Rattlesnake Mountain

18 04 2011

We were all there in the open field at recess watching James’ dad get blown to bits.  James was even there with us.  Of course, we had no idea what we were looking at.  It was one of two plane crashes I remember seeing from that same playground during my time in elementary school.  The small aircraft hit close to the peak, igniting a fire that spread and rose until it engulfed the top.  What is fire to a little kid?  What is tragedy?

A few years ago, I noticed my goldfish staring in awe at a candle I had placed near the fishbowl.  Where, in nature, do fish confront fire?  All of the beasts in the forest know it well.  At the first scent of smoke, the bees start packing up the honey.  The deer flee for their lives.  Even the snakes head for the water.  All of the animals of the forest know what fire is, and they fear it dreadfully.  The fish don’t have a clue.

There we were, like a pond full of goldfish, staring at a fire, and somewhere in that fire was our classmate’s father.  We didn’t have a clue.  I remember when he was called out of the classroom.  I remember the next day, staring up at Rattlesnake Mountain, with its ashen gray cap, and freckle-faced Brent exclaiming, “Dude!  That was James’ father!”  He kept saying it until it finally hit home with us.  The teacher may have told us all at the same time, but I don’t remember.  It was a hard thing to grasp.

James was rare for being a black kid in a nearly all-white school.  He was one of only about three non-whites I think I saw in the seven years I was there, five non-whites, if you count the faculty.  He was extremely quiet and well-mannered.  So much more dramatic the change when he began biting and kicking his fellow students for no reason at all (I thought).  We were only second-graders.  I had no idea what it was like to lose my father.  All I knew was that my classmate was behaving like a rabid animal.  Shortly after that, James moved away, and we never saw him again.

And then I had my own Rattlesnake Mountain, that same year.

Christmas came, and I got my very own Starscream Transformer robot toy.  I remember it well, and I remember how it came with two left hands and a missile that broke as I was detaching it from the forms.  I recall the evening when I sat on my father’s lap, and he helped me put the decals on the toy.  He had the sticker for the shiny gold eyes grasped in a pair of tweezers.  He hesitated, he breathed deeply, and then he gave me the tweezers and set me down on the couch and wandered off.  I had no idea that I was witnessing my forty-two-year-old father have a heart attack.  Once I finished the decals myself, I wandered about, looking for my parents, when my older siblings informed me that they had gone to the hospital.  My mom came home late and alone.

The next day was business as usual.  I thought my dad was going to die, and there I was in school, doing what I did every day, helpless in my circumstances.  I don’t remember why, but I found myself biting and kicking my classmates like some rabid animal.  Yes, now I could relate to James.  I was horrified at my own actions, watching myself transform like a young Jekyll and Hyde story.  The teacher knew something was wrong at home.  She pinned a note to my clothes and admonished me to leave it there until my mom took it off.  I don’t know why, but I wore the note all the way home, without trying to read it.

The next day, my mother kept me home from school and took me to visit my father in the hospital, instead.  That was all it took to make me a happy well-mannered kid again, seeing him alive and in good spirits.  My first day back at school, the teacher pinned another note to my clothes, thanking my mother for whatever it was that she had done.  “Now, don’t take this one off,” she said, “This is a good note.”

In second grade, my parents were enormous giants to me.  The prospect of my dad dying was like the prospect of God dying.  This one who should have been too big to fall, this all-providing source of survival was at death’s door.  I can well imagine how Christ’s disciples might have panicked at the death of their rabbi, a surrogate father, but more, something like Father God in the flesh, too big to fall, dying like a mortal.  One can see Peter’s fight/flight response, cutting off a servant’s ear one moment, and denying Christ the next, having witnessed the death and destruction of the man who always had all of the answers, the one who could not be touched.  There he was, the apparent source of life and health, bleeding on a cross.  Christ’s mountain was called the Skull, but it was the place where the snake had bitten him on the heel, symbolically.  It was his Rattlesnake Mountain.

It recalls to mind the various faces of the September 11 attacks, all of those close shots of people hanging out of windows to escape the fire.  Those must have been someone’s fathers and mothers.  I can only imagine the horror of having watched it happen to a loved one.  Much worse, to have seen the face of one clearly, on a newspaper or on television.  When I watched the tsunami roll across Japan, it was like the plane crash at Rattlesnake mountain, like a goldfish staring at a flame.  It was mesmerizing, but it was nothing personal to me.  I feel like I should sympathize more.  I know I would feel much different if that tragedy came to me.

Deep in the recesses of my mind, I wonder if we’re all destined to feel the pain of those victims.  We’ll feel their pain, or we’ll feel that pain.  I pray to God that the pain is only sympathetic.  If that’s all I pray, then I probably am not sympathetic.  And, if I am cold, then perhaps the hour has come for God to break me, that I may bleed, and, having bled, I may learn to feel again.

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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.





Lazarus Died

25 02 2009

I was nearly four years old when I first learned that my birthdays had an annually recurring pattern.  The first three were a serendipity to me.  A month before that annual event, I tried very hard to remember my third birthday, but it seemed like centuries past.  Four years seems like nothing, now, but at that age it was a lifetime.  I also remember being four months old.  I didn’t know at the time how old I was, but I remember events from that time in my life.  I remember not knowing how to roll over on my own.  Back then, I felt as though I had been alive forever.  Four months is nothing, now.  It’s just four changes of the calendar and four new laboratory notebooks.  It seems that as time goes by, the measure of a day shrinks to nothing.  When I pass someone in the hallway at work, I hardly feel the need to say, “Good morning,” as it seems like I had never left.  If I could live a thousand years, a decade would seem like a year.  If I could live forever, all finite time spans would diminish to nothingness in their significance.  Well, that’s all fine and good, but at no point will I have ever lived an eternity.  Even the immortal never really get there.

Which brings me to an interesting point.  For God, who has already existed forever and has forever yet to live, a finite time span is, already, like nothing.  A day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day, for they are both as nothing.  The importance of this is in the value that he places on different things.  A thing which does not last forever is as good as a thing which never existed.  Consider it this way, and very little of what we have here on earth has any value at all to him.  What lasts forever?

Heaven lasts forever.  Hell lasts forever.  The human soul is here to stay.  Anything that we can take with us when we die has lasting value, including relationships and faith.  Everything else has no value.  Understanding this goes miles toward understanding the nature of God, I think.  What God does, therefore, will always be toward furthering things that he values, which will always relate to things that last forever.  Life and death are nothing.  It’s the eternity that follows that must be considered.

(Matthew 11:4 ) Jesus used his miracles as proof of who he was.

(John 9:1) When asked why a man was born blind, Jesus replied that it was so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.

From the human perspective, all miracles are for immediate gratification.  A blind man is healed, because blindness is bad.  (John 11) Lazarus was raised from the dead, because death is bad.  The lame were made to walk, because lameness is bad, and so on.  Looking back on it with the advantage of a couple thousand years under our belts, we might assume that not all blind were made to see, so not all blindness is for the purpose of displaying the work of God in people’s lives.  Lazarus…is he still alive?  If Lazarus died, then the miracle of his resurrection has become undone, hasn’t it?  It flies in the face of the assumption that God does all things for an eternal purpose.  The lame that Jesus healed, have they walked at all in the last millennium?  The immediate gratification felt by those who received Christ’s healing has been utterly lost.  All healing is ultimately undone by death.  Lazarus is dead.

But God does nothing for any purpose which is not eternal.

To understand the miracles, one must understand God.  The blind man was made to see, that the glory of God would be displayed in his life.  Why?  That in so doing, people might believe in the one who performed the miracle.  The purpose of blindness is not miraculous healing.  Blindness is just the product of living in a once-dead world.  That particular man, however, was blind for the purpose of the miracle.  All of Christ’s miracles were for a purpose that went beyond the miracle, itself.

(Luke 13:18 , Matthew 17:20)  If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can tell a mountain to move, and it will.  Why?  A seed can grow into a full-sized and flourishing plant.  A little bit of faith is enough for a miracle, because it takes a little bit of faith for a miracle to transform it into a lot of faith.  Faith, destiny and prophecy are the only three ways I know for cause and effect to happen in reverse order.  The miracle does not happen because someone has a lot of faith.  It happens because in so doing it causes faith to grow.  A person without any faith would look upon a miracle as a hoax.  He needs at least a little bit of faith to begin with, or the impact of the miracle never hits him.  It’s the faith that happens after the miracle that causes it to happen in the first place, though.  Destiny, likewise, is an instance of cause and effect in reverse.  It is the purpose that you were destined for that drives your actions today.  If God intends for you to be in Dallas tomorrow, then you will do things today that get you there, whether you realize it or not.  Prophecy is a perfect example of cause and effect in reverse.  They are the events of the future that drive the prophecies of today.  Predictions are only good if they accurately describe events of the future.  Hence, it is the future which drives the present when it comes to prophecy.

(Matthew 9:1-2)  The purpose of a miracle is to drive faith, but the purpose of faith is the forgiveness of sins.  We are saved by faith.  Through salvation comes everlasting life, which means living forever in Heaven with God.

So then, it all comes back to Heaven, Hell, and the human soul.  People often ask how a good and loving God can let so much pain and suffering exist in the world.  The initial response is that this world only has evil for the same reason that Hell has no good.  This is this first death and Hell is the second.  We are one step removed from what God intended for us, but we are fortunate enough not to be fully removed from it.  The second answer is that, unlike Heaven, this world is temporary.  To God, all temporary things are like nothing, because he has already lived forever.  Pulling a loose tooth is torture if done slowly.  The faster you pull it, the happier you’ll be.  For God, this life is practically instantaneous.  The suffering in this life is not the issue.  It’s the suffering or joy of the next life that really matters.

What is pain, anyway?  Pain is the motivation that God placed within our bodies to motivate us to avoid harm.  It’s not the pain that’s bad.  In fact, pain is good, if it works correctly.  It’s the damage to the body, which causes the pain, that is really the issue.  Clearly, we were meant to preserve ourselves from harm, at least for the time being.  Some time, at least, is necessary for the events which lead to eternity.  At the very least, time is necessary for us to find and share the faith that leads to Heaven.  We’re living on a sinking ship.  The more slowly it sinks, the greater our chances of survival.

Death undoes the miracle.  Lazarus died again one day, but death does not undo the purpose of the miracle, which is to increase faith that leads to salvation, which lasts forever.  God does not fail.

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