Peace on Earth?

There's a local park/pond that graces a particularly busy intersection here in town. It's kind of the unofficial center of the town; the place by which you can locate yourself with respect to anything else around here. On the lawn, during the Christmas season, a number of displays were erected to celebrate the impending holidays of various groups: a gaudy Christmas tree, a Jewish display with a menorah, and a large display from the local atheist club, who describe themselves thus, "A group that provides support, outreach, meaningful discussion, opportunities for activism, friendship, and fun for fellow atheists." The display read, "Our hope for the holidays: peace on Earth."

Now, first of all, I'd like to thank the local atheist group for their kind, timely message. Many other secular/atheist organizations have been plastering the public space with deliberately provocative messages that do little more, I imagine, than let these folks feel really satisfied with themselves and offend the people that they take to be idiots. Not this local atheist group. They decided to be kind and offer well-wishes of peace on Earth, a sentiment with which I whole-heartedly agree (after all, I follow its Prince)! Especially during a time that can be so chaotic and self-centered, the desire for peace is a lovely standout.

I wonder, though, whether the desire for peace can really be explained or justified on an atheist worldview. I suspect that it cannot. When the atheist expresses a desire for peace on Earth, he is, on his worldview, merely stating his preference. But he isn't giving us any reason why we ought to share it. He can say that he desires peace on Earth, but he can't give me a reason that I should desire it. To hope for peace on Earth is very much like having hope for root beer with lunch.

Allow me to put it a bit differently. On atheism, peace on Earth isn't, in any objective way, better than mayhem on Earth. And any of the obvious reasons (with which I agree, by the way) are insufficient. "But mayhem causes pain and misery and suffering." That's true. It sure does. But if atheism is true, then so-the-heck what? There exists no objective moral law that mayhem would violate. Those who cause mayhem face no ultimate justice. They just get the spoils of their mayhem, whatever they are, in the here and now. Why should such people prefer peace to mayhem, when mayhem pays the bills? In fact, that's how some people operate, like the Mafia or the Hell's Angels. They live not for peace, but for the spoils of mayhem.

To be sure, we all know that the thugs are wrong. And that what they do is wrong. It's so obvious that it's almost impossible to believe otherwise.

Statements of ultimate, however, objective value are off limits to the atheist. He must borrow from the theistic worldview in order to use them. On his own, without the help of God, his statements about what is good or better or worse are nonsense. They express nothing more than his local preferences. "Peace is superior to mayhem" has no more existential heft than "chocolate ice cream is superior to vanilla ice cream."

Sure, friend - - you prefer peace to mayhem. I do, too. But I can tell you why it is better; you can only say why it's different.

Marriage: What's Love go to do with it?

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Sadly, the President and V.P.'s stance on marriage is a continuing erosion of the sanctity of marriage.  Many (like myself) believe marriage is a God ordained, lifelong sacred act between a man and a woman.  As such, those who support a traditional view of marriage see same sex marriage as a profane assault on that institution.  Because of our beliefs, we are labeled as archaic, small-minded, bigoted, homophobic, and anti civil rights.  
 
The President and his supporters have redefined marriage as an act between “two loving, committed and faithful adults.”  As Joe Biden says, it's all about, "Who do you love?"  However, I wonder why they are being so judgmental and narrow minded in their definition of marriage?  If it is only about who you love, then shouldn’t fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, and brothers and sisters, be allowed to get married as long as both parties are of legal age and do so willingly?  However, why limit marriage to only two people?  Isn’t that somewhat narrow-minded?  So maybe the President should advocate for the changing of the laws against bigamy.  After all, as long as these people love each other, isn't that all that matters? 
 
But wait, what's love got to do with it anyway?  What right does the President, or anyone else for that matter, have in limiting marriage to only the "committed," "faithful" and "loving"?  Isn't that just a little judgmental?  Shouldn't anyone, for any reason, be able to get married?  If you disagree, then you must have some preconceived idea of what a marriage entails.  And thus begs the question: “What ultimately shapes your ideas regarding marriage?”  Dare I say, if you are offended by the broadening views I speak of, is that an indication of a marriage phobia, fueled by small-minded bigotry aimed at the heart civil rights? 
 
The good news is you need not despair.  There is hope.  If you have an open mind and a willingness to evolve, you can shed your limited views on marriage and become more enlightened.  You can learn to embrace the institution of marriage as a great temporary bastion of self-satisfying happiness, centered on civil rights for the promotion of societal benefits.  Isn't that what it is really all about anyway?  I'm sure that one day many will come to embrace that belief.  Oh wait, silly me, that day has dawned.   : (

Something Off My Chest

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Listen, my beliefs about God are not diminished or threatened by your rhetoric, name-calling, rudeness, slander, ganging up, or mockery. You will not bully me into abandoning any of my carefully considered positions.

Sure enough, it feels great to swarm together under a banner to 'attack' the 'enemy.' We all like to be on the 'winning' team. And it feels great to marginalize the 'enemy' as idiotic, archaic, un-evolved, simpletons, thereby elevating your view without having to do anymore real intellectual lifting. But the simple fact is that this is the behavior of partisans; of hooligans; of grade school bullies. It is either the last resort of somebody who's losing the argument, the primary strategy of somebody who's unwilling to open his ears, the flippant dismissal of the willfully ignorant, or the self-important name-calling of the knows-too-little-to-know-how-little-he-knows.

So I KNOW what I believe and why I believe it. And, I'm even willing to have my mind changed about it. It will NOT be, however, on the basis of small-minded tormenting or strong-arming. I love truth, evidence, and reason too much to be browbeaten out of my beliefs.

Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church: Whom does the hate hurt the most?

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I've been thinking a lot about it. I've been losing sleep over it. It's made me sick to my stomach. And the more I think about it, the more sleep I lose, the more my guts tie themselves in knots, the more sure I am that I have no idea what the solution is. Well, I'm not sure what the right solution is, I suppose. I've dreamt up all kinds of potential solutions, usually involving bullets, poisons, elaborately planned apparent accidents, and so on. Though I'm not sure any of these would please the Lord, one thing I'm growing more certain of is that the Phelps family needs prayer.

After hearing a number of interviews with his children, including ones who have defected from the Phelps clan, as well as the venom that flows so effortlessly from the tongues of his grandchildren, I see that they have been deceived by their wretched devil of a 'father.'

Ol' Fred, as far as I am concerned, is an evil man. He has enslaved his family as his army of hate. He has taught them of a god who laughs as he casts his children into hell and loves only those who do their best to hate the world as much as he does, expecting nothing less from his children then their immediate and boundless allegiance in his hateful destruction.

I've noticed that it's difficult to see a boundary where Phelps ends and his god begins. It seems to me that the god of Phelps is a mystical projection of himself. He has warped and deceived his family into worshipping…him. Phelps is described by his estranged son as a 'rageoholic' who is addicted to anger. He has abused (emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically) his family into serving and fueling his addiction.

So I think about who has been harmed most by the un-reverend. The list is a long one, to be sure. And it includes so many who have been truly and deeply affected by Phelps and his slave army. They include, very obviously, the homosexual community who need the love of Christ (and deserve His love and grace as much as I do), not the hate of Phelps; the families of the fallen American heroes whose funerals have been desecrated by the Phelps clan, the Christian community at large who is working to earn a reputation of love and service, the citizens of Topeka who deserve a single quiet day, the people whose ears are treated like toilets by the putrid bile spilled out by Phelps lips, God Almighty whose name and nature are being spat on and trampled under the feet of these hateful people. The list, heart breaking-ly, goes on.

But I think that those who have it worst are the Phelps progeny. They need our prayers and our love. (I'm less sure about Phelps, himself -- and find it difficult to have sympathy for him and his soul. Perhaps that's something for me to work on.) His family never had a choice. They were brainwashed and abused by a hate-filled megalomaniac into doing the devil's work in God's name. It's hard to imagine what could be worse than this. To earn hell by doing 'god's' work…to think that you are securing yourself a place in the Kingdom only to hear, "I never knew you! Depart from me…" 

I don't know how to end the whole Phelps "God Hates XYZ" nonsense. If anybody figures it out, I'm all ears. In the mean time, though, I'll pray morning, noon, and night for the Phelps family and do my best to trust the Lord to deal with them as He sees fit. Join me…?

Are We Too Enraptured with the Rapture?

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I believe that Jesus is coming back. I look forward to that glorious day.

I am not completely convinced it will be in the next years, or even decades. I am even less confident that a rapture will take place. (This probably comes from years of hearing from the “experts” that Jesus was coming back before this year or that, and that the entire mystery of The Revelation had been revealed to these experts, only to see them fail time after time. It gets tiring and I am a little jaded. A rapture might happen, but if it doesn’t, I’m OK with that.)

But I am absolutely convinced of His Second Coming. I think The Revelation is clear about that at least.

Now for argument’s sake, let’s say He will return shortly and that there will be a rapture and that there will be seven years of not-so-fun times to follow. Here is a problem I see in today’s American Church.

They are too excited about it.

Now I’m not saying that the Lord’s return is nothing to get excited about. It is - absolutely. I just have problems with the attitude that seems to say, “See you, suckas! We are out of here!!! Where’s my new body?!”

The problem I have is that I think we should have a heart that is torn between being taken away to be with Him and one that wants to stay and help. For the last 30+ years I get this feeling that most American Christians have their eyes totally focused on diving into the lifeboats before that ship goes down, forgetting there are people about to go through hell as the ship sinks.

I wonder how many of us would be conflicted if we found out He was coming back tomorrow. Would we have bags all packed and at the door (figuratively) or would we dare to say to Him, “Lord, if it is your will, can I stay and help? Can you use me to further your kingdom during these awful times by having me stay behind? Because I am willing.”

Because I think He might be greatly pleased with the heart that volunteers to stay - and suffer - to save those who are lost. Like He did with us.

Something to think about.
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