The Lost Art of Righteousness

28 12 2009

I saw you run that red light.  By all rights, you should have found yourself lying maimed in a hospital.  Occasionally, as may have been the case here, God saves us from our own reckless rebellion, or, at least, the consequences thereof.  I know, because I’ve seen it first hand.  I, myself, should be quite dead by now.  This time, you didn’t get smashed to a bloody pulp.  Next time, if you’re lucky, you’ll land yourself with a ticket and a renewed interest in obeying the law.  God may occasionally save you from yourself, but one thing he does not do is train us to commit evil.  Once accustomed to committing a lawless act and getting away with it, we learn to repeat the deed routinely, as a matter of habit.  The fear of consequences, and even the guilt are lost to the reinforcement of the repeated act.  God won’t help that to happen, even if it kills you.

Laws are everywhere, posted on signs that nobody reads.  Those who do read the signs leave them to other people to obey.  All people think themselves above the masses and not subject to the rules.  For, the rules were made to be broken, right?  Did Christ die to save us from our sins so that we could continue sinning?  If this is the case, then churches are greatly lacking in zeal with potlucks, when they could be having orgies, instead.  No, of course not, but preachers so rarely even address the issue of common sin anymore, that congregations are beginning to believe that there is no such thing.

A couple once approached a pastor with a deep concern, saying that they believed that they were committing sin.  They had found the word “fornication” in the Bible, and they had to look it up in a dictionary to know what it meant.  As they discovered, it described their very own relationship.

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;  neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.  For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.
(Ephesians 5:3-7)

What’s the problem with this scenario?  The laity actually had to tell the pastor that they were sinning!  He should have been the one to tell them.  Any pastor who neglects to lay out the basics of God’s law, who omits the danger of sin is a pastor who ought to step down from his office.  What good is any other sermon if we still go to Hell for our ignorance?  The commonest of ideals running through the church, today, is that we should not judge others, or otherwise press our religion on them.  Dictatively, it may be true, but connotatively, it is a lie of the Devil.  If you see a fellow believer living with his girlfriend, and you do not at least tell him that he is committing sin, then the sin is yours, also.

At the end of seven days the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.  When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.  But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.  “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.  But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself.”
(Ezekiel 3:16-21)

There is no virtue in keeping your beliefs to yourself.  If you know something to be the truth, and you do not share it, then you withhold help from those who need it; for no one uses truth to hurt themselves, but to increase their own well-being, unless they ignore or reject that truth.  If you believe in something, then you know it to be the truth.  If you hold silently to your belief, then you withhold truth from others.

While it is true that we need not force others into obedience, it is also true that we cannot be held blameless if we do not warn them.  While there is no virtue in unwilling obedience, there is no love in withholding a needed rebuke.  I neither hate the homosexual enough to injure him, nor do I hate him enough to usher him into Hell.

One of the most neglected of sins, even more than fornication, is the matter of divorce.  God has, indeed, endorsed the government’s practice of legitimizing marriage, but he has no more acceptance of civil divorce than he does of homosexual marriage.  No matter whether the government has certified your divorce, God does not recognize it, except in very select circumstances.  Those circumstances are of marital infidelity, and the matter of an unbeliever leaving a believing spouse because of that spouse’s faith.  In the vast majority of cases, that certification of divorce is just a piece of paper.  Christians get divorced so often, that one would think otherwise.  But if all they did was divorce, then it would not be nearly the problem that it is when they re-marry.

“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
(Luke 16-18)

When was the last time your pastor mentioned that one?  Any congregation likely has at least a few married couples who fit this description.  It’s a test of a pastor’s faith to jeopardize his income by assigning blame to his own clients.  I wonder what he values more, the money or the truth?  In this instance, I don’t even know what a couple should do if they’ve already done this.  They cannot very well divorce and return to their first loves, at this point.

What is fornication?  It is the adultery that a person commits even before marriage.  It is a man cheating on his wife before he even marries her.  It is a woman making herself a used object, and less of a gift to the man that she does marry.

What is adultery?  It is like using someone else’s used condom, except that this condom can actually contract the disease and make more of it.  It is human filth in its vilest form.  It is betrayal.  It is harmful physically, emotionally and spiritually, not only to the one who does it, but also to the spouse that he pledged to love and protect.

No, I won’t mistreat you for your sin, but I’ll give my right eye before I’ll see you go to Hell unawares.  It tears me apart.  It eats me from the inside.  This secret is a worm that gnaws its way out of me, and I’m not eager to keep it within.  Righteousness is a lost art, vacant from the souls who used to guard it.  I will not participate in its demise.

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The Single-Use Cipher

27 12 2009

No ship is too big to sink, as the passengers of the Titanic discovered.  No freedom is so well founded as to be impervious to corruption.  Every government and every establishment throughout history is and has been doomed to eventual collapse.  Freedom as we know it in a representative government will last only until someone strong enough manages to consolidate the power for himself.  When that happens, we will find ourselves back under the rule of a dictator.  Like Russia, it may still be paraded as a representative government, but it will, in truth, be governed by a select few, if not a singular individual.  This is the end that cannot be avoided.  Lament it later.  We don’t have time.  For all we know, we may already be there.  Our aim, then, should be to prepare ourselves for that eventuality.  We hope that it will not happen in our lifetime, but we fear that it might.

A key objective for us will be the development of a method for transmitting information secretly.  The strongest of encryption methods involve the use of computers and special software.  In the event of a complete social meltdown or an iron-fisted shutdown of the Internet, we must be prepared for the possibility that computers will not be available to all of us.  Further, we might find strength in an encryption technique that does not require special equipment, especially software, so that we might reach as many people as we require and under as many varied circumstances as we might encounter.

Probably the most widely-used and weakest of encryption techniques is the simple letter-substitution method.  You may have seen one in your local newspaper.  It’s so bad that a person of modest intelligence can solve it without a key.  Take the following example:

SRIRW JHR D HZUETR TRKKRW HJGHKZKJKZLS JSTRHH OLJ NDSK KL FRK BDJFVK

Translates to:

Never use a simple letter substitution unless you want to get caught.

Even if the spaces are removed, letter patterns and relative occurrence of letters is enough to allow the wrong person to decrypt it.  In the example above, the key was as follows:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Q C F A P G B S V U T O D W Y J K E N L M H R Z X I

Despite the weakness of the simple letter substitution method, one of the best codes is a modification of this idea, called the single-use cipher.  It’s the same as a letter substitution, except that the key changes with every letter.  The letter A could represent the letter T one time and represent the letter X the next time.  Doing this requires a lot of keys, being that we need a new one for each letter.  If we wrote a key like the one above for each letter in the message, then the key would be a lot longer than the actual message.  It would hardly be worth the trouble.  To simplify things, the key is always a simple shifting of the alphabet, like the following:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J

In this example, the letter A is shifted over sixteen spaces.  So is every other letter.  If we were to use this key for the above message, then the letter N would be written as the letter D.  We try to think backward when writing it so that the receiver doesn’t have to.  Hence, we encrypt it from the bottom set to the top set, and they decrypt it from the top set to the bottom set.  They see the D, and they translate it to an N.  Like I said, though, the key changes with every letter to prevent anyone from detecting a pattern.  It’s always a simple shift of the alphabet, as above.

In order to not have to write an entire alphabet twice for each and every letter of the message, we can simplify the key to a single letter.  All we need to do to write the key is to simply answer the question, “What does A equal?”  If we know what A equals, then we know what all of the other letters equal, because they’re all shifted over the same number of spaces.  In this case, A equals K.  The letter K can then represent the entire key.  The following is the B key:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A

In this case, A = B.  Therefore, the letter D represents the second letter in our message, the letter E of the word, “Never.”  For every letter of our message, we have one letter that needs to be translated, and we have one letter that tells us which key we use to translate it.  We could generate a random series of letters to represent our random selection of keys:

KBDIEURYASUEJDKQPELXMRUHYXRWHICKMENWLOPQUAYHENRICOVIRUMPU

Each letter tells us what A equals for that key.  Each key is used only once, to decipher only one letter of the message.  Also, we always remove spaces and punctuation.  Using the series of keys, above, the message now translates to the following:

DDSWN ABG A AOIGIU VPPIHF BAUUWRXNLGEB QAPTED IUU YTJG CG EQY UJAUSZ

In a real situation, we would have removed the spaces, but they were used here for the sake of explanation.  In order to easily translate the message, a good practice is to type the alphabet twice in courier font, so that it all fits on one line.  Then, copy that line to the next line.  Print it out and cut the paper between the lines so that they can be shifted relative to each other.  Circle the middle letter A of the top line so you can find it easily.  Using the key, above, you would align the letter A with K for the first letter of the message.  Then align it with B for the next letter of the message.  Then align it with D, and so on.  Cross off each letter of the key as you use it, and never recycle it.  Each time you shift the alphabet, you translate a letter of the message.

Originally, when this method was devised, the single-use keys were printed as booklets of randomly generated letters.  Each booklet would only have two copies.  You would keep one and send the other to the recipient.  Each letter would be used once to translate a letter in a message, and it would never be used again.  The next message, probably the reply, would start where the other left off, until eventually the whole booklet was used up and a new one had to be sent.  It was virtually unbreakable, unless someone intercepted the book along the way and made copies.

Then someone got the bright idea of using common literature as a key.  That way, no special book was required to decipher the message.  The only thing that needed to be delivered was the encrypted message, itself.  If the other party knew which classic you were going to use, then they could find it in their local library, so long as you chose a work that was common, or that you knew they already had.  Better yet, you could tell them with one encrypted message what the key for the next encrypted message would be.  Once you finished using The Grapes Of Wrath to encrypt your messages, you could mention in the last message that you were switching to A Tale Of Two Cities.  After a long correspondence, there would be no way for anyone to know what you were using to encrypt your messages, because you will have only mentioned it in another encrypted message.  Only the first book would be mentioned, and you might even do that through a subtle hint.  Be careful to avoid using abridged versions or books translated from other languages, because they tend not to be the same from one publication to the next.  Let’s take A Tale Of Two Cities as our key:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdo….

In this case, A equals I, then T, then W, and so on.  If A equals I, then N equals F.  If A equals T, then E equals L.  If A equals W, then V equals Z, and so on.

FLZEZ BLA Z OQTBGL DSPBWY WUJZMEXGCQVZ PUDSOA QVY WIUM PO AAF XEMOEF

Again, we leave the spaces in place for now.  Normally we would remove them.  So, there you have it.  Take the message, “Never use a simple letter substitution unless you want to get caught,” and cross it with the line from Dickens’ book, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdo…” and what you have left is a code that would be hard to break.  The other person’s reply would start where you left off, at “…m, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair….” Then, even if the enemy knew what book you were using to decode with, they probably would have trouble finding the right part of the book to use.

Now, the only problem is getting the message to the other person.  Unfortunately, the message still looks like a secret message.  It would be up to the sender to be creative and find a way to hide the fact that it’s a coded message.  For example, it could be hidden in a web page.  To find it, you select from the menu bar View/Source, which will give you a long list of HTML.  Look for the message to be contained between “<!–“ and “–>”.  If the enemy knows that you have a web site, then they might find the code there, but they would neither be able to decode it, nor would they know whom you were talking to.  Anyone could access the page, and there’s no knowing which of them was the recipient and which was someone just visiting the site for what it appeared to be.  Moreover, unless they already suspected you, they would not be likely to find you by accident this way.  As an added plus, you could send the same message to several parties at once, and you would not have to jeopardize them by knowing dangerous information about who or where they are, in the event that you are captured and forced to leak their whereabouts.  Otherwise, one might consider the use of watermarks or invisible ink.

One might also consider a reverse-order cipher, whereby the two alphabets run in opposite directions to one another, as such:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Z Y X W V U T S R Q P O N M L K J I H G F E D C B A

The advantage to this is that it works in both directions.  You can’t get confused as to whether you’re translating from the top to the bottom line, or the other way around, because it’s the same both ways.  The disadvantage is that it only provides half as much encryption strength.  I prefer the previous method, though, in all honesty, I hope we never need to use this.






Parthenogenesis

22 12 2009

One of the most common ideas about the virgin birth, if not the most common idea, is that Christ was conceived of a human egg and a divine…sperm.  However, the earliest of Christians did not think this.

In the time of Christ, and in the time of the prophets who foretold of the virgin birth, it was solely believed that the man was the carrier of a fully fertile, “seed.”  The woman was thought to provide no genetic component, inasmuch as they knew of genetics.  She was the fertile ground within which the seed was planted.  In fact, the word, “semen,” literally means “seed.”  While we know that traditional reproduction involves the union of two lineages, they had thought that all life was patrilineal, descending strictly through the men.  What is the significance of this?  It means that, as far as all parties were concerned, Jesus was as unique a human as Adam was, being without any parents.  This is somewhat difficult, considering that the messiah was supposed to come from the line of David.  In a sense, he did come from that lineage, both through Mary and Joseph, but he was genetically not descended from either.  That was what people who believed in the virgin birth believed about Jesus’ bloodline.

Let’s look a little into this.  Here we have the problem of original sin, the belief that because we were descended from Adam we were born already condemned and full of evil.  The exact reason for this is not clear, but what was clear to the early church was that, if Jesus was not really descended from Adam, then he must not have had original sin.  He was the world’s third un-fallen person, ever, after Adam and Eve.  What they also believed was that because he was without Adam’s fallen nature, he was sinless, and therefore capable of atoning for our sin, like a bull without blemish.  To further add to this, he was the Son of God, which meant that he could atone for all sin for all time.  He was a new human, fresh out of the package with no spiritual inheritance, other than the one he received from his Father in Heaven.

Now, fast forward to the discovery of the human egg.  Upon the Christian world was thrust the burden of determining whether Christ was conceived without both sperm and egg, or just without sperm.  If he was of Mary’s egg, then he was absolutely born with all of the genetic flaws accumulated throughout history to that point.  If he was from her egg, then he was not the spotless lamb that people took him for.  People would say that sin and physical flaws have nothing to do with each other, but I would say that the two are intrinsically connected.  You cannot have one without the other.  Death is just a lethal accumulation of physical flaws.  Death is the wage that comes from sin.  Therefore physical flaws arise because of sin.  Had the original people remained sinless, then they would have remained perfect, free from injury, illness and death.

When the ancient Israelites were commanded to sacrifice a spotless healthy bull for the atonement of their sins, they were being commanded to select the beast based on physical traits to serve a spiritual purpose.  God did not command them to find a bull that was without sin.  He told them to find one that was healthy, and by inference far from death.  Sin is our divergence from the will of God.  Entropy, sickness, mutations and death are all physical divergence from the perfect state that Adam and Eve knew before the Fall.  Therefore, to be that perfect sacrificial bull, Christ had to be without sin and without physical defect.

The first thing to change this was the crucifixion and all of the torture that went with it.  As he accepted the sin of the world onto his shoulders, he also took the burden of death and destruction.  As he was physically ripped to shreds, he was spiritually ripped to shreds.  As he physically overcame death, he spiritually overcame sin.  The two go hand in hand and are inseparable.

What, then, shall we say?  Was he already suffering the wages of sin and physical injury before the whip crossed his back?  This could hardly be true.  If it were, then we would have no hope.  We would still be as damned as the day Eve took that fruit.  If a perfect sperm fused with an imperfect egg, they would not form a perfect human, but an imperfect one.  The early church put the hope of their eternity into the very fact that Christ had no human ancestors, and Mary was only his surrogate, adoptive mother.  They saw him as an original human, without original sin, come to take away the sins of the world.  I can say this with absolute certainty.  Why should we change from this perspective?  They were not wrong.  God save us if they were.





Modernist Conquistadores

19 12 2009

Surprisingly, though modernism flourished in the realm of the Industrial Revolution, its very beginnings are said to have originated with the conquistadores, who were among the first Europeans to discover the New World.  At first, this seems counter-intuitive, considering their over-all lack of technology, but it was their juxtaposition with the primitive inhabitants of the Americas that changed their perceptions of themselves.  Consequently, it was their haughty treatment of these peoples that epitomizes the attitude of the modern worldview that was to come.  If modern Europe was the modernist government, and Darwinism was to become the modernist religion, then the conquistadores were the founding fathers, religious though they seemed.  The discovery of America was the turning point in human thought.  They had faced the insurmountable barrier known as the Atlantic Ocean, and they had overcome.  Mankind was beginning to master nature.  In the dark regions of the mind, mankind presumed to be mastering God in the process.

The key point to consider, here, is their treatment of the native civilizations that they encountered.  Whatever advancements the Europeans had made to endeavor this journey, someone else had obviously accomplished as much, well ahead of them.  Europe was a latecomer in the game, like someone who arrives two hours late to a party, long after the festivities have gotten under way; he says, “You can start the party, now.  I’m here.”  The discoverers credited themselves with a continent that was already populated.  It didn’t matter to them that the natives were people, too, who had apparently found their way across an even broader expanse of ocean and lived to start a whole new society.  To the conquistadores they were dogs that had to be subdued just like the rest of nature.  They gave the natives European culture and European disease.  In return, they took native gold.

This mindset was fundamental to modernism in all places at all times.  People with less technology were fundamentally wrong, and their ideas were rejected outright.  Knowledge not gained purely through technology was always rejected, even if science demonstrated their validity.  All oral traditions, all folklore, and all traditional life were overthrown in the face of the advancing age of modernism.  Modernism claimed science as its own.  In fact, before modernism, there was no true science…or was there?  Somehow, people learned how to make all kinds of machines, domesticate wheat, pull metal out of rocks and build magnificent structures, all before the codification of the scientific method.  People were already practicing science intuitively before the modern version came along and put into paper what people were already doing.  Yet, the modern perspective was that in older times people were ignorant superstitious fools, incapable of arriving at any objective understanding of the world around them.  The modernists claimed discovery rights to a system of study that other, “primitive” peoples had already mastered.

Case in point: civilizations all across the globe have legends of fire-breathing dragons.  From the modernist perspective, this is just silly folk tradition.  Then, when the bones of large reptilian monsters are unearthed, instead of making the connection back to the oral history of dragons, they call these fossils “dinosaurs.”  As far as the modernists are concerned, humanity of times past knew nothing of them, and therefore no one could know anything about them from firsthand observation.  A safe buffer of a few jerkillion years is placed between the dragons and humanity to prevent unwanted contamination by the knowledge that was already there.  The outrageous arrogance of the conquistadores is still among us.  What if people really were around during the age of the dragons?  What if there really is something to be learned by investigation into the various traditions around the world?  When people so far apart from each other in so many different places and cultures have the same thing to say, then it’s a story that has been around since the origin of humanity, and it probably has some truth to it.  Sadly, though today’s scientists have accused the legends of having been fabricated, they, themselves, fabricate their own stories of dinosaurs and call it “science.”  No, this is not just another myth that your grandfather invented to entertain you at the fireplace.  Rather, it’s a myth that some scientist invented to entertain his children at the fireplace.  Your grandfather just borrowed it.

What is the basic premise to science?  You make a hypothesis, and then you seek out evidence to either prove or disprove it.  In the case of paleontology, they find the evidence first, and then they come to a conclusion.  There is no hypothesis.  Anyone can look at the bones and write their own story.  That’s not science.  The “primitive” cultures have already provided a hypothesis, which the scientific evidence has actually validated, rather than disproven, but modernism, being in control of what’s called science and what isn’t, rejects the validated claim of tradition in favor of the ideas invented yesterday.  They land upon a populated shore, survey the city of Tenochtitlan and see nothing but of field of cattle.  The forerunners are attributed no human dignity.

Another bone from the pile: the case of the sasquatch, yeti, Bigfoot, abominable snowman, and a few other synonyms.  Many honest people from many cultures all over the globe at various times have testified to seeing this fantastic creature.  Modern science rejects it.  Actually, science doesn’t reject it.  Modernism does.  But modernism defines what science is or isn’t, these days.  The biggest contention against the existence of the Bigfoot is the complete lack of skeletal remains.  Reasonably, there must be a dead one, somewhere, right?  The problem is the same as the one for dragons.  There are no dragon bones.  There are only dinosaur skeletons.  There are no Bigfoot bones.  There are only giant ground sloth remains.  Never mind that the two make a lovely match.  Modernism has placed a buffer of many years between humanity and the giant ground sloth.  We weren’t even around by the time those creatures went extinct…they say.  No matter how many Bigfoot skeletons are found, they will always be classified as giant ground sloth, and the connection will never be made between the two.  Modernism has insulated its myth from ours.  The tall tales of men and women in white frocks supercede those told by simple hunters who sat and watched their prehistoric ground sloth walk right in front of them.  We can’t say that these things are still alive, lest we make the thought masters look like fools.  The conquistadores have conquered our civilization and infected us with their disease.  Everything we believe must come from them.  Everything our parents taught us must be abandoned.

One last bone from the pile, though there are more: the Great Flood.  The story is as widespread as it is old.  Even the Native Americans had their own version of it.  The common theme among them all, throughout the world, is that a deity sought to destroy the world with a massive flood, but a small number of animals and humans were preserved on a boat, that they might repopulate the world.  It is another part of that common culture that the modernists sought to enslave.  If the modernist science didn’t teach it to us, then it must not be true.  If the whole world were really covered in a flood, then we would expect to see marine fossils atop the highest mountains.  Here we have not only a hypothesis, but also a means of testing it.  Go and look for fossils on the mountains.  Let science determine if you are right.  What’s that, you say?  Marine fossils have been found all over the place on many different tall mountains?  Why, that’s impossible!  Folklore is always wrong!  So what does science do?  It invents a story after the evidence has been found, not as a means of finding truth, but as a means of suppressing the native belief.  The earth cooled and buckled, sending jagged peaks above the water, taking fossils with them (somehow without completely destroying them in the process).  The story that the modernist invented yesterday is held above the one by various cultures for thousands of years.  Why?  There is no known source of water, and no place for it to have gone afterward.  That’s their primary argument.  The funny thing is that no one disputes that.  The Bible states that there was a great flood that covered the highest mountains, but the event was unnatural.  It was purely an act of God, a miracle that could not have happened unless God had made it so.  This is to say that the Flood was both impossible, and yet it happened.  The evidence revealed by science (real science), verifies this claim.  It was physically impossible, but the evidence remains that such a thing happened.  The explanation presented by the modernists is good, but not great.  However, they did not present a hypothesis, which makes their story hopelessly unscientific.  The Bible presented a testable hypothesis.  So far, the evidence has supported that hypothesis.

This is not a battle between science and religion.  This is a battle of religion against modernism, or it might be taken as a battle between traditional culture and modernism.  They have landed their arrogant conquistadores upon our shores, and they have sought to impress us with their technology and subdue us.  They wish to mold us into little versions of themselves.  Their aim is to see no God.  They would not have us see him, either.  If technology is the master of the universe, then the man with the most technology is a god.  He demands your allegiance.

I say it’s time to take up arms and kick these arrogant dogs off our land.





Poor, Preferably in Spirit

15 12 2009

I saw him there, standing in the ditch while I, ironically, was on my way to church.  I did not have time to stop, and I did not care.  Later that day, I saw him again, in passing.  He was still ankle-deep in the water, digging through the flotsam for some kind of tidbit.  He was naked, and he had no home.  He had no gainful employment, and no easy source of food.  As I watched, I saw him pull a nasty mass of algae from the filthy mire, which he promptly devoured right before my eyes.  Such a wretched state of existence was unimaginable to me.  I had never been so low.  “What has happened to you?!” I shouted from atop the levy, “How have you been reduced to this?!”

The homeless one paused in his scavenging to give me a sideways, knowing, look.  He then turned and gave me this one word answer, “Quack!”  And then he flew away.

Poverty is a matter of perspective.  These days it looks, to me, like not having three square meals a day, but there was a time when a single jar of peanut butter made me feel like the richest man in the world.  My concept of poverty, now, looks a lot like my idea of wealth, ten years ago, and then my idea of poverty was like my idea of wealth just a year before that.  I thank God that, at least, things have been going in that direction and not the other way.

It was the year that I got laid off from my job for Christmas.  Christmas Eve, I was employed.  Christmas Day, I was not.  I must say that the worst time to go looking for a job is right after the holidays.  No one was hiring.  I spent all day, every day, applying at every business that seemed healthy.  It was me and my bike, making the rounds at every retail store I could find.  I did manage to get one interview, but stores like a cheerful worker, and I was grumpy from not having enough to eat.  I got a month behind on my rent.  My food dwindled to absolutely nothing, and I found myself in the library, begging the librarian to refund the balance on my copy card so I could afford to do my laundry.  She couldn’t do that for me, but she did give me change out of her own purse, for which I was ever grateful.

The closest this came to breaking me was the day that I biked the few miles to my bank to remove the last of my money, hoping to fill that emptiness in my belly.  The teller informed me that because my balance dwindled below the minimum limit, the bank took the rest.  I stood there in disbelief.  I had specifically chosen this bank because they had stated in their policy that they did not do this thing.  My previous bank had confiscated all my money when I was a little kid who didn’t possess more than a few bucks.  I was still bent that a bank would rob a kid of all of his money, so I chose this one because they had no minimum balance.  Sometime while I wasn’t paying attention, the two banks merged, and they chose the business plan that suited them best.  So there I was, dirt poor, and the local bank took the few remaining bucks that I thought were to be my lunch that day.

I could have walked my bike inside and thrown it across the room at the teller.  I might end up in jail, but at least I’d have a meal.  I prayed to God and told him that my life was in his hands.  If I was hungry, then I would just have to bear that and let God have his way, whatever it may be.  What was the worst that could happen?  Not long before, I had been severely ungrateful to God in all things, hating life and contemplating suicide on a regular basis.  If anyone deserved his providence, it wasn’t me, and I knew it.  I had shaken my fist at him too many times to make demands, then.  But, though I couldn’t see a solution on the horizon, I believed that there was a bottom, below which I would not fall, and I was right.

During those weeks friends gave me some food, here and there.  I didn’t even ask for help, but they fed me, all the same.  The experience shook me to the core.  My single greatest worldly treasure was a jar of peanut butter, which I savored, little by little, until it was gone.  When a friend gave that to me, I felt a thousand times richer.

Even that food dwindled, though.  With two pennies and a single piece of candy in my pocket, I headed to the store to admire the food.  I thought I would just wander around and at least be happy that such things existed.  Outside the door, a homeless man begged me for money, like he had been doing it all his life.  I wanted to laugh, because he could not tell that I probably had even less than he did.  Poverty was not something I had become accustomed to.  I had not learned to live that way.  Some people use charity as a means of supporting themselves until they can get back on their feet.  I had seen this man before, and I knew that charity had only taught him how to get more charity.  He was a career bum, spoiled by handouts.  My parents had helped enough poor people when I was a kid that I knew what I was looking at.  Nevertheless, mostly for the sake of humor, I said, “Man, I don’t have a dime,” and then I gave him my “lunch,” the small piece of hard candy.  At least he said, “thanks.”

A couple of weeks past Christmas found me standing at the teller window again, attempting to cash a scant paycheck of a couple hour’s work.  They scrutinized the thing, like I was attempting to pull one over on them, as though I were a common thief.  They had robbed me of my entire fortune, and then they treated me like a thief?

But I made it.  Thank God, I made it.  Four weeks later, I had a job, and I was back to routine eating.  I was paying the rent.  I was going to make it.  That experience left me poor in finances for a month, but it left me poor in spirit for a lifetime.  No matter how things improved from that time, onward, I lived with the mindset of a poor man.  I cherish every meal.  Thank God for food.  Every time it rains, I thank God for the roof over my head.  Every time misfortune strikes someone I know, I seek to thank God by helping that person the way that God helped me through friends.

I try not to make my parents’ mistake of generating dependence in others, but there’s a delicate balance between that and neglect.  In truth, one might be surprised at how little a person really needs to give to help another in their time of need.  Fear of destitution and a strong sense of need drive people to get themselves out of their own mess.  One must never give so much as to completely fill that need.  People must continue to strive to make things right in their own lives, rather than stay where they are.  Institutionalized charity, especially through the government, dehumanizes the help.  It makes the gift too easy to take for granted.  When I think of my trouble, I can be thankful for the people who cared for me.

A few years later, I was laid off from a better job.  My wife and I were sitting in a coffee shop, sipping our warm lattes, when she read about it in the newspaper.  It really says something about an employer when the newspaper has your job termination before you even know about it.  We didn’t worry.  God would provide.  A new and much better job landed in my lap at just the right time.  I didn’t even have to look for it.  On the day that I left that business, a parade of people entered the boss’ office and left crying.  Half of the people were losing their jobs, and the others had no guarantee.  I felt like Noah, escaping disaster by divine providence.

God promises wealth to no one.  In fact, he would rather have us be poor, or, at least, poor in spirit.  I may be getting my three square meals, but my mentality is still riding the streets in search of a job.  Every day that finds me a little overweight is a good day.  I thank God for every last little thing that I have, every need fulfilled.  I may not be poor now, but I will always be poor in spirit.

I much prefer it over the alternative.





Evil Religion

12 12 2009

Sooner or later, you’re going to get a contemptible statement from some  erudite, over-educated prig, along the lines of,  “Most of the suffering in the world has been the result of religion.”  Try not to stumble all over yourself for an answer.  It’s not as difficult as it might seem.  The fact is that most of the suffering in this world has been caused by religion.  Don’t take offense.  Owing entirely to the fact that all world religions contradict each other to some degree, in more ways than not, one might safely assume that they cannot all be right.  Well, if you’re a postmodernist, then you might think otherwise, but I’ve explained my view of postmodernism recently, and I’m not going down that road right now.

Logically, no more than one religion can be exactly right, and we might safely assume that no religion is perfectly right, but what we do know for sure is that the vast majority of them must be wrong, if only by the obvious fact that they are mutually exclusive of each other.  Now, I’m no big sympathiser with generic suffering.  If my personal friend is in need, then I help him, but I don’t see reason to make broad generalizations about suffering.  Each person has their own road to go down, and I cannot reasonably presume to know what God’s plan for that person is, whether they’re even right with God, or why they’re suffering.  One thing I do know, though, is that suffering is only a symptom of a greater problem.  It doesn’t cause itself.  It is not the problem, but the indicator of the problem.  That a world full of lying religions causes suffering is no surprise to me.  The problem is not the suffering, but the fact that people are wasting their lives on a worthless worldview.

Now, the irritating thing about the blasted idiot who said this is that this person, more likely than not, considers himself/herself above this melee.  The president of Iran is making nukes, and the atheist buffoons are making jokes about it.  If one destroys the world actively, then the other destroys the world passively.  If the Christian intervenes, then both the atheist and the Muslim are likely to fight this well-meaning individual from both sides.  Arrogance and intellectual elitism do not exempt anyone from the issue of religion.  To reject all religion is to define one’s own religion.  It may not be an established organization, and the person may be the only one with that view, but it is, for all intents and purposes, a religion.

As surely as you read this, you have a view on God, and on right and wrong.  You know where you stand on political and moral issues.  That is your religious stance, and you will live by that belief until it changes.  Unless you had an accident with a tamping iron and got a rod shot through your frontal lobe, you’ve got a religion.  No amount of arrogance overrides this fact.

Yes, religion has caused a lot of suffering in the world, atheism being by no means an exception.  Saying so merely indicates that, either most suffering has been caused by humans, or else most religion is false.  Both are true.  God and his acts of nature have hurt us less than we have hurt ourselves.  Most religions have nothing to do with the truth.  The brainwashed student who looks down on us for our faith is likely even further away from it than we are.  He is to us what the pharisee was to Jesus.  He might even call for our suppression.

There is one truth.  There is only one truth.  Marry it and be faithful, and it will serve you well.  Betray it, and it will knife you in the back.  Christ came into this world that we might have life everlasting.  This is not just an endless continuation of this weary existence, but freedom from the curse that we have long taken for granted.  To find God and die to sin is like coming home from a long and arduous war.

Home is that warm place of comfort, with enough food and water, and everything that you need.  Home is where you’re loved.  It’s where you belong, in the arms of your maker.

To reject the truth is to never come home again.  A great number of institutions, religious and educational, lead people away from the only thing that they need.  They not only cause suffering in this life, but forever after.  Yes, we might have a true religion, but ours must necessarily be the exception among religions.  The fact that the exception proves beneficial does nothing to amend the fact that the others are disastrously harmful.

Yes, most of the suffering in the world has been and will be caused by religion.  Everyone has a religious perspective, and the majority of them are dead wrong and downright evil.

And the academic fool is no exception.





Domesticated Society

7 12 2009

The falconer is a talented individual, who knows how to release a patently independent creature and fully expect that it will not continue flying, never to return.  The bird, though it be freed from its tethers, is not free in its own mind.  The key to this, as any falconer knows, is to successfully prevent the bird from eating the fruits of its own labor directly.  In training, he must be there to snatch up the bait before the bird can eat it.  Everything that the bird eats must come from the owner’s hand, so that the poor beast never makes the connection between its kill and its food.  Otherwise, it might realize that it does not need the master at all, and the next time it is released, it might fly away and never return.  The falconer uses the bird to catch him his food.  The bird only thinks it needs the falconer for its own food.  In reality, this is a strictly parasitic relationship.  The bird acts as a voluntary, if unwitting, host.  The human cannot give it anything that he does not first take from the bird.  He contributes nothing to the relationship, other than psychological enslavement.

Oh, but this happens to you, too.  You are that bird.  When communism fell in Eastern Europe, people, at first, cherished their new found freedom, but with time they discovered the burden of having to fend for themselves.  These days, much of the populace is waxing nostalgic for the “good old days,” when a job was guaranteed to every person.  With time, those memories seem not so bad.  It’s like the Israelites leaving Egypt, saying, “We were better off in the land of Egypt, living as slaves, because at least then we had food and water…security…certain assurances.”  Egypt provided them nothing.  Everything that their masters gave them was the fruit of their own labor, minus whatever the masters took.  The security of a guaranteed meal was an illusion.  If the slaves stopped providing it, then the masters certainly would not have taken to the fields to provide for their slaves.  The essence of the problem was that the people were looking to other humans to fill a role that should have been occupied by God.

Jan, a Czech immigrant, and a few of his friends conversed with me over a few glasses of wine, while I sipped my coffee.  They lamented the waning of freedom in their homeland.  This freedom has not been weakening in the political field, so much as it has been in the psychological realm.  They fear that Communism is on its way back, and the worst part of it is that it is being invited back by the very people that it once enslaved.  The difference between them and Americans, they assure me, is that Americans put their faith in God.  The Czech Republic is overwhelmingly atheistic, and so to fill that void, they place government in the esteem of God, looking to corrupt greedy men for the assurance of security.  This is probably the essence of why the Communist regime worked so hard to kill religion.  If people have faith in God, then they do not look to the government for hope.  Kill God, and the government inherits godlike authority.  Ever wonder why the West has instituted atheism as the official, “scientific” explanation, the only thing that can be taught in public schools?  It isn’t actually scientific at all.  Rather, it is a tool for bringing more power to the government.

Through the first years of the United States, people lived quite successfully without any help from the government.  Life was a constant struggle for survival, but people put their faith in God, and they lived through it.  These days, one might think that the entire nation should have perished without publicly funded programs.  How did they ever survive?  As the faith in God wanes, the faith in government grows.  But, where God can give us what we did not sow, the government can only give us what it takes from us.  We are that falcon that brings food to its master, then accepts, gratefully, food in return.  We fail to see that we would be better, far better, able to care for ourselves if the money had not been taken from us in the first place.  With faith in God, we would have cared for our own needy.  With faith in government, we lose most of our forced contributions to administrative costs.  We catch the rabbit for the government, and it gives us our morsel in return.

Were people really guaranteed a job under communism?  Not really.  The government could not give what it did not first take.  When the economy ran dry, the government collapsed.  Instead of losing their jobs a little here and there, they all lost their jobs at once.  The bigger the beast, the harder it falls.

My Czech friends warn me of a ratchet effect in the United States, and I have thought as much, myself.  Change only happens in one direction.  The government never relinquishes power.  That domesticated falcon is never set free.  Little by little it promises more to us.  It feigns to be our omnipotent guardian.  It usurps God.  Little by little it takes our money and our freedom to pay for these vices.  The process never reverses.

As we lose our faith in God, so do we lose our freedom to men.

A wild animal is born knowing things.  It knows how to hunt, how to care for itself and how to live out in the middle of nowhere on practically nothing at all.  It needs no food dish, no doghouse, no litter box.  This animal is born to be free.  It takes a clever trainer to domesticate it.  The animal unlearns all of the skills that came to it instinctively.  It learns, instead, the ways of its new master, the human.  It learns to be helpless.  What does a horse need?  It’s surrounded by food, everywhere it goes.  Yet, it comes to depend on the human.  For what?  The human gives it a fraction of the fruit of its own labor.

But the domesticated mindset, once learned, is not forgotten.  To put it another way, the wild instinct, once forgotten, is not easily learned.  Once the animal learns to eat from the hand of a human, it forgets how to eat from the hand of God.

Festus, an old Roman governor, was a freed slave, but the Caesar remarked that he still had the mind of a slave.  What was this mindset?  To understand this, we must look to the slaves that we know.  When freed, they stayed with their masters and continued to work for them.  Years later, their children still largely look to the mastership of other humans to provide for them.  Predictably, they tend to vote for the party that not only enslaved them but even marginalized them through horrible racist laws.  The reason is that this party has become to them the new slave master.  It reaps what they sow, and it gives back to them what they need.  That government has become as God to them.  They look to it to fulfill their needs, never really grasping that they have surrendered their freedom, little by little, and never really accounting for the fact that they only receive a net loss in the transaction.  Like the Israelites, they long to return to Egypt, where a meal seemed guaranteed, where they trusted in the providence of men rather than God.

But the provision of men will certainly come to an end, and the provision of God is boundless.

When a natural disaster like hurricane Katrina hits, people whine and cry that the government is not there to rescue them.  It’s like complaining to an intestinal worm that it does not provide nourishment in a time of famine.  The parasite is not there for the host’s benefit.  It takes as much as it can, leaving just enough to keep the host alive.  It provides nothing in return.  We need not thank it for what it lets us keep.  It is not our savior.  The government is only human, like us, and as humans, it is vulnerable to all of the same troubles.  Its role as God is only a masquerade.

Choose, this moment, whom you will serve.