In The Name Of God

It was Warren Jeff’s body language, that of a nervous man with something to hide, that raised suspicion in a Nevada State Trooper Monday night, leading to a search of his vehicle, a positive identification of the fugitive polygamist, and his arrest. A routine traffic stop finally put an end to his flight…like we’ve never heard that story before.

I couldn’t be happier that this guy is now where he belongs. Utah will be prosecuting first, although I understand there is a long line of states who are waiting. It’s the backstory, though, that really wrenches at my gut.

Jeffs was a tyrant. He ruled a reclusive sect of fundamentalists, teaching them that he held the key to their eternal salvation, and that they were to follow his guidelines on whom they should marry and when. I understand that each man had to have three wives in order to reach Heaven. Girls had to marry at whatever age he decided. If anyone refused these terms, he simply with-held their marriages, and, therefore, their salvation. Very similar to the history of the Roman Catholic Church, who with-held the sacraments from kings (and, in the belief system of the time, thereby with-held salvation from the king) in order to bend the political structure to their will. It’s the same perversion on a smaller scale. Somewhere, at some point in this guy’s delusional head, he became the bearer of eternal destiny for his followers.

And he did it in the name of God.

Incidentally, I think God is very unhappy with this. At no point in the Scriptures does God ever validate polygamy. Likewise, He never ties marriage into eternal destiny. Somehow, though, people buy into these, and other, lies. I think that it is frequently because few people want to actually read the Scriptures for themselves, and would rather blindly believe what someone who has read them (supposedly) has to say about them, and about God, and about Jesus.

This is much bigger than we realize, the core issue much deeper. We want to believe that there is order in our chaotic and screwed up world, something bigger than our dead-end lives, something that makes the day-to-day routine make sense, something worth striving for. We want to believe that there is something, Someone, bigger than us. By definition, this Someone has to be different than us, and separate from us, otherwise He would be us. And if He were us, then life would be terribly pointless and depressing (even for the narcissist among us). In short, we all want to believe in God. We’re all seeking Him at some level. And when someone claims to be doing something on His authority, many rush into whatever pop culture fad is being sold. God has become a commodity. He has become an excuse. He has become justification for sexually frustrated pedophiles with superiority complexes to ruin the lives of countless “followers.”

I think God is furious when people pervert His name like this.

The spiritual journey upon which each of us embark is one that seeks a real God…not the version of Him that is sold and preached in our consumer society. There is a God that we know is up there, even if we want to fool ourselves into thinking that we don’t believe. But, if God is Who He says He is in the Scriptures, then maliciously harming each other is not His desire for us…it’s not in His character. These things are not what He wants. God is love. He personifies all that is pure about love. We all want to be loved. After the sacrifice He has made for us, I can only imagine the fury that burns in His heart when fanatics like Jeffs do what they do.

Unfortunately, there is a thin line between faith and fanaticism, and when we go wrong, we go really wrong.

I don’t think it was coincidence that a trooper stopped Jeffs on Monday. It wasn’t coincidence that Jeffs committed a traffic violation, or that he was nervous, or that the trooper remembered his training, and eventually recognized Jeffs. None of these events Monday happened by accident. They happened, I think, because God got sick of him. Because He was sick of seeing His name dragged through the mud. Perhaps His heart was broken as some young girl who had been violated under Jeffs command cried out to Him, uncertain that He even existed. And He showed up in a real way. His justice was served. His compassion was shown. His reputation, at some level, restored.

He’s good for that.

Tick Tock, Tick Tock

I would love to know where time goes.

Time has always been an issue for me, even moreso since I started grad school. It’s funny that all of the things I want to do are ministry, fun, and/or very productive, but there’s just not enough time for it all. Worse, prayer has very nearly become one more item on my to-do list, which is a place I’ve been in before, and I know it will be catastrophic should I return.

I was laughing with Karen last night, talking about how one just can’t be as productive after he/she gets married. I keep thinking, I didn’t get this done, but I can take care of it tonight…but then I get home, and all I want to do is spend time with my wife.

And the homework hasn’t even started yet!!!

Well, I think I’ve had my last free time for 3 months or so, but it’s time well-invested. But it makes me realize how critical time management is, which is difficult because I’m not all that disciplined. Not to mention that whole artistic tendency to lose time when working on a project. I’m also learning to discern what is necessary, and what I can live without.

Karen will be blogging here, I promise! She is teaching at a new school, and all the time setting up her room and getting to know her new students have been more than a bit taxing on her.

So, without further comment, off to class I go!!

Missing the Definition

Friday, a U.S. District Judge ruled that an Oklahoma county courthouse was not in violation of the Constitution by displaying a monument of historical artifacts, which included tributes to veterans, Native American tribes, the Mayflower Compact, and (insert gasp and horrified look here) the Ten Commandments. This judge ruled that this monument did not promote Christianity at the expense of other religions. The ACLU, of course, is talking appeal.

This trainwreck just keeps going, doesn’t it? A misconception perpetuated by stupidity, ignorance, and intolerance that is carefully disguised as tolerance.

After all, isn’t that the core of this whole issue? Those with too much time on their hands, like the ACLU, have decided that Christianity is a faith of intolerant bigots who like to persecute those of other faiths. Ironically, I find that what is promoted here is tolerance and respect of any faith, except Christianity. Because the ACLU, and those like them, are full of empty rhetoric, much sound and fury signifying nothing. In fact, the ACLU’s attorney for this particular case, said that “the court’s decision really represents a loss for religious freedom.” How exactly is that, again? How exactly has faith lost its freedom of expression here?

A myth that I see perpetuated here is that the root of all bigotry and intolerance is Christianity. Granted, Christians say and do a lot of stupid things. However, just as all members of the Islamic faith shouldn’t be judged by a few homicidal maniacs who kill in the name of their religion, all Christians shouldn’t be judged by a few impulsive windbags who get on television and say ignorant things. Christ-followers are not the root of intolerance, but rather victims of it, the same as every other faith in an American culture that claims a desire to flee from faith while embracing it in secret. The irony here is that this wasn’t even a religious expression at this courthouse…it was an historical one. And yet, the ACLU wants to proclaim that religious freedom has suffered a blow. From an historical display. One more opportunity to scapegoat the intolerance they preach.

Tolerance. The theme of our generation, and of our culture.

It seems to me that, if tolerance is what we are aiming to achieve, then a great deal would stand to be gained if the ACLU would just shut up and go away.

Oops. Did that sound intolerant?

Coming Together

My academic career has began to culminate…finally…and has left me with a passion.

I started Seminary to study my faith. That study has been a fascinating one. Not only do I know more about God, but my faith is stronger (for long time readers, yes I have blasted Seminary in the past, but roll with me here…everything has positives as well as negatives). My eyes see more clearly. My mind reflects more deeply. I would even dare to say that my heart loves more fully now, although not nearly at the level it should. It’s a work in progress.

My undergraduate work was in communication and theatre. Melding that with graduate work in Biblical studies and faith seems odd. Some have even scratched their heads and called them opposite ends of the spectrum. The fact that I have been in the behavioral health profession for some time makes some raise an eyebrow also, because it just seems like a different world than my creative side. I think most people shrug and say, “well, everyone has to pay the bills, right?”

I confess that these different aspects of my life have seemed to be a dichotomy at times, contradictory at times, even completely at odds with each other at times. Any creative personality reading this can share the pain of having to do one thing to pay the bills, while that very employment robs you of the time you desperately need to create. I’ve felt the same frustration with Seminary, because grad school sucks away your time as nothing else will. Then I went and got married…when attempting to manage my time over the last few months, I’ve feared for my sanity on occasion.

Now, though, I can see where God has been bringing me. Not in the whole, but at least a crucial chunk of it. I can see where all the threads of my life intersect. I have a starting point, at least (about time…I’m 32, for crying out loud!). At that starting point is this:

I am passionate about, and fascinated by, how faith intersects with art, and with culture. There is a key there to our lives and to our society. Somehow, the three must integrate, although the church has largely seen them at odds with each other through history. My future writing will, at least in part, take this direction. And I can’t wait to get started.

So, a couple of changes, I think, are in order.

I changed the subtitle of my blog to “thoughts on faith, art, and culture.” I’d say that I’m changing the focus of what I’ll write about here, but I can’t truly say that that will happen, because I think that this has been germinating in my mind since I started this blog, so what I’ve written here has always focused on those three things. I’m certainly no authority on this or any other subject, but I’m going to have fun exploring it!

I’ve also discovered that my wife, Karen, is fascinated more than a little by the same topic. If anything, she has wisdom in vast amounts, and, being that we’re joined in this life-journey together, it only makes sense that she and I explore this together. So, Karen will be blogging here as well. My blogosphere friends, please make her feel welcome!

That being said, I have a little less than a week before classes begin for my final year. So, as excited as I am about that, it’s bittersweet as always, because time will become a much more precious commodity than it already is in a week or so.

So, pardon me while I go and weep over the end of my summer…

Remembering Tragedy

I have some issues with movies that are releasing currently.

First of all is World Trade Center. I’ve listened to news coverage of the movie, and of the reactions, both positive and negative, to Stone’s new film, the second about that fateful day when they came and knocked our towers down. I see the value in, as one person stated, creating a memorial to the event while the memories are still fresh in our minds. I’ve listened to many, many of my own friends say that they’re just not ready for this yet.

Now there is a television movie called Surviving Katrina on the Discovery Channel. My wife and I had the same reaction…we rolled our eyes at the commercial.

9-11 and Katrina were horrific tragedies…one was man-made, one was natural. I’m not attempting to compare or equate the two in any way by any method or any quantity other than to say that, in both events, lives were lost, hearts were broken, and lives were changed forever. Both are scars on the souls of those who lived through them, nightmares in their dreams, flashbacks during their days. In some way or another, both were undoubtedly spiritual journeys and sources of questions about God and evil for all of us. Certainly they were for me.

As an artist, I understand commemorating these events.

As an American, I cringe when I hear either one referred to.

In any case, I question whether this is true artistic reflection, or whether they are capitalizing on past tragedies for financial reasons. It concerns me.

Will I see either one? I have to leave that undecided for now.