Saturday, April 29, 2006

Trust and intimidation

I was reading Ben Mikaelsen's "Touching Spirit Bear" to one of my sons last week when I came upon the kid's statement that he would never trust anyone that was not afraid of him. It's what they used to say in Vietnam: "If you get them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow."

As I pondered this, I realized it explains quite a few things. It's certainly why we clothe ourselves with violence, expecting violence to protect us. It's why Lamech the son of Cain made sure to avenge himself 77 times by killing someone for striking him, who had probably struck this arrogant man for wronging him, as such people feel entitled to do.

We can never make God afraid of us, and that's why we'll never trust Him if we think like this. Failing to trust him always makes us trust in other things which end up killing us, and so our reliance on fear to make people compliant and therefore trustworthy ensures that we perish.

So then the saying proves true, "Whoever lives by the sword will die by it" - at the very moment that, as the world counts it, he is achieving success.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Our War Against Change

As James wrote in the New Testament, wars and fightings arise among us from our lusts which wage war in our members. Chief among these lusts, certainly, is to stay unchanged, and to make that happen by changing others.

A reader comment on my earlier post on conformity remarks that conforming to our own desires against the truth is a conspiracy of me, myself, and I. As I noticed in Psalm 52 recently, when we do that we are being strong in our desire - and indeed our desire makes us strong in just the same way as does the approval of the mob. This is why we fear to lose our desires, however self-destructive. It always feels like we're being weakened, even killed, and in a sense it's true.

So last - and most important - in the list of what we have to abandon to be disciples of Jesus is ourselves (Matthew 10:34-39).

War is what we do so as not to have to abandon these things, our own desires most of all. We fight so we can stay the same, so we don't have to learn anything. I know there are times that justice and mercy require us to fight, but we'll never get it straight or avoid doing injustice and cruelty until we understand that the war of God is always that we change, and never that we stay the same. And, indeed, is it not hypocrisy to fight to impose on others the very change that we are fighting to avoid for ourselves?

I remember pointing out in a church Bible study that progress in the Christian life consists in losing arguments with God. Nobody could deny it, but nobody stood up and cheered!

Since war aims to achieve conformity to our lusts, it's no surprise that conformity and war go together. The most warlike societies are the most conformist, and the most stupid, because they are at war with the truth, with the wisdom that calls us to self-denial - and so their members counterfeit true self-denial in rejecting their individual humanity in order to become loyal particles in the group. United We Stand! Who demands more slavish conformity, even in small details, than a street gang that does drive-bys? Is it an accident that the "Christian" churches that most delight in war demand the most conformity from their members, and are quickest to punish any deviation from their standards?

Finally, in all this there is justice. Our wars are against change, to keep it the same for ourselves at the expense of others - but nothing brings catastrophic change to us like that kind of fight. They all went to war in 1914 to keep it the same for themselves, but it sure didn't turn out that way. The US went to war in Vietnam to keep the world in line so we could stay the same, but did that happen? The Soviet Union went into Afghanistan for the same reason, and how did that turn out? And American aggression against Iraq was intended to ensure "full spectrum dominance" so as to keep the world safe for the US just as it is, but will it turn out that way?

It might be better to seek peace and pursue it, although doing that will make us change, because it pays! May God show us how, through His truth and His presence, without which that won't happen.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

"conformity was the source of the NASA 'can-do' attitude"

I was reading Diane Vaughan's Challenger Launch Decision this morning when this phrase grabbed me and I realized something.

I have always despised conformity as an expression of timidity, simply taking the easy way to avoid trouble. That's certainly often the case, and it is true that cowardice is at its root, as it is every time we stand against the truth. But that's by no means the whole picture.

Conformity gives us a can-do attitude. It makes us feel bold and adventurous, whether it's a lynching or a gang-rape in a bar, a whole nation joyfully attacking an unoffending weaker neighbor, or a county bureaucracy uniting to abuse little children to demonstrate that lesser mortals may not hold it to account.

When Moses said, "You shall not follow a multitude to do evil," he wasn't just telling us to be courageous and to stand against a wrong majority. He was warning us to abstain from a kind of drug abuse.

The approval of our peers through conformity is truly a drug of abuse. It soothes us in our insecurity, like a narcotic, and when we're feeling especially anxious, it's a real heroin rush, as we saw with most Americans in September 2001. It banishes depression and energizes us, like meth or cocaine. It blurs the hard edges and makes us feel loved and accepted by our companions, like a few beers in a bar.

A dog turd is known by a certain smell, and so is addiction. We're addicts when we're ready to destroy precious things or degrade ourselves to serve our addiction. The woman who smokes while she is pregnant. The husband hooked on internet pornography. The meth addict and the crackhead wrecking their lives for their drug, and the gambler who loses it all. The pathological liar thrilled by the power to cast off truth or soothed by the escape from scrutiny. The bureaucrat who trashes lives for the thrill of power and of wreaking vengeance on challengers. Yes, the white supremacist dropping everything else to teach the nigger his place. This is the dark lust that we indulge when we sell the truth to ride the wave of the crowd's approval and support. And whether it's an addicted mother abandoning her children or the American empire torturing people and trashing whole cities in Iraq, addiction leads to degrading behavior - obvious at least to other people.

Like all other addicts, we underestimate the power of the passion to conform, especially when we think we're too good to be like those other people. Like a dry drunk who quits drinking without addressing his real issues, we'll just find another way to indulge. We can give ourselves to some cultish religous group, kidding ourselves that we stand against the wrongness of the world while getting our conformity fix from our chosen in-group. And each of us at least to some degree becomes his own one-man cult.

"I hate flattery," he declares, and basks in the admiration of his hearers.

The answer to conformity is not individualism. As Viktor Frankl tells us in "The Search for Meaning," the first to crumble in the Nazi camps were the unattached individuals.

John the apostle gives us his answer: "Demetrius has received a testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself" (3 John 12). We may not get everyone's approval, but everyone should be compelled by the truth to give us their testimony, as truth itself should testify of us.

The verse reads more literally "the truth herself." Truth is not really an it, an abstraction. Truth in biblical thought, and in reality, is a loving mom and sister, as we read in Proverbs 1-9. In truth is the real answer to the isolation we try to escape by prostituting ourselves to others at the expense of truth. We're not alone at all, even when all forsake us.

And when I get that straight, I can even learn to stop prostituting myself to my most seductive and insistent john - myself. As Jesus put it, "He who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for my sake shall find it."

Yes, in God's truth we can even be delivered from our addiction to ourselves and our own desires! God and the truth are better companions than myself, so I can learn to leave myself behind when a choice must be made. You too.

Listening to others is not conformity. I was reading The Challenger Launch Decision this morning because my former wife lent it to me and told me I should read it - and she was right, as other people often are.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Kids rescued, and welcome to a new reader!

We all went to court Wednesday April 12, and using her own words against her, the judge denied Delores Simpson-Taylor of Los Angeles Dept. of Children and Family Services her desire to keep the kids anywhere but where she herself has written is best for them!

The court further ordered that I am to have no contact with the kids.

Here's what's cool: the County Social Worker found this blog and brought its entries and some of my other internet writings into court to show how dangerous I am to young children!

I realize that as in the "Get healed!" "Next month!" story I told earlier, this account needs some background to make more sense.

Delores, this is to extend a warm and completely sincere welcome to you, my new reader. I know you're here like the Pharisees pursuing Jesus or the satraps trying to find fault with Daniel so as "to give me into the power of the governor," as the gospel puts it, trying to strike at the kids and their family by vilifying me, because that's just what you did in court. And your newly expressed interest in my own kids and their ages does not seem born of an upsurge of concern for their welfare!

But you're doing all this to me, who will suffer no harm from it and will even be blessed, instead of to these kids, who cannot endure it and whom the judge delivered from your mouth. To suffer such minor inconvenience for their sakes is a high honor, which I acknowledge is better than I deserve. It was precisely my choice going into this, so it sure wouldn't make sense to complain about it!

In treating me like Jesus and my other great fathers, you honor me far above my station. I fear that such flattery might puff me up and ruin me - Lord save me!

Well, you're here and reading carefully, and that's where I want you for your own sake. David rightly said that he was facing Goliath to cause "all this assembly to know" that the Lord does not save by sword or spear, and "all this assembly" included the Philistines who were there to fight Israel. Did David know then that hundreds of those Philistines would become his most loyal followers, and well acquainted the God of Israel? Did Nebuchadnezzar know that Daniel and his friends, whom he brought into exile, would make the true God known to him as they did? Did the Syrians who captured that little girl from Israel know that Na'aman would get his leprosy healed in consequence? Did Saul, as he pursued the disciples of Jesus, know that he was about to become one?

Who knows - you who came here for your own reasons may take away something else, like all of these. If possible, may it be life above what we could ask or think, as it was for them!