Disposable Man

30 05 2010

Somewhere on the streets of gold a man does not walk, though he might have.  He was not born into that world.  He never walked there.  He was discarded from there before he ever arrived.

Somewhere in a dark alley on Earth, another disposable man also does not walk.  He was never born into this world, much less reborn into the next.  Perhaps, he was murdered in the womb, discarded before he ever arrived.

Then again, perhaps he never even arrived in the womb.  Maybe his parents used effective contraception.  Perhaps they abstained altogether.  The parents were too busy to marry, or they rejected each other, not knowing that they rejected their own destiny.

Disposable Man had no say in his own parentage, whether he would be born at all.  Had he been born, he would have had no say in his own death.  No degree of effort could prevent his passing.  Somewhere in between the two, between the cradle and the grave, we presume that he would have had the autonomy to choose his destiny, and yet, that destiny may have been the beginnings, or lack thereof, of yet another Disposable Man.  The part in the middle, where we assume he had free will, another is born into the world by destiny through the actions of an autonomous man.  Perhaps we presume too much.

When a woman aborts her child, we say that she has murdered another human being, and rightly so.  She assumes the right to live, and she attributes to her child the duty to be discarded.  The child is disposable, but she is not.  From before conception the baby had no identity at all.  Had she abstained from sex, it would not have existed.  She would not have been guilty of murder, because nothing existed to be murdered.  So much weight is given to sentience.  Some would say that the death of a human does not matter before it is fully conscious enough to realize that it is getting ripped apart.  At what point does the human soul enter the body?  As far as I know, I am the only one for whom it ever has.  I cannot study or know the soul of a single other human on the planet, any more than I could travel to a parallel universe.  People are islands, entire universes separated from each other by uncrossable chasms.  I only know that I have a soul, because I experience the act of living.

The woman who wishes to kill justifies her act, essentially, on the notion that the soul of the baby has not yet arrived, does not exist.  Yet, no one can know if or when it ever does.  She can only know the existence of her own soul, and this is the crux of the matter.  She was the only person that concerned her, anyway.  Abortion is, at heart, a postmodern problem.  The modernist, at least, can see the creation of a new human within the womb, because the modernist is obsessed with the physical world.  What can be studied can be believed.  But the postmodernist is obsessed with the highly internal world of the mental universe, those events and experiences which capture the soul.  If she does not feel it, then she does not care.  As postmodernism grows, so does the industry of infanticide.

A pastor need only mention the word, abortion, and we can see certain women in the congregation squirming in their seats, as though the truth were trying to crawl right out of their wombs where they sat.  But there can be forgiveness.  If Paul The Apostle can make a living at murdering masses of believers, yet repent and walk straight into Heaven, then there is hope for any of us.

Otherwise, the mother of the Disposable Man may find herself disposable in the next life.

What of the man who was never conceived?  He may have more in common with the everyday man than any might recognize.  The one who fails to live the entire nine months of gestation may only live a few weeks, but the elderly man who dies after a century still dies.  Both are soon forgotten.  As we approach eternity, both lifespans approach nothingness.  A man of any lifespan gradually becomes a Disposable Man.  If he is not born again into eternity, then he is lost before he even began.  He is like the man who never existed.

Coming into existence was always a matter of destiny.  It always comes about by an act of God, being entirely beyond us.  This remains as true for the second birth as for the first.  And so, our Disposable Man does not wander the streets like a haunting ghost.  He ceases  to exist without a trace.

At the top of this page is a picture.  Look again.  Is something missing?  Was it ever there?  Something is desperately missing from that picture, gone as though it had never existed.  It is Disposable Man, and it may be you.

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The Soapbox and the Train

16 05 2010

True story: a woman dropped her coat on the ground, just below a platform.  She climbed down to retrieve her coat, and some complete stranger jumped down and rudely shoved her, attempting to force her back onto the platform in a hurry.  Several bystanders stood there and watched.  In the next moment, he was dead, and she was critically injured, but alive.  All of this, because of a mere coat.  To save that material article, she climbed onto the subway tracks.  Then the man climbed onto the tracks to save her.  Most would say that the coat wasn’t worth it.  Some might even say that the woman wasn’t worth it.

But that was just a subway, and he tried by physical means.  It was only a matter of life and death, nothing more.  In another time and another place, a man stood on a soapbox and preached at a passing crowd.  This is also a true story.  He told the world that they were sinners and needed to repent.  He said that they needed Jesus.  He warned them that they were going to Hell.  A man with good intentions stopped to argue with him.  In fact, the man who wished to take him to task was no less than a pastor.  He asked the man on the soapbox why he was being so mean-spirited, why he didn’t just show people the love of God.  Fortunately, the man on the soapbox ignored him.

Let’s take the two true stories and merge them for the sake of analogy.  A woman drops her coat on the train tracks, and in a moment of carelessness, she places exceedingly high priority on a temporary piece of property at the expense of something far greater.  A coat is until the next paycheck, but death is forever.  A man on the platform yells and screams at her to abandon the coat and move to safety.  He warns her of impending doom.  The other people around him mostly do nothing, same as before.  One man stops and accuses him of being unloving, harsh and overly critical.  According to the detractor, all of this yelling and screaming is only bound to chase her farther onto the tracks.  “She’ll never come to safety if you keep on like that,” he says.  At some later time, we might even make the suggestion that the police come and arrest the shouter for “hate speech.”  The liberal says that a loving God would surely not let a train come and crush a person flat, simply because she followed her own tendencies.  What harm did she do anyone?  How did her actions justify the punishment?

Yet, God’s moral laws are no more flexible than his physical laws.  She stood on the tracks when the train came, and she was to be crushed by it.  We don’t fault the train.  We don’t fault God.  We place the blame squarely on the woman.  She should have known better.

There’s a popular little lie that makes its rounds among believers that we should, “preach the gospel to the world, using words, if necessary.”  Faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by people speaking the message (Romans 10:17).  If no one speaks it, then no one is going to hear it.  Somehow, we are expected to simply be nice people, without ever really getting to the marrow of what we believe to be not only the truth, but a dire truth, at that.  In any other dire situation, we would be expected to go out of our way to convey the danger of the matter to the potential victims as quickly and as loudly as we possibly could.  Yet, somehow, when it comes to the only thing more important than life or death, being Heaven and Hell, we are expected to simply show people the love of God, without ever broaching the subject of the other person’s future of burning in Hell for all of eternity.

Focus on Heaven, they say.  Don’t scare them with the stuff about Hell.  So our victim is bending over to pick up her coat, and the man on the platform is calling to her seductively, telling her how wonderful it would be if she could stand up there on the platform with him, instead of being down there on the dirty old tracks, like that.  Her response?  Yes, of course it would be nice to stand on the platform, instead, but she’s going to get her coat first.  Yes, it would be nice to get into Heaven, but I’ve got time, and I’m going to enjoy life first.  In the end, the woman still gets crushed, but at least the man didn’t get hurt in the process.

That’s what it’s all about, anyway, isn’t it?  We try to win people to Christ in the way that is least likely to get us hurt.  The train comes.  We don’t mention it.  We act like there’s no hurry.  We behave as though there were no threat.  We even pass laws against telling people that they are going to be utterly destroyed if they don’t get out of harm’s way.  That’s hate speech.  But, love is not always polite.

Jesus was often rude.  He spent much time railing against the teachers who led people astray.  In his case, he was so determined to save a person, that, like the good fellow who tried to rescue the woman, he died trying.  As in that case, more often than not, Christ’s own attempts to save people are for naught.  In the end the train comes, and there is Hell to pay.  Even so, he still hopped down from his high place and died in the attempt.  Futile effort is better than the nightmare of having done nothing.

It doesn’t have to be futile, though.  There was always some slim chance that the person might be saved.  In fact, sometimes the hero is rewarded with another soul rescued, a life saved from imminent doom.  We are not that hero.  We are only asked to speak the warning from our place of relative safety.  Our job will not always be this easy.  For now, the bystanders only ridicule us for speaking of the train and the danger.  For now, we are only made to endure a little scorn.  The time is coming when the masses will drag us away and put us in prison, that the woman may remain on the tracks until her execution.  That is, they will do so if we continue to warn.  As it is, we mostly stand and stare, like an audience at a horror film.

And we think we are virtuous for our gentleness.





When Surrender is Not an Option

10 05 2010

It was our second anniversary, and we were headed down a certain freeway that I now avoid with a superstitious dread.  The man in the green Nissan to my right decided to change lanes very quickly and without warning, which would have been tolerable if not for the fact that I was already in that space.  There’s this annoying principle of matter that says that no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time, which is why I reacted very quickly to save my car from certain destruction.  Unfortunately, there’s also a physical constant called a friction coefficient, which does not change no matter how fast a person’s reflexes are.  I avoided colliding with the reckless driver, but my car went into a fishtail, as the road beneath me seemed to turn into a well-greased slab of slightly melted ice.  It’s funny, really, how static friction is so much stronger than kinetic friction.  Once the car skids, the tires glide across the asphalt with amazing ease.  The next thing I knew, I was staring straight at the concrete divider.  I steered hard away from it, but I had to stomp on the gas to make the car move in the other direction again.  Merely turning the wheel wasn’t cutting it.  Then I was facing the other way, and I had to turn the wheel and hit the gas to get it back again.  Back and forth, and back and forth again, the car slid one way and then the next, and there seemed to be no getting it straight again.  When the blood was coursing through my veins with an adrenaline high like three pots of coffee, I felt like I was living life at two-hundred miles per hour.  Actually, that’s the speed of a nerve impulse, so I really was living at two-hundred, but I digress.  At least I was able to get the car into a predictable oscillation.  That, alone, was a small comfort.  Still, getting the tires to stop squealing and getting the car to move in a straight line again would have been nice.  I was surprised at exactly how much care was required to shrink the back and forth motion to a slight veering.  A little less gas each time and a gentler steering got it to a point where it was barely moving back and forth at all.  In fact, if the tires had not been skidding, my path of travel would have been perfectly normal.

But the tires were still skidding.  I could not simply return to normal driving, or I would end up crunched like an empty soda can against the concrete wall.  Fighting the great back and forth movements was scary, but the battle was an easy one to fight.  Once the car was basically going straight, I found myself wondering what I was going to do next.  For the longest time, I was driving straight down the road with squealing tires that had about as much grip on the road as melted butter.  I was going straight, but only if I concentrated on it.  This was the hardest part, because I began to seriously consider whether the car would ever regain traction again.  It seemed to take forever, with no progress, and I was exhausted and shaking.

What unnerves me most about the event is that an idea crossed my mind that there really was nothing left to do but let the car do its own thing and be done with it, to give up and have a collision.  But…no matter how unbearable the situation was at the time, the alternative had to be worse.  No matter how long this continued, even if I felt that I couldn’t do it anymore, there was never any point in giving up.

“What do I do now?!” I wondered again and again.  The car was going straight, for crying out loud!  Then I tried taking my foot completely off of the gas and let the road move the wheels.  Eventually, enough friction between the two got them moving at the same speed and in the same direction.  After what seemed like forever, the squealing subsided, and I was back to driving the same as normal.  I was shaking like a leaf, and the world seemed several times brighter than midday sunlight, but we were alive, and the tires were gripping the road again.

Years later, I was riding in the back seat of someone else’s car, and I heard the familiar squeal of someone else’s car coming the other way.  At first, I couldn’t tell which car it was, because they were all moving straight ahead.  A man in a large truck had gone into a fishtail and managed to get it under control, in so much as that he was going straight, but his tires were still slipping and sliding along.  In that moment, I knew what he was thinking, and he chose the option of surrender.  From a straight path of travel, he suddenly swerved right, into the car beside him, then left, into another car.  He got his truck to a stop, but he had to wreck it and a couple of others to do so.  In that moment of fatigue, when there seemed to be no hope in sight, he chose the unthinkable alternative of surrender.  After getting it mostly under control, without regaining traction, he simply gave up.

I think of this now, because recently I saw the car in front of me fishtail, and the driver ultimately spun in circles and stopped, facing backward.  In fact, whenever I see the telltale wavy skid marks in the road, I watch to see what the outcome will be.  Almost always, they end in a great big loop like a question mark.

We fight, and we fight hard, and then we fight some more.  Then we wonder if there’s any hope, or we wonder if it’s worth the trouble.  No matter how unthinkable the alternative is, people usually give in to that unthinkable alternative.  Swerving back and forth is a nightmare, but it beats the alternative.  Life is full of such cases.  At what point do we give in to sin, say it’s too much temptation to bear?  How much is too much?  It’s never too much, because as long as we are still fighting, we are better off than the alternative.  Yet, there is a threshold for everyone, a point of striving beyond which they will not venture.  It’s the test of tenacity.

How seriously do you take your faith?  Will you keep it under adverse circumstances?  Will you keep it if those circumstances appear to have no end?  Is an endless arduous battle always better than the alternative?

In the words of Churchill, I say, never give up.

We are but weaklings, dwarfed by the martyrs who came before us.  We give in to little temptations where they held fast to the point of death.  Yet, though we can only hold fast in little ways, we can do so indefinitely, because it simply beats the alternative.  No matter how strong the drive to do that which God has condemned, we can and must always resist, because the alternative is absolutely unacceptable.  No one is granted a vacation from morality.  Personal preference isn’t worth crap.  You don’t stop fighting, and you never give up.  You work that lifestyle until the right thing becomes a habit.

When put to the test, you hold to righteousness even if it kills you, because the alternative is unacceptable.  Sometimes, surrender is just not an option.  Excuses won’t break your fall like the ground will.





Overt Belief with Covert Unbelief

2 05 2010

“I really, truly believe,” is ironically a statement of unbelief.  Sometimes a statement of faith such as this includes a few more really-trulies just to make it sound all the more emphatic.  The more emphasis it receives, the more certain one can be that the person does not really believe it.  Let alone, the statement, “I believe,” is, itself, a statement of unbelief, contrary to what its intended meaning may be.  The fact is simply that people who say this are usually trying very hard to believe, an act that we generally call make-believe.  This, in itself, implies that the person does not actually believe, otherwise the poor soul would not have to try so hard.

The phrase, “I think,” sounds less emphatic, but it actually suggests that the person saying it is not trying so hard to make himself believe it.  Therefore, it stands to reason that the person who says he thinks God will answer his prayer is not only more confident, but also more honest about his faith in God and prayer.  In a sense, this is counter-intuitive, being that we regard the phrase, “I think,” as a statement of uncertainty.  What we might overlook is that while the person suggests that he is somewhat uncertain about a thing, what it also means is that he is somewhat certain about that thing.  The person who says, “I truly believe,” leaves no room for honest doubt, and in so doing he leaves no room for honest belief.

The phrase, “I know,” is stronger, but people who are confident in their knowledge don’t really say it, as counter-intuitive as this sounds.  When someone really knows something to be true, they don’t preface the statement with anything at all. For example, consider the following statement:

God exists, and he created the world and all that is in it.

This is a statement of faith in its strongest form.  It assumes the matter to be settled.  “I know,” implies that you don’t know, or that someone else might disagree.  Being that I feel no need to heed the ignorance of others, and I do not feel inclined to defer to your own unbelief, I simply state that “this is such,” and leave it at that.  I say it this way, because no matter what you or anyone else may think, the matter is settled, and though I care enough to set you straight, I do not apologize for being right.

What it comes down to is that there exists, for every person, an overt belief, the thing that the person wants to believe that he believes, and the covert belief, the thing that a person really believes but may not want to admit.

21Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered.22“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23” ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”  (Mark 9:21-24)

If you do believe, then why do you need to overcome your unbelief?  It is because the man who says, “I believe,” does not believe.

Faith is something that we all wrestle with.  No one is exempt.  Even the Evolutionist struggles to believe.  I encountered an argument by one individual who said that Intelligent Design could not be peer-reviewed, and therefore should not be treated as scientific.  The implication is that a well-derived lie is better than truth, because we came by the lie systematically.  He could not argue directly against the truth of Intelligent Design, so he took the circuitous route of explaining why it was, “unscientific,” avoiding whether or not it was true.  When an Evolutionist loses the argument on rational grounds, he takes to mocking and assaulting the one who opposes him, by way of an ad hominem attack.  He belittles the opponent and makes the poor victim look silly, because he does not have the mental strength to defeat the argument, itself.  Much as such a verbal melee has the feel of strength, it belies an inner weakness.  The overt belief of the individual is that the human eyeball has all the design of a lump of clay, but the covert belief, the one that he is not willing to admit, is that the eyeball has an undeniable design.  The fact is that all life is loaded with marvelous design, and one would have to struggle hard to find an area of the organism which demonstrates a lack of design.  Even disorders are suggestive of a missing order, which implies that the thing was originally intended for better.

In the event that they cannot overcome this obstacle, they take a circuitous route, arguing something else, anything other than whether or not life demonstrates a design and, hence, a designer.  They call it religious dogma.  They claim that it cannot be tested with science.  They say that it cannot be peer reviewed.  They accuse the believers of wanting to believe in a God, in the hope that he might grant life after death.  They marginalize us, by assigning us a minority status, appealing to the fallacy of ad populem (if everyone else seems to believe it, then it must be true).  They appeal to authority, another damnable fallacy, saying that all scientists believe in Evolution; any scientist who doesn’t is not a real scientist, or doesn’t have enough education or experience.  All of this is a runaround to avoid the real issue.  The issue is not who supports the idea, or what system accommodates it.  The only issue at stake is whether or not the idea is really true. Any tangential argument, no matter how strong, evades the issue and demonstrates a covert weakness.  Anyone who cannot face the matter head-on does not really believe what they say they believe.  Deep down at the place where the conscious mind makes transition to the unconscious, in that darkest part, there lies the hidden fact that a person knows what they deem to be an unacceptable truth.

In truth, Intelligent Design has been studied by science for years.  It has been peer-reviewed and well-published.  When a scientist studies the function of any organ, or the functionality of any organism, or, for that matter, dysfunction, that scientist is studying the design of the thing and how it works.  It would be a very different matter to study the erosion of a rock.  No one asks how the crack in a rock works, because it doesn’t work.  It’s just a crack.  Anything that is designed a certain way to fulfill a certain function demonstrates its intelligent design.  Anyone who seeks to understand that design or function is a scientist who studies Intelligent Design, even if unwittingly.

In any biology journal article, one might read speculation as to why a thing “evolved” a certain way.  In truth, one might just as easily replace these statements with speculation as to why a thing was “designed” a certain way.  In doing so, no real scientific understanding would be lost, and the writing would be more coherent.

In the sense of statements of belief that really indicate unbelief, one classic example is the debater who puts his hands behind his head and leans back in his chair.  You get double points if he puts his feet up on the desk.  As much as it looks like a show of confidence, it’s really the body language of defeat.  I was arguing the matter of Creationism with a fellow, when he assumed this posture, along with an increasing loudness in his voice (another sign of weakness), and I knew that the argument was over.  I had won.  He would never admit that I had won, but I knew that while he overtly believed in Evolution, his covert unbelief had gotten the better of him.

What it all comes down to is that while you can lead a horse to water, you can’t make it drink.  You can defeat a lazy Darwinist, but you can’t make him accept Creationism.  You can’t even make him admit defeat.  The more you prod at what he really knows to be true, the more adamant he will become in his efforts to silence you, discredit you, keep you out of the schools and keep you out of the textbooks.  This is why I think that prolonged debate with such people is worse than futile.  When I write, I do not write to those who refuse to accept the obvious truth that all life has intelligent design.  Instead, I write to commit to solidarity with those who willingly stand against today’s popular myth.

Every age has had its popular myth, and there have always been those who stood against it.  Evolution is just the myth or our time, and we are that opposition.