Friday, August 10, 2007
A few weeks ago I was forced to sell my soul to the local cell phone service provider. All right, so I forced myself, but nevertheless, I ended up in Chester at the local Edge office, signing away two years of my life so that I might more easily communicate with whomever I wish. Of course there was plenty of time for conversation while things were set up, so myself and my father (who was also signing away his freedom) found ourselves the captive audience of the very helpful and rather interesting salesman there. He began chattering away about Digital Angel and how we're loosing our privacy etc. I had just seen Enemy Of The State so I was semi-up to date (I knew what he was talking about generally). But then he started talking about the United States, Canada and Mexico merging. In a very loose sense of course, the three nations would still be seperate, but there would be no borders in between. Federated, as it were. Not only that, but there were plans to create a common currency among these three nations. Any guesses as to what it would be called? That's right.... just like the Euro in Europe, this would be called the "Amero". I chuckled to myself and thought "heh, this is incredible... and rather frightening". By then I had spent more than I intended to and we were set up for the most part, so we left, leaving our thanks and our laughs.
Sure, it's incredible. After talking to a few gentlemen from my church directly after leaving the shop, I began thinking how ridiculous it sounded. Why would the American Dollar and the Mexican Peso merge? How could they? We're closer to the Canadian Dollar, but still, the American Dollar Bill is a symbol that is known by dang near every human being on the face of the globe. How could it suddenly cease to exist?
Well... I suppose I stand corrected. Poke around the net a bit... it all looks legitimate. The plan is that by 2010 there will be no border between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico, only a border surrounding the three nations. The three countries will be refered to as the North American Union (like the European Union) and the Amero will be installed soon after (why can't we be original?).
Honestly, I can see how people would have problems with this, but I think it's kind of neat. The brotherhood of the nations, as it were. Maybe I'm a traitor, maybe I'm just un-patriotic, but I'm for the idea. If someone else starts dictating the actions of the U.S., I'd help to liberate ourselves.... again. We rebeled for our liberty once, I think that we will again if we need to. But... at the moment I'm just open-minded. I wouldn't mind just considering myself a Californian....
Thursday, August 02, 2007
In conclusion! I have decided to turn The Thursday Post into a social/economical/political/ethical commentary. Suffice to say I have no idea how this is really going to turn out. I'm on a bit of an intellectual high right now, with the desire to be excessively wordy and rather rebelliously dubious. Perhaps in a few weeks I will settle down into my old habit of posting regurgitated class work... we shall see.
First order of business: Bill Clinton
Having spent some time with my politically liberal employer (one out of the two I work for the most), I have been exposed to not quite Republican views, and, heaven forbid, socially-commentating-country-western-hick-bands from Alabama (or somewhere nearby). That's right, now I spend a good amount of my laboring days listening to groups such as Steve Earle, James McMurtry, and The Drive-by Truckers. I enjoy most of it, but the music adds a completely new element to my life. It's as if a group of radical hippie protesters with guitars poetically broke into my brain.
One song by The Drive-by Truckers sparked a bit of an interesting conversation betwixt myself and said employer. Pardon my French, and I know that this will sound very, very strange, but the song is entitled (divert your eyes right about now ladies) "The President's Penis is Missing". Basically, the Drive-by Truckers argue, and my employer and many others agree, that a President who is helping our economy ought not to be discarded based on his sex life. In a nutshell, that's what they are saying. The media had their eye on the President's social life more than on what he was doing for the country. The argument my boss made was that, if the C.E.O. of a major corporation could be as promiscuous as he likes without endangering the stock of the company, why isn't it the same for the President? Why should we care?
First of all, let me be quite frank in saying that I have no idea what Clinton did for our country. All that I hear about him is regarding the scandal. I haven't done my homework and I am in no ways ready to critique Bill Clinton as an economical ruler. HOWEVER, I can in theory respond to the statements set forth in the previous paragraph. Why SHOULD we care? Well, I'd like to think that a leader's private life will influence his public life. The Truckers would like to say that personal morality has nothing to do with how great of a public leader the President can be. They would like to say that the office of the President is strictly a public job, and thus his private life is irrelevant (note to the band and to anyone else to whom it may concern: correct me if I am mistaken). But are not the public and private lives of the President but two different views of the life of the same man?! How can one separate the two?! To do so would be to cut a man in half, which is ridiculous! How can we trust a man who cheats on his wife not to cheat on the nation which he serves? Is this too harsh? Too unreasonable?
Thursday, July 26, 2007
This idea is very possible, it is believable. Not only that, but it is true. It is seen all the time in our society. Wealth breeds influence which in turn gains power. The rich gain power and thus win, at least in political circles. It doesn't seem to matter what your morals are, if you have enough money. Morals are not totally totally gone, there are still those who hold them in high regard. But as a country we do not hold virtues as highly as we ought to.
Over half of the Presidents of the United States have been either in the Republican or the Democratic parties. Out of the dozens of parties to choose from, these are th two largest and richest parties. The candidates from these two parties are well funded and have the best ad campaigns. Because of their popularity, they are able to continually sustain themselves. Because they are well funded and do well, they thus fund themselves all the more for the next year's elections.
It is only natural that people should act this way. With the fall, we gave into material desires. Thus, we were cursed. Now we wallow in our sin. It follows that we would rather have material possessions which help our image rather than virtues which often do not matter.
Furthermore, what reason do we have to act any differently? We are bred to love material things over virtues. I do not think that this is right, just that it is the truth. We have no reason to seek virtue over material possession, so we must work all the more to discipline ourselves and produce within us a high moral character.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
First, man at birth. Men are born with a sense of free will. However, this liberty does not give man the right or the ability to be God, because we are bound by conscience. We can do and think whatever we will, but since we have been given the knowledge of good and evil, we are also given the choice to obey the good, and shun the evil. We are not physically handcuffed, but mentally; ever haunted by a hovering sense of morality.
As part of this free will, we are given several rights at birth. For example we are given the freedom of belief, since no man can stop thoughts, save by stopping the physical brain. We are given the freedom to defend that which we are responsible for, be it our possessions, our friends or neighbors, or ourselves. There are many more “rights” given to us by human institutions, but even these cannot be used to justify evil. Like everything else that we as humans do, our rights are governed by conscience: they are only good if conscience makes them so.
Secondly, a political theory must also deal with how man is. The expectations for humanity are hardly lived up to. We are given consciences, but we rarely use them. It’s simply human nature: we are bred to disobey. Thus, we have laws. Laws govern and protect man by attacking the vices of society. Rights, on the other hand, protect man by defending virtues. A society ought to have a strong set of laws and a clear view of human rights, and a strong government to enforce those laws and rights, so as to protect the people. Yet, the government must also be understanding. A nation with a ruler who does not listen to his or her people, is little better than a nation without a ruler at all.
A political theory ought to also take these first two points, the nature of man at birth, and the nature of man during the course of his life, and use them to form a third point, dealing with what a man, or man in general, ought to be like. The problem with society is the rooted in the people who make it up. If man in general is corrupted, as he is by sin nature, then it naturally follows that that which he builds cannot, and will not, be perfect. In order to create a good society (simply a good society, since a perfect society is, I believe, unattainable), one must first reform the people living in that society. And, if it is true that we have been given the knowledge to discern between good and evil, and we have a problem making that discernment, then the problem must be based at the human conscience.
Now, many would simply call this stating the obvious, but I believe that “the obvious” needs to be stated. Whenever we attempt to make a cultural difference, it seems as if we spend more time changing the standards of society to fit the people, rather than changing the people to fit the standards of society. The problem lies within us, and following our hearts will only get us into trouble.
Now, most people, especially in this country, argue vehemently for the separation of Church and state. I am basing my argument upon a rather Christian world view, especially since I cite the problem of human nature, but I believe that many would be able to agree with what I am pointing out. The problem remains: what can change the conscience of a man, if the conscience is indeed what needs changing? Religion can. This will no doubt be unthinkable to many, but think of it: a good, moral framework comes most easily with religion. Religion gives man a standard to which he can compare his life. My apologies Mr. Lenin, religion is necessary to the survival of society. Religion allows man to recognize his conscience and obey it, and thus he can make better use of the laws which government sets in place to protect him. Religion is the key which has the potential to unlock the secret to a good, stable society.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Many of these “many Christians” take a very literalistic approach to the phrase “call no man father”. They stress the words “no” and “man”, emphasizing that no one, under any circumstances, ought to be called “father”, “teacher” or “master”. Others are not so aggressive, and declare that only clerics cannot be called “father” and that we may to refer to other men with such titles.
The argument of this first group, however, is simply absurd. They take one simple passage of scripture and eisegete it, taking it to presumptuous heights. The same Christians who say that the Bible ought to have no interpreter but itself, say that we ought to call no man “father”, when the apostles themselves use similar terms of familial, hierarchical, respect. For example, St. Paul, in 1st Timothy 1:2, refers to Timothy as “son”, thus insinuating that St. Paul is a spiritual father to Timothy. In Philippians 2:22, St. Paul again references Timothy and how he served him “as a son with his father”. Also, the word “father” is used half a dozen times by St. Paul in reference to Abraham in Romans 4. One cannot let the Bible contradict itself in saying that we ought to call no man father.
It is also absurd to say that one can refer to anyone but clerics as “father”. In that situation, it is as if the person saying it recognizes that there is a familial relationship within the church, with the priest or pastor as a paternal head, and yet that person refuses to recognize him as such with a title. He or she sees the position and the rank, and yet refuses to use the title fitting for that rank.
How often was Christ literal in his teachings? He was a master of satire. Just look at his parables. They blatantly pictured vices, often the vices of the pharisees. But was he ever really literal? He didn't often just state the problems. That is why he had parables in the first place. He used analogies and stories. When he said that he was the vine and we are the branches, he wasn't making some drugged-out vegetarian prophesy. He was using symbolism. He wasn't being literal.
If both these propositions prove to be absurd, what choice is there to make? One is left only with the option to refer to men of rank as “father”, “master” or “teacher” according to their position, and to suppose that Christ was not being literal in his statements.
But what evidence is there to support this? First and foremost, there is the Church, of which Christ is the head. Within Christ's Church, there are bishops (overseers) and priests (elders). They are fathers under the great father. There is a reason that we call a priest “father”. He is the visible image of Christ (or ought to be). We reference priests with respect because of who they represent. And thus we use the same term which we give to the one whom they represent. Within the great family of the Church, there are many smaller families, each with a head, a father.
Tied to that is an argument from tradition. If the Church has been reasoning thus for two thousand year, we do not have the right to change that way of thought. Not to mention that the basis for the New Testament Church is the Old Testament Church, which held almost exactly the same position for quite a few thousand years prior. To so lightly disregard what has been approved by so many great father's of the faith is a disrespect to our religion.
Again, interrelated is the issue of respect. Because of the way that the Church is set up, and because of the time for which it has been set up in this manner, it is simply respectful to address clergy by calling them “father” (or whichever related title according to rank). But not only clergy. Christ tells us to honor our civil authorities. It is simply improper to address a civil authority without a title recognizing his rank. And thus, if one does not, one once again contradicts the Bible with itself. We are called to respect our authorities, and we respect them by way of title. If we say that we may call no man master, we affirm Matthew 23, but we do not honor the civil authority, and thus disobey Christ's commandment from another passage in scripture.
How then ought we to read this passage? With a grain of salt (not literally). We must recognize the context with which Christ says this. In Matthew 23, Christ is rebuking the scribes and pharisees for their pride. They loved to be called “rabbi” and to be reminded of their rank by their title. But Christ sought to humble them by exhorting those around them to not encourage the proud pharisees by calling them “rabbi”. He was not telling everyone to call no one “father” or “teacher” or “master”. He was only pointing out that that was not the reason for those titles. The titles were coined to let others recognize a certain person's rank so that those others might go to that person for help. The titles were not coined to stroke the bearers' egos. In Matthew 23, context is key.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
The city of Philippi was a Roman colony. As a result, the Philippians were Roman citizens. The Philippians churchmen understood the concept of having a tyrannical king (not necessarily meaning a bad king, simply an absolute ruler) and swearing an oath of fealty to him. Thus, when the Church at Philippi began, the Christians there had no problem recognizing Christ as an absolute ruler.
In America, we don't have an absolute ruler. We have the president, but he is very little like the Roman emperor. We don't have the background that the Philippians had. The social and political worlds which they lived in to is much more like what we see in Arthurian books or films. The sort of books and films which portray everyone bowing the knee to the king. Yes, we have respect for our president, we recognize him as “Mr. President, Sir”, but it still seems so much more informal than any monarchical system. Is this the result of an enlightened era?
Christ speaks very highly of submission to civil authority. After all, he submitted to the Roman government to be beaten, humiliated and killed. But there is another very famous example found in Matthew 22:16-21. In this passage, the Pharisees sought to trick Jesus by asking him whether it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar. They expected the Messiah to be a warrior who would liberate Israel from the burdensome yoke of Roman oppression. If Christ said that they ought not to pay taxes to Caesar, they might be willing to follow him, or they could point out a contradicting passage from scripture to condemn him, whichever they wish. Such an answer would provide them with a very good grip on him. If he had, however, said that they ought to pay taxes to Caesar, they could have proclaimed that he was pro-Roman and ruin his political reputation. Jesus answers in neither fashion, saying that one ought to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's”. Thus, he simultaneously answered the question of paying taxes to Caesar while lashing back with a statement regarding religious and moral fidelity.
Christ taught that we ought to be loyal citizens to those that are in authority over us, even, apparently, those whom we do not like. St. Paul follows suit in Romans 13:1-7 by saying such things as “let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (v 2) and “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (v 7)
This is the concept that Paul did not have to spend much time teaching to the Philippians. He used the word πολιτευομαι meaning “to live as citizens” in chapter 1 verse 27. They already knew the concept of being a citizen. They were raised in a Roman context in which everyone swore loyalty to the emperor. The knew how to pay taxes to their earthly king, and thus it was not very hard for them to recognize that they also had to pay taxes to their heavenly king.
What about us? How do we deal with our civil rulers, especially in a country laden with immoral practices such as abortion and euthanasia? Do we simply refuse to give tribute to our authorities?
Mr. Tom Wells, the founder of the Family Values Party, would argue in support of that ideal. He states that he was awoken by a bright light and a voice which called out “Tell my people that they are to tell their public officials that they are prepared not to pay their taxes until abortion is no longer publicly funded” (par. 1). Mr. Wells is a Messianic Jew and now believes very strongly that we ought not to pay taxes while our government continues in such immoral practices.
What ought we to do? Ought we to follow Mr. Wells' example and boycott until our wishes are granted? Men and women who have stood up for the Christian religion before often are remembered as martyrs. It is not a sin to die or suffer hardship defending our faith. But, what about honoring our authorities?
I suggest a path closer to that which Paul exhorted the Philippians towards, and which Christ exhorted his followers towards earlier. “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities”. I would argue that Christ's exhortation, and beneath that, St. Paul's, overrides the personal conviction of Mr. Wells, however real his experience may have been. Yes, abortion is a terrible thing, as is euthanasia. But rebelling against authority in order to wipe out such practices is not a good method of handling the situation. To do so would be to give into the all-too-common mindset that “the ends justify the means”. To do so would be to follow the will of God by contradicting Christ. We must recognize our positions in life, and work to the best that we can to expel such evil practices, but we must do so whilst obeying our civil authorities, just as Christ commanded.
If we do not live lives in which we are faithful citizens to our leaders here on earth, how will we be faithful citizens to our Father in heaven? St. Paul did not have a hard time teaching the Philippians the relationship between heavenly and earthly citizenship, but I think he would have a difficult time teaching most of the American population. He gave them an excellent lesson, one that we ought to recognize the importance of.
Wells, Thomas. “Family Values Party.” 6 June 2000. 3 December 2006.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
How is the word of God living and powerful? It is an inanimate object: a book. A book can't do much of anything on it's own. A book can't grow lips or call our names when we are sinning. A book can't physically stop us from stealing, or from hatefully pulling the trigger of a gun. The writer to the Hebrews was not crazy. If he's not crazy, what does he mean?
Within the covers of a Bible lies written accounts of the life of Christ. The Old Testament shows what lead up to the life of Christ, and what Christ had to fulfill. It enhances the story of the New Testament, the actual teachings and actions of Christ. They are necessary to each other. But neither can live, neither can do anything in a physical sense. While the Bible is important, it needs the Church. The Church, as the bride of Christ, is the life and action of the Bible. The Church is what makes the word of God living and powerful. We enact the Bible in a very physical way as members of the body of Christ.
The writer to the Hebrews continues by saying that the word of God is “sharper than any two edged sword”. Not just any sword, a two edged sword. The passage quoted here is taken from the New King James Version, but the English Standard Version, the American Standard Version, The New American Standard Bible, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, and the King James Version all contain the phrase “two-edged”. Perhaps it was just used for emphasis, for example, “not only a regular sword, but a TWO-EDGED sword”. But I like to think that the use of the phrase “two-edged” is more symbolic. The Bible can be used for two different purposes: to judge and to save. Two sides. Judgment and salvation are, in some sense, two different sides of the same coin, just as there as a two-edged sword has two sharp edges, but it is still only one sword. I argue that by using the phrase “two-edged”, the writer to the Hebrews is giving testimony to the dual purpose of the Holy Scriptures.
Again, keeping to the militaristic imagery, the writer of the Hebrews says that the word of God “[pierces] even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”. How does one separate soul from spirit? Is not one's soul and spirit the same thing? “Joints and marrow” seem to be pointing to the same thing. I would argue that yes, just like “joints and marrow”, the writer of the Hebrews would say that soul and spirit are one and the same. But how can the word of God divide them? I don't think that the writer to the Hebrews meant this to be literal. If soul and spirit are one and the same, just as joints and marrow are, then there is no separating them. This analogy merely emphasizes the writers statement that the word of God is powerful. How powerful? Powerful enough to divide something from itself.
“A discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”. Again, emphasizing how powerful the word of God is. It's convicting. It's only a book, and it can't get up and physically guide us, but it can convict us through words. As already mentioned, God uses the Church, the body of Christ, to make the word of God living and powerful. We as Christians help the Bible to convict. Not many lost souls will simply pick up a Bible and read it for fun, but we can use the Bible, like a two-edged sword, to pierce to the very inward parts of that lost soul and cut away all that is not wanted.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
In the Old Covenant system, sacrifice was normal. That meant that blood was common. With that blood came the forgiveness of sins and the redemption of the body (promise of salvation in Abraham's bosom). But it was not a once and for all sacrifice. It had to be done often. Blood meant death. Death occurred often. The death of God's creation for the salvation of his people. The old covenant people were redeemed by death.
Now, in the New Covenant, we have Christ. He died for us, and thus we are still redeemed by death, but the death is different. It is only Christ who died, just one man. A man who was both 100% human and 100% divine, yes, but still one man. In the New Covenant, there's less death, and because of that, there's less blood. The blood that is shed is His blood, and so it is much more special and altogether worth more than the blood of goats and calves.
As the writer to the Hebrew's notes (as well as many others) in chapter nine verse twenty-two, “without shedding of blood there is no remission”. Death had to come upon something to save humanity, lest humanity itself fall prey to death. The Hebrews in the Old Covenant had calves and goats, but “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14) Because Christ is greater than the sacrifices before, he was and is able to completely redeem all who follow Him by His death, rather than by the death of millions, literally millions of His lower creation.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Bringing the world to rights is part of God's great plan of creation. Ever since man disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, we have been in need of salvation. Salvation from death, and salvation from evil. Justice is set up in order to condemn evil. Therefore, the ultimate justice, the ultimate condemnation of evil, must come from God, since He is the author of good, the opposite of evil. Death was defeated by Christ when he rose from the grave, but evil still abounds, even though Satan has been overcome. Therefore, justice is still needed.
Why is God so concerned about setting the world to rights? God, first and foremost, is a God of order. He made His creation with a definite order and hierarchy. After all, He allowed Adam to name the animals, did He not? Our God is a methodical God. He made things in order, day by day.
Secondly, God is a king. He is ruler over all the earth. Thus, it is only logical to suppose that He wants us to have order and hierarchy in our societies as well; that is, government. Government everywhere, both in a political sense, and in an ecclesiastical sense. Without government on our part, we tend to wander away from truth, order, and most of all, justice.
Related to the issue of justice, is the issue of citizenship. Good citizens are those which obey their government and serve their country. But in his epistle to the Philippians, St. Paul states that our citizenship is not here on earth, but in heaven. Does that mean that we neglect being obedient here on earth? Of course not. Christ told us to “give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's”. Even though we are citizens of the heavenly kingdom, it does not follow that we cease to be citizens of earthly ones. That means that, as citizens, we must take part in the fight to bring justice to all the ends of the world.
But, if only God can ultimately bring justice to creation, doesn't that make our fight futile? Of course not! If we follow that line of reasoning, we might as well give up evangelism simply because God has the ability to save whoever He wants. It is not in God's nature to strike every last murderer with lightning upon the instant that he commits the crime. Murderers will be judged, just like the rest of us, but many murderers still live to tell their tales. God has left earthly governments in charge of carrying out justice. God could do it all Himself, but again, it's not in His nature. He has given authority to us, His creation, to bring the world to rights, one little bit at a time, until the day comes when He will complete and purify heaven and earth.
God will bring all His creation to rights, and it is our job as citizens to do our best to promote justice while we are on this earth. If we call ourselves Christians, then we must recognize that our God is a God who loves justice, it’s evident in the general revelation of His creation, and it is evident in the specific revelation of His word. And if we call ourselves Christians, citizens of the heavenly kingdom as well as citizens here on earth, then we must share that love of justice, and use justice to fight the battle that has been raging on for centuries: the battle between good and evil.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
"You may already have noticed that girls are quite different from you. By this, we do not mean the physical differences, more the fact that they remain unimpressed by your mastery of a game involving wizards, or your understanding of Mores code. Some will be impressed, of course, but as a general rule, girls do not get quite as excited by the use of urine as a secret ink as boys do.
We thought long and hard about what advice could possibly be suitable. It is an inescapable fact that boys spend a great deal of their lives thinking and dreaming about girls, so the subject should be mentioned here - as delicately as possible.
Advice About Girls
1. It is important to listen. Human beings are often very self-centered and like to talk about themselves. In addition, it's an easy subject if someone is nervous. It is good advice to listen closely - unless she has also been given this advice, in which case an uneasy silence could develop, like two owls sitting together.
2. Be careful with humor. It is very common for boys to try to impress girls with a string of jokes, each one more desperate than the last. One joke, perhaps, and then a long silence while she talks about herself...
3. When you are older, flowers really do work - women love them. When you are young, however, there is a ghastly sense of being awkward rather than romantic - and she will guess your mother bought them.
4. Valentine's Day cards. Do not put your name on them. The whole point is the excitement a girl feels, wondering who finds her attractive. If it says "From Brian" on it, the magic isn't really there. This is actually quite a nice thing to do to someone you don't think will get a card. If you do this, it is even more important that you never say, "I sent you one because I thought you wouldn't get any." Keep the cards simple. You do not want one with fancy stuff of any kind.
5. Avoid being vulgar. Excitable bouts of windbreaking will not endear you to a girl, just to pick one example.
6. Play a sport of some kind. It doesn't matter what it is, as long as it replaces the corpse-like pallor of the computer programmer with a ruddy glow. Honestly, this is more important than you know.
7. If you see a girl in need of help - unable to lift something, for example - do not taunt her. Approach the object and greet her with a cheerful smile, while surreptitiously testing the weight of the object. If you find you can lift it, go ahead. IF you can't try sitting on it and engaging her in conversation.
8. Finally, make sure you are well-scrubbed, your nails are clean and your hair is washed. Remember that girls are as nervous around you as you are around them, if you can imagine such a thing. They think and act rather differently to you, but without them, life would be one long football locker room. Treat them with respect."
Hmmm..... good things to know.... plus I thought it was rather humorous.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
As a teenage male, it seems socially awkward for me to talk about this, but if I don't talk about this who will? There are obviously not enough people taking the initiative to blot this defect from our midst.
Note that these counties which have such organized forms of prostitution are “Western Countries”. As Americans, it seems as if we ought to naturally be rivals with the countries of the Middle East. We have this idea in our heads that the Middle East is our enemy, that those countries are the ones who hate us and bombed us on 9/11. Yes, we have our differences, but I say that we have much to learn from them. The Islamic countries are the countries which hold the death penalty for prostitution. They are the ones which actually recognize prostitution for what it is: disgusting. Perhaps their methods of punishment are harsh, but they're leagues above where we are.
When will we recognize what we've done? When will we wake up and see what a mess we've made of ourselves. We spend so much time promoting human rights and catering to the freedom of our citizens that in doing so, we're hurting ourselves. We're stabbing ourselves in the back.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Mr. Edward Murrow, as many know, was a gripping orator who bravely defended his country through his ability to speak the truth. He strove hard for the continuation of freedom in our country and abroad and was greatly rewarded for his efforts.
He argued that the television is just as useful as you make it.
How is this the case? First, one must define one's terms. Today, the word “television” is simultaneously used to describe both the mechanical device and the programs which that device offers (cable, satellite TV, network TV etc.). In Edward Murrow's day, however, they were virtually the same. All one could do with one's television was watch the programs provided.
Television allows people to access an entire universe of material from the comfort of their living rooms. There are many instructional, educational and simply beneficial results of this access. For example, there is “The History Channel”, “The Learning Channel”, and similar channels that air informational programs, the facts gained from which are very interesting. Television has the potential to be “good”, if used correctly.
Now, there are many who condemn television (the surplus of programs watched through one's television) as being simply a waste of time. They say that no matter how it is used, television is bad. The medium is the message. Despite any possibly valuable information, the concept of staring at one's TV in an attempt to learn makes you dumb.
Watching TV is like lifting weights. If one lifts weights correctly, one can gain much by doing so. However, if one lifts them incorrectly, one can damage one's self and can be forever hindered from lifting correctly again.
To use Mr. Murrow as an example, his show entitled “See it now” helped tremendously to bring down Senator Joseph McCarthy and to end the “Red Scare”. Murrow won partly because he knew how to use television, while Senator McCarthy did not.
Since television is still relatively a new idea, there is not much to be said in testimony of it. The concept was ground breaking and still now remains astounding. However, Arnold J. Toynbee said “As human beings, we are endowed with freedom of choice, and we cannot shuffle off our responsibility upon the shoulders of God or nature. We must shoulder it ourselves. It is up to us.”
And so, even though television is often now ridden with filth, it still has the potential that Mr. Murrow gave to it. It still can be advantageous to humanity, if humanity learns how to use it.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
When I first began to read her, I thought her style was strange. Unique, yes, but I didn't think it was particularly clever, just strange. But she can paint literal pictures with such beauty. When you read her, you don't read about things, you sense things: you see the bird in Small's mouth, you see poor Julie Norwich, you hear the plane crash, you feel the ocean mist.
Her subjects she writes about are close to home. Puget Sound sounds like Greenville. Their airport reminds me of Quincy's, or Chester's. It's as if she was talking about something which happened here. She creates a dream about the land I live in. She brings a painting before me and then pushes invites me in. I become part of her story.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
She's poor. She was part of the Pashtun tribe, one of the most warlike and barbaric in all of Afghanistan. She was orphaned at a young age and sent to live in a refugee camp. But you don't need a biography to know most of this. You can guess simply by looking at her face. There is dirt on her chin and forehead, testifying to the hardship of her life. Her skin is dark from a life in the desert, subject to torment by a cruel, hot sun. Her hair is ruffled and matted. Hair which is not used to luxury. Hair which has never known the feel of the shampoos our women use here. It is not American hair. It is wild, it is exotic.
The shawl wrapped around her head is tattered around the edges, again proclaiming her poverty. it too has been faded from the harsh sun. But is compliments her. The photograph would not be nearly as powerful as it is without the vibrant red of that shawl. It sets the stage, and tells the viewer that the subject of this photograph is not of our culture. She is not of our world. The photographer was lucky to catch her without her face covered, something that is completely foreign to the American mind. Our women take pride in their looks. I don't condemn that, but the Muslims would. If Sharbat had been photographed without a shawl at all, the image would be lost. It would be devoid of culture, simply another photograph of a girl.
But what makes this image so powerful? What is it about this piece that makes it so memorable? Her eyes. Those brilliant, green eyes. Eyes which pierce into your soul. Eyes which make you look at her, as she is looking at you. Her earthly face is beautiful in it's own right, but you can't turn away with those emeralds shining out from her weathered complexion. Like the jewels they are, they grab you attention and leave you spellbound, unable to look away. They are the eyes of hope. they pierce through the darkness, and the pain, and the harshness seen so obviously on this girl's face, and they let the world know that the human spirit is still very much alive. They are sad, because they have seen pain, but they are bright, because they have also seen salvation: refuge in a broken country, culture within the wilderness. These eyes know that the pain in life can help to highlight what pleasure we find. These eyes make us realize that, as we sit and stare at her face surrounded by comfort and technology, we are flattening the hills and valleys of our lives, making them as uninteresting as they are lazy. These eyes tell us the wisdom that most of us Americans will never be able to learn for ourselves.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Agility? Is not the ability to run, and to run well, dodging opponents and using one's feet gracefully at the very heart of soccer? Indeed, soccer does require agility, but (as already mentioned), mainly in the feet. The entire sport revolves around the players feet (unless, of course, you are the goalie, which is but one position out of nearly a dozen). In a non-physical way, soccer also requires agility of the mind, in order that the players might think concisely and cleverly, but that is true of all sports. While Rugby also requires agility of the feet and the mind, it requires agility of the hands and the entire upper body, for all players. One must be able to catch and pass with one's hands, in addition to kicking and running.
Precision is another ability required in all sports, but more so in rugby than in soccer. Again, this is due to the fact that much more of one's body is required in rugby than in soccer. In rugby, one must be precise with ones arms and hands in addition to his feet and legs. But, yes other than the addition of the upper body in rugby, the need for precision in both sports is virtually the same: the players must pass (though passing is different in either sport), run, kick, dodge and dive with accuracy and precision. This, it seems, is a commonality between the two.
Again, with the addition of the upper body in rugby, the need for strength is all the greater. Yes, soccer players are terrific athletes, I have a long way to go before I could be one of them. But, (ad infinitum) their main need for strength is in their legs. That is what carries them through the game. Ruggers, however, tend to be much more aggressive, and need all of the precious arm and torso strength that they can muster, in addition to their leg strength.
Over all, the two sports are very similar, perhaps because of the history that these two sports have shared. But, in my humble opinion, rugby is much more advanced. Rugby is soccer, evolved into a higher, more intense form of athleticism. The addition of the upper body in rugby forms the stark contrast between these two honorable games, and it is that contrast which throws a bright light upon the winning choice.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
I wish I knew why world moves so fast,
I can hardly seem to keep myself afloat.
(I) Know these bitter times, they cannot last,
(But) It seems as if I fell into a moat.
Do not dare think that I would sink to say
I would that I could shake this mortal coil
No, no, I'm not so sad at heart as they
who seem to think they could the devil foil.
What do I do to ease the pain of this,
this busy life, which rushes by with speed
as if it had great Hermes wings which kiss
the sky with grace, as it on wind does feed.
And though this frail frail life does pass me by,
I know that somewhere, up there in the sky,
God has his eye on me.
Stay tuned for "The Thursday Post", coming as soon as I'm able to make it happen.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
I write this, because I love screamo. On certain days, the sound of Norma Jean, Showbread, or UnderOath is actually rather comforting (odd though it may sound). It is in my nature to defend that which I love, even though the arguments against screamo (as we will discuss later) are great. I'd like to attempt to defend screamo on a personal level rather than on a cultural level. But, either way, it's pointless to try to defend something without knowing what the meaning of that thing is. Thus comes the definition.
"Screamo", as many of you might have guessed, evolved from the genre "emo" (emotional rock). The word "emo" constitutes a very hard concept because it is used to describe so many things. It is almost impossible now to use the term. The word "emo", however, was first used to describe a musical movement in the early 1990's centralized around Washington, D.C. It was started by disgruntled punk and "indie" rockers who didn't like 1980's metal. They wanted more melody in their music (see here for a fairly in-depth article), and thus they started something new. It didn't gain popularity till the mid-to-late 1990's and boomed in the early 2000's. It is now marked by bands like Fall Out Boy , Jimmy Eat World, Dashboard Confessional,and Taking Back Sunday (which I love). Many of those who know how emo started grow to dislike some of the newer bands who gain the title of being emo and tend to refer to them as "whiny cry-baby wussy boy[s] with... acoustic guitar[s] and too many feelings" (spelling edited; see here for a not so in-depth but humorous article).
"Screamo" is yet another touchy genre. For example. Showbread is considered to be screamo, but UnderOath and Norma Jean are not (Underoath is considered to be post-hardcore, and Norma Jean metalcore). However, for the purposes of this discussion, I here-by deem these petty differences stupid and irrelevant to this discussion. But, I will warn you that there are those that are very adamant about this, so be careful who you talk to. Whereas emo was the promotion of melody and the rejection of 80's metal (which I can understand), screamo stems from emo but is a throwback to metal. Generally, it uses screaming (as the name suggests) to show forth emotion rather than melodic guitars.
Hopefully that will give you a brief idea of what emo and screamo are (to solidify the idea, I would recommend using those links to listen to "Dance, Dance" by Fall Out Boy [pardon the sexual references within the song] for a good idea of a song commonly recognized by the masses as "emo", and "Mouth Like a Magazine" by Showbread for a good idea of a commonly recognized screamo song). Next: the objections.
The objections, the objections, oh the objections. Believe you me, I know the objections. The most common of which is "it's just ugly". That's a hard one to get past. Honestly, it is. I don't think that I can refute that. But the fact that I cannot refute that objection is exactly the fact which inspired me to write this. You can't fight a catchy tune! No matter what you do, some things always, or at least often, will be appealing. Lack of maturity? Perhaps. But that does not solve the situation. One might say "oh, just let your senses mature". Great. Now what? I still like screamo. I still sing along to "Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste". I recognize that there is no competition between Chopin and Showbread, but there's got to be some reason why I like it (other than the adrenaline rush). Even if it is not beautiful, can there be truth and goodness in screamo?
But, alas, I am getting ahead of myself. I agreed to answer the objections before providing my own case, and so I shall. "It's just ugly". It often is ugly, true enough. But just because one man in a song is screaming at you, does it render the song worthless? One man screaming at you... what a loaded phrase. That sums up the ugly argument rather nicely doesn't it? Screamo is often seen as so abrasive, abusive even. Alert! Ear abuse! But does that one instrument, a man's voice, seemingly malfunctioning in a screamo song, disrupt and destroy the entire song? Is the musical, instrumental talent shown in one song negated by screaming? And this question can be put to metalcore, post-hardcore or any of the other bizillion genres piling up under the broad style of rock. But the word "screamo" is loaded too. The word makes you shudder. Screamo. Brrrh. What makes it so enticing?
I confess, I often listen to this when I'm filled with angst. That perhaps is one of the problems. Tonight, Dr. David John Seel, Jr., in his lecture at my school, St. Andrew's Academy, noted that our pop-culture's delight in angry metal and rap music makes us wallow in our angst rather than confront it. We need to attack our anger and drive it from our minds, rather than let it abide.
So, after all these objections, I ask again: is there any merit to screamo? It's hard to think of any, isn't it? At one end, one could say that it is a useful tool for portraying emotion, but that would seem to contradict Dr. Seel's remark. On the other end, we could disregard it completely and tell ourselves to just never listen to it, and perhaps we'd be better off. Please remember that I'm am writing about the problem of screamo on a personal, not cultural scale. Thus, avoiding it and yet living in our culture might be hard.
What about something slightly in between? What if we agreed that screamo does in fact portray emotion. Simple concession. I would argue to take it one step farther than that. I would argue that it is the music of the human mind. Ever since the fall, we have been cursed with naturally bad dispositions. We don't tend to act like happy little elves. We don't (or at least most of us don't) frolic down the streets with wide grins, singing merrily just because it's a Monday. Screamo probably more accurately portrays how we feel most of the time. It's human. Now, that's based on the fall. Now we have the joy of Christ. Can the joy of Christ be portrayed in angry screamo music? (I must note that it is incorrect of me to recognize all screamo as being really angry, "So Selfish It's Funny" by Showbread is, oddly enough, quite funny.) But, given an average angry screamo or metalcore song, I would say that no, it cannot portray the love of Christ. Why? I don't know, maybe because Christ didn't scream salvation at us? Yes, he screamed at the merchants in the temple, and yes, he probably screams at us when we don't listen to him, but do we want to eternally dwell in that relationship with Christ? I don't.
What is the final word? I'm terrible at final words. Remember the post on feminism? Yeah? Lack-of-final-word syndrome! But I shall try to be decisive on this shaky subject. Should we always listen to screamo? No. Listen to Tchaikovsky. It's much better for you. Should you ever listen to screamo again? Probably not. Going to a screamo concert in some big, open area that doesn't give you claustrophobia and where you can just kinda of sit back and hang out or go out and be crazy (which isn't my cup of tea) probably wouldn't hurt. The trick, as Dr. Seel would say, would to not let screamo control you. Don't dwell on screamo. Dwell on the joy of Christ, which can be portrayed elsewhere. Yes, screamo can remind us that we aren't happy-go-lucky anti-humans who no longer have to deal with emotions or trials or tribulations, but that's about it.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
But we teenagers, we do not have the authority to give ourselves. We can't make the commitment. That is not to say, that we teenagers out to live lives of sexual havoc because we cannot commit ourselves to one person. Quite the contrary! We cannot commit ourselves to anyone in the sense that marriage is a commitment. We are under the guardianship of those who are in authority over us, and till our time has come, we are not the ones to make the decisions concerning who we give ourselves to and how.
This all seems rather stupid and simple when printed on the screen, but I think it's a fact that we teenagers overlook. We're wrapped up in our desire to be individuals and we are being told by the culture that our desire is reality. But it isn't! The truth of the matter is, we are students. Despite constant, burning feelings and desires, we are not at liberty to do anything outside of what our teachers see fit for us to do. We've grown so proud that we've clean forgot our God-ordained place in life! We haven't graduated, and many still haven't even after leaving high school, I'm sure. We need to quit being individuals, and start being students.