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Monday, July 27, 2015

Love the Sinner


C.S. Lewis once observed that when his Christian teachers used to tell him that he must hate sin while loving the sinner, "I used to think this a silly straw-splitting distinction:  how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man?" This attitude is very common among atheists and unbelievers, as Lewis was when he believed this bit of uncritical thinking. Unrepentant sinners seem to have real difficulty with the Christian claim that we can "Love the sinner and hate the sin." It's one of their greatest points of frustration and the basis of their claim that Christians are all hypocrites because of our obvious hatred of sin.

Critics of Christianity's condemnation of sin, like to point out that such a thing as hating sin without hating the sinner is impossible. One can't hate someone's sins goes the argument, without hating the person who is committing those sins. Therefore, the critics extrapolate from this, that we must accept and embrace sins like homosexual behavior, crude language, drug usage, alcoholism and pornography or we cannot possibly the love sinners who do those things as we claim to do. And if we refuse to, say, sell a gay wedding cake, marry a gay couple, or even attempt to dissuade someone from smoking pot or getting an abortion, then we are, Q.E.D., haters and hypocrites. And if we dare ask someone if he or she would like to come to church, we must be condemning them outright!

The argument unbelievers put forth may feel convincing, but with a very little effort, we can, each and every one of us, find a personal experience of having hated the sin and loved the sinner that disproves their thesis. We need look no further than our own hearts. We've, every one of us, been hating sin and loving a sinner all our lives. The sinner we love most, is, it turns out, ourself! We all commit sins that, in retrospect, we regret having committed. We might not exactly call them sins, but we recognize our less than kindly acts as wrong, whether we give them the name "sins" or not.

We all regret some loss of temper on our part; some bit of cowardice or greed or some lie we have told when the truth might have served us better. When we discover that we have, in fact, committed some unlovely act of which we are ashamed, we are sorry to find that we are the sort of person who could do that. Inevitably, because we love ourselves as much as we do, we forgive ourselves our sin and continue to wish the best for ourselves. In fact, if one does not love one's self, any competent psychologist will tell you that that person is in danger of developing a mental illness, if not a severe psychosis. We are designed to love ourselves. If we do not, our minds inevitably break down, because how can you live as intimately as you do with yourself, if you hate that person.

Jesus, who understood this principle better than any man in history, based his entire distillation of the Law of God upon the fact that every man is born with the innate ability to love himself. When He says, "Love your neighbor as yourself," He tells us not only what we should do, but where to go to find a role model for doing just that. In essence, we already know how to love the sinner and hate the sin from the get-go, for we already know how to love ourselves, as replete with sin as we are.

And, we are born already knowing how to hate the sin without failing in our love for the sinner. "However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed," Lewis explains, "I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact, the very reason why I hated the things was that I love the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things."

In the end, Christianity doesn't have to reduce it's hatred for cruelty, greed, murder, lying, adultery or blasphemy by one iota. The truth is, if we love goodness, we ought to hate those sinful acts with a passion, not just for the pain they cause others, but for damage they have done to those we love who are committing those sins. It is at this point that Christians fall to their knees and pray that somehow, in some way, those sinners may be cured of their sin and made whole and human again.

We cannot help it if that makes you unrepentant sinners out there uncomfortable. We're a lot like your mother. We may love you, but if you do bad things, we're probably going to nag you about it and pray for your soul. It may make you feel like we look down on you, but we don't. We just pity you is all. That may make you angry, but if you look at it correctly, if you really do want to do what you want to do, then you can't really get mad at people who don't like it. We don't have to like it. You are free to choose to do what you want to do. So are we. You cannot force us to approve of, what we believe is your misbehavior, anymore than we can force you to behave.

The wonderful and often uncomfortable thing about freedom of choice is that it works both ways. You don't get to disobey on your own hook and then be able to force others to approve of your disobedience. It's hypocrisy at its most blatant to think you can. The old saw, "What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander," springs to mind.

Where the strife in this world comes from is when one person or group of persons decides they must control how another group thinks or behaves, especially when that group's behavior does not impinge upon that person or group's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And that goes back to the original source of the trouble in the Garden. The whole trouble with sin is that, at it's roots, it stems from a desire to set one's self up in place of God; not the God of love and self-sacrifice, who gives everything of Himself for His creation, but a God of power who is Lord and master over all he surveys.  Such a god is a petty tyrant in the end and all who aspire to this sort of godship inevitably wind up petty tyrants, who seek to enforce their will over others. It should not be surprising when sinners of this sort seek to control how we think and feel and demand that everyone approve of their behavior even when they are sinning in a most public and disgusting manner. Sadly, some of them even call themselves Christians.

Tom King
(c) 2015 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

How About We Burn the Confederate "National" Flag Instead?

My youthful rebellion!

We did a water ski show at Lone Star Camp every Friday when we had campers during the 5 summers I worked there and the three years I was a camper before that. In that ski show, I skiied on canoe paddles, two by fours, anchored a pyramid, towed a canoe behind a motorboat, was jerked off docks, towers and from the shore. One of the more memorable "incidents", however, was the time I paddled stroke oar for a tandem canoe from which we flew a certain flag that has been much in the news lately.

I admit it. I owned a Confederate Battle Flag in my youth. One summer, I took it with me to camp - not sure why. I was hardly a racist. Quite the opposite, actually, to the chagrin of some of my relatives who were, in fact, die-hard racists. I had the flag because I was, at the time, quite in touch with my inner rebel. Our camp director that summer was a returned missionary, who was originally a Yankee from Fitchburg, Massachusetts. He was proud of the fact, and a died in the wool Yankee, he wasn't at all shy about expressing his low opinion of Southern culture.

Now, most of us were from Texas, which we consider a culture far superior to either Northern or Southern culture. We shouldn't have been offended about his comments about Southern culture. After all, we were from Texas, not Georgia or Mississipi or, worse, Arkansas! But, there was something about his uppitiness that tempted us to sin. So for the flag pass during the ski show one Friday, we built a tandem canoe with a platform suspended between the canoes. To add insult to injury, we stood Elder Sandstrom's youngest daughter up on the platform with my Confederate flag on a pole. We paddled past the reviewing stand and unfurled it big as life before our Yankee boss.

We gave the poor Yankee all sorts of trouble that summer. He took some of the guys to a game between the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox. Boston won the game. We heard about it on the radio while he and a few of the guys were in Arlington at the game. Now the good preacher had been all uppity about the superiority of Boston the whole week before the game. We knew were going to have to hear all about how the mighty Boston had beaten Texas in baseball. The group that had gone to the game had a couple or three of hours' drive time to get home. So before they could get back about ten of us went down by the cafeteria where there was this giant hollow metal "STAR" - symbol of the camp sitting in the grass by the flagpole.  We hoisted the star and carried it all the way to the camp's front gate (about a quarter mile or so).  We left it sitting squarely in front of the entrance, blocking the road entirely. 

If you want to burn the true flag of oppression
then this is the one to go after - the one chosen
by the upper-crust racists and slave owners
who wrote the Confederate Constitution
When they got home, the guys who went to the game had to move the star in order to get back into camp. It was quite a job because there weren't ten of them. Several times that summer, we ran the Confederate flag up the flagpole that summer just so the boss would see it when he came out of his cabin door in the morning.

I have to say this for Elder Sandstrom, he had the good sense to take it all in stride and to accept it for what it was - nothing more than a little regional pride. He did NOT attach to our little rebellion more meaning than there was to it. Truth is, there wasn't any meaning to it other than that. The picture above is of our nature instructor, Bow Walker, and me singing Elvis' Civil War trilogy at a campfire one night. It is a song that combines two distinctly regional anthems (Battle Hymn of the Republic and Dixie) with The Cruel War, a folk song about the tragedy of the whole thing. You'll notice the Confederate battle flag I had thrown over my shoulder during the song.

We were going to throw a US flag over Bow's shoulder but we decide it would be disrespectful. That's all the more sanctity that the battle flag has to most Southerners. It's decoration. That's pretty much it. We paint it on cars, put it on t-shirts, fly it at all sorts of public occasions, not because we hate black people, but because it's a symbol of Southern resistance to outsiders who want to change us.

I'm not defending racism here. I don't fly the battle flag anymore because some of my black friends think it's a racist symbol. I'm truly sorry if your feeling were hurt. At the same time, I kind of resent when others attach meaning to my symbols that I do not attach to them. They are, after all, my symbols. Right now, there is a massive movement to remove the Confederate battle flag from every monument in the South. Yielding to media pressure, NASCAR has even asked fans not to fly it anymore at races. As we speak, they're bowing to the forces of political correctness and scraping the Confederate battle flag off the top of the General Lee - soon to be renamed the Rosa Parks or some damned fool thing like that, no doubt.

The real irony here is that the only relatives I have who fought during the Civil War, fought and died for the Union. My southern relatives stayed out for religious reasons. Adventists were pretty much all abolitionists at the time. The rest of my Southern kin just weren't interested in fighting for the Confederacy. The only reason I had a Confederate flag all those years ago was because I sympathized with rebels - not necessarily Confederate rebels, but anyone who stood against some form of tyrannical authority. The folk who demand the battle flag be torn down, miss that bit. For that matter, part of the appeal to join my church was because it refused to kow-tow to human authority on matters of faith. I guess I've always been choosy about who I obey.

I fully expect there to be demands soon to haul down the Texas flag since it was also flown as a battle flag by Texas troops during the Civil War. The fact that Sam Houston, the governor of Texas resigned rather than sign the secession decree and that many Texans did not support slavery won't matter to people for whom everything is about brute symbolism. Also, some have said the Texas flag is a symbol of oppression of the Mexican people (we did rebel against Mexico after all). You would have to ignore all the Hispanic guys inside the Alamo and marching with the Texican troops at San Jacinto, in order to make your case, but somebody inevitably will. Texas' flag is actually more about resistance to the forces of progressive socialism these days, a fact that will soon draw it the ire of the rainbow flag waving might-as-well-admit-they're-Marxists crowd that's busily fomenting riots and blaming it on conservatives, Christians and anyone else who resists their ascension to power.

If you really want to divest the Confederate battle flag of its symbolism, you should just ignore it and let Southerners define what it symbolizes - at least if racial unity is your true goal. If you're just counting coup, you just might find that you won't be able to get away with it without some kickback. This clip from the film "Gettysburg" suggests what sort of people fought under the battle flag and what a tragedy the whole stupid thing was and a little bit about why some folk still like waving the battle flag to honor their soldier-ancestors and have no regard for the national flag of the Confederacy at all.

Just my opinion.

© 2015 by Tom King

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Smart People Need to Leave it Alone

There's an ancient story that came out of Ur of the Chaldees, told by an old herdsman and minor prince who settled along the trade lanes between Ur and Egypt. The story goes that in the beginning, the first woman wandered off and took up conversation with a snake - probably something reptillian or saurian with some nice coloring and reasonably sentient looking, for the snake turned out to have rather a lot to say.

He started out talking about the scenery. 

"See yon tree?" 

"Isn't that lovely?"

That sort of thing.  From there they went on to talking about food.

"Nice apples, huh?"

Then he moved on to politics.

"Wouldn't it be nice to take a bite?"

"But the law says we'll die if we do..."

"You won't die. The authorities just want to deny you the good stuff."

Then the conversation got around to stroking the old vanity.

"Look, you're a pretty smart chick there. Can't you see, the Man is just wantin' to keep you down? He knows that if you eat from that tree, you'll become a god just like Him."

Well, as those of you who've read this old story before, know, things went badly from there. 

I once read Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. In it I could hear the voice of the serpent in the garden speaking smooth words to people who believe they are a bit above the rest of the ignorant proletariat. And they are such suckers for that. My suspicion is that most so-called smart people were picked on when they were kids. Any appeal to such a person that says, "Come on, now. You're so much smarter than the rest of these rubes," is going to be very very powerful.

That's what Alinsky's "Rules" does.  It convinces people who think they are smart that they aren't held down to the same rules as the rest of us. That's the lure of socialism - it tells everyone they are too smart to be held down, melds them into a vast collective and then turns them into one big universally downtrodden proletariat.  Even brilliant people like Einstein fell for it.

Dr. Einstein's said this in his essay, "The World as I See It" said this:

  • "My political ideal is democracy. Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized."

Yet, despite his reverence for the individual, in later essays the good doctor speculated that there ought to be a way for the truly intelligent people of the world to fix all of the world's problems. Even, Einstein who hated military "herd life", faced the temptation of smart people to believe they might step into God's shoes and fix things.

As it turns out, smart people don't do so well at fixing the troubles of others. We can't make anyone happy it seems - not if they don't want to be happy. The world today stands at the crossroads between two great ideas.  To the right, we take the path in which the individual is supreme.  To the left, it is the collective which rules.  

The individual or the hive - that's the choice.
  One way offers potential for chaos - it is the danger of free will.  The other path offers peace in exchange for our individuality. As the first great American smart guy, Ben Franklin, once brilliantly said, "
He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security.”

My people, Christians, are an odd lot in this debate and many of those outside our ranks do not understand us at all. We believe absolutely in free will (at least those of us who are not Calvinists) and yet we act collectively to do good to others. We believe that God values each of us, not as an element within the ranks of church members, but as sons and daughters - individuals, for whom He would have sacrificed his Son had we been the only one. We love sinners, but hate sin. We believe we choose our own fate, but we believe God knows what that fate will be from the very beginning. We don't even fully understand the nature of the God we worship, yet we show up every week to do so.

I suspect that if the majority eventually win the debate and we take the left turn as a nation, that such troublesome Christians will need to be either converted or eventually eliminated. If you read much history, that's usually how it goes for individualists in a collective.

I'm just sayin'

Tom King
© 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Gloating When You Win Is ALWAYS a Bad Idea

A lot of my readers are Seventh Day Adventists. There was a major vote at the church's General Conference Meeting in San Antonio last week on the subject of who decides whether it is permissible to ordain women to the ministry. Before your eyes glaze over, this isn't about that.

Stuff like the picture above has been popping up on SDA Facebook member sites since the big vote last week went "NO". Nothing actually changed with regard to women in the ministry. The vote merely said that the General Conference President and his aids will decide, not the local conferences and churches. The president of the General Conference is one Ted Wilson, who, like George W. Bush, is the son of a previous General Conference president, Neal Wilson. Adventists as a group are rebellious Protestant with a long history of ignoring popular opinion and going with Scripture for their source of authority. We even demand that our church's resident prophet conform to the Bible - something she, herself, recommended.

But, if you are an SDA and saw the picture above, your mind probably went immediately to last week's contentious vote on women's ordination? I kow mine did. 

The controversy reminds me of the kerfuffle over the Confederate battle flag of recent weeks. As the flags are being torn down one by one from monuments and government property throughout the South in response to a massive media campaign to eradicate the flag from display, Southern folk have felt compelled to hoist the Confederate Battle Flag in their homes, at NASCAR events and everywhere else you can imagine over the last couple of weeks. 

Many, especially liberals and Yankees assume that flying the Confederate battle flag is racist. They really don't understand the situation. Stuff like this is an expression of rebellion, something Americans have done since before 1776. You will note that neither group, pro-ordination Adventists nor the children of the soldiers who lost the Civil war have gone out blowing things up or occupying some city park to raise "awareness". They've just raised their banner here and there. It's more about tweaking the noses of the victors - in essence saying I'm not going away just because you say so. Most Southerners care not a fig for racism, but do care about being from the South and resent people trying to crush what they see as their heritage. In the same way, I find a majority of Adventists who voted "yes" last week, or would have if they'd had a vote, are more angry that the power to decide that issue was held in the hands of Ted Wilson and his confederates.

This flag is the actual racist Confederate
Flag - Southerners abandoned it long ago.
It is, therefore, not useful for fomenting racial
unrest if you're looking to promote a meme that
all white people (at least Southerners) are racist.
For most Southerners, the Confederate battle flag is a symbol of rebellion, fried chicken and potato salad, peach pie and watermelon. Most of their fathers who fought in the War Between the States thought it was about states rights and few of the men in the battle lines standing under THAT flag owned slaves. If there was another flag that was an easily recognizable symbol of the South, most Southerners would fly it.

Besides, the battle flag was actually NOT the flag of the Confederacy, but the flag of the troops and so is far less racist than the flag shown to the left.
If you want to ban the real "racist" flag, this is the one chosen by the high-born plantation owners and slave-holders who wrote the entirely racist Confederate constitution? This is the flag you ought to be getting hacked off about if someone flies it. The battle flag was flown by armies that thought they were fighting for their rights.The battle flag flew over men who thought they were fighting against government overreach. For instance, I fly my Texas flag and my Texas Navy flag up here in very liberal Washington State as a symbol of pride and my resistance to current government overreach. I fly it alongside the Stars and Stripes. I do so because my home state has resisted progressive socialism successfully and we're kind of proud of that.

Adventists, meanwhile, at least those who felt the vote on women's ordination was more about the centralization of power in the hands of a few high up administrators than it was about women in the ministry, are searching for ways to express their frustration. They are not rebelling against the church, but against the kind of high-handed strong-arming that can take place if too much power is settled in the hands of a few. Even the GC said it wasn't about whether women could preach but about who, as President Bush once colorfully described it, is the "decider".

Ironically, both the battle flag and pictures like the one above are more about who's going to tell who what to do than they are about the issues they purport to be about. 
It will be interesting to see whether the church cracks down on the rebellious murmerings of the members who had hoped last week's vote would affirm the 1903 GC's move to decentralize the power and authority of the church's world leaders. It won't help if they do crack down on expressions of discontent by Adventist members, anymore than ordering Southerners not to display the Battle Flag did anything other than to stimulate sales of the flags. If the church leadership truly wants unity, it should look around for ways to put more decision-making authority in the hands of the unions and the conferences and divest itself very publicly of the mantle of authority they wear. That authoritarian leadership style looks more and more like another top-heavy church organization we all know and fear. This is not the time for sermons on the headship doctrine. It is time to reaffirm that Jesus is our Lord and it is to him we are directly responsible.

Just one man's opinion

© 2015 by Tom King

Thursday, July 02, 2015

When Reality Really Stinks!

This girl was drugged - only way I would ever get in a
pen with one of these beautiful but deadly creatures.
 I was doing PR for Tiger Creek a Texas tiger refuge when this short-lived reality show rolled into town. The premise was a WWF Girl, Lauren Jones, becomes a local TV reporter much to the resentment of the "real" news reporters at Tyler, Texas' CBS-19. The show died after just two episodes, but before they left town, I invited the ersatz reporterette out to see our new baby tigers. So here comes Lauren Jones across the pasture toward the tiger cages wearing a spray-on mini-skirt and stilletto heels, tailed by a sturdy, harrassed-looking woman shouldering a video camera and tripod.

They set up in front of one tiger's cage (I don't remember his name right now - we'll call him Gombe) to talk about his recent surgery or his birthday or whatever thin excuse I gave the reality TV people for coming out to give us some free publicity. I think the boss lady was kind of put out with the fake reporter even though we were getting good PR out of this whole thing. Probably something to do with the stillettos and the Versace handbag. Anyway, the boss lady neglected, in her pre-entering-the-cage-area safety briefing, to mention to Lauren, a key bit of information about this particular tiger. We had some females in nearby cages who were, shall we say, "in the mood" and this particular tiger was a notorious horn dog. So, he was likely to be a little randy.

Now male tigers have this interesting capability they don't tell children about on PBS. They like to mark their territory and they have a special gland-like structure beneath their tails which allows them to eject a pungent tagging fluid 20 or 30 feet like a water cannon (and quite a lot of it too). Well they didn't tell Lauren Jones in her tight dress and serious perfumication about this. Also they make a little chuffing sound when they like you. She did explain this to Lauren for some reason.

Lauren and the CBS-19 News Team
So, I'm watching her shoot her piece for the news. She's standing directly in front of Gombe's cage. I hear a little chuffing sound and see Gombe rubbing his face against the wire. Lauren turns and smiles sweetly at him then turns back to the camera. A few seconds later, out of the corner of my eye, I see a slow stripey kind of movement behind Lauren. The Gombers has quietly reversed his position against the chain link fence, so that he is no longer facing the camera. It's his hindquarters that are facing the camera and his tail has come up! Instinctively, I dived right to save myself, but didn't have time to shout a warning. Suddenly there's a spray like from a garden hose shooting past me and playing over the TV crew.  Lauren squeals and lights out across the grass faster than anyone I've ever seen run in stilletos. She runs a half a block shrieking before she comes to a stop and starts checking out her outfit for unsightly stains.

Meanwhile, I turn to look beside me and there's this poor bedraggled looking camera gal standing there, just dripping. Gombe had hit her square on. She really looked pitiful. I tried not to laugh, but God has not perfected my character quite that far yet.

I looked her up and down, sniffed the air and wrinkled my nose.

"I think like he likes you....." I said.

Oddly enough, she didn't think that was terribly funny. Gombe, however, was rolling on the floor of his cage, a big stupid grin on his face.

Sadly, that bit of video never made it to air. They canceled the show before that episode. Too bad too. That would have got about a million hits on Youtube.

Here's another camera guy who did record his similar experience for us, however. Watch this, then click on the Lauren Jones link and imagine her standing slightly to the left of the camera position and you'll get the idea.

© 2014 by Tom King