You Are Here:
The Star on the Map of the Mall of Discontent and Contempt
January 1, 2013
Here’s The Thing: A concept of conceptual conception of conceptualization in the mind of God and now shared with you. (Read: Red Pill / Close: Blue Pill)
We humans endure our brief existence down in the valley of the shadow of death. As Bob Dylan said, “Those not busy being born are busy dying.” Jim Morrison said, “No one here gets out alive.” These are the prophets of pop culture, but they make an astute observation. Wouldn’t you say?
I am wondering… Why? Why are these guys prophets at all, and what is their message – exactly? Is it even important? Does the message achieve anything worthwhile? If we are in fact all gonna die, then what are the important things in life that I should know or do? This book is about getting to the root of such questions and providing answers. Or even maybe an answer. Or (dare we say?) the answer.
Not that you were asking or cared. Not that I would expect you to consider them seriously. Not that you would expect (much less trust) that you would find an answer in a book like this. Not that I am a worthwhile guide or prophet or answer-giver. Not that you would give a sh_t!
Who are you? Who am I?
We will get to that. But I figure I need to write something soon that grips your attention, or else you will not read any further. But I do not really expect you to read this at all – much less any further. Why would you read this booklet if you don’t give a sh_t?
Here’s the thing: You have too much contempt in your heart to read me. In fact you have too much contempt in your heart to really consider the questions this book attempts to answer. You have too much contempt in your heart to live forever – and at root, that all has a lot to do with why you are going to die.
Yes. I said you will die.
Go check out Daxx Riggs, another prophet of pop culture who swims in poetic death. He romances his own future rot and decay, but probably you never heard of him. And that is probably a good thing. Sorry I tipped you off to him.
You will die, and the life you now have will end sooner than you can imagine. Your contempt is your heart disease; your contempt is your cancer. Your contempt kills you a little more each day. Your hopes and dreams (even if they achieve some measure of fulfillment) will struggle under the cloud of death and eventually succumb to it. But most of the dreams of most people will never really see the light of day. Most people do not have the luxury of the American illusion… A-hem… american dream.
This raises an interesting question: What makes you think you are the exception?
You do. You know? You think you are the exception.
Ever buy a lottery ticket? Only because you were sold on the lie that you would be the exception. The glory of the l …o …n …g shot would be all you, baby!
Oh, and by the way, all those hopes and dreams of all those people that will never see the light of day anyway… well… your contempt is the murder of all of that too. Just think of all the late-night, feed-the-hungry infomercials in which you gawk at all those starving children of the indigenous peoples of …where-ever. When you wondered, “What dinette set completes me as a person,” and you bought one manufactured in a Chinese sweat shop by child-slaves whose names you will never know, and whose faces you will never see, your contempt ran loose in the ether. Now tell me you have nothing to do with the murder of their dreams!
Okay. So, I have your attention now. But you are offended. I guess I have some explaining to do. But I am not done offending you yet. You self-righteous, arrogant thug. You self-absorbed, sucker for every novelty and gimmick. You American consumer. You should be ashamed of yourself, but you’re not. But I will spend the next several pages outlining why, if you care to find out. If you dare….
Today (the day of the original draft of this booklet) is January 1st, 2013, and already I find myself standing in a line waiting for the bank to open in the Wal-Mart at 9:45 in the morning. This is New Year’s Day! I should have been sleeping off a hangover just now, but instead I am at the bank. This would have been unthinkable twenty-five years ago. Twenty-five years ago, the Wal-Mart wouldn’t have been open at this hour (certainly not on this day), or if it was, it would have been quite remarkable.
And as I stand there, I feel my own pants fitting tight on my thighs and waist. Three out of four people around me exhibited signs of being overweight or outright obesity.
What’s going on here???
We are a culture of consumers. We just came through the biggest consumption season of the year! Our budgets are strapped. Our garages and attics are jammed. Our clothes are bursting at the seams!
The season for weight loss begins today! And clubs, gyms, and services are lining up to sell us more crap and more promises to help us manage all the crap we consume!
And there it is: “Sell.” The little four-letter word that captures it all….
They are going to sell us more crap. Crap that lubes the crap we already got. And we can even get special financing options! It never dawns on those of us living the american dream that we already have ENOUGH! It never dawns on us K-mart shoppers that we have enough!
And there is that other little word: “Enough.” The little word that should capture it all but….
Here’s the thing: In this culture, the word “enough” is the only truly dirty word. I can say Sh_t, D_mn, G_d D_mn, F_ck, and Mother PHucker and hardly raise an eyebrow. But the minute I say “enough,” you are going to tune me out.
How many readers did I just lose with that last statement?
Why do I waste my time on you?
Even I was in that line at the bank this morning. Why? Why was I there??? Because I need to consume my way out of a little problem I got. After all, I am not all that different from you.
You see, I live in a blended family. Why blended? Because like ass-cheeks my home got split, and it would not hold me any more. Like a turd, I fell out the crack. Then I met a nice lady who, like me, fell out of the crack in her home. And well… we were young, lonely, and homeless. So we patched together our broken lives.
Now I live in a home that is patched together over the ass cracks. But inside that home are the gastro-intestinal rumblings – the aches, pains, scars, and disappointments of two previous broken homes. I cannot exhaustively tell all the hundreds of ways that works out. But here are a few:
Kids have a right to expect to be loved and raised in a loving home by the two people who thought f_cking each other was going to be a worthwhile enterprise! In fact, Edward Jones Investments has got nothing to say to the incredible importance that goes with the investment of where a man puts his penis! They only deal in money – finances.
But there is no greater investment – not even financially – than where a man puts his penis!!! This is where little people come from! This is your living legacy. This is the building block material of a home. But there is so much more – even more important things to say about that that you are not ready for yet. But I will say this:
These kids characterize the future of human life on planet earth! They have a right to be loved. They have a right to expect that their parents will invest their love in each other and in them. When their dad leaves their home to go f_ck some tramp, he violates these kids’ rights at a most fundamental level.
Here’s the thing: Our culture does not honor the rights of those kids; it honors the consumptive appetite of their daddy’s penis instead. If your dad wants a tramp to f_ck, then he is absolutely free to go f_ck one all he wants… oh… as long as he sends a check home to mom (child support it’s called).
Well, it would seem that money plays a part in “child support” alright. But who are we kidding? You can’t throw money at a baby crib and expect the child to grow up and become a healthy, stable, independent adult – capable of achieving hopes and dreams? No!
Here’s the thing: We’ve got a culture – a system – that shoves that sh_t down our throats every day, and we swallow it with no questions asked! Why?
I will get to that in a minute. First let’s get back to me in that line at the bank. I was there to consume my way out of a problem. Remember?
So, anyway, I live in this broken home, (blended family) with a wife who loves me and step kids who also love me. But I am not their dad. I am not the one tasked with the responsibility of raising or supporting them.
Though my presence is accepted in the family, I live intimately close to people who did not want me and do not have to listen to me and whose rights were violated when their dad went away – a fact compounded by my presence in his place.
These kids are wonderful people. But they do not behave the way I would want if they were mine. They do not take direction from me. This is not the home they have a right to; it is not a home I would have built. We have some pretty good people jammed together in a house – coexisting. But that does not make it a home. And from time to time, it is actually rather frustrating.
I would really like to bring order to my own home. I would like to shape it in a certain kind of way, but I cannot. There is disappointment and scars there inhibiting what I can do. And in the most recent case, that manifest itself in a struggle to go to sleep at night.
Here’s the thing: I am a working man. I don’t make much money, but what I do make largely goes toward the kids. My boss expects me to be on time and ready to work in the morning. (For the sake of brevity, I will not tell about the homeless man we decided to host in our house. But his presence did mitigate the recent struggle.) At the same time, the kids are out of school for the holidays, and they are old enough to want to party late at night.
Hey, I was young once; I get it.
I am sure you can see where this is going now. The kids stay up making noise while I try to rest for work. I tried to be reasonable, but it didn’t work. Then I blew my stack, and I hurt some feelings. In the end, neither rest nor party was achieved. Those hopes and dreams just died. The kids were unreasonable, which was contempt for my need to sleep, and then I blew up in a rage and said a whole bunch of mean and hateful things which was my contempt for their idea of fun.
Now, it is two days later, and their mother is at work. I am off, and now it is just me and the kids left in a filthy house. Feelings are a bit raw still. At least mine are.
Good recipe? I’m going to say, “No.”
Here’s the thing: My home hurts today, and so I need to get out of it for a while and let the air clear. But where do I go? What do I do? I spend some money on coffee and sit in the coffee shop to write and kill time. ( Kill time. What an ominous expression?)
Here’s the thing: The coffee shop provides a nifty ambiance. Strangers come and go all around me. They appear happy. The staff serves them; they eat; they read; they socialize and talk politics and all that. Meanwhile, the coffee shop sells us the ambiance – the atmosphere. It is a service provided to those who have the money to pay.
And, well, I had to run by the bank in order to obtain the money to purchase this social band-aid. But…
Here’s the thing: Twenty-five years ago the bank did not open on January 1st, and you probably wouldn’t find a Wal-Mart open either. No. People would opt to be at home for New Year’s in those days rather than out consuming crap they don’t need.
I am not saying that there was no desire in those days; I am saying there was no option. I do not doubt for a minute that there was at least some desire then, but I will say that by opening the option, the desire has grown.
So, let’s take a step back and soak in this picture again. Only this time, let us look at the forest rather than just a few trees.
Here’s the thing: My story is highly representative in this culture. I painted myself in a pretty good light and painted the kids’ dad in a pretty dim light, but it is all accurate enough. And besides, it makes me more identifiable to you, my precious few readers.
(Yes, I have sins to confess, but this is not the point at which to do that just yet. Right now, I need you to say, “I get where you are coming from. I know the bastard you speak of” (or even) “I am that bastard!”)
So drop my story in that line at the bank on New Year’s Day 2013 in Lubbock, Texas and think: That is a line of people there! What compels them to be in that place at that time?
I bet each individual story is different to a significant degree. But the similarities are more than a little coincidental too. All of us found some compelling reason to leave home on a major holiday at the end of the biggest consumer season of the year to stand in line with other overweight people so that we could purchase more goods-n-services in Wal-Mart or around town. The timing is suspicious.
Here’s the thing: We should be satisfied as a culture at exactly this moment of all moments! If we, as a culture, cannot be satisfied with enough right now, then we can never be satisfied!
– and –
Here’s the thing: Broken homes are a dime a dozen in this culture. So, all those reasons I gave for being in that line stand a really good chance of resonating deeply with the reasons the other people were in that line.
Here’s the thing: Home is sacred! At least, it is supposed to be sacred.
Home is the reason why we have a homeland security! Home is the reason you get up and leave home to go to work every day. Home is the reason “our boys” fought the battle of the bulge or dropped the bomb on Japan! Home is the foundation upon which you build your life!
But if you look behind the veil, you quickly see our culture is actually homeless! Our homes are carved out pumpkin shells, stuffed with cabbage patch dolls, baseball cards, and iPhones – and exercise equipment that manages not to make us more physically fit.
In the meantime, my presence in that bank line registers on a tally sheet at Wal-Mart and bank headquarters as a signal that there is a growing consumer demand for goods-n-services outside the home at just the point where I should be most satisfied with enough.
Therefore, headquarters issues a policy to open the Wal-Mart and the bank earlier and more often so that they can make even more money. Of course this means they need to staff the Wal-Mart and the bank with people.
Now, politically speaking, this has the advantage of sounding positive for the job market and for the market economy. More people with more money to spend translates into more people going to work to fill the need.
Here’s the thing: The employees who staff those policy changes are then required to leave their homes (on the holiday they might otherwise have expected to have off) for the sake of their jobs (which they go to for the sake of their homes) so that they can offer more goods-n-services to an already glutted public.
All the while, around the globe in other cultures, there are people starving to death or working in sweat shops or even as sex slaves all at the neglect of those of us who have enough already or even in service to those of us who have too much. And amazingly, we think we need more! THERE IS NEVER ENOUGH!!!
Here’s the thing: Our consumption, for consumption’s sake, is breeding discontentment and contempt and those things are killing our homes and our reason to be!
The truth is – you would rather play a video game or just watch pavement harden than read what I write. Believe me! I know this. I am the unread writer!
But Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison are pop culture prophets you will read (or listen to), and that is no bad thing, in and of itself. However, they only tell you half the truth – just enough to get you to take your ease with your disease. As Pink Floyd termed it: Comfortably Numb.
Here’s the thing: You were meant for more than this. Far more. But if I tell you “Jesus is the answer” not only do I sell him short, but you cannot hear me over the noise of your raging contempt.
We live in a world where we will spend more money on a home security system for a home we will betray at the drop of a pair of polka-dot panties, where we will send our kids to distant lands to fight “terrorism” (or who-ever) in the name of defending our nation and home and will watch them die for the cause… …all when the cause amounts to standing in line waiting for the bank to open on New Year’s Day so we can drink coffee away from the home we can’t stand to be in but will sacrifice a kid for?
IS THAT IT???
And I know you truth defenders are really feeling the contempt with me right about now! Oh yeah! This guy is a f_cking liberal!
Oh… I get it…
Believe it or not, I once registered Republican and used to eagerly listen to Rush Limbaugh’s radio program each day. I voted accordingly, I might add. But, there is no point writing for you from here on. I am sure you are not reading this now…. In fact this is the exit ramp for that brand of contempt. Get out of my book now. It’s not that you are unwanted, it’s that my words are too much for your contempt to bear from here on, and there is no point in your continued participation. Take the blue pill and disappear. …Bye!
Whew! Good riddance! Glad they are gone now,,,
(You are gone now …right???)
Here’s the thing: You are meant for more than all that. Jesus is not one more commodity that I can sell you. He is not the missing link of your life either. He is not an ornament on your tee shirt or car bumper. You cannot decorate your coffee table or your life with him. No. That is all contempt for your master, and it will not do.
Here’s the thing: You were meant to walk on water. Mountains long to bow down, valleys long to stand up at attention, and crooked places long to straighten out at the presence of you (Isaiah 40:3-5), if only you fill your heart and home with God the creator and father and not more goods-n-services that you cram in your garage or your pie-hole.
The cost is EVERYTHING. You cannot afford to pass up this deal, though – but it is not a sale.
World Ordering Creatures
Here’s the thing: We are, by nature, world-ordering creatures. This quickly translates into builders building. We build either homes or towers. And in Genesis chapter 11, you will find a strange little story hot on the heels of the “flood story” all about the people of earth (God’s creation) going out on the Plains of Shinar to build a tower in an effort (as they say) to “make a name for ourselves lest we be scattered abroad” (Gen. 11:4).
Yeah. The people fear the chaos of death if they scatter abroad, and so they set out to build a tower out of “bricks” they would form in an effort to unify and thus make a name for themselves. The problem was, in so doing, they turned their back on God. A name for yourself is deeply antithetical to honoring God who created you. But that is how tower building works.
What does the Tower of Babel have to do with anything?
I grew up in an American, Christian home – white, middle-class, and all that. I was taught from an early age that this story explains why the French speak French, the Germans speak German, the Mexicans speak Spanish, and the Americans speak English. For us, the story functioned only to explain origins of all the different languages in the world today. It was a mystery why God judged the people for building the tower in the first place. I mean, it’s not like one of the Ten Commandments is “THOU SHALT NOT BUILD BRICK TOWERS” or something. And subsequently it was a mystery why the different languages were the method of choice for judging the supposed sin there. I mean, if God wants to make it so that hot looking Italian women carry on in sexy gibberish I can’t understand, that just makes them more hot, right?
No one ever seemed to notice this inconsistency.
But mostly the story did not hold much meaning, it seemed. Not really. Besides, it was just one or two chapters in the book we mostly used to argue against Evolution. We didn’t know what else to do with the book – not really – except that it explained a few trivial mysteries and claimed a sovereign Creator God over against the Theory of Evolution. And as good little American protestants (Baptists or Church of Christ especially) it did not really matter if some of this stuff remained a mystery as long as we were clear about how the Evolutionists were wrong and going to burn in HELL!
Well, I have no desire to champion the Theory of Evolution. It takes more blind faith to accept that explanation of universal origins than the Bible claims require, but at least it attempts to be reasonable. This is exactly what we “Christian” types seemed we did not want! Wow! The contempt on all sides is astounding!
So the story, along with the book in which it is found, held (and still holds) practically no power for our lives. Sad! It is the very word of God, but his creatures find no life in it – merely trivia. I bet you, my precious few readers, still don’t know the power of that story to unlock the mysteries of creation. Allow me to unveil the apocalypse!
Here’s the thing: We must ask: What does the Tower of Babel have to do with anything? As I set out to offer an answer to that question, I raise a number of related issues that tend to cloud a proper answer. First off I note that the story is normally used to explain the differences in languages around the world (which is important for answering other related questions, but not the one we are dealing with here). Secondly, I note that we modern believers typically have an anxious need to use the book of Genesis in which the story is found to argue about Evolution, which also has value, but not for our present discussion (and in fact far less value than it would seem to your average Baptist). And thirdly, I note that to lift the curtain of clouds shrouding our issue will have direct impact on our modern world-order in detrimental ways. But I also need to say that our contempt is what stops us from lifting that veil of apocalypse.
Here’s the thing: As builders building (which is not the sum total of our being, but a vital and central part to be sure), we either build homes or we build towers. In the Bible, towers are built using bricks for the purpose of honoring their creator(s) and that translates (with intimate immediacy) into EMPIRE. Basically, I am saying that the tower of Genesis 11 is metaphorical and represents, symbolically, world EMPIRE. I do not dispute that there was a real physical structure made of real physical bricks for one moment. I believe there was. But I believe that at the same time, that tower is a forerunner of EMPIREs to come – including Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, European, and American (and beyond that to global/financial markets).
Watch how the Bible subtly translates that tower into a metaphor of competing world orders. Genesis 11 is the first place we hear of “bricks” in the unfolding story of the Bible. The next time we hear the word “bricks” in this tale, it shows up in Exodus, where God’s people are forced into slavery as brick makers at the bidding of Pharaoh, who builds an EMPIRE to make a name for himself in God’s creation.
Here’s the thing: You can’t continue making bricks, building towers and EMPIREs and making a name for yourself in God’s good creation indefinitely. The land will vomit you out! (Lev. 18:23).
It just won’t work. Judgment falls on that ideal.
But… here is what does work:
You can (and should) build a house (think wise man vs. fool) on the ROCK (Matt. 7) and that house is your home – The House of God! It honors his name.
However, the cost is turning toward your own vulnerability. And for the people of Genesis 11, that was a fear of the chaos of being scattered abroad.
Here’s the thing: We Americans live in an EMPIRE of our own making. The forefathers of our nation gave the Creator lip service, but they did not give him heart service. This was a deeply schizophrenic move on their part.
You see, the forefathers were themselves children of The Enlightenment – an age of human history marked by its attempt to be reasonable. And among the problems The Enlightenment tried to address was the fighting and wars between nations, especially those that seemed to be driven by religious disagreements. When France and Germany fought each other (or the Spanish as often as not) it would be based on some religious cause. In the Dark Ages and Middle Ages the “Christian” knights would go fight the Muslims for control of the Holy Lands. But it was even more ironic when “Christians” would kill “Christians”
– IN THE NAME OF GOD!
Well, apparently that was some kind of attempt to “make a name” for God, but it certainly did not embrace vulnerability and humility. That is all about image-bearing, and that also is about world-order. (But that is a point to be developed later.)
At the moment we merely note that in the name of God (or religion) some devotees set out killing other devotees with contempt for human life over “religious” issues, and after The Enlightenment (The Age of Reason) it seemed that such fighting should stop – which I agree with completely!
However, the remedy that the forefathers turned to was a constitution that cut God out of the power business and relegated him to the sidelines. God, and matters of faith, became the stuff of personal piety and devotion. God would no longer command armies that would conquer the chaos. Rather, he would just be a passive object of your private, personal belief (and in the final analysis a matter of public contempt).
The fact that so many people had belief of him so deeply ingrained into their psyches, and into the social fabric, explains why churches persisted and held influence for generations to come. It took nearly 200 years for the culture at large to realize that the customs, mores, and morals of the church(es) no longer had authority over them!
Matters of God had been relegated to the margins of private piety in the name of freedom. The United States Constitution expressly marginalized God, and over the course of 200 years the culture began to realize we are building an EMPIRE that does not make a name for him. I am now making the case that we, as a nation and culture, are essentially repeating the sin of Genesis 11.
In the name of freedom, we are free to reinvent ourselves all we want. And the blood that pumps through the veins of this Frankenstein monster is consumer-driven, market-capitalism.
Here’s the thing: As we move out of The Age of Enlightenment and into The Age of Consumption, we no longer follow Renee Descart who said, “I think, therefore I am,” instead we think “I consume, therefore I am.” Or, better yet, “Ride to live, live to ride!” Or yet again, “Shop ‘til you drop!” Or – heaven help us – “I shop, therefore I am.”
Our whole human existence, it seems, holds its breath for that moment when the consumer makes a choice, and thus a purchase! It is almost orgasmic in its rush! Think of it. We’ve got starving children in Africa, but we actually spend money on “the new car smell”???
And not that our efforts at EMPIRE have stayed the chaos for a moment. For in my culture we now argue tooth-n-nail over “the size of government” as if that had anything to do with anything?
The liberals in this country are not running around complaining that our government is too small. That is a myth put forth by the conservatives. No. Here’s the thing: The conservatives want government out of their way so that they can run God’s creation the way they want. They may coincidentally give God lip service, but they really want to run the world they way that empowers them.
The liberals view government as the means of holding power in the hands of the poor. (This is simplistic to be sure, for some are quite rich, but have a Robin Hood complex. But they view the government as the equalizing force that runs the world in the name of the poor. (I see great nobility in that, but as often as not it actually is quite godless.))
In either option, we stake a claim to power and make a name for ourselves as a means to ward off the chaos. Either way this system expresses contempt for those of the other option – liberal or conservative. And thus, ultimately, either way it shows contempt for God.
Here’s the thing: Both views find their roots in that constitution that marginalizes God. Both seek to build towers, EMPIRE, and names. Neither builds the House of God. Neither makes a suitable home for God in his own creation or a home we could be at home in. Instead chaos comes in the back door like a judgment of God confusing the languages and making us all not understand each other.
Bearing THE image as a means of ordering the world
We are not, actually, first and foremost builders. However, we are world-ordering creatures through and through. Though that remains fundamental to us, we are first and foremost Image Bearers (Gen. 1:26-27). (I told we would get to this.) And image-bearing is a world-ordering mandate that requires humility, vulnerability, trust, love, and hope. These are all the things contempt has contempt for, and which will cause you to die. For you cannot live without these things, and the short life you do have is a testimony to the thin bits of these things that persist in our broken world by the grace of God despite our contempt.
The first task given by God to the humans is to cultivate. From that concept we also get the idea of building culture. But primary to it is the idea of tending the garden. We sow and reap. From that process a culture blossoms. Sociologists call it horticulture or agriculture.
The EMPIRE (tower) the Americans built rests on The Enlightenment foundations, but it has grown over the centuries. It is no longer simply the nation known as The United States with its post-colonial vassals.
The very idea of culture has now evolved to encompass almost the whole globe, with the West and its free markets as the EMPIRE – the tower. The U. S. government answers to the global market economy now ever bit as much as it ever did to “We the People.” And it continues to ignore the God of creation while it favors more and more pagan gods in its effort to secure its future in the market economies.
In fact, we might say that the “special interests” and lobbyists basically have the U. S. government in their pocket. My congressman and president don’t know my name and don’t really care what I think; but they do know the heads of Goldman Sachs, GM, Ford, Coca-Cola, Bank of America, Chase, CitiBank, Kraft Foods, Exxon, Texaco, MicroSoft, Apple, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Prudential, State Farm, and about thirty or forty other giants of industry. The government officials know them by name and care what they want.
So, we can see that the U. S. is in a prize position, but is not actually the tower itself. And anyway, China and India are hot on our heels in the chase for real power. At this moment, our nation shares more and more of that power as a means of gaining more power. None – not one – of these entities operates in the name of God.
But the human creature was first of all commissioned to cultivate – to sow and reap – and thus grow a culture. This suggests a measure of humility. And later, when we became tasked with building, it was not a tower we were meant to build, but a house – the House of God. The house in the garden is the only home we ever know, but most of us never know it at all.
It’s actually criminal.
There is a lot of mystery surrounding how and why the creature is pictured partly as a farmer and partly as a builder, but the Bible poetically weaves both images almost interchangeably (for instance see I Cor. 3:9). But this I know: The sower sows in tears and reaps in joy (Ps. 126: 5-6), and builders of EMPIRE build with bricks using slaves but builders of God’s House build with stones and sons.
Sowing in tears implies vulnerability and humility in a context of hope, and so it is when building with sons. And isn’t that a round-about characterization of Jesus’ life? Does he not sow in tears and reap in joy? Look at Mark chapter 4 where he preaches the parable of the sower and at least three quarters of his crop fails, but that little bit that grows in the good soil produces thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold!
Look next at Ephesians 2: 19-22, where St Paul says, “We are being built up into the temple of the Lord (House of God), and Jesus is the cornerstone.
All this is found in the life and work of the man whose mission was all about dying in your place. In so doing, Jesus takes his place as King of the Jews – in fact as King of kings and Lord of lords (see 1st Tim. 6:15).
Here’s the thing: If you want to really be great in God’s creation, you do like Jesus and humble yourself (Phil. 2:5-11), rather than making a name for yourself (or your nation). And see what God does with the name of Jesus because of how Jesus humbles himself? (Phil. 2:10)!
I am saying that God made this world and this is how real life works in it. All the propaganda of EMPIRE you grew up with is an out right lie! It is from the Devil! It is a grievous lie that every EMPIRE and nation falls for including the Jews.
Here’s the thing: And this makes perfect logical sense that no one wants to consider. If every person in creation sets out to be the greatest of all the others, then there will be a fight for the title, and most (if not all) will lose. If, on the other hand, every person in creation sets out to serve all the others – humbling themselves to serve (in the process), then everyone gains the title together (not only without a fight, but ) AS A GIFT! Let’s call this “The Logic Statement That Contempt Hides.” (Remember this name for it; it will come up again.)
Settle down now… I know what you are thinking. I know you want to say, “Of course that makes logical sense, BUT…”
You want to say “BUT!”
But I say “NO!” to your BUT. Sit with the blessed thought a minute! I know there is a “But” coming, but no one ever sits right there for even a minute! Look again. This is that narrow gate that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14). Do you ever wonder why so many take the wrong gate and so few take the right one? It is because they don’t like where it seems to lead. And it seems to lead to vulnerable humiliation. But the “many,” in Jesus’ observation, who take the wide gate to destruction have contempt for the narrow gate that leads to life. This is your wake up call, ya’ll!
Yes. Sit with the thought of every person in creation harmonizing with all the others! Humility and vulnerability are the only way to that destination! Plenty of people give Jesus lip service, but at just that point they refuse to give him heart service. But the world that awaits people who live this kind of self-sacrificial love for each other will burst forth with life and peace and blessing that far exceeds any blessing of any nation, tower, or EMPIRE at anytime in all of human history!
That is the life and the home you were made for, and which this book is meant to reveal to you. But you have too much contempt for it, and so you turn your back on the creator who holds it out to you!
BUT – you are not ready to hear about that yet because you are hung up on that “BUT” four paragraphs back when I opened the narrow gate for you to take a glimpse. Therefore, we will drop the veil back over the window and chase your pathetic little bunny trail and indulge your sad need to try to be smarter than God.
Here’s the thing: All that peace and harmony and blessing amid vulnerable humility and self-sacrifice, though totally logical, is practically impossible! You just can’t get everybody on the same page at the same time. If you could, it might be worth a shot, but there just is no way it is ever going to happen! It’s a nice perfectly logical idea BUT it will never work! (There… there is that “but” you were feeling deprived of… you contemptuous fool!)
If you are really going to camp out on that rebuttal, then do me a favor and open your Bible to Matthew 19:26 and tear that page out! You just called God a liar! Do not tempt me to call you out as an unbeliever!
Here’s the thing: My point is that God, The Creator of all creation and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ likes to call us to faith in him to do the impossible! It is a key trait of his character and his modus operandi. Of course, there is just no getting used to it! But there it is. I suffer the lack of faith too – quite regularly myself!
YOU ARE HERE
Okay, it would probably be a good idea to sum up where we are at this moment. I began by describing this book as a concept of conceptualization. I am a showing you something, like an apocalypse. I am making a map of the world in spiritual terms and then demonstrating where you are in it. I do this by quoting a couple of modern-day, pop-culture prophets and asking some deep questions for you to consider.
Then I make an accusation that you are too full of contempt to read or care about the questions and their answer. This should provoke you to read more – baiting you to argue against me. (I bet you took the bait – sucker!) You are on my hook right now! Your only option now is to close the book and pretend you didn’t get hooked – or to keep going with me and discover more!
(Now is not the time to get paranoid. I will not hurt you. How can I? I am not there with you. I hold no gun to your head. But if you will begin to trust in the One to whom I point you, then you will find liberation. I promise.)
I also began telling about a personal experience I had – and how it both represented and interacted with others in my culture. I was in a line at the bank among several others doing the same. I described the forces that pushed and pulled me there and raised questions and took issue with all that.
Under the thin veneer, and seething just beneath the surface, I exposed the ugliness of this modern life in my culture and raised more questions.
I posed Jesus as the answer to it all and chose to pluck the strings of the Bible (if it were a musical instrument) that play the sower/reaper and builder/carpenter songs. Then we took a little hop-scotch tour through a fair bit of the Bible.
I then came to a point where we took these observations and worked through them logically – like a philosopher might. I made a huge assertion with “The Logic Statement That contempt Hides” that is undeniable and then discussed how despite its perfect logic, how utterly impossible the assertion is (due to the contempt of some if not all of the human race). But then we cannot count out God – with whom ALL THINGS ARE in fact POSSIBLE!
So, there we are. That pretty much sums up where we are now.
If you walked into a shopping mall, somewhere near the entrance you would find a map of the entire place with a bright start on it and a message stating: “You are here.”
In a sense that is what this summary does for this book. It says, “You are here” in the discussion. But there is a richer sense in which this whole book is about doing that kind of exercise with regard to your life in the culture around you and as it relates to the Rule of God. This whole book paints a picture of the creation in spiritual terms and says, “YOU ARE HERE.”
The idea is that you then have your bearings and can turn to God. Now that you know where you are in the Mall of Discontent and Contempt, you should be able to find the exit where the Short Bus to Eternal Life is waiting to pick you up and take you for the ride of your life.
Here’s the thing: You – you allegiance-pledging follower of imperial propaganda – you must relinquish exactly the things you find most sacred. That is a tall order! I know. But what do you think turning from idols is all about?
Two of the questions I asked early on were: “Who are you?” and “Who am I?” It is time to deal with those questions now and answer them.
I have no way of knowing who you are personally. I might be dead one hundred years by the time you read this. But it is most likely that no one will ever read it. There is just too much contempt in the world for me as a person and as a writer to expect any readers. However, it is likely, a little bit, that anyone who does is a friend of mine that I gave it to – but here at the time when I write it, I do not know who that would be.
But with those kinds of things out of the way, I can make a few assertions about you that should prove insightful. The closer I am to getting this right, the more powerful my witness – it would seem. The more wrong I am at this point, the weaker my witness. (But don’t count me out entirely based on this alone – for it could be that God put this book in your hands despite my limitations.)
Okay. If you are reading this, then you must have a fairly good command of the English language. Coupled with the fact that this is hand written (in the original draft), and as yet unpublished suggests that we are close to each other geographically. Basically, you are part of my culture and not far removed from my circle of friends.
That alone is enough for me to make a number of confident assertions that will target your soul in tender places that might shock you – or would most people in this culture. But I image my reader as male more often than female. I also expect that if you are reading this far, you must have a lot of time on your hands and like to think about deep things. The picture that paints looks a lot like incarceration to me.
I also figure, if you are really still reading, that you either don’t understand some of the references to conservative politics and things like cabbage patch dolls – suggesting you are very young or perhaps you are of the liberal persuasion.
(Let me say something to that briefly: I am no liberal. Plenty of deaf and demonic conservatives will attempt to write me off as liberal, but stick around and find out that I will offend liberals as well – just not as hastily.)
Additionally, I figure that my foul language in earlier pages would offend traditional types (think older people usually) and a lot of women – at least those with sensitive social graces (of course maybe I am just old-fashioned in thinking that, and more conservative than I let on).
All these observations leave me whittling down the pool of potential readers to some odd people in strange situations – mostly loners and social rejects. Again, the incarcerated quickly come to mind. But I am particularly interested in mentally ill readers. I sense rather strongly that my words would appeal to those with various forms of schizophrenia and/or personality disorders. If that sounds familiar, this book is for you. However, I do not wish to exclude anyone. All are welcome, but few will stay.
Here’s the thing: All my readers are without a doubt ripe for REVOLUTION! And that is the key thing that draws us together. You know in your bones that you are not crazy. – Well, maybe that is misstating the matter, but only slightly. You might really suffer with schizophrenia or depression or some strange personality disorder that may be well documented. You may even lose sight of reality from time to time at some organic level. I suspect some of my potential readers know that stuff better than I do.
Here’s the thing: Even if any part or all of that stuff fits your case, you know two key things that impact it and change the observation significantly. 1) The world around you makes that judgment of you based on the rules it decides. 2) The world around you is INSANE!
So, even if you are crazy at some level, so is the world you try to navigate. For you to accept that label from the world is like the pot calling the kettle black; it maybe true, but look who’s talking!
And, really, that fact holds for us all – AND – calls into question what “success” is. I mean, if a guy can make a lot of money, have a lot of power, influence a lot of people and find (what appears to be) happiness in a world gone crazy – then he must have mastered being crazy – huh?
Yeah, I’m gonna get into that more as we go. The world around us is nuts, and we are commissioned to a cause that resists its pull on us. But we need to acknowledge that as often as not, we are complicit with its crazy ways. And this really must change.
You know in your bones that you don’t fit, you think and hope that you should not (but sometimes you find a happy opening and try to anyway).
Here’s the thing: I am writing to help you figure all that out and to help you find THE WAY!
But then there is the question: “Who am I?”
I need to share a few things about myself that go beyond my story of standing in line at the bank in Wal-Mart on New Year’s Day. I am a prophet of God who like you realizes that this ain’t the way it’s supposed to be. What’s funny is that I remember the first time the notion really hit to me. I was about twenty or twenty-one years old. I had felt it in my bones but never really got a handle on it. And one day my boss laid it all out for me.
This is a little ironic, though, because my boss was no Christian, and though I was born and raised to be one, I too had left the faith at that time. The boss man was actually a drunk, and he did not lead me to Jesus, but he did make a lot of clarity happen for me all at once.
My drunk boss got to philosophizing one day in the shop with a customer and me. He looked out the window at his truck parked out on the street and said, “Nobody even sees it anymore, but I should not have to lock up that truck every time I park it and walk away. I should be able to leave the keys right in it. Hell! I should not oughta need keys to start it at all!”
“People,” he went on to say, “are supposed to leave it alone. They don’t have to know its mine; they already know it’s not theirs! I am supposed to be able to trust that everyone knows that and will honor it!”
He made an eye-opening case. Most of us are honest and forthright and will not bother his truck, but a few will! And that ruins the happy vibe we otherwise could’ve had. Bummer dude!
What if the world worked that way? I wouldn’t need locks at my house either.
Think of it! If five people steal milk and bread from the grocery store, then that’s five loaves and jugs that the store loses money on. The store cannot afford that hit all alone, so they jack up the price of milk and bread a few cents and charge that loss to all the honest people who pay.
When you begin to tally up all the loss on bread and milk and bogus insurance claims and tires and iPhones and cabbage patch dolls and G. I. Joes with the kung fu grips all across the nation and the world everyday, you begin to realize that only a small amount of what we pay actually buys the milk and iPhones! A lot of the cost goes to cover the theft, fraud, and other forms of loss.
Well, this is just a very simple analysis of the problem that in reality is compounded in hundreds of complexities. But let me just float one more layer of the issue out there: home security systems (and insurance). These are whole industries that make billions of dollars off of our fear of the loss. Just imagine the drop in prices and the outright collapse of huge mega industries that would occur over night if suddenly everyone were to trust – really trust – everyone else! Let us be clear, those captains of industry have a lot of power and a vested interest in preventing the rest of us from trusting each other. We live under their tyranny.
So, as a young man in the shop with my boss, I got my first real lesson in mapping out the problem. He was absolutely right. But only half right really. Like Bob Dylan or Jim Morrison, he called a bluff on a myth we, culturally, want to deny, but he did not provide an answer. Only a well placed gripe. A complaint. A cry in the night – so to speak. But no way to deal with it except to accept our fate.
It was years later before I went back to the faith, and even then I went back to a really sad and accommodating faith. I held to a shalow American faith that accommodates the empire while holding a private devotion to a god I hoped would take my soul to heaven when I die. The empire has nothing to fear from a god like that, but that is where I went (that is who I embraced like so many before me).
Eventually I went to college and studied Bible there. And though I went to a college that aided me in my private devotions – the schizophrenic faith of a life where my heart belonged to Jesus but my ass belonged to the bank! I managed to come to some important new views of Jesus and God’s creation.
I learned a lot of good things in that school – things that I carry with me even now, but they sold me that education and thus accommodated the empire they should have taught me to resist. Still, they gave me enough to point me in the right direction. And I now write the way I do in a book like this with no pretense and free of charge. This message is ultimately a gift, and to charge money for it causes damage to its purpose.
While in school, I actually read a book that analyzed a scene from the movie The Grand Canyon where a lawyer in his fancy car drives across Los Angeles after leaving a Laker’s game and breaks down in a rough neighborhood. He is vulnerable as he waits for the wrecker to arrive.
By the time the wrecker gets there, the lawyer finds himself at the mercy of a gang of thugs who are about to kill him and run off with his car. But the wrecker driver winds up talking the gang leader out of it by making essentially the same argument my boss made. “This is not the way it’s supposed to work, man. I am supposed to be able to hook up his car,” he said, “This guy is supposed to be able to go home alive, and you are supposed to honor all of that. That is the way it is supposed to work.”
What can I say? According to that movie, the gang leader agreed – but only for that one time. Still, the argument won the day.
Here’s the thing: Our culture is so deeply inoculated against this obvious truth that most people never really even think of it. We accommodate fear as a matter of good business – without which whole major industries would collapse. Ain’t that ironic? The plain truth right out in the open as obvious as the nose on your face, but most people are so culturally conditioned not to see it that they can’t.
Anyway, I am the guy writing this little book who took this journey to get to this point. Now I am the guy setting out to reveal what actually is already quite obvious. But of course this all raises the question of how or why we can’t see it. And I already asserted that the problem is one of contempt.
You and me (and especially all those too blind to see the obvious truth) are deep in contempt of God. This is a little harder to see, but when you want to be in the tower-building business (making a name for yourself and/or your nation) and shunning vulnerability and humiliation while grasping at power and security, you actually have contempt for the things you shun.
It gets worse.
You actually become complicit in using fear to control others. And here’s the thing: This stuff frequently manifests itself in how, when, and where you shop – including Wal-Mart.
How am I doing?
Okay, now I have said some key things about who you are and who I am. Was I close? Did I paint a recognizable picture of you? I said I imagined you more often male, likely incarcerated, and probably mentally ill, but left open the possibility that I missed on some of that. I also said you read English. Well… DUH! And that you are part of my culture (most likely in Texas).
If none of those things are you, not to worry just yet. Here are the key things that really matter most: You feel deep in your bones that you do not fit in this world – in this life. (In fact you probably have considered suicide as a real option).
Even if you have a mental illness, the world around you both gave you that label and made up the rules that put you there. Life is not fair – but even worse – it seems rigged against you. And the thing that is most key about you is that you are ripe for
If you are not ripe for revolution, then put this book down now. You have already read too far into it. If you remember the movie The Matrix, this is the point where you take the red pill.
If you do not suffer a documented mental illness, or are not incarcerated, then consider pretending you are. (I know that is a strange idea, but why not?) Surely you have wondered about it on some tough occasions in your life! It could be that you are undocumented, or perhaps you might just get in touch with your inner mental patient.
But if you are not ripe for revolution, then get out of this booklet now. Put it down. You are done. Thanks for reading this far, but try to forget this book now, if you can. What follows will only torture you, and you will come to hate me and the Jesus I love.
I am not a leader of revolution. I am a prophet of God. I merely speak for the Creator and for Jesus (Joshua) of Nazareth, his Son – he leads this revolution. He says this is not the way his world works. He says you have a home in his creation where you belong and where every tear will be wiped away, and where you will flourish and blossom and celebrate peace – SHALOM!
I am the prophet of that message.
You are the recruit for the cause.
Now begins your training.
A World of Idols and the Apocalyptic Sea
Here’s the thing: We have now reached the point where we can really begin to discuss idols and their impact on us. Some of you (my precious few readers) have some experience growing up in Christian faith, but a lot of you (assuming more than a handful of readers) have practically none. That is just the state our culture is in these days.
Here’s the thing: The Bible, God’s word – from which we take direction for our lives, talks a lot about idolatry. This is the worship of false gods.
In the ultimate reality, there is only one God. The Bible claims he is the Creator of all that is, the universe, and he is the Father of Adam (the first man) and of Jesus. He is also the ultimate Judge of his creation.
This Creator/Father/Judge has a name, which the ancient Hebrews spelled Y-H-W-H and which we today pronounce as Yah-Way. I typically refer to him as God or YHWH (or I speak of him as the Father of Jesus). He has other names too, but we won’t get into all that here.
Here’s the thing: This Creator God made the world and designed it to bring him glory and honor. He alone made the world with all its mystery and did not need anyone’s help. But our God is LOVE (I John 4:16), and LOVE requires partners in partnership.
Therefore, this Creator created the Adam – literally “man” – to be his partner in love with the task of cultivating the creation (like a garden) in such a way that the creation would honor and glorify the Creator.
However, the Adam (the man) chose to break the trust of the love partnership and tend the garden in a way that does not honor and glorify the Creator.
Well, this Creator God is also a Judge, as I said before. And like all judges, this Judge engages in judging. And what does he judge? He judges whether the garden (creation) is honoring and glorifying him or not.
At that level, it is all very simple.
Now for the complications.
You live inside the forbidden tower that was built long before you were born. You were not designed to live in a tower, but rather a garden. The tower makes a name for its creators but not God. God, who is love, wants a garden and a House, not a tower. But you have always lived in the tower, a tower not built on love or self-sacrifice or vulnerability or humility; but it was built on fear and death for the purpose of bringing glory and honor to its creators who themselves were/are filled with fear and death.
Here’s the thing: You have never taken one breath of fresh air outside that tower in all your life. You are saturated with the fear and death that totally contaminates the stale air from inside it, and you are weak from it.
Well, you know the phrase: Think outside the box. Now you need to learn to think outside the tower. This is the narrow gate that leads to life that so few take.
Here’s the thing: That tower is coming under the judgment of God. Love and life as powerful as him do not accommodate a tower of fear and death in the middle of his garden. At the great Day of Judgment, that tower – and all those hiding within it, and all slaving to build it, will be destroyed.
My advice is to find the nearest exit and
Don’t walk; RUN!!!
But as I stated a page back, the Bible talks a lot about idolatry. Those of us modern Christians don’t really take that part too seriously. We seem to think idol worship was only a problem for primitive people in history who believed in gods and goblins, and witches and superstitions of all kinds. We seem to think that with the advent of The Age of Enlightenment and of science and technology that we do not suffer the old problems of idolatry. But that would be wrong. That would be deeply mistaken. And that is why a map of the Mall of Discontent and Contempt with the YOU-ARE-HERE star is so important.
Here’s the thing: People driven by fear and death rather than trust and life are a danger to themselves and others! People like that must grasp at and cling to whatever debris they can find floating around the flotsam and jetsam of the Ocean of Doubt after their ship has sunk. They attempt to make a name for themselves (and this makes sense, almost) as a way to deal with the fear and death.
The idols are those bits of debris floating around on the apocalyptic sea that these people cling to for dear life. The problem is that though they can keep you floating (for a while) that existence is not the kind of life worth living (at least not for long). If a rescue boat or chopper doesn’t come and save you soon, what is the point of going on?
We live in a culture that treats God’s good garden as if it were an Ocean of Doubt. In Genesis 3:10, the Adam hears God walking in the garden – a sound that used to be comforting before he began making a name for himself – and he is filled with fear as he clings to a fig leaf to hide his vulnerability and shame.
The Adam had a partnership with God on day six! It was a junior partner position, but it did not involve fear or death or indignity whatsoever! Sometime shortly after day eight, though, the Adam chose to stake his own claim on creation without God’s partnership and without honoring and glorifying YHWH.
Suddenly the Adam has this broken mentality that suggests his boat just sank on the stormy sea, and he is rightly filled with fear of death. The problem is multidimensional. First he brings it on himself. Second, it’s not that the world around him changed, but that he changed. He became defective as an image bearer (which has a devastating effect on the creation subsequent to his own defect). Thus he treats the garden, not like a home but like a place of fear and death.
God brings judgment on the creation because of this, but initially it is only the Adam’s misconception due to his newly and wrongly staked claim. Later, in the same unfolding story, his great, great, great, great, great, great grand children will begin to piece together bits of debris on the swirling chaos of the Ocean of Doubt and will attempt to build a tower. They cling to the debris for survival and think they can fit the bits together in such a way as to build a fortress against the fear and death.
Those bits of debris are the idols (the false gods, and to some extent the demons, the principalities and powers) that seem to hold the promise of life.
Here’s the thing: The bits of debris are parts of God’s good creation being re-ordered and jammed together in ways the Adam wants them to fit, but for which they were not originally designed.
Did you ever buy a model airplane or maybe a bike that needed assembly? Did you ever pull out the parts and think, “I got this! I don’t need to read the instructions!” But then later you realize you got some part wrong, and so you go to the instructions after all?
Well, that is not really a personal problem; it actually is cultural in nature. You are not the only one to experience that. And it is a spiritual problem at root. As long as you persist in that conquer-the-chaos attitude, you and the wider culture, blindly justify making a name for yourself rather than the Creator.
Here’s the thing: Three of the ancient gods – idols – come to highest prominence in our culture today. I learned this kind of analysis from the great British historian and Christian theologian, N. T. Wright. These three gods are three bits of ancient debris that initially God made good, and he fit them into the world to serve his purposes. But after the shipwreck of sin, we humans insisted on clinging to them for life instead of clinging to God. In our sad attempt to fight our fear and make a name for ourselves, we took these bits of debris and jammed them together – forcefully – to try and make them fit in an order that serves our own desires.
Here’s the thing: We never left God’s good creation. Rather, we merely bend and warp and break it to fit our tower. But it is all just an illusion. It is a lie. It is the Devil’s lie, and really only Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). The way we treat God’s world is akin to attempting to play football on a baseball field; it just doesn’t work – it just doesn’t make sense. But that is hard to determine from inside the tower.
But right now we are still looking at the lie, because it holds your fascination. And that needs to be exposed! As Morphius says to Neo, “Free your mind!”
You are living in a tower constructed of bits of debris from the shipwreck of sin – when you look at it from one angle. However, those same bits are really no debris at all – from another angle. They just don’t go together the way we try to fit them. They belong to a garden – and to the House of God, but we try to use them to build our tower.
(This is a mixing of metaphors, I know, but even that is biblical, and so I will run with it.)
You are locked inside the tower that both should not be and yet is a lie. Your imagination has been starved of oxygen for many generations before you were even born! Is it any wonder that you feel in your bones that you do not fit?
If you have struggled all your life with that deep sinking feeling that you don’t really fit anywhere in the world, this is not a sign that you should despair. It is actually a sign of life! Don’t let go of that. But beware! In and of itself, that feeling is no guiding light. And the builders of the tower use it to their advantage all the time. In fact, as often as not, the tower builders before you helped to instill that feeling in you so that they could generate more power from your anxiety. The market economy makes its wealth largely off any anxiety it can instill in you. You will work and be taxed, on the one hand, and spend your energy and money into the system freely, on the other hand. You are a willing slave.
Still, that sinking feeling is one of the things that will help you get free. After all, look at all the “well-adjusted” people who cling to this tower for all they are worth! They appear happy; they support the propaganda; they are invested in TEAM TOWER like cheerleaders at a football game. These people can hardly hear the truth over the sound of their own voices cheering on the lie.
Is there hope for them?
Yes. For some there is. But they are all extremely unlikely to read a book like this. They will not join the revolution; they will only fight to stop it. They are up to their eyeballs in idolatry.
But, lest you think you are not as well, think again.
Let’s look at these modern idols and call them out by name. Let’s expose them – for they claim to be gods, but they are not. They need to learn their place in creation rather than occupy the seats of honor in the tower.
The three great gods of our time and culture are:
Let’s look at them in reverse order…
Here’s the thing: If you are going to fasten bits of debris together on an ocean after a shipwreck, you need a strong grip. This requires power. It takes power to conquer fear and death. And, as often as not, power uses fear and death as a means of managing fear and death.
But then there are matters of pride and shame at work in this mix too. The concoction makes a potent drink of contempt. How do we sort this all out? And what kind of a god is power anyway?
Let’s start by contrasting the Adam before sin against the Adam after. God makes a wonderful home for the Adam in a garden/creation where everything is good. Read Genesis 1 and 2 and see that God creates some stuff and stops to admire how good it is, then creates some more stuff and stops again to admire how good that stuff is. In this environment, the Adam (and his wife) are tasked with bearing God’s image, ruling over the creation (and all the creatures), and cultivating it. In none of this are they given any of the usual tools of cultivation. Instead, they are naked. They are utterly exposed to the mercy (it would seem) of the elements in their naked vulnerability.
To those of us in the tower, that is a terrifying thought. But to the Adam, it was all perfectly “normal.” Think of it: Just six days before, the whole creation was a deep apocalyptic sea with no light. It was no kind of a place for a human to inhabit. It was exactly the kind of place that would make you want to cling to debris after a shipwreck at night, far out at sea in a violent storm.
The Spirit of God hovers over the face of the deeps (Gen. 1:2). What is that “hovering” activity, really? Unlike tower building, it is a brooding kind of thing. This is what a hen does when she lays eggs. It’s more like giving birth. She broods over them until they hatch.
Remember Jesus speaking this way of Jerusalem? (Matt. 23:37). “Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How I long to gather you like chicks under my wing….” He seems to be touching on the same imagery there in Matthew as we find in Genesis.
Let’s step back from all this a moment and take in the big picture. The Creator God hovers like a mama-hen, a chicken, over the primordial sea of chaos brooding it like eggs. Over the course of the next five days, the creation comes to order, peace, and harmony under that brooding God. The crowning achievement comes on day six with the Adam, the Son of God.
On the sixth day, God makes a creature that bears his image (dare we say “looks like him”?) to be in charge of all the newly ordered creation that was chaos just a few days before. It’s as if this human creature were designed to be the lynchpin that holds it all together. That sounds like a hugely important purpose. All that is created in the whole universe takes its rhyme and reason and order from this creature!
So how would you equip such a creature?
Well, here’s what God does: He makes this creature utterly naked and vulnerable!
That sounds counter intuitive, wouldn’t you say? Let’s take care not to hold the will of God in contempt just now, for we are accountable to him for such things.
Ah, but it is through that naked vulnerability that the world around this creature sees God – the Brooding One. And while we are on that thought, it seems counter intuitive that such brooding activity would be the way to order creation from an apocalyptic sea of chaos, but it is God’s story, not ours; it’s the story of creation that we have handed down to us from ages past.
There is mystery here more deep and rich than we will ever know, but here is the answer to all our problems too. And for those with the eyes to see it and the ears to hear it, here is the life you always yearned for too!
This naked vulnerability somehow relates deeply with the creative power of God despite how counter intuitive it may seem to creatures in the tower. The view of the power of God you get from this vantage point only comes into view from the narrow gate, and it calls for you to enter and have life!
Ah – have life at the cost of your life! That actually sounds biblical! (Matt. 10:38-39). It sounds like a mother giving birth. But it also sounds like your worst nightmare for creatures living and invested in the tower. Just the smell of it calls out your raging contempt.
I am Jack’s raging contempt!
But at present, these observations are made to function as a sounding board for an analysis of the idol of power. Or we might say we now have a map that says “You Are Here.” Here’s the thing: The creatures in the tower worship at the alter of power, and we sacrifice deeply to serve him. In fact, we sacrifice our children and bear their blood guilt on our heads quite regularly.
This god power has gone by numerous names throughout history. You have some familiarity with them already because he is so richly honored in the tower. Perhaps you have heard of Zeus or Mars? Mars was particularly the god of war in ancient Rome that you would appease before you went into battle.
These days, after The Age of Enlightenment and reason, it seems a bit archaic to call him by these names. Rather we diffuse the name(s). But we have no problem – whatsoever – to speak of patriotism, of flag, or God-n-country, as if God ordained the USA to represent him in the world as the real power that sets the agenda for the world (see Second Opinions 1:1). And we send our children to distant lands armed with the latest heavy weaponry to fight and die in an effort to order our world.
What was the Vietnam War except a proxy battle in the Cold War with the Soviet Union? In the name of freedom we sent boys to die in an effort to prevent communism from spreading to this small nation Americans had not previously heard of or cared about. Ultimately, Vietnam went communist anyway, and except for the incredible loss of life, it made no difference to the rest of the world. All those dead G.I.’s – American blood spilt for what?
But oh how the USA flexed its might in the fight? Oh how vain?
But what alternative is there for those cowering in the tower?
In the movie A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson delivers the mother of all movie lines as Col. Jessup testifies in court saying, “You can’t handle the truth! …
Son we live in a world that has walls. Those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? … I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.
You don’t want the truth ‘cause deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.
We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punch line. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the very blanket of freedom which I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post!
Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to!
That line in that movie is particularly telling at so many points and encapsulates the issue we are talking about quite well. And let’s not forget that the line made sense to a vast, American, movie-going public. Basically to a class of people living in the penthouse of the imperial tower constructed out of fear and death.
“We live in a world that has walls … that have to be guarded by men with guns.” This concept is taken as axiomatic in our culture. It is treated as a given, as though it were an immutable fact. But those of us who believe that the Bible is the very word of God that we can trust must, therefore, view that statement as a lie. They can’t both be true!
This explains why the movie line goes on to suggest that we don’t want to “talk about [this stuff] at parties.” We take comfort in the lie, but the truth skewers the lie mercilessly. That has a way of being a buzz kill at parties. It invites contempt.
Again, like I said early on in this book, the U. S. Constitution, which our nation’s fore fathers gave to us, marginalizes God. The fact that movies and pop culture reflect it means it has been surprisingly effective. And this movie line goes so far as to trot out the fact that we do not want to talk about this “elephant in the room.”
Power. Just look at the differences between those who have his blessings and those who don’t. Ever been to Haiti or Darfur and seen the suffering? The people in those places wield no Power, and they suffer deeply! It could happen to you if the U. S. lost its hold on Power.
And so, the fact that relinquishing power invites abuse and neglect from those who have power thus becomes the easy, go-to answer to the question. With one eye closed, your fingers crossed, and half your brain tied behind your back, you can almost halfway justify the worship of this false god!
To go there with that thought at just that point is to deny the Jesus who did exactly that power-denying thing and demands that his disciples take up their crosses and follow. It also is to deny the basic logic we already discussed before. If all the humans in God’s creation were to humble themselves in service to each other, then we would all reign together!
At the moment, I am really only demonstrating that power is a major idol of our time. We have a choice to make between the God of the Bible who calls us to humble vulnerability and power who calls us to fight, bluff, and/or manage our way out of the apocalyptic sea of chaos.
Here’s the thing: Our culture has chosen the unwise option. We all have – and still do. Remember, I acknowledged that you live in a crazy world. If you feel that you do not fit in the world, that does not mean that your are crazy. But, let’s be honest… you are plenty complicit with the madness.
You see, Here’s the thing: You find it really easy to hold the powerless in contempt. In fact, contempt is what drives the argument against the embrace of vulnerability and humiliation. Perhaps we should say it like this: We have a choice to make between the love of power and the power of love. The two cancel each other out. It is very hard to really be logical about love when you hold it in contempt.
This leads me to consider the issue of pride as well, for it is closely related to power and the contempt for those without it. And this also is an infection deeply rooted in our culture.
Sometimes it only amounts to bluffing; sometimes the power is real enough. But when we make a virtue of power, we commemorate and celebrate it with pride. Pride feeds the ego – and that is all about serving yourself. There really is no self-less pride. Pride is all about reveling in ones own connection to power. It revels in its overcoming of humility and vulnerability.
We may dress up our pride in terms of self-worth, self-esteem, a sense of accomplishment etc…. And as a society we dress up our pride in civil religion and patriotism etc…. All of which makes it seem like a virtue, but really it is a lie.
Pride is only virtuous to those inside the tower which skews the view of God’s reality and creation. To the humble people of other societies, our pride is frequently viewed as arrogance. (The main exception to this is when we take a notion to send food and/or aid to desperate people who then express their gratitude or their desire to be like us. They don’t typically express gratitude and scorn for arrogance in the same breath.)
There is a further complication to consider down this path (though it strays from my main point briefly). So often, when those with power and filled with pride decide to give aid and help to those in humble circumstances, they do so “with strings attached.”
Here’s the thing: Tower people don’t really help folks adrift out of the pure goodness of their hearts. How can they? They are too deep in fear and death to do anything pure. So there is almost always some subtle self-advancing agenda at work in the charity. And those nations and groups that receive the help know this too. It is unspoken, but not hidden. How can they hold out their hand to receive and complain at the same moment? They save their complaints until after they receive, and then appear ungrateful, squandering, and unworthy on the other side.
Still, even contaminated charity is often better than none. Sometimes it is a start on a good journey. We can always hope so. But we should not be naïve about the evil lurking in the shadows of our own hearts either. We are a contemptuous lot!
And this puts us back on the main point again. We were born into this culture. We were born in a tower that was built long before we arrived. The fact that we are a little crazy or infected with evil or complicit with it is a sign that the cards were stacked against us before we even started playing.
This observation does not excuse us to continue to be complicit but it is necessary to a true and honest assessment of ourselves. At this point we walk a fine line; we actually are part of the problem we suffer. We must confess it. We must plea for mercy. We must dislodge the contempt in our hearts. At root it is a heart problem.
Here’s the thing: The power of the tower is a lie. Quite honestly, the tower does not really exist as such anyway. Oh, the bits of debris are real – real enough, and created by God to be good. But when bent, warped, broken, and fastened together into a construction for which they are not designed (a tower), then it is really nothing but a matter of perception.
The whole U. S. might is based on the allegiance of its subjects. And we learn this in school. They take kindergarten children and teach them to solemnly stand with hand on heart before the flag of empire and pledge allegiance every day – almost like a prayer in school! But if that allegiance were broken – even for a minute – the whole empire (tower) would crumble at a stroke – and that sounds just like the judgment of God on the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:6-9).
The tower is a myth – a lie, in fact. You actually are still swirling on the churning sea of apocalypse and being lied to about the tower. You perceive a tower only because your perception was trained to it when you were in kindergarten. “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” But it is a lie that rules the tower.
How could such a monstrous lie take hold? Only through our hearts – our love of power and our contempt for humility and vulnerability – the very things that demonstrate the image of God.
Power is that bit which is so vital to tower construction (or more honestly – the perception of tower construction). Power is real, is good, and God-given, but power must learn its proper place in the world. Power is meant to serve love, not the other way around.
One last note on that is in order here. Our love of power is manifested in hundreds of ways in our society. One of the key ways power is worshipped in this society is by using fear and death to manage fear and death in small controlled circumstances for our amusement. I look to the Roman arenas and gladiators as a prime example of this. Men fight to the death in a controlled environment as fans cheer them on. The gladiators engage the fight for pride and glory. And those in the tower become drunk on the excitement.
It is only a hop-skip-n-a-jump from that image to the modern day sporting events that replace the gladiators. We think ourselves more civilized because we no longer pit opponents in fights to the death, but modern sportsmen mimic the gladiators of old and pay them homage quite regularly. The same spirit is alive and well in the empire today, but it is a demon that enslaves your imagination.
Here’s the thing: Sex is essential for a number of reasons, but in a survival-of-the-fittest philosophy, sex supplies the tower with the next generation of slaves (a-hem) “citizens.” The tower must be supplied with defenders, and that requires sex.
Here’s the thing: Sex is a god to those in the tower. In ancient times Sex went by the name Aphrodite, and with her help, you could seduce (or be seduced by a staunch devotee).
Let’s face it, sex is good. Sex is also at the core of our identity. But sex is also dangerous and powerful. There is a lot more I could say about sex than what I will offer in this forum. I merely need to demonstrate the idolatry of sex for our purpose here, and I do not have to exhaust the topic to achieve that goal.
Let’s look at sex in the garden of God between the Adam and his woman briefly and let that contrast against our tower experience(s). Notice that in Genesis 1:27, God creates the humans in his image – and that image is male and female. That is all about sex! But that naked sex image is a holy thing in the garden; it is not the smut we find in magazines and websites.
What exactly makes the difference?
Hold that thought. We will work our way through an answer to that question. At the moment, I am still looking into the garden of God for how it is right. This should be a surprise for us post-Victorian/post-Puritan types. Sex is not meant to be marginalized in the Rule of God (and not in his garden) for even one minute! Sex is right at the heart of showing God to the world in an image-bearing vocation. I have to imagine that as the Adam cultivates the garden before sin and death enter it, and God judges against the Adam with “sweat of the brow” (Gen. 3:19), it seems highly likely that the Adam and his wife might have powerfully good sex next to a crop they just planted and their shared joy would make the crop grow!
We know that the creation responds to the image of God (Isa. 40:3-5, Rom. 8:19), and we have every reason to presume that the sex of the human male and female couple which is intimately linked to image bearing is/was an avenue of getting the desired response. The garden actually needs us to have really good sex!
Here’s the thing: If really, really, really good sex with your wife bears the image of God and makes mountains bow down, valleys stand up at attention, and the crooked places straighten out, then wouldn’t you want to bear God’s image FOR ALL YOU ARE WORTH??? And wouldn’t you want to live in that world instead of the ugly tower cobbled together with idols and mortared with fear and death?
I have got to say: IT’S A NO-BRAINER!
Here’s the thing: We have really F_ cked up F_cking!!!
We have no idea what true sex is. I’m talking about sex that moves mountains! You only get a parody of that in the tower. If my words here seem too good to be true, or like some empty promise of a salesperson or some self-help guru, that is a signal that your contempt is creating static noise through which you cannot receive them clearly. But look at the alternative.
Sex in the tower makes promises, but she does not deliver. Sex in the tower is a feverish dance of political ploys and “getting some.” Sex in the tower teases us with fleeting pleasures but leaves us with shame, broken hearts, diseases, and mistrust! That is not a fair trade!
Here’s the thing: Sex – the good stuff – is supposedly the pinnacle of life, but it has become a dim ghost next to what it was designed to be – to what sex is in the garden of God. We have been lied to!
Image-bearing sex is all about reveling in vulnerability and nakedness with a partner with whom you can trust your humiliation. That trust is not merely the guarding of our hearts against shame – no that is not even half the picture. That trust is also about the LOVING CELEBRATION of your naked vulnerability. That risky exposure – shared in godly intimacy – is a party for two in which God Almighty manifests himself.
Here’s the thing: You can’t beat that!
In the tower, though, you treat someone else’s nakedness as something to consume and exploit. You treat someone else’s naked vulnerability as if it were disposable, as though you can just discard it when you are done. If you feel unsatisfied as a consumer, you complain and/or trash someone else’s feelings and core identity in your cavalier contempt. You treat sex like any other consumer product of empire.
Even in those cases where the sex is given away (usually the female aspect) something is intended to be traded in the exchange. This is prostitution both actualized and metaphorical. Either way the market-driven consumption holds no respect for the GIFT of God inherent in mountain moving, image-bearing sex.
This trade off is the corruption of the full and robust sense of trust I described before. And, these days, sex is almost a currency in its own rite. The risk is not worth the reward in the tower, but the loneliness of the tower compels us to take the risk anyway. Sex in the tower is a dark enterprise. In fact, it is a huge industry at this point. None of it aims to satisfy the vocation to bear God’s image at all (and for that matter it satisfies nothing else either, for the tower needs you to stay hungry and teased insatiably). Rather, the tower merely strokes the ego and keeps you Comfortably Numb.
And so sex is in hot demand. And I theorize that this is because even when it is corrupted, sex still holds a connection to bearing God’s image in that joyous/celebratory sense. It has the residue of God on it – and we want that deep in our bones.
In my line of work, I see health care advocates host seminars for people at risk of contracting and/or spreading sexually transmitted infections (STI’s were formerly known as STD’s or VD). These advocates come armed with blunt talk and nasty pictures. They find that people in the tower abuse sex and then struggle to talk openly after they come into shame and despair. These advocates practically provoke the conversation.
In my experience, the advocates bring a lot of sex education to the discussion. The fact of the matter is that we all stand to learn more than we already know. Even those of us who have engaged in marital sex (or any sexuality really) for over two decades still learn about it when we begin talking, reading, and attending seminars.
Sadly though, the birds-n-the-bees lessons practically never discuss the glory of sex in the economy of God. No one ever bothers to explore the rich dimensions of godly sex we miss out on opting rather to instruct us on mere animal pleasures and the cautions inherent in them.
Here’s the thing: Sex is so mysterious and powerful that we may never exhaust all the important lessons that go just with the dark side of it. But there is a bright side too! And it is even more important and vital than all the dark side, yet practically no one ever teaches us about it. Not the secular empire and its representatives, nor the prudish and bashful church.
That’s the way of existence in the tower where sex is worshiped. We bare our souls (and our naked flesh) on the alter of this god in carnal worship and receive the anemic blessings of fleeting orgasms – and along with them all the shames, broken hearts, diseases, and sheer uninformed stupidity that kills us every day. And then we come running back for more just as fast as we can.
And all that this feverish activity does is distract us from noticing the cracks in our tower. Or it provides the next generation of slaves to make bricks for the tower. It is a false god that needs to learn her place in God’s garden rather than teasing us with strip dances in the penthouse suite of the tower of empire.
And for a people who find such devastating contempt for vulnerability and humility – the nuts-n-bolts of image bearing for God – then it is no surprise that the sex is all f_cked up! And considering how intimate both the activity and the subject matter are, it is no wonder that in a world that worships f_cked up sex, you feel that you don’t really fit, or belong, or whatever. But that’s what idol worship does to us. And the only way to change it is to turn from the idols to the LIVING, LOVING CREATOR GOD and worship only him.
I need to say (in addition to the fact that sex supplies the TOWER with citizens and/or slaves) sex keeps people numb. It is not too different from drug or alcohol addiction. You get in a frenzy both to chase and to achieve a sexual high – ALL THE TIME!
Because of this, the empire can screw you with an “elephant in the room” while your attention is turned somewhere else (to Aphrodite). It keeps your heart and mind occupied while it enslaves your dreams of freedom. Thus the slaves become complicit, willing victims and the REVOLUTION of humanity is put down before it ever gets going.
Here’s the thing: Jesus said you cannot serve two masters. You will love the one and hate the other, but you cannot serve both God and Mammon! (Matt. 6:24).
Money is not the same as power or sex, but it buys both of those and a whole lot more all the time! And money is more slick than the others because despite the clear words of Jesus I quote above, even his followers find virtue in this idol all the time!
But let’s be clear. It’s not that there is some sin in having money – per se. Actually, that is a very slick and tricky statement in and of itself and should make us all very nervous. All of us, that is, except for the most destitute among us. It may be fair to say that the sin creeps in with the love of money rather than merely the possession of if.
The problem is that even that statement is tricky-dickey actually. And so I would like to declare two obvious observations here at the start of our discussion of this idol.
Here’s the thing: 1) In six days of creating the world, the Creator God did not make one single dime! 2) Likewise, money does not make the world go round! Both of these observations I make as strongly as I can, because we are deeply motivated to start making exceptions for money in our theology right and left! But we can’t all be the exceptions – and by definition, the exceptions have to be in the minority. They are exceptions; they are not the rule!
It is true that you can be completely broke and completely greedy at the same time, but it is extremely unlikely that you can be loaded without being greedy! And Americans are loaded! Even the poor among us are wealthy on the world stage.
Here is another assertion I will make with confidence: Those of us with theological sensitivities must beware of the intoxicating effect of even talking about money. This explains why we make exceptions and then fit ourselves into them so easily. I am mindful that I went to a Christian university to discuss the words and life of Jesus who said to not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing when you give (Matt. 6:3). And we discussed these kinds of things in a building that bore the name of major donors plastered in huge letters near the main entrance!
So here is another confident assertion: The best thing you can do with money that you control (if it can be called that) is to give it all to God and/or give it to the poor – which amounts to the same thing (Matt. 25:40). The poor know how to dispose of the stuff in quick order usually. But one thing is sure, money holds the most ironic value for those carrying crosses!
So, let’s talk about this idol a bit. This slithery, tricky, hypnotic snake that dares to think he can rule the world! What blasphemy slithers in your pocket?
In the garden of God, the Adam is commissioned to rule over the creatures and all of creation. He sets out naming beasts, which may suggest some things about sex (an issue for another time), but also (and definitely) suggests his mastery over them. And let us recall he bears the image of the One with real power by virtue of his naked vulnerability.
The animals and all of creation learn and know their place because they see the image of God in the naked vulnerability of the Adam. The whole scheme – the whole rhyme-n-reason of all of creation is placed in this fragile and utterly risky situation by design! It looks so crazy from the tower, but it worked beautifully until the Adam sinned.
And I note no sign that the Adam, while in that wondrous state of SHALOM, ever set a value on anything. Rather, his every move was a mimic of his Creator in obedient love for the garden. No part was of great value at the expense of another.
We might say that the human creature holds more value than the beasts – and I think that is correct – but likewise it is not a notion that would likely take prominence except that we look at it from the tower. Basically, I am saying, even if we determine that to be true, I doubt the Adam nor the beasts noticed it within SHALOM.
But we are tower people. And though money doesn’t make the world go round, it does make the tower. And in the face of it, the Adam is not in charge of the money; the money is in charge of him! And it instantly sets out the worth and value of every particle of God’s creation – not because slips of paper with certain kinds of ink patterns have that power innately within themselves, but because we humans pledge allegiance to it of a kind that does not need to be taught in school!
Here’s the thing: Mammon is a shape shifter! Mammon is whatever you desire on the one hand and a taskmaster on the other – a creature not actually created by God roaming freely through the penthouse suite of the tower.
Mammon does not ask questions of virtue or goodness. No. Mammon will dig a water well in Africa and make sex-slaves of the children from the village there at the same time!
Tricky-dickey, he is!
You must never trust money. Money is a betrayer’s betrayer. Just look what those thirty pieces of silver did to Judas Iscariot.
You think that if you amass wealth then you are in the company of Abraham or David/Solomon and so thereby justified. You think you will use it wisely, that like Joseph in Egypt you will care for the poor and all that, but it never quite works out.
But then why would you think that you can wisely worship a false god in the service of the true God? You fool! You are doomed before you begin!
Money makes you think you own him (or can own him), but really he owns you. Whether you have money or are in debt beyond belief, he will master you – if you live in the tower. No matter what, he drives you this way and that.
And we live our lives either “in the red” or “in the black.” We obey “the bottom line” and cannot argue against it. You would think money opens up our imaginations, but really it limits it instead. Instead of imagining our way through God’s creation without money, we are dazzled by money in all its shapes and forms.
Banks, casinos, and stock exchanges are his temples. The activities inside are all the various forms of worship. Those who serve him wisely (a poor use of that word) reap his blessings. And those who respect his power and devote themselves to delayed gratification tend to honor him best.
Here’s the thing: Those who leverage other people for their wealth make the most money. At this point the way to make money is to view others as sources of money and value them accordingly. This is dehumanizing and exactly antithetical to Jesus who values the poor and sends the rich away empty handed (Luke 1:53). But this is life in the tower Mammon made. Do you really want to live in it? Do you really want to fit into that world? You don’t fit. And you never were meant to fit there.
I mean I used to fill up my tires with free air and drink water from a free water fountain. But someone figured out that I would pay for those things, and now I do.
I used to get a burger and fries and a drink at my favorite burger joint and when I asked for it, that is what they served me. Now they ask if I want to get the next size up for only thirty cents more or if I want a dazzle cup with that for only a dollar. Sometimes I even know the person behind the counter who asks me these impersonal questions that shamelessly seek the money in my pocket.
Somehow this all seems natural to those of us in the tower.
Here’s the thing: It is not! It is not natural.
Consider this: You go home to your parents’ house and share dinner with them. Dad buys the food; Mom does the cooking. Your parents frequently call to invite you to visit and stay to eat. They miss their son and want to love on him, you see…. But then after dinner, Dad whips out a calculator and punches in some figures. “That’ll be $14.97” he says, and you ask, “Do you take Visa?”
That’s not natural! But Olive Garden restaurants pump out an ad on my TV ten times a day inviting me to eat with a sales pitch/slogan that says, “When you’re here, you’re family.” But they do not really mean it – not for one minute! That’s not natural! But it is dinner in the house of Mammon.
These restaurants (and often enough even private “Christian” homes) will not serve their food to a street person who has no money to pay. No. They would sooner show contempt for that idea. But they want to sell us the ambiance – the atmosphere of home. But that can’t be sold. It is a gift, or it is not home!
It’s not natural! But it is all a little more than intoxicating.
That street person is a human being created in the image of God! What could be more valuable in all of creation than loving service humbly given freely as a gift to that person???
Remember that I said the Creator God is also Judge? Well… there will be a test on all this some day (Matt. 25:31-46), and you should prepare for it.
In the meantime, Money breeds contempt for the street people. They look funny, smell funny, talk funny, and act funny – but I don’t mean funny ha-ha! I mean they have no respect for your god Mammon, and they pay for it by being outcasts! Basically, they don’t worship like us.
Money is an idol. In some respects it is the most sinister of all idols. This is a creature of our making – not a good bit of creation misused! Mammon is a shape shifter making promises it does not keep (unless it feels like it) and making threats and driving people to ruin and despair. We could love each other, but with Mammon as our master, we’d rather charge each other interest instead.
Now I know a few of you readers will rebut at this point and say, “But even St. Paul collected a contribution and also said that ‘a minister should get his wages!’ That seems to temper your argument. Don’t you think?”
I will restate a statement I already made once before. The money in the pockets of one carrying a cross has an ironic value to say the least! What does the church do with the money it raises? It gives it to the poor, the mission to spread the gospel, and to fund a celebration of God!
If you have any money in your pocket, give it to God before it defiles you. Sacrificing this false god on the alter of the true God is the only way to deal with the stuff. Give it to God for all you are worth!
My Life as an Idol Worshipper/Consumer
Here’s the thing: As I stated earlier, turning from your idols is hard to do. But I also said that the Bible deals extensively with exactly that agenda. Most “Christians” in our culture today do not really appreciate the significance of idols all around us – largely because these “Christians” are so deeply invested in them!
So I said you will have to relinquish exactly the things you find most sacred. That is what turning from idols involves at root. Funny, it seems so simple and so obvious when it is put like that. Huh?
Yeah. You have been holding as sacred some really profane things – and that just will not do… not any longer.
Here’s the thing: The worship of at least three of the most venerated idols in our culture is extremely pervasive. We are all guilty of it – a lot!
But just what does worship of power, sex, and money look and feel and act like? Well, I’m going to say they look, feel, and act an awfully lot like a line in front of the bank at Wal-Mart (but really a shopping mall might make a better example).
Just at the moment when our culture should be taking a Sabbath rest and thanking God for enough, we instead race down to the Wal-Mart on New Year’s Day morning and form a line in front of the bank because it doesn’t open early enough to suit us! We are not humans bearing the image of our Creator. No. We are a bunch of overweight and glutted consumers fiendishly seeking MORE! More money, more sex, and more power. As the song says, “I want it all, and I want it now!”
Allow me to digress….
I remember when I was a young teenager that my family would load up and drive into San Angelo, Texas from the sticks and shop at the mall all day about every other weekend. We all seemed to think it was a treat. But what was our family ritual?
We would all come to the appointed hour with great expectation and load up for the half hour drive into town. During the drive, we were all together in the car as a family going down the road. Much of that time was filled with sharing conversation, but frequently it was overwhelmed with the radio.
As we kids grew older, our taste in music began to differ with the parents, but then suddenly Sony produced, marketed, and sold Walkman headphones to us. We kids could opt out of the family without physically or geographically leaving! Think of it. We were together and apart at the same time! And what did the “togetherness” do for us in that situation? Well, it afforded us the opportunity to engage in the latest of American consumerist rituals. We shopped at the mall.
That ritual looked like this: Upon entering the mall, Dad would stuff a $10 bill in your pocket and another in you sister’s pocket. He would shove a couple in his own and give Mom the check book. Then we all went our separate ways.
Now, American malls are filled with all manner of department stores, boutiques, arcades, restaurants, and sometimes movie theaters. Some tend to gravitate moms, others sons. Some tend to cater to dads, and yet others to daughters. Some tend to overlap each other’s interests, but the point is that each family member could chase their individual fantasies – inhibited only by the limits of the cash in hand.
And the sky is the limit on your fantasies. I mean with so many stores and boutiques all finding their own niche, it seems there is a whole consumerist universe to discover and conquer! I mean, if the Dallas Cowboys are your thing… well they have sporting goods and jerseys and even color schemes for your home décor all devoted to your favorite team!
Or maybe you’re into gadgets or other novelties. Or maybe you want music – that was my thing. And the mall had two different stores that dressed it up to appear different but really they both sold pretty much the exact same stuff. I did not notice that at the time. I was too young and hypnotized by the new Van Halen album to care about the things I write of now. I was overwhelmed by the glittery cornucopia of offerings and choices and things to discover. And when my $10 ran out, I’d go follow my dad around until his gave out.
In those days, we did not have Victoria’s Secret, but I do recall the Spencer’s Gifts store that had a section of sex toys and gag gifts for “adults.” And at fourteen, my imagination ran wild while my parents shopped other parts of the mall.
And that $10 here or there was like a ticket to ride. Each of us found what seemed to be an endless universe of stuff we couldn’t live without. And if anyone had asked if my family spent time together, none of us would have thought about how the mall split us up at the entrance, or how the headphones had split us up on the drive to the mall.
But we engaged in these bi-monthly rituals with a religious fervor. We all were addicted to the distractions. Emotionally absent to each other. Kids being raised by babysitters while Mom and Dad got high buying stuff – only the babysitter was a shopping mall that was teaching the kids to get high on the same drug.
We would go to church the next day (Sunday), and it was boring. But the mall had the real power to grip your imagination and all three gods went to work making promises to us that they never really delivered on.
Years later, when I was grown, I looked back and remembered how bad I had wanted that pair of Kangaroo shoes or that Def Leppard “Union Jack” tee shirt. It had seemed so very necessary at the time, but now tastes had changed. Nobody wears Kangaroos any more – kids these days haven’t even heard of them.
But you know what I miss? I miss the thing I missed when I had it: a home, a family. Mom and Dad split up about the time I got married. And the thing I really miss at Christmas is not the shoes but eating family-recipe turkey and dressing passed down the generations and sharing it with my mom, dad, and sister. I would love to share it all with my wife and kids too.
But look around you next time the holiday season rolls around. Fewer and fewer family gatherings happen like that anymore. Most families are blended and don’t have passed-down recipes to work with anyway. Most are too busy with work or shopping to get together to eat for the holidays anyway. And besides, more and more restaurants are open on Thanksgiving Day now. It’s a service that is driven by consumer demand! Consumers don’t have recipes, family with whom to share, or time to prepare. They are out “Christmas shopping!”
And what is “Christmas shopping” anymore? Is it really about buying something special for someone else to surprise them with on Jesus’ birthday? Really??? Or is it really about going out and being dazzled by all the crap on offer! My God! Even the Christmas advertisers tell you to get stuff for yourself for Christmas!
Here’s the thing: I wanted the Evel Knievel action figure when I was a kid, but I got the Iwo Jima play-action battle set instead. Man, was that ever cool! But… oops! It was not exactly the thing I “always wanted” and “dreamed of” since October. I was disappointed.
Not that the Iwo Jima Battle set was a bummer… after all, it rocked! But my selfish little ass was just not satisfied, and so I had to run out and fix the error after Christmas and get the Evel Knievel thingy too.
I have never been satisfied since.
Here’s the thing: I became a consumer. Now I consume. I am never satisfied as a consumer. Even if I was content to be satisfied from within, the TV or radio would pump out some ad that would change that by next Tuesday.
I have a view of the world at this point, like it exists to make me happy. And for a few dollars, I can ride the ride of consumption. I live to ride and ride to live. Think of it: This is really what alcoholism and drug abuse is all about. Addicts become animalistic about consuming their drug of choice, and so do I. It’s the same with capitalists. Someone asked J. D. Rockefeller once, “How much money is enough?” As legend has it, he answered, “A little bit more….”
As the song says, “I used to do a little, but a little wouldn’t do and so a little got more and more….”
We are missing out on the true life we really want in the “pursuit of happiness.” We really want a home – at root – but a home is not the sum total of its décor. A man is not the sum total of his pay check or the number of women he beds.
And there is this hole in our hearts that develops that can never be filled with enough. And there is a lost-ness that we find ourselves in as we fall in that hole. And we begin to know in our bones that we do not fit in this world, though it is notoriously difficult to put our finger on the problem or explain how we don’t fit.
Here’s the thing: There is a sinister dynamic at work on you at that point. It is the thing Pink Floyd calls Comfortably Numb. Again, I’m not really telling you anything new. It’s actually obvious, but you don’t see it.
Let me describe it like this: You actually get bored with your money. After all it has to shift its shape to keep your interest. The more novel the better, but eventually you have a well decorated but broken home. There is no rest for your weary head.
And power? How can a football game really be that interesting? It’s all hype! You turn around and twenty years have gone by, and no one cares that you played tight end and scored the winning touch down in the homecoming game of your junior year. No one cares that the Cowboys won the Superbowl in 198_… whatever. All that matters is “next year.”
And sex? Talk about boring…. Get out of my bed. I am into Chinese girls now… until next week when I get an itch for boys. I have to catalog my porn collection because no one single lover could ever satisfy me for even one encounter. And anyway, if you are not moving mountains, then you are missing out!
Let’s look at that one a minute.
Men in our culture used to be bred to fight for freedom and so forth. Now we are all consumers, because consumption is the prize when freedom is achieved. But for a long time, men were not supposed to cry. Men had trouble “expressing feelings” back in the day. But, men were horny!
Here’s the thing: You just can’t take a human creature (male or female really) and rob them of their feelings completely. Those feelings are in there whether expressed appropriately or not. And since having lots of sex is considered a conquest in the survival-of-the-fittest mentality, it stands to reason that the “feelings” innate to that activity are allowed. Therefore, sex becomes the – the only – the avenue through which feelings are considered okay.
This feeds the idea of conquest and power as well, but I am talking about the feelings at the moment. For certainly, all the jacking off with a porn flick in the world is not a conquest! But there is more masturbating porn in our world today than ever!
Masturbation with porn is no mountain-moving experience. It is all about numbing the pain. But sadly, that easily translates to the marriage bed too (and the after-hours, one-night-stands). In those cases, you actually use other people to get yourself off!
Here’s the thing: That amounts to masturbating your penis (guys) using a vagina (or some other orifice). The woman (assuming it is a woman) is just a tool – not even a human with whom you share trust and delight at all. She is not celebrated in your arms; she may as well be a blowup doll with no feelings of her own.
But all this numbness is necessary for people living in the tower. It is necessary because the whole reason for having a tower is to diffuse the notion that you are not actually in charge of this world or so that we aren’t scattered abroad (Gen. 11:4). The fact that the tower is a lie and/or that making a name for ourselves only amounts to so much vanity means that in reality the churning apocalyptic sea still swirls around us! You gotta stay numb so that you can half way believe the lie!
This is all beginning to get a little morbid. This whole book is an exercise in mapping out the world in spiritual terms and saying “YOU ARE HERE” so that you can get your bearings. We have now done pretty much a baptized version of what Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison have done.
However, I did mention that narrow gate several times along the way. Perhaps it is time to lift that veil again and look a bit closer at where it leads. After all, there is no point in doing all this mapping if despair is all we are going to get for our trouble. And besides, what would that say of Jesus or YHWH his Father?
Here’s the thing: We need a REVOLUTION!
HERE’S THE THING:
We do not exist in a world of primordial soup or churning waves clinging to debris and cobbling together a tower from the flotsam and jetsam of our ship wreck and abandoned by our God. We face dangers, alright, but mostly of our own making and for which trust is the way of remedy. Yes. The garden is under a curse, but the Creator/Judge loves us and is trustworthy (righteous).
God ordered the chaos with a word and brought forth a peaceful creation way back in The Beginning. He is doing that now again – only the real chaos is in our hearts. But there is a way to live that revolutionizes the tower existence and lays claim to the prize for which the tower-dreams are only a parody.
I cannot exhaustively outline that way of life for you in a book like this, but I can offer some insights and make a few pointers that should get you equipped to join the revolution. I have already demonstrated with irresistible potency that your contempt is clouding your judgment and your ability to see things that are actually as obvious as the nose on your face. That probably comes as a bit of a surprise, and so will this: We can sum up the alternative way of life – the revolution – by calling it a celebration. Celebrate the God who made you and this world, and you will be revolutionary.
Think this through carefully. It may sound absolutely nuts or stupid at first, but that is just the contempt getting in the way. In reality, God made the world good and put humble humans in charge of it. All was working just fine until the celebration of God stopped, and fear, sin, and death replaced it.
I have spent most of the ink and paper in this booklet exposing the lies of the tower and some of the key gods. I have also wrestled, in part, and invited you to wrestle the demon of contempt that sabotages our desire to live our life. I cannot prove the existence of God – the Creator – in some scientific, test-tube fashion. I cannot do that any more than the tower propaganda can disprove him or prove a godless “Big Bang Theory” where everything suddenly explodes from nothing spontaneously millions of years ago. There may be reasonable evidence for that theory, but it is not proven (nor reproduced in any laboratories) and requires at least as much “faith” as the Bible story.
However, we can turn the tables on that tower tale and hold it to the same scrutiny to which it holds the Bible story and find it does not really satisfy. Add to all that that we have the ancient witness of scripture – and that witness tells us the world is created in, by, and for love! That’s a daring claim the tower tale not only cannot imagine, but has closed itself off from. Contempt cannot tolerate love.
And remember our little toodle into The Logic Statement Contempt Hides that said if everyone wants to be the greatest of all the others, then there will be a fight! Most, if not all, will lose – by definition. On the other hand, if we all begin to humbly serve each other in vulnerability, then greatness comes as a gift to us all! This greatness is the pure logic that the tower tale has no access to, but which it tries so hard to deny to the creation story.
I do not want to rewrite everything all over again now, but I want to re-encapsulate it all in these pointed terms to get the record straight. Love has its own kind of power – a power more subtle (not all self-important) but also real (not a lie, and not hype) that the tower can neither understand nor cope with. And though it will likely cost you your life to take hold of that kind of power, you really can overcome the world with it.
(As a related side note here, many of you have offered your lives on the altar of freedom already. Some do this in the armed forces of the nation, some in the armed forces of gangs. Laying your life on the line is nothing new or exclusive to either the tower existence or to a life with Jesus, but one of those causes is a lie and the other is the truth. You must choose wisely.)
The lie of the tower is that you are somehow great of your own accord. It tries to celebrate the myth of the self-made man. You are a stud if you either have power or can bluff it sufficiently.
Here’s the thing: The whole enterprise is a bluff. Oh – there may well be enough power to kill and do harm, and even the idea that competition spurs the imagination holds a grain of truth, but it is all really a lie and is doomed under its own weight. Every empire falls – look at history.
Just because your opponent has the upper hand in the fight at the given moment does not in anyway even begin to suggest that he has staying power too! And those of us who have scrapped a few times know that 9/10ths of the fights we engage amount to bluffing and posturing. That leaves only 1/10th of actual fighting confrontations. (That is actually a liberal estimate.)
The point is highly suggestive of all the hype we live within the tower. So, if you could bring a battle strategy from outside the tower, one of truth against the lie, what would that look like?
It would have to be a strategy of love vs. fear. In fact the word “courage” really means “have heart.” And this all suggests humble vulnerability. Let’s recall that time and again through-out the Bible, God’s battle strategy is to pit the little guy against the big one, and God always backs the little one.
Perhaps the prime example of this is the young shepherd boy, David, against the Philistine giant, Goliath (I Sam. 17). But as often as not, God uses what looks like wildly foolish strategy, but then he makes it work despite how crazy it sounds, and here I am thinking of bringing down the walls of Jericho by marching around and blowing horns (Josh. 6). These are just a couple of examples among many. Perhaps I Corinthians 1:25 makes a good summary statement of what I am talking about.
Put together all I am talking about throughout this booklet and it is clear that we need some humility before God. We need to go to him saying, “I am sorry” (or “We are sorry”). Everything starts there.
“I am sorry” is a heart statement. It is a statement from the heart about the state of things in the heart. And there is a place in your heart where saying it happens.
In the meantime, you have been barricading your mind and your family and your life and your world from having access to that place in your heart. There is a pile of cabbage patch dolls and iPhones, attics bursting with junk and garages over-stuffed with more junk and closets jammed with even junk – all of which represents the barricade to your heart.
This is telling of a number of important observations. First off, if your attics, garages, and closets are jammed with junk you don’t need (or even really want) then it is a sign that you are thoroughly American. You are typical! It is also a sign that you are a junkie, a consumer, throwing all you can at the hole in your soul!
This means you are guilty! There is no point denying it or feigning innocence. You thought getting the G. I. Joe with the Kung Fu grip was more important than feeding the hungry, or helping the needy, or visiting someone in jail or the hospital. That is a hole in your heart barricaded by a stupid G. I. Joe doll that you don’t even want anymore!
Secondly, it says that Wal-Mart or the mall is your drug dealer who is supplying you with the intoxicating junk. You really need new friends! You do realize (don’t you???) that these merchants are not true friends. They are friends with the Ben Franklins in your pocket, but just show up empty-handed down at Sears or Olive Garden tonight, and see how loved you feel then!
Thirdly, by confessing your sin in just this one “area-of-your-life” (if you can call it that) and turning to celebrate (worship) God exactly there at that point of your own humility and vulnerability, cutting through your contempt, you open your heart to God and strike a blow at the tender spot of empire.
It is a terrifying thought to the tower management at the top that you might lose interest in the dazzling array of crap they have to sell you. Suddenly you wouldn’t work so hard at the mill because you would no longer need to finance all that crap! Plus, the cash register would go quiet and the mall would empty out. The whole economy would tank in a day! Then there would be no funds for the Pentagon, the tanks, the bombs, the generals, and all that!
Oh! How fragile is the pride of all that power – hinging on the fear and death in your heart just so it can exist. The word for that is idol. And if we all did this turning from it together at once, the tower would plunge into oblivion immediately.
But, lest you think I am an anarchist, think again. Here’s the thing:
For thus says the high and exalted one who lives forever, whose name is holy, I dwell on a high and holy place, AND ALSO with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.
God is still in command of his creation. The question is not whether he has rule over the world, but of your heart. Do you celebrate yourself or him? He is already King of Creation. Is he king of you? He can handle the collapse of the empire – even if it kills you.
This is a case of contempt vs. celebration. But you need to know that your contempt of God, coupled with your celebration of yourself, really limits your imagination. It also makes you typical, predictable, and vain. On the other hand, if you turn from your contempt, begin celebrating God in your humility and vulnerability, then you suddenly find a rich source of power for your imagination. And it takes imagination to rule the world.
So, if you want to be where your true King is, then you have to tear down the barricade of your heart and get into that holy place where “I am sorry” is the song you sing. He is in there! And that place is utterly humble and risky! The naked vulnerability there is stunning!
And though it feels like death to enter the narrow gate, you suddenly find yourself in the throne room of God! (Ps. 22:1-3).
Of course there is still that stubborn “BUT…” that we talked about in conjunction with The Logic Statement that Contempt Hides. You remember… that “But… it is impossible” statement? It is impossible to get everyone on the same page at the same time. And I claimed the passage of scripture that says, “All things are possible with God.”
Well, that’s true, but it is also a cheap shot.
Here’s the thing: Somebody’s got to go first. Whoever that is will surely die a glorious death for the cause. But to him is given the name that is above all other names! (Phil. 2:9). But wait – somebody already went first!
And he bids you to pick up your cross and follow him.
Here’s the thing: It may feel like a futile and suicidal embrace of fear and death, but Jesus is the way, the truth and the life! (John 14:6). There is no other. And the Creator is also the Judge who comes to judge what the gardeners are doing with his garden.
If you sign on to the revolution, I will not white-wash this, you will sow in tears!
BUT (and this is a “BUT” you can run with…)
But you will reap in joy!
Here’s the thing: This Jesus-message has for far too long been reduced to a message about giving up drinking, cussing, dancing, and sex. I am not about to start preaching “moderation” here, because even that adds to the lie. No. The real problem is not that those things are unimportant but we used to major in them, rather, the problem is that the message quietly accommodated the lie!
We gave lip service to God but revered the U. S. Constitution and/or the world market economy. We went to the mall on Saturday and gave our hearts and money to the consumer cause and then punched our piety cards with a couple of boring hours of empty praises to a god that accommodated Mammon from the day before. Basically, and functionally, we believed that “the good life” merely featured Jesus as a great coffee table book that matched the drapes! That, though, was contempt of God!
We must tear down the barricades to our hearts, enter in with fear and trembling before the true and rightful King of creation. Give him all your money – which probably takes the shape of contribution at church which sounds like “paying tribute to the king” (Isa. 60:5). It may also take the shape of “giving to the poor” (Luke 6:30).
Once you give sacrificially (where it hurts and becomes a fearful thing), you will find your heart opening up to God in that “Oh crap! You-mean-I-am-not-in-charge-of-my-destiny?”sense! That is a powerful sign that you are finding humility and vulnerability with God, and he will express the image of himself in that!
Yes. You will mess this up as you attempt to live this way. St. Peter was not only one of The Twelve, he was one of the closest three! And he messed up about as bad as someone can mess up. And he suffered because of it too. But he learned and grew. And he was worthy to be an Apostle in that foundational sense – a rock! (Matt. 16:18).
Peter, a stone, is fitted into the stonework in the House of God. If he can do and be that, then there is grace enough for you! Start growing in that. Start spreading the word about this revolution. Be gracious with others as they grow too, but never – NEVER – never confuse that grace with an excuse to accommodate the tower. The Way is clearly marked, and there is no excuse for denial of it – only grace for the contrite who refuse to turn from it.
No. That tower is coming down in the flames of judgment.
Here’s the thing: On the other side of that judgment awaits the Garden of Creation of God for those worthy to enter it! Mountains bow down, valleys stand at attention, and crooked places straighten out at the sight of you in that world because of whose image you bear!
Do you really want the tower existence rather than that life?
Neither do I!
I want to walk on water! I really want to try that! That sounds like fun to me – fun they don’t sell at the mall!
I want to stop the sun in the sky for the asking – especially at sunset and paint the sky with brilliant clouds and honor the God of creation in praises doing that! Like the song says, “I don’t want to miss a thing!” I want to join the young men who dream dreams! (Joel 2:28). I want to be surprised by moving mountains when I have sex! I want to explore the mysteries of love!
The tower doesn’t even dare to imagine these things and only offers a parody of them to those who have the money to pay!
Here’s the thing: You can join the revolution. Start by praying. Pray that you are sorry for betraying God. He wants to hear from you about that. Don’t clog your prayer with your Christmas wish list, that is tower crap, and you already have enough of that! Rather, seek first the Rule of God and his Righteousness (his trust) and then these things will be added to your life as a gift.
Do not treat this as an excuse to be lazy, but give to live and live to give! And when and where laziness tries to spoil the vibe, rebuke it and discipline it, but move on. And certainly don’t appeal to the gods of fear and death for correction that only accommodates the lie.
Then praise God! Celebrate God with all your heart, all your passion. Hey, you celebrate a good rock band when they come to town. You know how to celebrate your naked bride on your honey-moon. I am betting that if you unload that contempt of yours, you will quickly figure out how to celebrate God.
Learn some good praise songs, and then sing them at your execution! The empire will witness your life if you do, and more slaves will join the revolution because of it!
Join the assembly of worshipers. There is no such thing as Lone Ranger Christians. You are in it with other image bearers or you are lying to yourself. Humility can only happen when others are watching! And besides, the whole point of revolution, by definition, must be shared even to be had!
If you have not been immersed in the waters of baptism, then seek a minister who will serve that need. It is a rebirth – spiritually speaking (the kind that really counts). The Bible witness expects this of you, and besides, it is a sign of obedience to humble yourself to baptism in front of fellow believers.
And then begin living a life of gratitude. Say “Thank you” to God with your lips. Say “Thank you” to humans with your lips. Say “Thank you” with your attitude in general, and with your actions/behavior and demeanor. Learn to say “Thank you” in multiple dimensions and say it daily. There is no contempt in a genuine “Thank you” message.
Learn to eat the Thank-You meal frequently called “The Lord’s Supper” or “Eucharist.” You must eat it with fellow believers and seekers. It has to be shared to be had. And in all of these ways of expressing gratitude, you are witnessing to the earth and the empire that you are satisfied by God!
What a revolutionary message!
It could change the world!
Do these things, and learn of more. But start here! Start today! The revolution will not wait!
I want to say a word (or a few words) about some of my words in this book. It is obvious that I am not afraid to use foul language. But that does not mean I think we should use it – certainly not freely.
I need to say that I view some issues as a bigger deal than others. I mean if we pit the sin of abusing the “F-word” against the sin of shooting up a crowded movie theater or a grade school, well… no one in their right mind is going to care about the bad word by comparison/contrast. And for good reason.
I will confess that such language comes out of me in evil ways from time to time. However, I also will say that over the years I have begun to master it. I am not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination.
But I want to take care not to condone that kind of talk. I do not want to be a trendy preacher who uses it either – though that effectively is what I am in this book.
Here’s the thing: In a world of beauty and grace and perfect joy and peace, foul language cannot exist there, nor should it. Therefore, we all need to take aim at the love and lifestyle that does not embrace such language.
I have chosen to use it in this book to make a point (poetically). Also it shows that I am in touch with the world we all struggle to get through. However, that is not an excuse to keep using it.
I will say that St. Paul, in one passage, uses a term that could be translated as “Sh_t” (though it probably should be translated in the slightly dialed back form as “crap.” But it usually takes the English term “filth” out of reverence for Scriptures.
So, I am not sure the issue is so cut-n-dry. I also note that (especially in the case of the word “sh_t” (which opens the debate for others as well) that originally it was used by peasants to describe excrement. The excrement requires some term to represent it linguistically, and yet the only reason “sh_t” is considered “bad” is because that was the term of choice used by poor people.
That process of becoming a “bad word” strikes me as suspicious. That process is just one small, but insidious, way the empire marginalizes people with little or no money. Basically, this is not a bad word because God says so, but because the devil says so. And, well, I don’t like his rules.
But really, all I am doing is showing the complexity of the issue and suggesting caution. I took liberty in this book in several places. I hope it functioned to help get your mind going in the right direction.
However, kind of like the Pony Express changed ponies ever-so-often as a means of advancing a message across the country, my use of foul language needs to change now too. There comes a time when we need to give that pony a rest. Maybe even shoot it! Since we overworked it so bad.
Additionally, I express my contempt numerous times in this book – especially in the early pages. I certainly recounted the sins of my wife’s ex-husband. I expressed contempt for him and his sins in the richest foul language I know! And this is the part of my use of words that gives me the most cause for pause. This is the part that is truly dangerous for my soul, his, and for those of you I might influence by reading me.
I do not want to white-wash his poor behavior one bit. But many of us are guilty of exactly the same sins – and we need grace rather than contempt. While my sins are not too different from his, I cannot say that I ever betrayed my wife in that fashion, BUT, I am a red-blooded, American male. I have bedded a number of women TO MY SHAME! And so there is only a hair’s difference between my guilt and his, and when I stop to think about it, I actually have enough understanding to sympathize with him for falling into this temptation.
Still, I made a point in telling the tale the way I did. And I hope it helped you to get a grip on that message I seek to convey. But now that it has served that purpose, I need to come clean and say that it is not gracious of me to go around scorning that man. And I want to be gracious and receive grace. After all, that is the true nature of this HEALING REVOLUTION.
And now for a word on the word revolution.
The word revolution goes in the same category as the foul language and the contempt I express for my wife’s ex-husband in that it serves a purpose (as used) only briefly. In reality, it serves a temporary purpose – not a permanent one. It really is not the right trajectory for us to be on at all. However, that kind of language resonates at certain levels with your heart so that it can open your mind and heart to new things. That is how I use the term revolution.
Here’s the thing: If you stop and think carefully about it, the case I lay out in this book is that God is the true King of creation. If that is accurate, then the word revolution suggests turning away from him rather than to him – by definition.
However, we are so culturally conditioned (or we might say due to the viewpoint we occupy from inside the tower) to use the word revolution in a favorable way that is not really accurate. I have tapped into that kind of usage. I use it as if to say we are revolting from empire (which after a fashion is true). That sort of catches the issue too, but it is not perfectly accurate – far from it.
It would be better to say that it is a revolution against revolution! At other times and in other places I have called it a revolutionary revolution. I have called Jesus a revolutionary revolutionary. This is because at just the point where we are baited by sin and contempt to take offense, we need to supply wisdom and grace – and the irony of that is revolutionary given that sin is the first revolt.
Perhaps we should call it a Healing Revolution, because it seeks to heal the wounds and even bring the dead back to life. Other revolutions make room in our hearts for scorn to seethe and fester until it winds up overtaking our hearts. Our sense of justice is actually flawed in exactly that way.
God is the ultimate Judge, and he will be merciful and gracious however he wants, and will not necessarily consult me (or you) about it at all! However, he makes it clear that if I want to be forgiven (which I surely do) then I must be forgiving (Matt. 6:15). And he places no limits on my forgiveness.
I hope that I have pointed you sufficiently to Jesus in this book. I attempt to map out your world in spiritual terms that you can understand, expose your contempt and pride for what it is, call you to turn from idols (and demonstrate what they are and how they lay claim on you), and then invite you to join the cause! That is all a really tall order. It is fairly complex, yet simple too (ironically), but tangled with the false allegiances in our hearts.
I pray that God move into your heart and make his home there, for ultimately he must do his part too. And he is the real builder of the house and his domain (Ps. 127:1). And your job is to learn to trust him despite your fears and desires to the contrary.
Go with God.
Go in peace.