Search This Blog

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Keeping Score: Does It Damage the Precious Snowflakes?

We live in a society that increasingly exalts the individual as supreme in the political, social and religious realms. We exalt, what Bill Whittle calls the "precious snowflakes" to preeminence with the new iron doctrine that everyone is special and everyone must have certain things or be able to do certain things he or she wants to do regardless of their ability. This new system of belief that is being foisted upon us by politicians, educators and (sadly) religious leaders has sprung up in an age where, as C.S. Lewis put it, "There is a crowd of busybodies, self-appointed masters of ceremonies, whose lives are devoted to destroying solitude wherever solitude still exists.  They call it 'taking the young people out of themselves' or 'waking them up' or 'overcoming their apathy'."   

(c) by William Wetmore
We see this most clearly in the physical education classroom. Gym teachers, once the tough, no nonsense, hard-drivers of the education system have increasingly bought into the precious snowflake philosophy of teaching. Many have not only stopped keeping score, but have also stopped even teaching kids how to keep score on the grounds that scoring sends a negative message to children that some of them are better than their fellows and, as we all know, each of us is the same - individuals to be sure, just not too individual.  In this system there are limits to one's individuality.  We are all equal members of the team only in the sense that we are all the same, except, of course for our leaders.  On that issue Lewis further complained that, "If an Augustine, a Vaughan, a Traherne or a Wordsworth should be born in the modern world, the leaders of a youth organization would soon cure him."  The precious snowflake version of individualism is useful if you're planning to dump a lot of six-sidedly uniform individuals into a snowdrift or a socialist collective somewhere. Doing away with scoring of athletic competitions in the name of protecting the feelings of "individuals" is an essential precursor to creating a collectivist state.

There is a time to score and a time not to score according to Solomon.  What he actually said was, "To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven," but it means the same thing.  I worked with abused and emotionally disturbed kids for almost a decade as a therapeutic recreation director at a residential treatment center. I taught the kids to play games like baseball where there was plenty of scoring.  We even fielded a team in the local youth league. We kept score. The kids lost a lot. Some of my colleagues thought this was a bad thing for kids with already low self-esteem.

The kids thrived on it. While on the ball field the kids held themselves to a higher standard of language and behavior than any other team out there. They measured their performance by the scores, yes, but as they improved, they also knew they were making real progress because nobody was playing down for them.

The telling moment one day was when the scheduled team confused their schedule and only half of them showed up for the game. We had the field for a couple of hours, so those that showed up decided to play anyway.  We mixed up the teams and played a joyful game of softball for two hours. The good players were helping teach the poorer players (mostly those on my team) and we had such a blast that we totally forgot to keep score.

I started an equestrian program for emotionally disturbed children that everyone said was insane. They were certain the kids would run away on the horses or get themselves hurt or abuse the animals.  What people don't understand about horses is that they teach their riders as much as their riders teach them.  Horses score you on how well you ride and the consequences are immediate and more than a little disconcerting. 

So, if our best game was unscored and our most therapeutic activity didn't post numbers to a scoreboard, am I saying there is no value to games that have no score?  Not at all. The unscored pickup game I played with my treatment center ball team was probably the most therapeutic of the year, but it would not have been so without its having been set within the framework of the scored games. I'm saying there is no value to games that have no point.  The score of a game may well be whether or not you accomplish a task.  The score for the unscored game was mutual understanding and helping each other learn the game.  The score for horseback riding was a successful ride in which the horse went where you wanted it to.

I took a group of kids out once to the woods to build a trail.  We cut the trail, cleared the brush, lined the trail with logs and then wheeled in sawdust to fill in the trail between the logs.  It took weeks to cut a two mile trail. The "score" was riding down the trail on horseback and knowing we'd built that trail with our own hands. No one got paid. Everybody did what they could. The stronger guys pushed the wheelbarrows. The smaller kids spread the sawdust and pitched branches aside. Those of us who could use machete's and axes cut the branches and brush back.

My kids trying out the new trail.
That's actually a pretty good metaphor for how a team or organization of true individuals actually ought to work. Paul (the apostle, not the Beatle) compared it to the organs of the body.  The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you."  The eye also cannot claim to be the hand for it is not at all the same thing.  Each has his part to play. Each is an individual, distinct and whole, but without whom the rest of the organism would be unable to work.

In the opposite way, the athletics departments of our schools have gone too far by making the individual all important and reducing the lesser players to a supporting role. We elevate our stars to a lofty and privileged stature and in the process the stars forget that they are, or at least should be, part of a team. This also is an essential precursor to the formation of a collectivist state in that this teaches that some should be elevated in status over the mere rabble (Marx called them the proletariat) because of their special and genetically superior genes.  These elevated special people then become the privileged caste who are charged with managing the snowdrift.

"There lies the maddening ambiguity of our faith as it must appear to outsiders," says Lewis.  "It sets its face relentlessly against our natural individualism; on the other hand, it gives back to those who abandon individualism, an eternal possession of their own personal being, even of their bodies."   When at last we renounce both the collectivist's "precious snowflake" notion of "individualism" and the equally destructive notion that some of us are superior by birthright, we may then move on to achieve a state of true selfhood.  When we submit our will to God, we get it back from Him, scrubbed clean of all the old grime and with all the psychological entanglements we've accumulated over a lifetime pruned away. Everything that has all along prevented us from achieving our true individuality is removed and we may, by our own unencumbered free will choose to fit ourselves snugly into the very place in the universe for which we were all along intended.

(c) 2013 by Tom King

No Narnia Films Till 2018

 By Tom King
One gets really tired of Hollywood studio heads that think they're smarter than the guy that wrote the books we all love.  I guess Chronicles of Narnia producer and C.S. Lewis' step-son Douglas Gresham is about as frustrated as I am.  Walden Media let their contract for the Narnia movies lapse and Douglas is apparently prepared to sit on the movie rights till the 7 year exclusive rights provision of the contract runs out in 2018.  If he does, he can make a new Narnia fill before that, but it cannot be released until 2018. 

Needless to say, I'm not happy about that. At my age 5 years is too long to wait.  And there's talk of rebooting the series.  It sounds to me like Gresham wants to put something back in the series that he feels Disney, Fox and Walden took out - the Christianity.  He apparently has had to fight the forces of political correctness tooth and nail through all three pictures. 

Of course, you can't get rid of it.  Narnia is a Christian allegory to its bones.  Disney seemed embarrassed by that and tried to make it a children's fantasy.  Unfortunately the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was entirely about Christ and salvation.  They tried to sand off some of the Christian edges off the film, but it didn't work.  Everybody knew and the film grossed 3/4 billion dollars worldwide.

They did a better job of burying the lead in Prince Caspian and 'only' made 419 million for their troubles.  Disney gave it up as a bad job and Fox produced the third film, Voyage of the Dawn Treader which "only" made 415 million dollars making it the 24th highest grossing film series of all time - this despite Liam Neeson's public declaration that "Aslan is not Jesus Christ."  This is not a healthy marketing tactic when you're making a film that by its nature is designed to appeal to Christians (who ponied up some 2 billion dollars in gross earnings on worldwide ticket sales, DVDs, movie rentals and television) against a 30 million dollar original investment).  Christian films have very long earnings lives. We still watch "The Robe" and "The Ten Commandments" regularly.  A complete Chronicles of Narnia set would earn money for decades in exactly the same way Walt Disney used to recycle his animated features.

C.S. Lewis "Chronicles of Narnia" author.
Somebody's being terribly short-sighted.  The books are excellently told stories that appeal to a much-neglected segment of the population that would like to watch movies they don't have to feel guilty about. Peter Jackson's success is, in large part, due to the Christian patronage of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Ring trilogy.  He is repeating his success with the Hobbit.  Tolkien buried his Christian philosophy deep in the bones of the Middle Earth Sagas and Christians watch the movies and buy the DVDs as a result.

Too many traditional Hollywood producers are repulsed by an overtly Christian message. I think that's what's behind all the trouble with the Narnia series. Hey, if that's what's going on, it's their loss. Perhaps Peter Jackson will take on Narnia when he's done with the Hobbit. It's not like he's made ALL the money in the world yet.

And I bet I could come up with an Actual Christian to give voice to Aslan instead of someone like Neeson who's planning to convert to Islam sometime soon.  In fact, in an interview Neeson said, "Aslan symbolizes a Christ-like figure but he also symbolizes for me Mohammed, Buddha and all the great spiritual leaders and prophets over the centuries." 

Douglas Gresham, often called the "policeman of Narnia" shot back saying "It (The Narnia stories) is nothing to do with Islam......Lewis would have simply denied that. He wrote that the “whole Narnian story is about Christ”. Lewis could not have been clearer."

I say stick to your guns Douglas.  Your Dad would be proud of you.  I know I am.

What we need is someone with a lot of money to make the rest of the films by 2018 and then release them one right after another.  Perhaps Walden Media will get religion and do the rest of them right. I'm willing to bet they haven't run up against someone who will turn down as much money as they're offering for the sake of his conscience.

I'm willing to wait.  It'll give me an incentive to lose weight and get my blood pressure down some more so I can live long enough to see them.

by Tom King (c) 2013

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Application to Date My Daughter

      (Secret King Family Edition)

Something similar to this went round a few years back.  I touched it up a bit to meet my somewhat higher standard at the time since I had a daughter of "that age".  I printed up a batch of these in case any candidates decided to show up on my doorstep with "intentions".  I gave one young man a copy to fill out and returned to cleaning my shotgun.  He turned pale and sneaked out while I wasn't looking.  I last saw him running across the front lawn in the recommended "serpentine fashion".  - T. King (2013)



NOTE:    This application will be considered incomplete and will be summarily rejected unless accompanied by a complete financial statement, job history, family lineage (7 generation minimum), current blood test and medical report from your doctor.

1.     NAME:___________________________________________

2.     DATE OF BIRTH:____________________

3.     HEIGHT:___________________

4.     WEIGHT:_____________ I.Q.__________  G.P.A._________

5.     SOCIAL SECURITY #:________________________

6.     DRIVER’S LICENSE #______________________

7.     BOY SCOUT RANK:_________________

8.     NUMBER OF MERIT BADGES EARNED:______________

9.     HOME ADDRESS:______________


10. Do you have one MALE and one FEMALE parent?  

         Yes_______    No_______

          If NO, explain:__________________________________

11. Date Parents married:________________

12. Date of your birth (for calculation purposes):_______________

13. Number of years Parents married:__________
    Grandparents?:_______         Great Grandparents?___________

14.  Do you own:

A.    A van:_____
B.    A truck with over-sized tires?________
C.    Low profile tires?_________
D.    A car stereo with speakers larger than 4 inches
         in diameter:______
E.     A  Harley Davidson motorcycle:_______
F.     Leather clothing of any kind?_____
G.    A waterbed?_____
H.    An earring, nose or belly button ring?_____
I.      A tattoo?_____
J.      Fuzzy Dice:______
K.    A bandana?______
L.     An unusual haircut?______
M.    Do you have any homeboys?_________
N.    Does your underwear extend above your pants
           more than 3 inches____

Warning: If you answered "YES" to A, G, H or I above, discontinue 
application and leave premises while you still can.  If you answered 
"yes" to item N and are a full-time professional plumber or 
appliance repairman, you get a "by" on this one.

15.  In 25 words or less, what does LATE mean to you?

16.  In 25 words or less, what does DON’T TOUCH MY DAUGHTER mean to you?

17.  In 25 words or less, what does ABSTINENCE mean to you?

18.  Church you attend:____________________________

19.  How often do you attend?_____________________

20.  Best time to interview you father, mother, pastor, priest or rabbi?

Answer by filling in the blank and please answer freely; all answers are confidential.

   (That means I won’t tell anyone not related to or employed by me – I promise!)

A. If I were shot, the last place on my body I would want
     to be wounded is in the _______________________

B. If I were beaten, the last bone I would want broken is my


C. A woman’s place is....__________________________

D. The one thing I hope this application does not ask me about is


E. When I first meet a girl, the thing I notice about her is her


F.  What do you want to be IF permitted to grow up?


*Note: If answer “E” begins with “T” or “A”, discontinue application process immediately and leave premises. Keep your head low and run in a serpentine fashion.


Date (for county mortuary records):____________________  


                (That means sign your name, Einstein!)

Thank you for your interest.  Please allow four to six years for processing.  You will be contacted if you are approved.  Please do not try to call or write (in the unlikely event that you are, in fact, even remotely literate).  If your application is rejected , you will be notified, in person, by two gentlemen wearing Italian suits and carrying what appear to be musical instrument cases.  Do not write below this line.


___ Rejected - Escaped
___ Rejected - Phone coroner
___ Rejected - Phone Guido and Rocky
___ Rejected - Soiled himself during interview phase (basically harmless)
___ Rejected - Wrote below the line (incapable of accepting instruction - send G and R to “educate”).
___ Rejected - Insufficient merit badges (allow to remain alive)
___ Accepted - (Yeah, right!)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Keene Texas Cure for Alcoholism

(c) 2013 by Tom King

Johnson County Liquor Store - Early 20th century.
My Grandpa, Thomas Adolph King, was a gifted story-teller, harmonica player and (I am told) could play a wicked piano, though I never heard him play. My grandmother got rid of it.  She had no musical gifts herself and the only instrument she ever played was the radio and she thought that Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn were the only singers worth listening to.  Grandpa played the harmonica for us grandkids and he was quite good at it.  We were always buying him new harmonicas for birthdays and Christmas.  I still have one of his old harps.

In the early days of my hometown, Keene, Texas, the city was inhabited almost exclusively by Seventh day Adventists, most of whom either worked for the academy or college or who had moved there to educate their kids.  My grandpa's dad taught at the public school just outside of town and grandpa went to school there.  Johnson County is a dry county (lot's of Baptists), but that didn't prevent a couple of good old boys from setting up a still in the woods on the other side of town.  They did a brisk business with a couple of the more reluctant Adventists in town.

One man in particular used to come home from work on weekends worn out.  He'd skip church and slip off into the woods on Sabbath afternoon and not reappear till after sundown well and truly plastered. If that had been all of it, his long suffering wife (and more important to the story - his not-so-long-suffering mother-in-law) would likely have held her peace and gone on cleaning up the vomit and half-carrying, half-dragging him into bed every Saturday night.  Unfortunately, with a little corn liquor in him, Bubba (not his real name) tended to get very short-tempered.  When he was like that, everybody in the neighborhood knew to avoid him.  Unfortunately, his poor wife lived in the same house with him.  Although the bruises were usually healed up before next Sabbath, the whole neighborhood knew he was knocking her around Saturday evenings.

Finally, mama had had enough.

One memorable Saturday evening, Bubba came home three or four sheets to the wind, knocked his wife around a bit, puked on the front porch and passed out on the sofa.  By the time his mother-in-law arrived he was passed out cold.  Mama sprang into action.

Her daughter was sent to the linen closet for a bedsheet and Mama went to the woodshed for an instrument of retribution that was kept there.  This happened back during the horse and buggy era in Keene.

The two women spread the sheet out on the living room floor, rolled Bubba off the couch and onto one end of the sheet.  Then, they rolled him up in it like a sausage and tied ropes around the ends and the middle and dragged him out the front door.  Bubba slept blissfully through the whole thing, having become accustomed to being helped to his bed each night.

Once they had him out on the front lawn, Mama retrieved the buggy whip she'd brought from the shed and commenced to flailing on the despicable human sausage who had been slapping her baby girl around.

Bubba woke up partially during the beating, but all he could see was white.  Something was cutting him up, but he couldn't find his way out of the sheet. Eventually it stopped and he passed out again.  He was that drunk.

Grandpa said the women untied him and rolled him, bloody and cut up, wearing nothing but his undershorts out onto the front lawn.  Front lawns in Keene in the summer back then were mostly dirt and grass burrs.  When he woke in the morning, he was cold, damp, bruised and covered in dried blood with a head that felt like someone had driven a nail through the back of his skull.  Sheepishly he crawled off the lawn, went inside and cleaned himself up.

Of course,  the entire neighborhood knew what had happened, but nobody seemed to know who had done the deed.  Bubba gave up alcohol as a dangerous business and started attending church again and his wife stopped having to cover up her bruises.

While no one has ever seriously considered using this type of therapy for alcoholism as a standard form or treatment, it worked rather well in Keene.  Several other husbands gave up booze too and one of the stills mysteriously blew up. All in all, as cures for alcoholism go, it was rather an effective one.

Not that you could use it in these wimpy times - lawyers you see.

Tom King

Thursday, June 13, 2013

I Like to Wear Hawaiian Shirts

(c) 2013 by Tom King

Okay, I admit it freely.  I love big loud colorful Hawaiian shirts. My children indulge me in this by buying such shirts for me for my birthday and Father’s day.  I’ve been lobbying for some time for them to start giving me Hawaiian shirts on Duke Kohanamoku’s  birthday (August 24 if you’re so inclined).  I’d celebrate King Kamahemeha’s birthday if anyone knew when it was.

There is a sort of an ongoing internal family struggle between those who tolerate my Hawaiian shirts (my kids) and those who barely tolerate my Hawaiian shirts and donate them to Goodwill whenever I’m not looking (my Sweet Baboo).
Sheila thinks I do not look good in Hawaiian shirts.  There are two things about Hawaiian shirts that offend her.

She thinks they make me look fat. 

They do.  I freely admit that.  In a Hawaiian shirt I look like someone who’s been to one luau too many and is trying to cover it up.  I think that by now, everyone’s caught on so the “covering it up” bit is kind of thin.  You don’t put on a Hawaiian shirt if you want to look thin unless you’re Magnum PI or a prisoner of war.  They can pull it off.  Not me.  I look like every pound I’ve put on since marrying my beautiful Southern belle who  is also the best cook in 4 states and cannot bear to see anything go hungry.  Since I weighed about 155 pounds when we got married, I think she may have said “yes” because she was afraid I might die before she got some decent food into me.

Now, when she sees me in one of what she calls my “fat shirts”, she is tormented with guilt because I’ve put on a few pounds.  She need not feel that way.  I have never put a bite of food in my mouth against my will, despite my protestations to the contrary. I come from a long line of people who are fat and people who are chronically thin.  I just happened to inherit the more corpulent genes from my particular gene pool. 

I don’t mind looking fat in my Hawaiian shirts.  They are loose fitting. They allow cool breezes to blow through them and they don’t bind or ride up on me unlike shirts that are more slimming. Also I don’t mind looking like a dirigible. Every time I pass a mirror or storefront window I am reminded to take it easy on the cheese doodles.

She finds the colors too garish.

My Sweet Baboo has super-senses.  She used to could spot a fleck of dirt on a brown rug at 50 paces.  Even with her increasing eye problems, she can still see dirt that I cannot.  She can smell a gnat fart at a hundred yards AND HEAR IT.  She sees colors only butterflies and honeybees can pick up.  I on the other hand am partially color blind.  Next to Sheila I can’t perceive black and white.

For me loud colors are soothing. I cannot pick out subtle shades and pastels.  If I want something red, I want it to be RED. I like fiesta colors, big, loud and bright.  My wife on the other hand has to wear sunglasses to go to a Mexican restaurant.  

I suspect that my loud shirts are painful to her.  Me, I’d wear them to church if I thought I could get away with it.  Of course, I’d also go bare-footed to church too, so I can see her point as to my fashion judgment.  I once tried to make the whole burning bush/”take off your shoes; you are on holy ground” argument with a deacon once, but he wasn’t buying it either, especially not since I was supposed to be preaching the sermon that day.

I tried to find a picture of me in one of my loud shirts and had a difficult time.  As the family photographer I don’t appear in but a few photos.  Apparently no one turned a camera at me very often when I was wearing one of my loud shirts.  I did manage to find two though. The first one (above) was the day they made me shave off part of my beard. It was the first time I had worn less than a full beard in 30 years.  It was such a rare occurrence they didn’t notice I was wearing a flowery shirt for the picture, though it was only the black and white one.  The picture at the right was one I took with the dog just a few months after we took her in and the focus was on her, not me.  This shirt was also one of my more subdued ones. It only had two colors and one of them was white.  I had some that were much more colorful, but those went to Goodwill I suspect.  

They actually told me that the washing machine fairies took them.  If so, at least the fairies are now comfortably and handsomely attired.

I’m just sayin’

Tom King

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Looking at God Through the Wrong End of the Telescope

(c) 2013 by Tom King

Have you ever turned a telescope or pair of binoculars backwards and looked through the big end?  Of course, you have. We all have, just out of curiousity.  It makes everything look far away and small when you do that.

I think we do that kind of same kind of thing when we try to get our heads around God.  Let's face it God is so incredibly big an idea to try and understand.  We can't even really contemplate the immensity of the tiny little galaxy we live in.  Let's look at the Milky Way for a moment:

  • We are 28,000 light years from the center of the Milky Way.  In other words if we could get going at the almost unimaginable speed of 186,000 miles per second or 669,600,000 miles per hour, it would take us 28,000 years just to get to the middle of this galaxy and more than double that time to get across it 
  • We're orbiting the galaxy at about 600,000 miles per hour, 100,000 mph faster than astronomers originally thought we were.
  • There are somewhere between 200 and 400 billion stars and possibly many more if you count brown dwarfs, which anyone who might be rumbling around the place in a starship would probably do since running into one would probably be a very bad thing.
  • There are likely billions of Earth-like planets and the Milky Way
  • The Milky Way has at least 13 satellite galaxies.
  • Some 54 galaxies make up the local galaxy group which includes the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies and which itself is part of the Virgo Super-Cluster.
  • The local group is 10 mega-light years across.  A mega-light year is 1 million light years.
  • The Virgo Super-Cluster is 110 mega light years across and includes at least a hundred local groups like ours.
  • There are around 10 million super-clusters in the observable universe and we can't even begin to guess how many are out of sight and the light from them just hasn't reached us yet.
Scripture says, "The heavens declare the glory of God." Seems to me that what the heavens are trying to say is that God is a pretty big deal.  And yet we Christians so often seem to be trying to stuff God into a small box of our own making so that we might fully comprehend him.  It doesn't work.  You can turn the telescope backward to try and make him smaller and more like yourself, but all you're really doing is distorting your view of the awesome reality that is God.

God does not fit in anybody's box. He is there for all to behold; stretched across the cosmos, so big we cannot imagine Him.  Moses wanted to see God for himself once and asked God to show him His face, but Moses was only able to see God's "back parts." There was no way for Moses to stretch himself large enough to see more than the place where God touched our little bit of space time.  As it was, God had to recreate himself on an incredibly tiny scale in order for us to even begin to comprehend God as He is.  The picture that Christ presented to man was so terrifying that His mere presence drove some of them mad and they killed Him.

That same urge to kill anything we don't understand leads us even today, when we ought to know better, to try and make some kind of petty king-in-a-box out of the Creator of the Universe.  Then such folk have the audacity to stand in front of their tiny box o' god and try to tell us what's inside the box and what He's thinking in there.

When we point a finger at any man or woman or child and pronounce judgment on the person, we put ourselves in the place of God who alone may pass judgment.  We may find the acts committed by any person to be evil, but we are not permitted to hate that person, even then.  We are told to love our enemies.  There is no "unless" written into that commandment by God. And if we stop trying to shove God into a box all the time and stop to look up to the heaven's we will begin to realize that it is that sort of love which is written across the cosmos. We need only stand tiny and small as we are in the starlight of ten billion suns and more and allow God to show us Himself.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Christ and the Collective

by Tom King

One may become a member of the Body of Christ with almost embarrassing ease.  It requires but one act and one small symbolic ritual.  The act required is repentance.  Repentance is not in any sense some sort of self-flagellation. It is not a trip to spiritual boot camp nor even 40 days in the wilderness, although that may be part of your spiritual journey at some point.  We need to be careful not to postpone taking up membership in Christ’s church in order to perform some great work of contrition or some great ritual of joining.  Joining the Body of Christ differs fundamentally from joining the Masonic lodge or the Communist party.  The Body of Christ is not in any sense a collective.

In the Body, we are members, not subjects.  We are, if you accept the idea that we are all created beings, already children of God and called according to His purpose.  We are organs of the Body of Christ, not all copies of one thing.  We are not called to sign up to join as soldiers. We are not called to be trained to sublimate ourselves to some collective state and be turned into another  identical egg in a stack of boxes of eggs all destined to be scrambled in service to the aims of the chef. We simply assume the place in the body that we were created to occupy.  It is not so much a process of molding so much as it is a process of restoration.

 C.S. Lewis* argued that “true membership in a body differs from inclusion in a collective”.  He compares membership in the Body of Christ to the structure of a family.  A family is made up of unique individuals.  They are not units of “homogeneous classes”.  You cannot interchange one for another.  If grandpa were to die, you couldn’t replace him with a Labrador retriever.  Grandpa has one role in the family. The family dog has another.  Brothers can’t be swapped for sisters as though they were all just “children” with identical functions.  You can’t even swap one brother for another.  All members of the family are unique; almost a species unto themselves.

We instinctively recognize the family structure as the “way things ought to be” – the ideal way to organize human beings.  Look at the myths and stories we tell ourselves.  The best ones are always about groups in which each individual is a separate, unique, but essential part of the whole.  The Wind in the Willows unites a Badger, a Mole and a Water Rat.  Star Wars unites a princess, a Jedi-in-training, a pirate, a stuffy robot, his comical sidekick, a teacher and a “walking carpet” that communicates by howling.  Every member of the Dirty Dozen has his own unique function.  Even Christ chose as his disciples, not identical acolytes, but an incredibly diverse band of fishermen, fanatics, theologians, tax collectors and accountants.  In none of the stories, that so appeal to us, does any member sublimate him or herself to the collective.  They simply work together in service to a common goal.  Each has his own part to play. Not one could be easily replaced.  None are members of a class. If you remove one member, as Lewis puts it, “You have not simply reduced the family in number; you have inflicted an injury on its structure.

The Body of Christ is a unity of individuals.  This idea of the unique individual as part of a motley crew of rugged individualists is enshrined in the US Constitution and in Scripture as the model for all human endeavours.  We are not designed to be trained to robotic sameness, pumped full of ideology all spouting the same talking points and shoved into whatever box the collective deems appropriate for us. We are not part of a class that can be treated as though it were a chunk of cheese or a block of wood.  We are not blacks, Hispanics, conservatives, “the” poor, “the” rich or the ruling class. The central planners would put an end to individualism for individualism is seen as a threat to progress.  Individuals make for too many pieces on the chess board to push around.

By progress, the great leaders of our day mean the evolution of the people of this world into a vast homogeneous soup. The collective is a soup in which every man, woman and child is a bit of the broth which can be seasoned, stirred and heated into whatever flavor the planners happen to favor this week.  Individualism is anathema to the collectivist.  

The very existence of the solitary, independent-thinking individual is a threat to the collectivist ambition.  That is why membership in collectives requires extensive prerequisites.  There must be relentless training to subdue any tendency to think independently. Art, music and writing are encouraged, but only such art, music and writings which reflect the talking points of the collective.  To remain a member of the collective, one must perform frequent ritual obeisance to the collective throughout his life. The almost comic displays of “patriotism” and devotion to the great leader that one sees in places like North Korea are not an aberration, but are rather the logical conclusion of the collectivist vision.  

Where Christian faith is all about faith and trust and being secure as to one’s place in the universe, one is never really secure as a member of a collective. Someone is always looking over your shoulder, searching for telltale signs of individualism that must be rooted out.  The threat of being cast out or punished by the collective for unorthodoxy is always there hanging over your head.

The only ritual required to join the Body of Christ is baptism.  It is a once for all ceremony. It is a public declaration that I am unclean and would be washed and made new by Christ. It is submission, not to a denomination, a particular church group or even to a set of doctrines, but to Almighty God Himself and no other.  Anyone who says differently is organizing a collective with himself and not God as its head.

Christ did not die for a society, a political party or for a nation-state, nor even for a church.  He died for each individual soul, whether that soul chooses to accept the gift or not. To the secular-collectivists, communists, progressives, socialists and statists, Christianity would have to seem like an almost militant assertion of individuality.  To defeat this pernicious movement toward uncontrollable individual liberty, the collectivists must accuse the Body of Christ of their own sin, that of suppressing individuality.

In this the collectivists are having some success, because without experiencing it for oneself, it is easy to misunderstand what it means to be a “servant” of God.  Christianity must seem “maddeningly ambiguous” C.S. Lewis pointed out.*  Christian faith seems to come out against our own natural individualism in that the practice of that faith requires that we abandon our own “natural” will to God. The Apostle Paul described the natural will as doing what you do not want to do because you are compelled to do it by your old nature.  

What the secular-collectivists do not and cannot comprehend unless they experience a relationship with God themselves, is that, in exchange for our giving of our old “self” to Him, God cleans the old self, repairs the damage, polishes it up and gives it back to us.  We then are true individuals as we were meant to be; free from all the old urges, compulsions, terrors and cravings that living in a corrupt world had placed upon us and once used to control us. We become, in Christ, new people who can freely choose to do what is right because they want to and because they are no longer bound by fear, no longer deluded by old programming and no longer weak and able to be manipulated.  

To the leaders of the collective, the existence of such people must be terrifying indeed. 

© 2013 Tom King – Puyallup, WA
*From “Weight of Glory” by CS Lewis.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

My Top Twelve Ways To Tell If You're Gettin' Old

(c) 2013 by Tom King

Lately I've been taking a hard look at my own mortality.  I'm trying to decide whether I'm getting old or just deteriorating a little prematurely.  I'm 59 and I don't feel old, except when I try to get out of my recliner, forget to turn on the heating pad or try to break into a trot while attempting to catch a bus.  So, anyway, I've developed my own personal top dozen ways to tell if you might be getting old.  To wit.....
  1. If you have to tie your shoes in two or more stages because you can't hold your breath that might be gettin' old.
  2. If you suddenly discover that you actually enjoy talking about your most recent might be gettin' old.
  3. If you talk baby talk to your might be getting old.
  4. If you buy a service dog vest so you can take it to the Wal-Mart with might be gettin' old.
  5. If you actually call it "The" Wal-Mart",..................... you might be gettin' old.
  6. If you suddenly discover that you actually enjoy talking about your dog's most recent might be gettin' old.
  7. If you've ever found yourself at the doctor's office and couldn't remember why you were might be gettin' old.
  8. If you've ever told somebody in the doctor's office waiting room, "Hey, that's my chair!" might be gettin' old.
  9. If adult diapers don't sound like such a bad thing might be gettin' old.
  10. If you've ever been driving to church and had to ask your wife what day it might be gettin' old.
  11. If you talk to your joints........and they talk back to might be gettin' old.
  12. If you take more than 15 pills at a time and most of them weren't yours in the first might be gettin' old.
I could probably come up with more of these, but I don't remember what I was talking about..

Has anybody seen my glasses.