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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Avoid the "My Religion" Trap; Get Outside

I've never understood why "religious" folk, those who take the name of Christ and become 'Christian', fall into the trap of thinking they know more than God about how He should do things.  God says "Forgive," and they say, "But only if they ask with the 'proper' humility."  God says "Love your neighbor as yourself," and they say, "But only if they hold to the correct doctrines."  God says, "The dead know not anything," but they say, "Oh, no, they must suffer by burning in hell forever."  Jesus says, "Don't call your brother a fool," but they say, "What if he is a fool?"

God does not need PR people to maximize attendance in his church. He doesn't need preachers to frighten sinners into being good by telling stories about souls living in torment in Hell that the political church borrowed from the Greeks to use in keeping its members frightened into submission. Why are some who cherish "my religion" so afraid God is going to fall down on the job that they are willing to lie, intimidate and terrorize their fellow man into submission. 

© 2013 by Glenn Sackett
God needs children who will love Him with all their hearts and their neighbors as themselves. He does not ask us to become spiritual stormtroopers. It is a dangerous thing to add extra burdens onto the backs of our fellow men and women that He has not placed on them. When we do so, we make our personal world narrower and narrower and ever more focused on those things we have added to our 'religion' in our misguided efforts to help God out a little where He's gotten slack over the millenia. We come to think of it as "my religion" and when your religion belongs to you, you reduce God to a size you can handle instead of experiencing Him in the utter vastness and splendor that makes you realize that you are really quite a small fellow in a wide world after all. That terrifies some people and they shrink from it, seeking to reduce God to a size they can handle. Once they've done that, then they begin to find fault with the way God does things.  Not big flaws, just minor procedural problems of the sort someone like you could manage quite nicely, so as not to have to bother God about such trivialities anymore. He does have so much to do after all. Why should He be bothered to discipline a few troublesome saints when you are perfectly capable of handling that without having to bother Him at all?

That need to protect God from His own kindness is why so many of us become imprisoned in our own little insular circles.  We do not forgive. We do not leave outcomes in God's hands. If we really look hard at it, we'd find that we don't trust God to be tough enough on others who aren't as "spiritually mature" as we are. And because our reach is not as vast as God's we soon find we can control only that which is within our own very short reach. As a result, over time we imprison ourselves within a tiny space limited by the range within which we feel we can exercise full control over everything in our lives.  Tragically, once we have caged ourselves within that narrow world, we find that there is no room left in there for God. We have shut Him out and are left alone with our self-torment unsuccessfully trying to manage even our own tiny world - a job for which only God is truly suited.

More people should visit the beautiful outdoor places of the world such as the ones in the pictures that accompany this story.  If you spend enough time in such places - the ones built by God - you find that the need to control everything melts away like mud in a hot soapy shower.  When confronted by the majesty of God's creation, it becomes far more and more difficult to hem yourself into the small world of the sort that so many of us "religious" people create for ourselves. When we experience the breath-taking places God has made, we are lifted above our petty selves and as Isaiah said, "will....ride upon the high places of the Earth."  If that's not enough to set your soul free, then you must be enjoying your chains more than I ever did.

© 2010 by Glenn Sackett

© 2013 by Tom King

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Someone Stole My Identity....

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Monday, July 01, 2013

The Writing Life: To Pander or Not to Pander: That is the Question!

Must writer's pander to an increasingly illiterate audience?

Lucy Barfield
Too much of what passes for literature these days is made up of strings of naughty bits held together by slim ropes of dialogue, designed to appeal more to inflamed teenaged hormones than to any sort of intellect. I won't name names. They know who they are.

Reading such stuff makes me mad.  I know I'm being manipulated by the author; hurried along through pages of "action" with a hint of something hormonal about to happen.  Makes me tired.

Thankfully we still have some good writers about that do write things with some depth to them.  I think the cheesy stuff we see is a result more of pandering to an increasingly almost functionally illiterate crop of children than to a lack of will on the part of authors.  That doesn't mean there isn't an intelligent group of kids and young people out there who read stuff with meat on its bones.  J.K. Rowling proved that you don't have to lather your prose with sex in order to sell books. The big thing she did right with the Potter novels was to keep the kids as kids.  Of course, they grew up and formed relationships, but at least they weren't levitating in and out of each others' bedrooms all the time.  They behaved as children, not as hormone-ravaged sex-maniacs.  And the story had real depth to it.  Publishers were stunned that kids would force their parents to buy a two inch thick $25 hardcover book, much less read it cover to cover repeatedly and demand sequels.  

Occasionally I discover that someone likes a book that I treasure as well.  Most of the time they describe the book with the preface, "When I was little my Father (or Mother) used to read it to me...."  I read many of my favorite books like Caddie Woodlawn, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and the Chronicles of Narnia to my own children at bedtime night after night.  I hope one day they will read these stories to their own children.

The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time novels and even The Little Prince have depth to them and draw young readers even in this day and age where reading good books is increasingly spurned in favor of garbled text messaging with other semi-literates.  The ability to self-publish these days, however, will hopefully bring more intelligent books to out electronic bookshelves and we shall see some books that might never have passed muster for some New York book editor because it might sell a mere 20 or 30 thousand copies.  Such books, marketed as ebooks on Amazon, can make passable money for an author.  In addition it may allow readers to see authors in their natural state, writing what they really wanted to write rather than what someone thought would sell.  Who knows, there may be some real classics lurking there for us to discover.

To would-be authors of books for both young people and old people, I would refer you to the dedication from C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe".   I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand, a word you say, but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather,  C.S. Lewis

You write not to this year's children, but to tomorrow's parents and grandparents.  Write what you love even if like Harper Lee and Margaret Mitchell you only have one book in you.  Make it the best you can create.  We look forward to reading it.

Tom King © 2103