Planned Parenthood: The Enemy of both Life and Choice

I’ve been waiting to comment on the recent drama surrounding Planned Parenthood until more information became available, but with the release of the fifth video this week, there’s not a lot more that can be said. The Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the group behind these videos, says it has released less than half of the videos the organization has in its possession, and in fact some of them may never see the light of day given that a LA County Superior Court Judge and a Federal Judge who bundled $230,000 for President Obama’s last campaign have both issued temporary restraining orders against releasing videos involving certain Planned Parenthood business partners, based on the time-honored legal standard of: “you can’t do that because it might make the people I support look bad.”

These orders have not, though, prevented the group from releasing footage of Planned Parenthood staff themselves. Perhaps there’s worse footage waiting in the wings, but it seems as though any additional footage can only confirm what we already know from these first five releases.

And what, precisely, is that? In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll note here that I haven’t gotten through the several hours of unedited footage yet. I tend to be Boehner-esque in my lack of control over my lacrimal glands, so watching things like this make me start bawling, not to mention turning my stomach and just being flat out horrifying. I also have young kids at home, including a 9 month old baby, so my already-weak stomach is considerably more so when violence against small children is involved. What I have seen is incredibly difficult to watch, and would be even without a baby of my own at home. Watching it while thinking of her sleeping upstairs is next to impossible. So I haven’t watched everything. But what I have watched thus far is bad enough.

Here’s how bad . . .
Continue reading Planned Parenthood: The Enemy of both Life and Choice

Why THIS Millennial Left the Church

. . . and why he has no intention of going back anytime soon . . . 

 

Rachel Held Evans wrote a blog post at CNN recently that set off a miniature firestorm among those interested in spiritual things and the state of the Christian church in the United States. Her post, entitled, “Why millennials are leaving the church,” has elicited strong reactions. Most of the ones I’ve read have been largely negative.

Unfortunately, both Evans’ original article and every response to it that I’ve encountered, suffer from over-generalization. The assumption at work is that there is A Reason for millennials leaving the church. Detractors fill in terms like “narcissistic” or “consumerist” to try to explain the emotions that drive young people out of the walls of church buildings . . . as if everyone who leaves does so because the church isn’t catering specifically enough to their own individual whims. What has largely been lacking in the discussion – particularly from the “anti” side, but even from Evans’ perspective – is the stated viewpoint of an actual millennial who has actually “left the church.”

Having been what I like to call a “post-congregational Christian” for the past seven years, I thought I’d offer one. I don’t claim to speak for anyone but myself – like I said, there is no single reason for the phenomenon Evans observes. What follows are my reasons.

Continue reading Why THIS Millennial Left the Church

Where we are. Where we’ve been.

I woke up this morning deeply discouraged about the future of our country. Conservatives like to say that we are a “center-right nation,” but in a country where the challenger can win independents handily and still lose the election that is clearly no longer the case. Many, myself included, thought the polls showing Obama ahead based on 2008 demographics couldn’t possibly be right . . . that 2008 was a historical anomaly centered on the man himself, and that after the pendulum swung the other way in 2010, everything would revert to the norm in 2012. We were wrong. I was wrong. 2008 was a realignment, and the face of the country changed. That being the case, it’s worth looking back at the country we left behind us four years ago.

Four years ago, I wrote a post on this blog intended to calm the fears of readers on the right who were worried about the fate of the nation in the face of what everybody knew would be an overwhelming victory for Barack Obama. It’s never as bad as it seems, I wrote, and the election of a staunch far-left liberal masquerading as a post-partisan moderate is not the end of the world.

I will not be writing any such comforting words this time. This time the electorate’s rose-colored glasses were off. The far-left liberal ran as exactly what he is. He ran a small, vicious and mean campaign based on character assassination, and was reelected anyway. It really is as bad as it seems. It may be worse.

Continue reading Where we are. Where we’ve been.

Things my son is teaching me about my Father
(Parts 6 & 7)

Read Introduction & Part 1
Read Parts 2 & 3
Read Parts 4 & 5

(6) What matters is not where I am, but which way I’m facing.

Tristan loves to lie on the bed and play . . . he’s at that stage right now where he wants to be mobile, but is still trying to figure our how. On the bed, though, he can roll over more easily, he can grab hold of things and pull himself forward, or brace his feet against something and push off.

That means, of course, that I have to be more careful about where he’s able to get to than when he’s just sitting on his playmat or on the floor and can’t get anywhere else.

It also means that in one instance he can be sitting on the bed and I have to be worried that he might fall off the edge, but in another instance he can be sitting in exactly the same place, and I don’t have to be concerned because he’s facing (or moving) in a direction that is safer – toward the middle of the bed, for example.

I think I’m coming to find that it’s the same way with God. The entire story of the Old Testament is how impossible it is for us to actually DO everything God laid out that His people were “supposed” to do. That being the case, it seems as though the message of the New Testament – between James’ definition of “true religion,” Paul’s discourses on eating meat offered to idols, and John’s discussion of what it means to truly love God, is that what He really cares about most is not that we’re “doing the right thing” at any given moment, but that we’re gradually drawing closer in relationship with Him . . . i.e., it’s not where we’re sitting, but which way we’re facing, that matters most. Even the Old Testament hints at this in the writings of the prophets, when God tells the people that He’s sick of their sacrifices (you know, all the ones He told them to make . . . ) and just wants them to turn back to relationship with Him . . . to change which way they’re facing, so to speak.

(7) It’s ok if our relationship isn’t perfect right now.

I have a confession to make. I’m somewhat neurotic. (Those who know me are looking at their collective screens right now and thinking, “well duh!”) Part of the way that manifests is wanting to do well at everything I try . . . I don’t want to put in the work of trying and failing ten thousand times before I get it right. I don’t want to practice (badly) until I’ve done something enough to actually be good at it. I want to be good at it now dangit!!

And I see the same thing with Tristan. He wanted to roll over before he was capable of doing so. Now he clearly wants to be crawling . . . wants to be mobile and able to go get toys and other things by himself . . . but he can’t.

And that’s ok. He’s not developmentally ready for that yet, and I have no qualms against dropping everything and helping him with something he needs, until he’s developmentally ready to meet that need himself.

And I think if you read the sweeping story that is Scripture, that’s what you find as well. From the Garden with Adam, to the supper table with Abraham, to the tabernacle with Moses and Aaron, to the temple with Solomon, to the rebuilt Temple with Ezra, to the synagogues with the exiled Jews in Babylon and Persia, to the upper room with the disciples, to Pentecost with the aposltes . . . God’s relationship with us is constantly growing, maturing . . . changing. That’s a daunting concept, to realize that an unchanging God nevertheless changes the way He interacts with us, based on our own growth in our limited ability to comprehend Him.

Just as my feeling for Tristan will never change, but the ways I interact with him will constantly be growing and maturing.

Things my son is teaching me about my Father
(Parts 4 & 5)

Read Introduction & Part 1
Read Parts 2 & 3
Read Parts 6 & 7

(4) I can do something He doesn’t like, and it doesn’t change how He feels about me one bit.

As one of my favorite authors puts it, there’s nothing I can do to make God love me more, and nothing I can do to make Him love me less. Because it’s not about *doing*! He just loves me. Period.

Lots of parents reassure their kids that they are loved even when they misbehave, but so often we here parents say things like “I love my kids, but sometimes I just don’t *like* them very much!

I don’t get that. I’m not sure how it’s possible. If I don’t like someone, how capable am I of being particularly loving toward them?

And even if it IS possible, how can a child comprehend that distinction?

I’m so grateful God doesn’t distinguish like that. He doesn’t “like me” when I behave well, and “dislike me” when I behave badly. He just flat out doesn’t value what I DO (even the good stuff I do is like “filthy rags” to Him) . . . Instead, He values who I AM. He just rejoices in my existence, regardless of whether I’m doing what He wants at any particular moment in time.

(5) He does things just to delight me.

This one has been quite the experience for me to figure out. The more I hang out with my son, the more I realize that I want to do things for him – not to prove a point, or teach him something, or help him with something, but just because it will make him happy.

I remember a conversation with my best friend growing up, where we realized that the logical conclusion of everything we had been taught was, “if I want it, it must be wrong for me to have it, and therefore wrong of me to want it.” We’re taught that our own desires are wicked and deceitful . . . and sometimes that’s even true. It’s incredibly seductive, and dangerous, to believe something just because I WANT it to be true . . . whether it actually IS true or not.

But the fact is, the more our hearts are in tune with God’s heart, the more our desires reflect His . . . that is, the more we want GOOD things.

And sometimes He is in the habit of giving us those good things before we even realize we want them.

Take Solomon, for example. God said he could have anything he wanted, and all he asked for was enough wisdom to rule his people well. God gave Him more wisdom than anyone else who ever lived. Just because.

Or Adam, who couldn’t have possibly known that he was missing anything when he was flying solo . . . he was, after all, blissfully ignorant of such emotions as loneliness, loss or unhappiness.

And God gave him Eve. Because God knew it would make Adam happier . . . would fulfill a need in him that he didn’t even realize wasn’t being met. God knew that giving Adam the one thing he was missing would make the whole of creation, “Very Good.”

Of course that’s not to say that every moment of every day is just going to be complete bliss . . . God makes it pretty clear that troubles and difficulties are pretty standard features of a life spent in relationship with Him.

But those times when He just blesses us . . . just because . . . are pretty special too.

Things my son is teaching me about my Father
(Parts 2 &3)

Read Introduction & Part 1
Read parts 4 & 5
Read Parts 6 & 7

2) He’s communicating with me, even when I don’t understand it all… And that’s ok with Him.

I could sit and talk with Tristan all day long. It’s so much fun to whisper in his ear all the things I hope for him . . . that I want him to always know without question that he is loved, and that he someday understands how much that means.

He, of course, doesn’t understand a word of it. Sure, he knows (sometimes) that I’m talking to him. And he comprehends enough to give me back the biggest, most amazing grins I’ve ever seen on anyone’s face, ever.

But he doesn’t understand even the barest fraction of what I’m actually communicating.

And that’s fine. As he grows more into the fullness of who he is, part of that growth will be in his ability to communicate back with me . . . to make our relationship less and less one-way, and more and more two-way. Even in the six months since he was born, I’ve already seen that happen a little bit.

And isn’t that exactly what God says? That as we grow in our relationship with Him, we move from milk to meat? We “put away childish things”? We understand, in short, more and more of what He is constantly trying to tell us?

3) When He gets angry, it’s not necessarily at us

Thus far, the most frustrating times with Tristan have been trying to get him to fall asleep, either for a nap or for bedtime. The little guy just doesn’t like to go to sleep! (I think he gets that from his dad)

It’s incredibly frustrating sometimes, particularly after it’s been three hours of passing him back and forth between me and Heidi, rocking, bouncing, walking, laying down, nursing, and generally trying just about anything and everything to get him to nod off . . . only to have him wake up again two minutes after he’s finally conked out.

But that’s hardly his fault. It’s not like he’s somehow deliberately doing whatever he can to annoy us. He just isn’t ready for sleep.

And isn’t that how we are, sometimes? I’m not talking about those times when we do deliberately engage with things we know God doesn’t want for us . . . I’m talking about those times when I’m reading the same passage in scripture for the fifth time, thinking to myself “Ok, God . . . what’s the point of this bit here??” Or the times when I’ve had a fellow believer tell me, with utmost sincerity, what they think God’s will is in a given situation, and my only thought is “I just don’t see that!” Or the times when I can’t bring myself to listen to the truth in what someone says because of ways I’ve been hurt or disillusioned by them or others in the past.

All of that has to be intensely frustrating to God. But I don’t think He’s frustrated at us. I think, in times like those, He’s frustrated at sin . . . at the separation it introduces.

He’s frustrated, in short, at the circumstances in which our relationship exists. Just as I get frustrated sometimes at the circumstances in which my relationship with Tristan exists. I think a lot of times we parents expect things of our children for which they’re not developmentally ready. We expect them to sleep easily, to behave as we wish them to act, to comprehend things they can’t fathom yet, or to communicate their feelings and needs better than they are capable of doing . . .

Isn’t it wonderful that God doesn’t expect that of us?

Things my son is teaching me about my Father
(Introduction & Part 1)

I remember conversations with Heidi when we were expecting Tristan, hypothesizing that having him around would give both of us a lot more fodder for blogging. That’s proven much less true in my case than hers . . . until now.

Where many new parents I know worry about how they’re going to teach their kids well, I’m far more concerned over what my son has to teach me – even now, at six months old. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been realizing that just having a son is teaching me more than I could ever comprehend before, about how God wants to Father me. I’ve always had a very intellectual view of God the Father, even as I’ve grown more in relationship with his Son . . . but that’s all changing now that I’m a father myself, and it’s really cool to look inside myself and watch it happening. Over the next several days, I’m planning to post just a handful of the things my Father has been teaching me lately about Himself . . . through the lens of my own experiences at fatherhood.

1) He delights in me. Always.

When I look at Tristan, I can’t help but take joy in his existence. He doesn’t have to be playing with me, or smiling at me, or even consciously aware of my existence at any given point in time. He might be sitting there playing with his toys, blissfully unaware that anybody else exists, and I can’t help but look at him and love him. I delight in my son. period and full stop.

And I’m coming to realize God feels the same way about me. Oh, it’s not that what I do doesn’t ever make Him sad. Of course it does. But that doesn’t for one second lessen the delight He finds in me. And the joy he takes in me is not dependent on what I’m doing at any given point . . . it’s not that he rejoices more in me when I’m praying, or reading the Bible or sharing my faith with someone else, or writing a blog post. Even when I’m sitting at my computer playing a stupid game, He’s watching me, loving me, spending time with me. Delighting in me.

That’s a pretty wild thought for me. I grew up with a very behavior-centric view of God. Oh, I believed in salvation through faith, of course . . . but once saved, I thought that God’s favor waxed and waned depending on how “sanctified” or “carnal” I was at any given point in time . . . and that sanctification was measured in terms of “doing the right thing.”

I was, in short, a pretty good little Pharisee.

However, I’m currently going back through the very beginning of humanity’s relationship with God in Genesis, and I’m starting to realize the truth of Romans 5:8 – that while we were still sinners, God loved us. I’m realizing how gently God treated even the most distasteful characters in His Story. Even after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, God still showed up for their daily walks together . . . it was Adam and Eve who hid in shame. And God, even while cutting Cain off from the community he’d broken by murdering Abel, protected Cain from the vengeance of those who would take advantage of his newly isolated state.

He blessed Abram even after he essentially prostituted his own wife out to the Egyptian Pharoah.

He allowed Moses, a murderer, to witness his physical presence in a way nobody else in Scripture ever did.

He blessed and communed with Jacob, a thief and a liar.

He called David, a rapist, a man after his own heart.

He gifted Solomon, a womanizer, with more wisdom than anyone else who ever lived.

He delighted in each of them. And not just when they were “on His good side.” We tend to think of Jesus as “God’s good side.” God the Father is the grumpy old man who just needs to beat on something (someone) because He’s pissed off at sin, and Jesus is the guy who steps in front of God’s big stick and takes the hit that was meant for us. More and more, though, I’m starting to realize - to really know in my heart, where it counts, rather than just in my head – that God is nothing BUT good side! I’m coming to understand that when Scripture says God hates sin, it’s because of what sin is doing to those He loves. To me.

It’s not that he has to beat the sin out of us . . . it’s that he wants to cure us of its influence. It’s as though God needed some way to make a vaccine for sin, and Christ was the only one strong enough to bear sin and all its effects without being destroyed by it. When I look at it that way . . . God the Father and God the Son collaborating together to inoculate me from the horrific effects of sin, I can finally comprehend just how God can loathe the presence of sin in the world, yet still take so much joy in the people afflicted by it.

More to come. Stay tuned!

UPDATE:

Read Parts 2 & 3
Read Parts 4 & 5
Read Parts 6 & 7

Practicality

In a Facebook conversation about my “Three-Letter Worldview” series of posts, a friend and relative of mine, Carla, challenged me to write out “how I would put the worldview into practice in a country . . . how does my worldview translate to governing?”

She applied it to my self-described libertarianism and asked, “What is the practical application for governing in a democracy such as ours? . . . How would a Libertarian or libertarian [Ed: big or little “L” . . . for the record, I consider myself the latter, not the former] set up a system of government for 300 million+ diverse human beings to live under?”

I promised to respond, and then things got a bit crazy . . . My job got very busy, and then the area got hit by two major snowstorms in the course of a single week. On top of that, I’ve been helping my wife with the advertising and graphic design for a benefit concert she and a friend are planning for Save the Children to aid earthquake victims in Haiti.

So I’ve had very little time to write. But now that things are slowing down, I wanted to respond to Carla’s question.

First, my worldview is primarily that – a view of the world . . . an interpretation of what I see around me and how I see it working (or not working, as the case may be). It is not intended as a political system or a treatise on government.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that my worldview has no implications for what I consider “ideal” government. What it does mean is that, in choosing what form of government I will assent to live under, I am willing to settle for less than ideal, if in the meantime I can work – and encourage others to work – in directions consistent with that ideal.

But all that is not answering the question – it’s merely talking around it.

That said, Carla has posed a question that is really three:

1) How does my worldview translate to governing?
2) What is the practical application of my worldview toward government in a democracy such as ours?
3) How would I (or any libertarian) set up a system of government for 300 million people?

First: How does my worldview translate to governing? To tell the truth, my worldview as I have laid it out here doesn’t really speak much to how governing works, except to follow the advice of my favorite founding father, Thomas Jefferson, who said, “The government that governs least governs best, because the people discipline themselves.”

Note that this commonly repeated quote is usually truncated. Generally only the first half is recalled, but my worldview is dependent on both halves – a government that is restrained, and a governed citizenry that are restrained themselves . . . by themselves.

That’s basically the only broad implication my worldview as I have laid it out here has on governing, but the question that you are surely asking at this point is, “how is that practical??”

This threads very neatly into Carla’s second question “What is the practical application of my worldview toward government in a democracy such as ours?

To begin with, as I stated fairly explicitly in my worldview series, the views I hold are fairly government-agnostic. I believe that the views I hold are just as true in a democracy as they are in a dictatorship. The only difference is that, under some governments, the penalty for living a live consistent with those views may be more or less severe.

That being the case, one of the most hospitable forms of government to this worldview is that of a representative republic. Contrary to Carla’s assertion, we do not live in a democracy. This makes a tremendous difference because a republic is by far friendlier to the views I have espoused. In a democracy, a whimsical populace can inflict whatever it wishes, as long as it persuades a majority of its members to agree. In a republic, that populace is far more restrained by several factors – the supremacy of codified law, the separation of power into multiple decision-making bodies, and restrictions on how far even a legitimate majority is allowed to go in imposing its will over the minority.

But that’s only a side discussion. The main discussion on this question is one of practicality. How is it practical to expect that people control themselves, rather than relying on the government to control them?

The problem is that this question presumes some sort of government that is not, itself, made up of people – subject to the same whims, faults, limitations and errors as any others. The only really just government would be a government ruled by one truly perfect human being . . . and no such thing exists, or ever can.

This being the case, any government at all is a concession . . . a surrender of control over our own choices. But it is a necessary concession if we are to live in relationship with one another. Anarchy – the absence of any government – simply pits everyone against each other in a harsh, primal struggle for survival.

What, then, should we look for in our government on a practical level? I believe that perhaps the most harmful force in our current national character has been the drive toward relativism . . . the belief that everything is subjective, and that nothing is universal.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that at least 99% of all the standards anybody holds – including, probably, some of my own – are misguided and wrong. But 99% is not the same as 100%. In order for a society to function . . . indeed, in order for there to be any concept at all of justice, good, or right . . . something must be universally true. Otherwise, these words are just so many letters combined in an aesthetically pleasing order.

So yes . . . I believe most of what each and every one of us believes to be true is, in fact, probably wrong, either by virtue of being incomplete or being off target. On a practical level, this means that we should not endeavor to impose our beliefs, behavioral systems or tastes on each other. The laws of this country should strive to respect the choices each of us make for ourselves. The only laws I would like to see . . . the only ones I believe to be truly “just” . . . are those which prevent us from imposing our will on each other . . . those which prevent us from *eliminating* one another’s choices.

Therefor, my answer is that, in our democracy, we should strive to eliminate as many laws, bureaucracies, and systems of control as possible. And where it is not possible, we should maximize the ability of those under the laws to make choices within them. If there must be politicians, then let us strive to elect politicians who believe this, rather than those who are simply out for more control. And where there are none who truly believe it, let us elect those who at least find it in their best interest to pretend that they do.

Carla’s final question is a bit different. Her first question had one foot still firmly in the theoretical world, and one in the practical. Her second question moved fully to the practical realm, but dealt with how to apply my worldview politically to our existing nation-state.

Her third question starts from scratch, and asks how a libertarian would set up a system of government for 300 million people such as those living in this country.

I cannot answer for all libertarians, but I will answer for myself, and my answer will be similar to the one I gave for the last question . . . that is . . . it’s the wrong question. How would I set up a government for 300 million people? I wouldn’t.

This may seem like a cop-out, but really it is not. A government is not something I believe can be legitimately “set up” for people. In order to be legitimate, they must set it up themselves – whether by electing representatives, choosing the strongest warrior to be their king, selecting the best hunter to be their tribal chief, or simply allowing citizens to participate in a direct democracy.

To be honest, I think it would be easier to establish an ideal government from scratch than it would be to try to turn our country, with its history, its many diverse cultures, its baggage and its existing power structures into that ideal government. While I don’t subscribe to the view that “we can’t get there from here,” I do think it’d be one hell of a trip to do so.

The problem with this whole discussion is the fact that it focuses too much on government. This is, I think, one of the key problems with small “L” liberalism . . . that is, the left wing political viewpoint in America today. Like Carla did in asking these questions, liberalism focuses on government for everything. See a problem? What can the government do to fix it? Have a good idea? Let’s pass a law and have the government put it into practice! See someone in need? Let’s have the government help them out.

Frankly, I just don’t see the government that way. A government is just a particular structure put in place by people who seek to protect themselves. But in doing so, they sacrifice complete control over their own choices, and once they have given the government a little of that control, it will always seek more.

That’s where the liberal comes in . . . the typical liberal trusts the government, trusts it enough to willingly hand over his or her own control to solve that problem, to make something of that good idea, or to help that person in need. The typical liberal truly believes that the government is the entity best suited to make those decisions.

I think that’s giving the government . . . and the people who operate it . . . way too much credit.

What’s the alternative then? How do we build up a truly effective system of self-government?

The key is not government, but culture. Whether we’re talking about an existing system or one built from the ground up, the key is to start with the broadly-shared cultural belief that what we’re building is a good thing.

“But,” you say, “doesn’t that fall afoul of your earlier assertion that we shouldn’t force our beliefs on one another?”

Not at all. I don’t advocate forcing this belief on anybody . . . I simply believe that my ideal culture cannot exist in its absence. Besides, the belief I’m talking about is already broadly shared among much of western civilization. Those who believe in God call it the “golden rule,” but it is known by various secular aphorisms as well, “live and let live,” “let sleeping dogs lie,” “don’t tread on me.” These are all manifestations of the same thing. I prefer the Biblical expression because it is somehow fuller . . . deeper than the others. “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” is just another way of stating the foundational libertarian principle. It says, “I would like to be allowed the freedom to make my own choices, and because that is what I would like, I will give you that freedom as well.”

So the very first thing I would do to move this country – or ANY country – toward my ideal is work to instill within its people the importance of this vital principle. Right now, we have no central guiding principle . . . quite honestly, we have very little by way of cohesive culture at all, any more. Some of us operate on the hippocratic, “first, do no harm.” Others operate on the principle of “take what you can get.” Still others operate on various manufactured ethical codes that claim to have their basis in some form of religion or moral code, but few if any of these are truly internally consistent. Most are contradictory, and virtually all – when they find themselves with a hand on the strings of government – simply pull those strings in their direction, figuring that when an opposing viewpoint recaptures the reins it will do the same. All of these codes are, in some ways at odds . . . either with themselves, with each other, or both.

I’m afraid, Carla, that I probably haven’t really answered your questions. I suspect what you were looking for is an outline of how to restructure our government along libertarian lines, according to the worldview I outlined on this blog. The problem is, that is not - and was never - the point. The point is to outline how I, myself, try to live. Personally, I believe that if more people lived this way, we would all be happier, healthier, and more alive than we are now, but that’s not my choice – it’s theirs.

I can wish they would choose as I have, but truly I don’t have a lot of hope for that. So in the meantime I will simply keep developing my thinking, and keep sharing it with others. I may not be able to impact 300 million people, but perhaps I can impact one or two.

My Three-letter Worldview: Conclusion

There are a lot of words here. Some of them may seem controversial, irrelevant, even nonsensical. But this is what I believe . . . for now. I do not claim to be right – in fact, I assume that much of what I have written here is wrong. I do not claim to know the truth – or even that the truth is entirely knowable.  But because I do not know which of my beliefs are wrong, I will hold to them as long as they make sense. And because I cannot say which part of the truth I have managed to grasp, I will keep searching.

I’d like to say a few words about the sources that have informed my worldview. The two most influential, you may have noticed, are the Bible and Ayn Rand. Back in Part 1, I asked, and answered, the question: “How do I, as a believer in Christ, reconcile my worldview with that of a rabid athiest like Ayn Rand?”

I suppose that Rand herself would likely be horrified to find elements of her philosophy plugged into an overtly Biblical worldview. But I do not, as she did, believe that the two philosophies are so utterly incompatible. I believe Rand’s harsh reaction to Christianity largely stemmed from ways it has itself been twisted to belittle . . . to objectify. I’ve been exposed to plenty of Christians who believe humanity to be the scum of the earth, utterly worthless in our own right, incapable of anything that is objectively good, and valuable only inasmuch as we are redeemed by God. I used to believe that myself

Like Rand, though, now I reject that view – though my reasons for doing so are different. I believe that we are created in the image of God – intrinsically valuable (and valued by Him). And while I believe that He is the source of ultimate truth, I believe that His image in us is capable of finding bits and pieces of that truth, of tasting and recognizing “good,” even apart from His intervention . . . otherwise what do you do with masterful works of art that appeal to something deep within our souls . . . and are created by those who reject Him? How do you explain cultures never exposed to the concept of “Jesus Christ,” who nevertheless have pictures of Him buried in their own cultural and historical traditions?

I suspect that if I were able to sit down and have a conversation with Rand, the biggest point on which we would differ is this: she respected humanity so highly as to believe there is nothing greater. I respect humanity so highly as to believe there must be.

It is because of this respect . . . both for the Creator and for the pinnacle of His creation . . . that I can say of myself the same thing as the One whose image I bear. With Him, I can proclaim my “self” as an individual, conscious being who exists to make independent choices and to live in relationships with other “selves” . . . with you, in fact, if you want from your relationships the same thing I do from mine . . . if you long, like the Velveteen Rabbit in the children’s fairy tale, to slowly, painfully shed your button eyes and faux fur covering and become real.

I want that. I strive for it every day, and usually I fail. But I never stop trying. I hunger for real relationships with other people sharing their real selves. And when I find such a person – as I have found in my wife, for example – it just makes me hunger all the more.

Most importantly, I live in relationship with the “Self” of the One who formed me, lost me, sought me, found me, and loves me. What He took as the identification of His “Self,” I now take as the definition of mine, and when I use those three letters, I mean not only that I am an extant, distinct, and conscious being, but that I am living out the life I was created for, endeavoring every day to live that life to its fullest.

I Am.

Are you??

My Three-letter Worldview: Part 7

This is the seventh segment of “My Three-Letter Worldview.” Read Parts 1-6 Here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6. Tomorrow I’ll wrap this all up as best I can.

In parts 1-6, I talked a lot about what I believe about myself and my interactions with others.

This piece is intended to discuss what I believe about God.

To begin with – obviously, I believe that God exists.

What do I mean by that?

First, I believe that the previously discussed irreducible facts of my existence and identity imply the additional existence of a “source,” of some sort.

However, I do not believe that this fact necessitates the existence of a “God” . . . be it the God of the Bible or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Ask an atheist where it all comes from and he or she will turn it around on you and ask you where your God came from. Ask a physicist what happened before the “big bang,” and you will hear that it doesn’t matter, because it is not measurable and therefore outside the realm of science. It implies only a preexisting . . . something . . .

The simple fact is that there is no “proof” of the God I believe in. But my belief in Him does not require proof.

The book of Hebrews says that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This is as good a definition as any. Faith then, is what gives rise to hope . . . it is what drives me to believe things I cannot prove by empirical, tangible means.

It is what draws me to God.

Many people throughout history have attempted to “prove” God . . . to convince skeptics of His existence or His merit by logic alone. But these “proofs” are always unsatisfying. Pascal’s wager, for example, posits that it is better to believe in God than not, because the consequences of a mistaken disbelief are incalculably bad, while the consequences of a mistaken belief are nil.

This and all such logical arguments fail to take one thing into account. Mere belief in the existence of God is not what He asks of us.

“But wait a second,” you protest, “Acts 16:31 records Paul the Apostle saying exactly what is required for salvation: ‘believe . . . and you shall be saved.'”

Yes, it does, but the ellipses in the above sentence leave out its most important part – indeed, the most important piece of all of human history. They exclude the one unique factor that sets Christianity apart from all other world religions: Jesus Christ.

He is not unique as a mix of the human and the divine. Many religions have had their “god-men.” He is not unique as a sacrificial victim, which is also characteristic of many religions throughout history. He is not even unique in His victory over death.

He is not unique in how, when, or where he lived. His uniqueness is in why He lived.

non-Christian sects – and even some self-described Christian ones – equate Christ’s life to the lives of Moses, Mohammed, Siddhartha Gautama, Joseph Smith or L. Ron Hubbard. They call him a great teacher and prophet.

And that is indeed what he was. But it is not what He is. Or more accurately, it is a piece of His existence, but only a piece.

We Christians have many petty debates about various divergences in what we believe, but I think the most petty – and most unnecessary – is the debate over predestination versus free will. I myself used to take gleeful part in these debates. But in doing so, I was off on what Emergent Theologian Brian McLaren calls and “adventure in missing the point.”

This is where my beliefs and the beliefs of the hard and fast physicist to whom I alluded earlier intertwine. I believe our human observations and conceptualizations are limited to the bounds of what science has come to call the “space-time continuum.” While I believe we are not mere physical beings, I believe our limited minds – bound within space and time themselves – can only conceive of things – even spiritual things – in physical terms. We cannot truly imagine “spirit” . . . we can only imagine a physical *picture* of what we think “spirit” looks like.

God, I believe, is not bound by such restraints. He exists outside of time and space. I don’t pretend to know how, or why, or that it’s even possible to understand, but I do not believe in a God who is constrained by physical limitations of any sort, the way I am – the way we all are.

So for this God, so many of the supposedly “big” questions of Christianity become meaningless. the question over predestination vs. free will, the question of how many literal “days” it took to create the universe, the question of when exactly Christ took on divine . . . even the question of the nature of the trinity.

Is God divided into three parts or one? From outside of space, the concept of “parts” becomes meaningless, and the answer is: Neither

Did Christ become divine before or after His death? From outside of time, the concept of “when” becomes meaningless, and the answer is: He just IS.

Did God create the earth in seven literal days? From outside of time, the concept of “days” becomes meaningless, and the answer is: Who cares?

Did God predetermine who would join in relationship with him, or do we have the free choice to make that decision ourselves? From outside of time, the concept of “pre” becomes meaningless, and the answer is both!

Here’s why this last question, the one that misses the point so badly, is such a heartbreaking one . . . it is so close to the heart of the matter, yet misses it entirely.

The “heart of the matter” is this. God invites us to join in relationship with Him! And instead of marvelling at His invitation, we bicker over when it was issued.

Think about that. God – by whatever name you give him or concept you use to picture him – reaches from beyond the universe . . . beyond all bounds of what we can see or hear or “prove,” or even imagine . . . and invites us into relationship. As I defined relationship in Part 2 of this series, that means he literally invites my “self” to touch His “Self.” How cool is that??

There’s just one problem with it. I can’t do it.

I believe that in Eden, when humanity made the choice to reject their relationship with God, we placed the impenetrable barrier of space-time between us and Him. Ever since then, we have been living within those restrictions, and God has been reaching in to us, grieving for the relationship we broke and working toward its restoration, while we by our own poor choices have been adding onto that barrier . . . making it even thicker . . . distancing ourselves even further with each lie we live, each substitute we settle for, each relationship we fake.

One can see the imprint of His efforts throughout Scripture to restore the lost relationship. One can picture him taking long walks with Enoch, engaging in careful, detailed discussions with Noah, sitting down to a meal with Abraham, sparring physically with Jacob, and verbally with Moses, weeping with David, sighing in frustration with Jeremiah, comforting Esther as she fears for her life. With each overture he coaxes us closer, prompts us to eye the barrier we have created to see if there might somehow be a way around it . . . a way back to relationship with Him.

Ultimately, all of it is preparing humanity for that point at which He would physically enter space-time as one of us. He doesn’t sever the barrier we created – not yet. But He sets in motion the process by which it will be severed. Our choices have left us tainted – sick – incapable of breaching the barrier on our own to regain relationship with Him. So instead He comes Himself as a man – and not any man, but one who is not afflicted as we are by the choices we have made. He takes our sickness on Himself, working out the cure for our poor choices – our sin – in his own body, and ultimately curing it . . . creating a conduit through the barrier, through which we can reach for something more. He Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He is the Way – the conduit through which we reach for restored relationship. He is the Truth – the only means we have of breaching the otherwise-impenetrable barrier we created by choice. He is the Life – the cure to what ails us . . . the antidote to a lifetime, to several lifetimes, of poor choices: of settling for less than we deserve, less than we need . . . less than we truly want. He invites us once again into a real relationship – the fulfillment of all of His . . . and all of our own . . . “shadow” relationships.

And once again, just as He did in the beginning, because He still values us too much to force us into anything . . . because we are still the same creatures he designed to make conscious choices . . . He gives us a choice in this as well. Some choose to reestablish the relationship severed by our ancestors so long ago – to accept the antidote he offers. Tragically, most choose once again to reject it.

I’ve gone on a long time, for a worldview that unpacks itself from a mere three letters. In my next and final segment, I will wrap all of this up as best I can.