Thursday, January 29, 2009

"My President is Black"

When I was in the 11th grade, my English teacher made a point about using words that actually mean something. His exhortation that day was specifically about using the terms “negative” and “positive” when describing how we might feel about something. For example, what does it really mean to say “I feel positive about our chances to win the game tonight?” His point -- terms like “negative” and “positive” describe an electrical charge but are only nebulous when describing emotions, since they are not meant to do so.

Often, our common vocabulary consists of terms that don’t mean what they should, but before explaining my point here, given the title above, let me first explain what it is not. It’s not about the legitimacy of Barry Obama’s citizenship; neither is it any comment about his diverse ethnical makeup; nor is it trying to figure out racism or getting into the lingering effects of slavery in America, etc. Any comprehensive attempt at those issues is not the scope of my topic, so comment on those things if you choose, but again—not my point.

I’ll admit that it’s not a safe choice to quote a popular Hip-Hop artist called Young Jeezy (a self-proclaimed leader of “thugs”) for a lesson on our culture. While his track “My President is Black” (which hit the waves back in the summer) has proven prophetic, you might assume that the term “Black” must be ghetto slang for “African-American” if your only sources of information were the mainstream media or the President himself.

I’m confused -- what does “African-American” mean? And how does the term “African-American” dignify a black man more so than just calling him “black” and an “American?” What is degrading about just being “black” and “American?” Someone please explain, cause otherwise I think mainstream America could learn something from a thug.

To the point -- If you want to start making progress on racism in America, then stop using the divisive, inaccurate and politically correct term “African-American.”

But I’m not convinced that progress against racism is really on anyone’s agenda.

Look, you’re either an American or you’re not—at least that is what some of our most meaningful American doctrines will tell you. Just take the first and sixth articles (there are only six) of the Military Code of Conduct that every “American” freedom fighter serving under our “African-American” Commander-in-Chief has seared into their brain:

“I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.”

“I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.”

I’m not very sentimental, and on another day we can debate some of the nuances of these words as well as the greater issues of war or pacifism or nationalism or Americanism. But these words, created for the sake of real, life or death, dire and desperate scenarios, beautifully convey something about what it means to preserve America when it is most threatened—namely, “I will never forget that I am an American.”

So, when the “American’s” Commander-in-Chief repeatedly refers to himself as an “African-American,” could that possibly call into question from his subordinates whose “way of life” they defend with their own lives? What does “African-American” mean that “American” does not cover? Further, how does this term of distinction promote unity within multi-cultural military units who must be unified? And could this possibly, even if remotely, cause divisiveness or at least confusion?

The reality is this--there are as many “African-Americans” as there are “Native-Americans” living in America in 2009—none. Sure, there are a relative few Africans living in America, and there are many descendants of now deceased Africans and Natives. We need to admit that these politically correct terms are antiquated and, if not encouraging racism certainly facilitate it.

Let me explain. Since I’m a white man, I’ll give the floor to a black man who gives two reasons from the black side, and I’ll suggest a third. Then I’ll give a simple explanation from the white side and be done.

From his article, “Driving Bentleys and crying racism,” the Rev. Jesse Lee Petersen (a black preacher in LA – www.bondinfo.org) suggests two motives for perpetuating racism amongst blacks: “the power of playing the race card” and the usefulness of being a “victim.”

According to Petersen, many blacks know that most whites are afraid of being labeled a racist to the extent that they will “offer great concessions to avoid that suspicion.” This gives some blacks the perceived license to make otherwise racist remarks, or in the case here proclaim the moniker “African-American,” since the unspoken threat that any white who might call them out would most assuredly be deemed a racist (see Petersen’s article for noteworthy examples). (Don’t misunderstand what is being said—I’m not saying that everyone who uses “African -American” is racist by any means, but it does open the door to racism on both sides). And as this scenario is more often internalized than spoken out against, the politically correct agenda only furthers the racism that it secretly feeds.

For the second reason, Petersen says that being a “victim” (which certainly the term “African-American” would represent) is both an “ego-boosting badge of honor” and “a ready excuse whenever one fails.” And who couldn’t use these to further their own causes, he says.

A third reason why racism might be (knowingly or unknowingly) perpetuated by blacks represented in the term “African-American” is related to these first two—a heightened sense of entitlement. “African-American” becomes a term less for the sake of remembering what the black race has endured in the past in order that they might be stronger and more unified, ie. the black heritage, and more about: remembering what whites have done to them in the past, so that whites should carry a continual guilt for horrible events which neither blacks nor whites today had anything to do with, and not treating blacks with dignity because they are men and fellow “Americans,” but treating them differently because they are “African-Americans.” Can these two attitudes be separated and the latter one eventually abolished? Perhaps so, but it isn't happening and “African-American” isn't helping either.

From the white perspective, it’s more about just keeping everything cool and PC, which are really just easy ways to say that we often don’t have the courage to stand up for what is right (even if it means calling out a black man or a fellow white man for racism), or the desire to promote and help preserve the dignity of all men, or the willingness to work towards limiting racism in America. Then again, many whites are just racists.

I realize that most potential readers of this blog are beyond living according to any politically correct agenda, but who among us is beyond the temptation to show favoritism to one man because of the way he looks? Certainly not I.

Perhaps if we followed James’ exhortations against showing favoritism more often, we’d see nebulous, PC agenda-laden terms like “African-American” less and less. Then again, perhaps not.

What is clear is this -- any real progress against racism starts with a genuine desire to be rid of it in the first place. And to that end we should start by getting rid of the term “African-American.”

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Substantive Due Process

In the wake of the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade I thought I’d take a moment and make some comments about this infamous and divisive legal opinion. What is below is an expression of a lawyer’s take on Justice Blackmun’s opinion, which this lawyer views as a pockmark on American jurisprudence, not just from a moral perspective but especially from a legal point of view. For those of you who have never read the opinion, I encourage you to do so, and also to peruse its sister case, Doe v. Bolton.

Before I dive into the Roe v. Wade opinion, I think it’s important that the reader understand that Roe wasn’t only decided based on penumbras and emanations from the Bill of Rights. Instead, Roe should be viewed as the fourth corner of a series of legal decisions, the collection of which now forms the basis for the Supreme Court’s social-policy jurisprudence.

The first corner of the foundation is the now-infamous Dred Scott Decision, for it was in the Court’s ruminations on that case where substantive due process was first discovered as being present in the Bill of Rights. Dred Scott was a slave; he and his family were owned by a Mr. Sandford in Missouri, a slave state. Sandford took Scott and his family to Illinois, a free state, where they lived for approximately ten years, and they also lived for a period of time in the Louisiana Territory, which was a free territory. The law was explicit that when Dred Scott was initially in Missouri with his owner that he was a slave. The law was murky, however, as to what the legal status of a slave was once he entered a free state with the permission of his owner. Permission, by the way, was a key issue because the Constitution provided that if slaves escaped to a free state they would not attain a status of freedom and in fact would be delivered back to their owners.

Eventually, Dred Scott and his master matriculated from Illinois and the Louisiana Territory back to Missouri, where Dred Scott sued for his freedom, claiming essentially that once he resided in a free state or territory with his master’s permission he was no longer a slave, and while a person can go from slave to free a person cannot revert back to slavery. In other words, Dred Scott argued that once he had “tasted of the heavenly gift” of freedom, he could not be forced back to servitude. As you all know, the Court informed Mr. Scott that he was wrong and that he was, indeed, still the property of his master.

The Court noted that “the rights of private property have been guarded with . . . care” in the Constitution and relied largely on the Fifth Amendment which provides, “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, and property, without due process of law.” Now, when the topic is slavery, what pops up immediately is the tension between the words “liberty” and “property,” but the Court focused on property, stating that “an act of Congress which deprives a citizen of the United States of his liberty or property merely because he came himself or brought his property into a particular Territory of the United States, and who had committed no offence against the laws, could hardly be dignified with the name of due process of law.”

Now, that’s just pure poppycock because whether a state or territory was slave or free was not only public knowledge, but well known public knowledge. I can’t fathom more due process of law than a statute enacted by a representative government that provided that people can’t be owned in their geographic region. Additionally, many slave states had laws that said if you brought a slave into that state from another state, then that slave was free. Someone actually was purchased as a slave in Maryland and brought into Virginia by his master and sued for his freedom and won. This case was cited by the dissent in Dred Scott.

The Court continually engaged in classic bootstrapping, arguing that the Constitution makes no difference between slaves and any other type of property, and therefore no state or tribunal could start distinguishing between various types of property. That’s just silly, because there are all kinds of “property” that people have been forbidden to possess through acts of a legislature: illegal drugs, pornography, and state secrets just to name a few.

From a legal, as opposed to moral, perspective the most egregious aspect of the Dred Scott Decision is the Court extrapolating from the Fifth Amendment the notion “due process of law” cannot encompass an act of Congress vis a vis certain fundamental rights. This would later be termed “substantive due process.” The Dred Scott Decision represents the first case where the Supreme Court viewed the Bill of Rights as collectively creating unenumerated rights.

The second corner of our foundation is less noxious to modern senses, and the Court ruling on the side of liberty gives this next decision the veneer of moral superiority. I write of the case of Griswold v. Connecticut, decided in 1965. Griswold, the executive director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut brought the suit along with a physician and professor at Yale Medical School who was formerly a part of that Griswold’s organization. The law they challenged provided that any person who used contraception may be fined fifty dollars or imprisoned for not less than sixty days and not more than one year.

Griswold and the doctor, Buxton, were giving “information, instruction, and medical advice to married persons as to the means of preventing conception.” Griswold and Buxton, who were by all accounts a couple of agitators looking to challenge this law in the courts, were convicted of violating the statute and fined a hundred dollars a piece. They challenged this silly statute, arguing that it violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. The Court placed great weight on the couple being married, fyi. The Court engaged in an analysis of its jurisprudence of sundry cases under various amendments.

The Court’s analysis culminated in this jewel: “The foregoing cases suggest that specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.” I’ll never forget reading this case in law school and having to look up the word “penumbra.” After consulting dictionary.com I quickly determined that words don’t have penumbras, which means that “penumbra” is being used poetically by the Court. The Constitution is many things, but it’s not a poem. But I digress.

Suffice it to say that the Court noted that marriage “is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions” and it erected, or rather declared that the Constitution erected, a “zone of privacy” around the marital relationship which prevented the Connecticut statute from passing constitutional muster.

The third corner of modern social-policy jurisprudence is Eisenstadt v. Baird. This case involved a man who was convicted in Massachusetts “for giving a woman a contraceptive foam at the close of his lecture to students on contraception.” The recipient was unmarried, and the Court this time decided that substantive due process required married couples be able to receive contraception and that the Equal Protection Clause required that since married couples get contraception, so must any slattern or gigolo.

Griswold and Eisenstadt represent sophistry of the first order. The Court, sitting as a super-legislature and probably desiring to strike down foolish laws, began using the 14th Amendment as a cudgel to bludgeon what it perceived as disagreeable statutes.

But this is a post about Roe v. Wade. Jane Roe, the pseudonymous Plaintiff, was a single woman in Dallas County who desired an abortion and was unable to obtain one in Texas because of the criminal abortion statutes.

In order to ascertain whether states could criminalize abortion in light of the 14th Amendment, the Court explored how abortion was treated in ancient Greece and Rome, and how it was treated at the English Common Law, which drew a line at “quickening” of the fetus. The Court cited an 1803 law in England that made abortion of a quickened fetus a capital crime, but abortion of a prequickening fetus was subject to lesser penalties. This statute contained an exception for preserving the life of the mother. The Court then noted that most abortion statutes in the states were enacted post Civil War, and gave only lip service to the fact that the aforementioned English Common Law would have been in effect sans statute regarding abortion. The Court then went on to recite numerous findings over a long period of time by medical professional associations, displaying the evolution of thought about abortion. You’ll note that this has nothing to do with the Constitution.

Finally, in section VIII of the opinion, the Court decided to get around to a legal analysis which, as mentioned, before relied largely on the string of cases involving reproductive rights, chiefly Griswold and Eisenstadt, which pertain to “fundamental” rights and rights “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.” Under the “Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty . . . a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy” is encompassed by the “right of privacy.” “Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future,” the Court noted. The Court faced a quandary: on the one hand the Court had decided to hold that the penumbras of the Bill of Rights create the emanation of a right to privacy, which in turn creates certain zones of privacy, which in turn created an affirmative right to abort a fetus. However, the Court had all these states out there with criminal abortion statutes: surely that’s entitled some deference?

And so it did. Even though a fetus is not a “person” under the Constitution (which is linguistically a perfectly reasonable and probably proper reading of that document, the authors of which did not contemplate federal questions of abortion) and therefore not protected under the Fourteenth Amendment, the state has an “important and legitimate interest in protecting the potentiality of human life” separate and distinct from the state’s “interest in preserving and protecting the health of the pregnant woman.” “Each [of these rights] grows in substantiality as the woman approaches term and, at a point during pregnancy, each becomes ‘compelling.’” This issue of when the state’s rights become compelling, abutting the woman’s fundamental right to privacy and therefore an abortion, lead to the Court’s absurd trimester distinctions. Keep in mind that the Court was writing about what the Constitution required, and I’ll address the trimester issue in that manner to shine a light on the foolishness of Roe.

So there are three rights or interests at play here: (1) the woman’s right to an abortion; (2) the state’s interest in protecting the mother’s health and life; and (3) the state’s interest in the viability of potentiality of human life.

Per the Court’s opinion, the Constitution creates a compelling interest on the part of the state in the mother’s health at the end of the first trimester. Therefore, the Constitution permits the state to enact “regulation [that] reasonably relates to the preservation and protection of maternal health.”

In relation to the woman’s fundamental right, the Constitution prevents the state from doing anything to prevent an abortion for any reason or no reason prior to the second trimester.

The Constitution gives the state a “compelling” interest at the point of viability, which the Constitution silently defines as the beginning of the third trimester. The state “may go so far as to proscribe abortion during that period, except when it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.” Justice Blackmun’s use of the word “health” . . . I’m sorry, the Constitution’s health-penumbra gives women the fundamental right to have an abortion at anytime and usurps the Constitution’s granting of a compelling interest to the state in the viability of a fetus.

The four corners of Scott, Griswold, Eisenstadt, and Roe form the foundation of the Court’s ongoing social engineering, and has resulted in the ignominious decision stating that homosexual sex is a right under the Constitution, and will lead ultimately to a decision mandating all states recognize homosexual marriage.

The ultimate point of this post, I suppose, is to display that decisions in Constitutional law are not decided in a vacuum, and to show the degree to which prior opinions shape the Court’s deliberations.

Should states outlaw contraception for married or single women? No, they shouldn't. But that's not the constitutional standard. Likewise, whether you believe abortion should be legal, we can all agree that the argument that the Constitution's penumbras and emanations make for a tenuous pretext for stating that the Constitution preserves a right to abortion, dressed up in the trimester interests outlined above.

The Dred Scott Decision, which is now roundly criticized for its result, is unwittingly embraced by jurists for its approach of abandoning strict reading of the text in favor of viewing the Constitution as laying out an ideology—helpfully for them, their ideology. Soon Obama will nominate a new Supreme Court Justice, and that nominee will no doubt say that he sees certain rights skulking about within the shadowy penumbras of the Constitution. When he does, remember that such reasoning began with a group of men who condemned a putative free man to slavery.

Friday, January 23, 2009

More Than My Necessary Food

I have never been truly hungry, not desperately so. We often hear, "I'm starving," but this is just an hyperbolic cliche that means, "My body is telling me that it's time to eat." That kind of hunger is as natural as breathing, the brain's signal to the body to properly care for itself. Perhaps the most familiar example of this is the crying child who longs for his mother's milk. Every child is born hungry, and perpetually so for the rest of its life.

What is true in the flesh is also true in the spirit; the newborn infant soul, as the suckling babe, cries out for the milk of God's word, and the mature man hungers perpetually for his meat. Those who have been born again unto spiritual life have tasted the Lord and seen that He is good; sweeter to them than the honeycomb is His word; like hummingbirds to flowers, they flit their wings to the nectar.

But what of those with little or no spiritual appetite, strangers to heaven's hunger pangs? Why, they must either be sick or dead! Loss of appetite is a sure sign of disease or lifelessness. Consistent absence from God's House, careless avoidance of His supper, casual acquaintance with His word, and cavalier rejection of His bounteous graces mark a soul wayward or a soul unborn. Every spiritual babe cries out for Sarah's milk, and every sheep follows the Good Shepherd to green pastures. Misguided goats have a bad appetite (they'll eat anything), sick men have little appetite, and dead men have no appetite at all.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Free Will of a Shackled Man

This afternoon I attended a hearing to obtain an injunction against somebody from removing a client's septic system. Talk about a messy situation!

Just prior to the judge reaching my case on the docket, he said he needed to take a plea from a defendant. In came a middle-aged black man, donning bright yellow coveralls, courtesy of Smith County. When he first walked in the courtroom I didn't see him. A sheriff's deputy walked in front him (one was behind him as well) and my view of the defendant was blocked. Though I couldn't see him, I could hear the clang-jangle-clang of his ankle-shackles as he approached the dock. He was seated beside his attorney, whose hair was unkempt and who had a frayed sportcoat and seemed rather insouciant about being there, and across from the prosecutor who had before him a stack of files each representing an offender.

The man was accused of driving while intoxicated. He had two prior convictions, meaning he now faced a minimum of 2 years and a maximum of 10 if convicted. He had been tried once, which resulted in a hung jury---a rarity in Smith County.

I reckon the DA threatened to ask for the maximum sentence of the man had to be tried again, so he was taking a plea bargain for the minimum 2 years. Have you ever seen a man stand before a judge and admit to wrongdoing in exchange for spending less time in a cage than he otherwise would? It's surreal, and strikingly informal. Well, perhaps not informal, but the process isn't as solemn as one would like.

The judge read the charge aloud, including and especially the part about the two prior convictions. The judge asked the defendant if he was entering his plea because he was truly guilty, and whether he understood he was waiving his right to appeal the case and, of course, waiving his right to trial by jury, etc.

There's no telling how many times the judge had read these exact words to countless other defendants. He blew through it so fast that he sounded like the guy who used to do the Micromachine commercials when Trey, Matt, and I were kids. After zooming through each paragraph, the judge would ask this question, "Did you sign this of your own free will, without coercion?"

Think about this. There's a man in shackles, with an underpaid and probably underskilled court-appointed attorney, threatened with spending 10 years in a cage, and is required to swear to the fact that he is signing his plea of his own free will and without coercion.

Forget for one moment the religious proscription against oaths. Forget, too, about the value of having a criminal swear to something. The idea that a threatened man in shackles has a free will, and is acting uncoerced is laughable. And yet, that's the law.

I'm tempted to go on and on about this, dialectically explicating free will and what it means to be coerced. I'll abstain, however, because that can be done much better by others on this site, and let the scene speak for itself.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Encouragement to the Impoverished

"The barrel of meal shall not waste,
neither shall the cruse of oil fail."

"A word spoken in due season, how good it is!" Even in a time of famine, as it was in Elijah’s day, or in a time of adversity and pending sorrow, as it was in the widow’s household, "thus saith the LORD God of Israel" ever suffices for every barrel and cruse in "the household of God."

Consider this text in terms of temporal adversity and physical need–Elijah pursued by Jezebel; starvation, disease, and death at the widow’s door; our own Jezebels hot on our heels, distresses in our minds, bodies, and spirits; fears within, foes without–let every soul thus impoverished by the world's ways and woes hear the word of the LORD,"the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail."

Though, like the widow, God’s own elect may doubt the prophet’s word, and every circumstance seem to contradict the holy promise, "nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure: the LORD knoweth them that are His," and He who feeds the sparrow and clothes the lily will surely supply every need of those more precious to him than all the fowls aflight, more beautiful to him than the lilies upon a thousand hills. King David knew this great old truth, by revelation and experience, "I have been young," said he, "and now I am old, but I have never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging for bread." As surely as the barrel and cruse are the potter’s work, so also is their supply. He who fills the stars with heavens and the oceans with water, can surely, yea, will surely "supply all our needs according to His riches in glory." Therefore, "let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid; God hath spoken it, He also will bring it to pass; He has purposed it, He also will do it." He who esteems His word better than His own name, though heaven and earth pass away, will yet fulfill every jot and tittle: "the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail."

May this word also bring conoslation to him who is impoverished in spirit. Have you "a famine of bread and a thirst for water" in your hungry, arid soul? Is your soul cast down and disquieted within? Then rejoice, for the prophet’s word is especially for you–"the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail." Feed upon Christ, ravenous soul, for He is "the living bread," heaven’s Manna fallen upon this wilderness of sin that you may eat and never hunger. Art thou wounded in the way, as all the careless world passes by? Then know that Christ Himself will pour oil into thy wounds, anoint thy weary brow, and nourish thy famished soul. No mean fare this heavenly bread and holy oil, but limitless in its bounty and infinite in its measure so that it will neither waste nor fail.

Worried soul, like the widowed mother of a dying son, worried by temporal or spiritual need, God’s promise is yours, spoken by the faithful prophet’s voice, "the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail." By this sure word of prophecy shall every barrel brim, every cruse o’erflow, and every impoverished soul be made fat.

Friday, January 2, 2009

"System of a Down"

As the conformity of contemporary “Christianity” in America to the prevalent, naturalistic culture only hastens, so too does its eventual demise.

In the same way that the system of Judaism failed its followers when “the Word became flesh,” the current undercurrent of an “all-that-is-seen-is-all-that-is” culture cloaked in a “show-me-the-signs-Christian-system” is failing its followers once again.

The “Christianity” of the masses today (whether Evangelicalism or Romanism it matters not), much like Judaism two thousand years ago, is little more than the naturalistic means to a naturalistic end. Either that, or it is the guise of “spiritual” means to a naturalistic end. Either way, “Christianity” today is chiefly about what is physical, what is moral, the self, and in scriptural terms, “the things of the earth.” To many, both on the inside and outside, it is merely superstition or myth.

For example, the term “Conservative-Christian” carries with it an overtone that applies to the politic as a “Right Wing Republican,” and thus a politician might be called a “Conservative-Christian” using “Christianity” as a means to a certain political end. Similarly, athletes or entertainers often use “Christianity” as a sort of non-genuine and de facto “humility” when they are recognized for an award – ie. “I would like to thank God…” as if God were the means to their end of success or being recognized (I’m not saying all of this sort of thing is always wrong or not genuine, but as a general example you can be the judge). Most modern churches are no different than politicians or entertainers, catering its programs and “ministries” to the material needs of its patrons promising some physical end, whether better relationships, more success, more money, or whatever the people might need.

Just like Oprah, Dr. Phil, any organized religion or decent self-help book from Barnes and Noble, “Christianity” today focuses on an earthly system consumed with physical needs. For this essay, I’m calling it the “System of a Down” if you will (“down” corresponding to having its origins from "below" rather than “above” as will be mentioned shortly, and nothing to do with the Armenian-American rock band--I'm just borrowing their clever name). As such a system, it can only and will only perpetually fail its followers until eventually it is unnecessary altogether.

Why does “Christianity” fail as a system? -- Because Christianity is not a naturalistic system (I’ll spare the tag “true” here since that would only be redundant and let quotation marks suffice).

The end of Christianity is not “being a good person” through the means of “doing good.” Neither is the end of Christianity having “a good job or a good family or a nice house or car or whatever else points to success in America” through the means of appeasing the conscience by attending church or mass on Sunday, tithing and being a good, upstanding citizen. Nor is the end of Christianity a politic that is run by the Church through either direct means as in Roman Catholicism or indirectly as in those who continually try “Christianizing” America through the way of “the right.” Finally, and perhaps more pertinent to this audience and myself, the end of Christianity is not the accumulation of extraordinary ideas and knowledge while our lives that people see look only ordinary. In other words, being right is never more important that being righteous.

For these reasons and others, many disdain the hypocrisy bred from this naturalistic system called “Christianity” today. I do as well.

In its hypocrisy it claims a better end through greater means than the masses can find through their own systems, but in reality, it always “under-delivers” since its followers never live up to their bold claims of “self-development, self-improvement, self-restraint, submission to a grand idea or higher law, refined moral egotism, or aesthetic, even moral altruism” (help here from Alfred Edersheim, Life & Times, 266). And besides, if the end is chiefly natural (or physical or material), then why do the means really matter all that much in an ultimate sense? (ie. Why serve our fellow man through a church in the name of God when any non-profit can do the same in the name of philanthropy? If the ultimate focus is on “becoming good” then what’s the difference?) Thus, the hypocrisy of this naturalistic system known as “Christianity” today only continues to build with greater empty promises for a better life. Slowly and gradually, as if down a slightly graded slope, it declines and becomes less and less interesting as its followers, observers and critics begin to see it for what it is—just another “System of a Down.”

But Christianity as portrayed by Jesus is not about a naturalistic system at all; in fact, Christianity as portrayed by Jesus is about Jesus Himself - the supernatural Savior.

Recall with me a certain story from scripture where the “system” met the “Savior” face-to-face. From John’s Gospel enter the “Sanhedrist” Nicodemus on a “wild, gusty spring night” to the chamber on the roof (possibly even at John's house in Jerusalem) where his “Heavenly Guest” awaited. Intrigued enough by the signs that He performed throughout the week, yet confused as to how He fit into the Jewish system and unsure about how His mission related to the “Kingdom of God,” this “ruler of the Jews” humbles himself to confront the lowly and mysterious Nazarene.

The system represented by Nicodemus had this mindset towards the Kingdom of God:
  • “There was only one gate by which a man could pass into that Kingdom of God—for that which was of the flesh could ever be only fleshly. Here a man might strive, as did the Jews, by outward conformity to become, but he would never attain to being” (Edersheim 267).
  • “He (Nicodemus) wanted to know the how of these things before he believed them. He believed them not, though they passed on earth, because he knew not their how” (267).
  • “According to the Jewish view, this second birth was the consequence of having taken upon oneself ‘the Kingdom;' not as Jesus put it, the cause and condition of it. The proselyte had taken upon himself ‘the Kingdom,’ and therefore he was ‘born’ anew” (266).
But the Savior, Jesus Christ, explained the Kingdom in this way:
  • “Except a man be born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
  • “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
  • “The wind blows where is wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Edersheim explains the contrast between these different “conceptions of what constituted that Kingdom, and of what was its door of entrance”:
  • “Judaism could understand a new relationship towards God and man, and even the forgiveness of sins. But it had no conception of a moral renovation, a spiritual birth, as the initial condition for reformation, far less as that for seeing the Kingdom of God. And it was because it had no idea of such a ‘birth from above,’ of its reality or even possibility that Judaism could not be the Kingdom of God” (266).

As for the Jew, where the “door of entrance” into the Kingdom “could ever be only fleshly,” the “System of a Down” today likewise has little “conception of a moral renovation, a spiritual birth, as the initial condition for reformation.” Rather, the best this “fleshly” system can offer for “reformation” comes from “taking upon oneself the Kingdom” through striving after good works. For what it fails to understand (ie. how true spiritual birth occurs) easily, it will not pursue; instead, a similar fleshly, Jewish system is implemented and pursued replacing that which is spiritually mysterious with a systematic method.

Systematic Theology, Apologetics and other like theological pursuits have their place to be sure, but only after one is made to experience the “great mystery of godliness.”

Again Edersheim writes profoundly:
  • “To see the Kingdom of God: to understand what means the absolute rule of God, the one high calling of our humanity, by which a man becomes a child of God—to perceive this, not as an improvement upon our present state, but as the submission of heart, mind, and life to Him as our Divine King, an existence which is, and which means, proclaiming unto the world the Kingship of God: this can only be learned from Christ, and needs even for its perception a kinship of spirit—for that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (266).
Just as the signs by which Christ drew Nicodemus and others were from above, one must reason that the manifestation of the Kingdom on earth in such a way--like the wind--is to show that being “born from above” is a “sign” no less miraculous.

But where is the miracle of being “born from above” in today’s “Christianity”?

The mystery of “that which is spirit is spirit” confounds the contemporary “Christian” who needs a system, a program, a method to explain away life. For those who are truly spiritual, being brings about the becoming rather than the opposite, and if truly considered, this is miraculous as well. Unlike any system, Christianity is often if not mostly the pursuit of spiritual things not easily reasoned, mysterious, miraculous and at times impossible to comprehend. Yet, through these means and to this end, the “System of a Down” will have none; eventually, like all other things of the earth, it too will crash and burn (2 Pet 3:10). That is, if it doesn’t simply become altogether unnecessary before then.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

God Bless Workin' Women

I mean godly women, godly wives and godly mothers . . .
What a rude question to ask a virtuous woman . . .
"Do you work?"

If she were not so virtuous, she'd say, "Darn right I work . . . " (Sorry, Ladies, forgive the mild expletive) . . .

Workin
' women, godly Wives and Mothers, WORK, whether "in" the home or "outside" the home (remember that godly, workin' women who work "outside" the home most probably do most of the work "in" the home as well) . . .

Workin
' women . . .

I've always admired that in my Grandmother, my Mother, and own Wife, but now so much more . . .

My Grandmother and Mother no longer work . . . they're at rest . . . my wife no longer works . . . she must rest . . .

So Mama Parker, Mother (her dignified persona quietly demanded "Mother"), and Judy, shall we say, "heightened my appreciation" for workin' women . . .

I've seen Mama Parker in a bonnet on many a warm Mississippi morning come in from workin' the garden, smelling of sweet sweat, while she made biscuits from scratch . . .

Mother worked outside the home while my dad was a pastor, and exclusively inside the home during his evangelistic career . . . wonder why, in both cases?

Judy worked as a teacher and administrator when our boys were school age . . . and she worked as a wife and mother during all that time, cooking the food, keeping the house, paying the bills, etc., etc. . . . But now that she can't work, even inside the home, I have an intensified taste of "housework" . . .

The kitchen itself is almost full-time job . . . even for just two . . . breakfast, lunch, and dinner . . . thinking about the meal . . . what she (they) will like . . . what she (they) will not like . . . then getting the stuff out of the cabinets and the fridge, putting it in the pans, cooking it, serving it, cleaning it up . . . learning that "NO" on the 409 nozzle does not mean "NO" but rather than your have the bottle upside down, and now you understand FFO . . .

Thank God for dishwashers . . . putting the forks all in one place so that you don't stab yourself . . . Is that mundane and meaningless? . . . putting the forks in the right place? . . . No, it's a noble task, kissed by heaven . . .
What could be more sacred than being a godly mother and wife? Who can find a virtuous woman? . . . Gentlemen, thank God Almighty if you have found one . . . don't undervalue that rare ruby . . .

I asked Judy this week, "How do mothers with little children do it?"

They must be magic.

Chances are, in fact the truth is, the typical workin' woman has done more work than her hunter-gatherer husband during a typical day: the mental, physical, and emotional exertion and stress of overseeing the kitchen, keeping the house clean, and tending the kids: their learning, their correction, their emotional needs, their snotty noses, maybe her own job outside the home . . . What about taking care of herself?

Every husband should help his wife daily in household chores, and if he can afford it, he ought to get his wife additional domestic support, especially if she works outside the home; if you can't afford it, then you should remember that, whether she works both outside and inside or only inside the home, she has probably done more work than you today, and more important work as well . . . so take her out to eat, or at least bring home some KFC . . . pick your sox up, and vacuum once in a while, and dust, and do the wash, and fold the towels (in the right way), and put them up where they belong, and make the bed, and mop, and shop . . . I'm talkin' to the men here . . .

God bless workin' women . . . alchemists they must be, for but the gentle touch of their stong hands transforms everyday domesticities into the golden merchandise of heaven; and King's daughters one and all, their sacred brows aflame with Faith, Hope, and Love as a princess with a diadem adorned.

God bless workin' women; if it weren't for them, all we men would be slouchy, sloppy bachelors like my son who recently said, "Dad, if you'll just fill that chili bowl with water and leave it in the sink, it'll come off easily tomorrow, no problem . . . "

Yeah, right, and who'll rinse it off, and wipe it off, tomorrow?
One of those workin' women, no doubt . . .