urging them to eat more food.  Sometimes it urges them even to eat that which is not food, just to satisfy the need.  Many extra calories might be consumed, but the deficiency must be filled.  The same seems to be true for that emptiness within the soul that hungers for God.  People fill that need by saturating themselves with any cure they can get their hands on, seeking pleasure and happiness in excess, that in all of that there might be a little bit of something to fill the gaping void within themselves.  The world is full of vices, and the world is grasping at straws.

I was four years old when I first asked Jesus to save me from my sins, and it was that year in my life that I was baptized.  However, it wasn’t until my early adolescence that I first felt the power of the Holy Spirit come upon me.  Yes, it was a real experience, like a warm cloud or an embrace.  It was a dark night after a campfire service at a religious scouting event.  The speaker asked if anyone wanted to be prayed for to be baptized by the Holy Spirit.  Most of the kids wanted to go play capture the flag out in the woods, and they did.  A few of us came forward, and a few of the ones that came forward apparently were hit by a blast of the supernatural.  I didn’t speak in tongues, prophesy, or do anything particularly astounding, but I do remember the way I was so wrapped up in it that I completely lost all sense of my own body.  It was a moment of worshipping God with everything that I had.  It was an ecstasy like nothing I have ever felt from anything else.  I would like to experience it again, if only for the drug-like effect that it had, but more than that, I want to experience it again because of the passion and the deep desire for God and his righteousness.  The people who were praying for me eventually seemed to think that I could not hold myself up any longer, for they set me down on the ground.  They were probably right.  I was stiff as a board.  This was not the last such experience that I was destined to have, and it was not even the strongest, but it was the first.  It left me wanting more.

I did not come away from it with nothing, though.  There followed me a certain residual effect, like the sunlight in the sky once the sun is no longer visible.  For a time, I was distinctly aware of a presence with me, like when you know that someone is in the room with you, even though you can’t see or hear them.  I had the irresistible urge to look over my shoulder every now and then, just to make certain there wasn’t actually someone standing behind me.  To be precise, it was someone a bit taller than me, standing behind me and a little to the right.  The sensation followed me wherever I went.  A few times, I caught myself talking to someone who had actually been in the room but had left when I wasn’t looking, because I still sensed that there was someone in the room with me, and I thought it was the same person.  It was like having an invisible friend.  I knew that God was always with me.  A few years later, I discovered that quite a few other people have had that exact same experience.  Shortly after accepting Christ, they had that keen awareness that someone was always behind them and off to one side.  I find this remarkable.  I wish the world could know this feeling.

Never underestimate the importance of baptism by the Holy Spirit.  To have communion with God is to have the indwelling of the spirit.  We are living temples, and God abides in us.  Where he lives, no uncleanness can coexist.  Obedience and sacrifice, though they are made to the true God are nothing if not ordained by God.  Faith in God without communion with him is like knowledge without understanding.  If we do not have the Spirit, then we are not living and breathing the life of Christ.  This is life, not a movie.

This is the real thing, not some academic pursuit.  We are not here to play some religious game.


Metamorphosis and Syncretism

8 05 2009

It is said that during metamorphosis the butterfly caterpillar literally self-destructs within the chrysalis.  Apoptosis, the suicide of cells, causes all but a few cells to liquefy and rupture.  The few cells that remain are then responsible for taking the initiative of starting over and creating a new organism almost from scratch.  The second time, though, this organism is to be very different than the one that preceded it.

 The mechanism of self-destruction prior to reinvention is crucial to metamorphosis.  The animal does not simply transform, converting entire organs to homologous use.  It’s not unlike the recycling of an aluminum can: the manufacturer doesn’t simply clean it, refill it, re-label it and resell it.  The entire thing must be melted down and formed from scratch the way it was the first time.  The older body parts of the caterpillar would only conflict with the transition, rather than aide in it.  Everything, then, gets melted down.

 Sometimes the hardest people to train in the workplace are the people who have the most experience.  They bring from the old job habits and methods that seem applicable to the new job.  They feel an unwarranted confidence and a sense of expertise, without the advantage of having been trained for the new job, precisely.  The kid fresh out of college knows he’s lost in the industry, and he quickly adjusts to his new environment.  The old-timer enters the job thinking he already knows how it’s supposed to be, and instead of adapting to his new position, he might actually attempt to make his new position adapt to himself.  This results in much frustration for the unlucky soul who must train him.

 The same is true for a new convert.  Christianity bears the scars of people who failed to make a clean transition.  It’s why we have the Easter bunny and the Christmas tree.  It’s why the Catholic Church contended so hotly for a geocentric universe.  It’s why so many Christians are accepting worldly views that are inherently antithetical to the Christian faith.  For every person who is changed by acceptance of Christ, the Christian faith is changed a little by that person.

  The sum total of each convert’s effect on the Christian faith has been tremendous with time.  The Christianity of today looks nothing like a continuation of the Jewish faith that it once was.  The Catholics and the Orthodox both consider themselves to be the original Christianity, yet neither of them looks anything like Judaism, which is what it was when it all began.  If anyone resembles original Christianity, it’s the Messianic Jew.  Yet, the body of Christ, as a whole, vastly outnumbers them.  Likewise, they, too, run the risk of dragging in elements of Judaism that were not original to Judaism either.  Much has changed in that faith through the years, as well.  The laws of Moses have largely been elaborated to an extent that does not reflect the original intent of those laws.  To complicate things, the Jewish Christian also runs the risk of treating Christ as an addition to Judaism, rather than treat Christ as the fulfillment of Judaism.

 I once knew an ex-witch who considered herself a prophetess.  She believed that her prior experiences with Satanism actually increased her understanding of the spiritual realm.  I tried to convince her that during her time in the occult, everything she thought she knew was a product of deception.  Granted, there must be some truth mixed in with those lies, but there could be no extricating one from the other.  Certainly, one should not rely upon pagan theology to understand Christian theology.  Yet, this syncretism is a common practice in one form or another throughout the faith.

 During the early 1970s, many in the hippie movement came to see Christ as essentially a hippie, like them.  While the positive impact of this is that many hippies came to faith in Christ, the negative impact was that Jesus was redefined in the process.  The Jesus movement was less of a conversion, for some, than it was an adaptation.  This caterpillar did not fully unmake itself before attempting the metamorphosis.  As a result, it may not have become the completed butterfly that it was meant to be.

 Letting go of the former self in order to embrace a new identity is a difficult task, to say the least.  No one ever achieves it perfectly.  A young couple marries, and they reject their former identities as single people to embrace a new identity as a married couple.  Their entire way of thinking must be transformed.  To mark this event, they have the wedding ceremony to alert the world that they have changed.  As such, the world treats them differently, and their identity change is committed.  Similarly, when a person is born into the faith, the event is marked by the ceremony of baptism.  This is a person’s way of alerting the world to his new identity.  The old way of thinking is discarded, and a new one is embraced.

 Hanging on to the old way, to any degree, is a factor for hindered development.  A malformed butterfly cannot fly.  This is not to say that people outside of the faith have nothing to offer.  What it means is that until a person has entered the faith and accepted it on its own terms, only then can a person understand it well enough to evaluate it.  It’s like a good listener: she doesn’t tell you what your problem is until she’s heard you out and taken time to think about it.  Bringing the old ideas into the new faith is only a step above standing outside of the faith and casting criticism at it.  It’s a way of saying that the new faith is somehow inferior, without really identifying with it.  Christianity does need change, but it doesn’t need to be changed by people who do not understand or accept it.


Offended Demons

2 05 2009

I was a high school student, it was summer vacation, and I was bent on writing a novel that would allow me to hit the ground running as soon as I reached adulthood.  Well, I was thoroughly entertained by my own work, but anyone else reading it would need a pain reliever.  The title page should have included an MSDS sheet (acute boredom: Visual LD50: 50mg/kg mou).  I was in the middle of proofreading a line, my mom and a friend were on the other side of the room, and my mom was asking me to do something.  I pulled my finger back from where it hovered before the screen, and then I turned to rise.  The next thing I knew, a look of surprise crossed my friend’s face, and the old CRT came crashing down upon the keyboard, popping two keys off and breaking a third.  My friend was squawking like a chicken, “Did you see that?!  Did you just see what I saw?!”  with his mouth agape, he looked like he’d seen a ghost.  My mom rushed over to me and started mumbling something about how my dad works hard to pay for things around here, and we shouldn’t be throwing things around and breaking them.  My friend was trying to convince us that the monitor had been flung through the air, straight at my head, only to stop mere inches from me and fall straight down, onto the keyboard (I say keyboard, but it was one of those Commodore computers where the keyboard was fused with the CPU).  My mom, of course, wanted to know what I had done to make it happen.  I just sat there, stunned, with a monitor in my hands.

 In all of the commotion, my mom did not challenge my friend’s claim as to what had happened, that the monitor had flown a trajectory at my head.  In about a week, a friend of hers mentioned that my mom was praying harder because of some crazy spiritual stuff that was going on around the house, leading me to believe that she had seen exactly that.  I had tried to rationalize it.  I looked for some sane explanation to draw a line between where it sat on its stand and where it ended up on the keyboard.  I tried to simulate how it might have fallen forward with enough momentum to get it to where it landed, but any explanation felt like a stretch, and there was no denying that two other people saw what happened, and they were scared by what they saw.

 Fortunately, I didn’t see it.  I remember lying in bed at night, wondering if I really had annoyed a demon, somehow, and made it want to retaliate.  I also wondered what it was that bothered the beast, so I could redouble my efforts and really irritate the heck out of it.  My mother, undoubtedly, was wondering what had been done to allow the thing into our home in the first place and how to get it out.  My first thought was that the thing didn’t like what I was writing.  I wrote more enthusiastically after that.  My novel was, after all, a story about the Antichrist and the angels and demons involved in that conflict.  There was also the consideration that I had become exceedingly visible as a Christian at school, taking my bible to class, wearing crosses and making absolutely certain everyone knew where I stood in my faith.  Maybe it had something to do with the witch that sat behind me in English class.  Classmates remarked that it was a rather ironic seating arrangement.  She had her pentagram earrings, and I had my bible, and I could feel her looking over my shoulder at it.  But she was actually a rather nice person, over-all, and, by my estimation far closer to the truth than people who say there is no God or people who simply do not care.  I was hot; she was cold, and everyone else was lukewarm.

 In retrospect, I think I can say that something unseen tried to hurt me but failed, and something unseen tried to protect me and succeeded.  After all, despite my own ignorance of the situation, I was not even touched.  Some people might be more than a little petrified at having been the target of some invisible ghoul, but as a well-bullied nerd, I just saw it as yet another feckless attempt by someone to scare me.  Whether that someone is visible or invisible doesn’t change the fact that, so far, the threats have been nothing but threats, and the oppressor never actually hurts me.  It is to be expected that when we live our lives faithfully, expressing that faith to anyone who will listen, someone will hate us.  Someone will try to make us be quiet.  They will slander us and call us names.  If the people don’t do it, then the demons will.  We can’t be like the weak parent that lets her child walk all over her because she’s afraid of making the kid angry.  We must say what needs to be said.  The atheist will criticize my efforts, but he has neither tried to spread the Gospel, nor wanted me to succeed.  He is not an expert in witnessing, and he has never been on my side.

 What’s bad is not how the unbeliever reacts, so much as the believer who takes the side of the unbeliever in criticizing the one who spreads the word.  Some people spread the word through tracts.  Christians and non-Christians alike voice their petulance against it.  Yet, people have come to faith through tracts.  Some people have spread the word in a pushy, aggressive, hard manner, and such people have been denounced by both Christians and non-Christians for…you’ve heard it before… “shoving the bible down their throats.”  Yet, these messengers have succeeded in bringing people to faith in Christ, occasionally.  Even the meekest of witnesses has been met with a long string of insults when that believer has dared to say what she believed, and, as always, there has been some other believer ready at the guns to take the side of the unbeliever in rebuking the messenger of the word.  Yes, and even the meek have had their victories.  God has used everything from a genealogy to a fist fight to make people wake up and accept him, but I have never heard of anyone reaching the unbelievers by agreeing with slander against Christians.

 If the word is true and cuts to the heart, then it makes people cringe.  It gnaws on a person’s mind like an unwanted song that just keeps playing over and over.  It is an ear worm.  It makes people mad.  In fact, they claim that it is stupid and inconsequential, but they betray themselves by writing books and blogs and papers all over the place on this unimportant and petty belief system called Christianity.  It’s so stupid to them, they say, that they spend their lives denouncing it.  In fact, they’re obsessed because the truth of it is nagging at them and they just can’t let it go.  God won’t let them ignore him.  He nags at the back of the mind, because, after all, every living person still has a chance at redemption.  That’s a chance well worth the effort.

 So let the fallen angels and fallen people protest.  I dare not stop.