We Need a Politician

Not my favorite phrase. But true.

I’m a product of Christian schooling, so I’m not exactly unbiased when I say the public school system is bankrupt and explicitly Christian schooling (private or home) is the way to go. Growing up in the situation I have, I’m well aware that way more people agree with the general thrust of that statement than actually have pulled their kids out of public school. And with good reason: money.

It’s not a noble reason, it’s not a deep one. But it’s a good one. Turns out, kids need food and clothes. And shelter, too. So when you’re looking for a place to send them, you have to account for your bank account. And for a lot of people, anything but public schooling is just plain too expensive.

A while back, vouchers were a big issue down here. The idea was that the government would more or less pay for people to send their kids to approved schools. Take note of that word there: approved. The problem with this method was that if your school wanted to accept vouchers, or if you as a homeschooling parent wanted to, you had to meet government expectations. But those standards are half the problem with public schooling. We left public schools, and some folks are still trying to, for a reason. That whole scheme undercuts our little escape plan.

Now public schools are funded by our tax money, whether we have kids or not, whether we send them to public schools or not. That’s not right. We’re being forced to pay for someone else’s education choice when we can’t afford our own. And I do mean forced. Try not paying those taxes and see how far you get. That’s government theft at its most basic.

Vouchers tried to fix that by giving some of that money back, but at the cost of having real freedom of educational choice removed. What I’m saying is, we need true academic freedom. We need a politician willing to go to Austin for us, and to Washington, and tell them to quit taking our money. Cut those taxes, let us keep our own cash. Let folks who want public school keep paying for that, and for those who don’t, let us pay for something else.

This won’t free it up completely. Some forms of education will always be cheaper than others. Usually, that’s going to be the kind that is cheaper in quality. But look at US test scores: we’re already there. At least in this situation, the inequality is from general circumstances, not from an unfair, unjust, unfeeling system. So, yeah, we need a politician on our side. Young, upcoming Christians—are you listening?

Adventures in Picking Up the Bible

I’m not exactly the best at reading my Bible. Some days I forget altogether, and usually I just read a random chapter. Because I am an undisciplined lazy bum, I usually don’t make time to read more than that.

Lately, that has not been the case.

Between the summer coming on and a random sense of motivation, I’ve been finding way more time to read my Bible. I’ve been speeding through some prophets, and just now some of the shorter epistles. In doing so, I’ve noticed a few things.

First off, reading complete portions of the Bible means a lot more than a chapter here and there. Now, I’ve been reading shorter stuff (Joel, Obadiah), but those are complete, coherent wholes. Chapter breaks were invented long after the Scriptures were written down, and break up the normal, logical flow of the books. When you read in context, you get way more out of it. You understand the process and see what the Author intended you to see.

Second, reading the Bible gives you an anchor. If you coast through life only referencing the Bible occasionally, it’s easy to get caught up in beliefs and ways of doing things that you’ve just accepted because that’s what everyone you know does. Even if you understood the Biblical reasoning at some point in the past, going back to those passages can clarify those beliefs and place them in context.

There is another thing that’s harder to capture. We can talk about straight up beliefs (ie, there is one God), and get at certain Biblical responses to life (ie, thankfulness), but there’s more to it than that. When you read larger portions of the Bible, you start to take on a Biblical attitude towards the world. If you want to know what I mean, think about different music genres. A traditional country fan and a classic rock fan may both have the same general view of the world, but there’s a certain way of expressing that view which they do differently. In the same way, reading the Bible regularly gives you the right sort of attitude, a righteous knee-jerk reaction to the world that goes beyond beliefs alone.

My last little comment is less of a general principle, more of a specific thought. Today I read Amos and Third John. In doing so, I noticed that Amos was all about nations and peoples, while Third John was all specific individuals, and congregations at most. For some probably very bad reason my first thought was that the New Covenant is more individualistic.

Then I thought about it- not true at all. Large parts of the Old Testament have to deal with specific individuals, and there is an entire epistle to the Hebrews in the New Testament, and the book of Revelation which deals with all sorts of big-picture stuff. On second thought, I realized that God just tailors his words to the circumstance. Any time the Scriptures deal with individuals, it’s usually in a context where the faithful are few and the unfaithful are many. Whenever the context is that of entire nations who should know better, God addresses them that way.

The question I ask myself is this: If I had been reading Scriptures as much as I should have, would that thought have popped into my head that quickly? And if it didn’t come from Scriptures, where did it come from?

So, lesson of the day, “Take and read.”

The Plain Truth

The plain truth is: truth matters. We don’t live in a world of eternal shifting gray. Clouds part, mist dissolves, and fog only conceals solid objects, it does not make them disappear. When two people disagree, reality does not magically accommodate itself to them so that they can both be right at the same time. Two plus two is four, red is not green, boys are not girls, and Edward Cullen is a figment of Stephanie Meyers’ imagination no matter how many pre-teen girls you can get to really, really wish it were otherwise.

And this is true of the Gospel. The God of love, of self-sacrifice, of grace and salvation, is also the God who torched Sodom and Gomorrah. The God who gave his only begotten Son so that anyone who believed in him might be saved, also said that Son was the way, the truth, and the life, that no one could come to the Father except by him. No, you do not get to heaven by passing a theology exam. But you do have to put your faith in the right God.

Yes, we are saved by grace through faith, but we are called to avoid sin. Doing that, and repenting when we fail, that is part of being faithful. And in order to avoid sin and pursue righteousness, some things have to be right and others wrong. Yes, context does help determine what is right, but only because there is a standard of right and wrong to aim at in every context.

I love art. I love music, novels, plays, movies, poems, pictures, sculptures, and the occasional interpretive dance. How art comes across changes from time to time and place to place. But one bit of cultural context never changes: we are human beings on God’s earth. Some things will always be ugly, and some things will always be beautiful. No buts about it.

Truth, goodness, and beauty are fixed. If you love Jesus, you must love good theology every bit as much as he does. If you place your faith in Christ, you must pattern your life after his. If you are a follower of the Word, your words must resemble his.

Tolerance is all well and good—for things that are tolerable. But there are things which our Lord, in the Scriptures and by common sense in the world he made, has said are intolerable. A love for truth, righteousness, and the glory of God all require that occasionally we stand up for something. And this means that we will be standing against people. There will be real disagreements that will not end in easy reconciliation. One of you will be right and the other wrong, and the guy who is wrong will not always like that you have pointed it out. And that still very well may have been the right thing to do.

If you want to be a peacemaker, blessed are you. But peace is not so sweet as to come at the price of spiritual slavery. If the Gospel means anything, sometimes we must fight for it. We serve a real God, with real standards. Act like it.

The War for Zion

Today I said goodbye to a friend. He’s headed back east, to the beginning of a life that will take him crazy places. I’m staying here for now, visiting home briefly, but very much doubt I’ll be in his neck of the woods any time in the next few years. But if we don’t meet again in this world, I’ll see him in Zion.

And that’s important. We’re here on this earth fighting for something. Conscious or not, willfully or not, we’re all caught up in a war. On one side, there is a kingdom filled with beauty, glory, righteousness, justice, and overflowing with grace. On the other, rank upon rank of the dead. Out of that, let me draw two things: how we fight this battle, and what we’re fighting for.

The Lord made a big world, and a lot of people. My buddy was called in one direction, I am called in another. This morning I read an article and sent it along to a friend called to a different country altogether (maybe several). Another friend from my corner of the union is considering re-crafting his own method of deploying the Gospel. We’re all called to different places, but we’re all called by the same Lord.

The lesson here is that we all have different battles, but we fight using the same Gospel. So we should support one another in that, not dividing against each other because we all think our battle is the most important in the war. We’re not the Captain of the Lord’s Army, we don’t make that call. But we are all soldiers, and we can pray for and encourage our brothers in arms. With the state of communications today, we should be doing so often. And we should start getting good at it.

And what unites believers on the East Coast, the Gulf, Canada, the Middle East, and Northern Idaho? Saints from Bloemfontein to Bristol, Canton to the Congo? We are all fighting for the same King, and the same country. At the end of the day, we will meet at the marriage supper of the Lamb, in the day when Zion is free and Christ not only rests in our hearts, but walks before us again.

This is true whether the false gospel we are fighting is Islam or secular progressivism, ancestor worship or scientism. And just as the darkness will have a different feel for different men in different places, so the light will shine differently wherever it goes. The Church is a stained-glass window, but the light behind it is all one.

So when you’re left standing there, bidding farewell to a friend God has called to a different field, rejoice for him, pray with him, encourage him. He’s got a battle to fight, and he needs the support. And when it’s all over, you’ll meet again in the Lord’s presence. Lord willing, you’ll both be receiving your “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Man on Fire

The summer is finally here. My days are free, and the sun is firing heat-rays like it means it. So I put on a cheap, ratty cotton t-shirt and some jeans that I really need to wash and headed down to Rosauer’s to buy myself a can of DP- the nectar of the gods.

*

I’m starting the story in the wrong place. The story begins with waking up at just before noon and praying my roommate gets out of the shower, because I had way too much soda last night. Then it continued with my finishing the rest of Man on Fire. Life lesson: Do not kidnap Dakota Fanning.

*

I decided to go to Rosauer’s barefoot. The roadway is not horribly gravelly, nor is the offroad path I took later on. But my feet are tender, American, scholarly feet. They winced with every pebble, and I laughed mercilessly and kept on walking. I wish I had real feet, jungle feet, with calluses. I want feet like Mowgli. And an accent like Hugh Grant. Definitely an accent like Hugh Grant. Hello, ladies.

*

Man on Fire is really dark, gritty, and good. And somewhere in there, they start putting a value on a human life. As the story winds on to the finish, and it does wind, I realized that they not only gave human life a price, but that they were willing to pay it. What did that mean?

*

Summer may be the most valuable season in my life. All my best memories come out of there. I ran into friends today, earlier, between the movie and the soda run. It was startling to realize that, even if I managed forty hours a week at work, I would still have time to hang out with them.

*

Back to the movie. I’ve been thinking about movie structures a fair amount lately. Basically, most movies have three acts: the first act sets up the characters, relationships, and settings; the second act puts them through all sorts of wild adventures; and the third act ties it all together in a fantastic conclusion. Man on Fire put a price on that first act: people, relationships, and settings.

The funny thing about the sacredness of lives and relationships, is that they’re not abstract. In that movie, the girl did certain things that tells us her relationship to her family. Denzel Washington responded in certain ways that tells us how he values those things.

*

As I was walking to Rosauer’s, I saw a dad playing with his child in a kiddie pool. He was acting like a little kid, making funny noises, playing games, splashing. That right there is valuable. C. S. Lewis said once, and someone repeated to me several times as school was winding down, that we are all immortal. All these countries and fashions and languages and trends will pass away, but we will go to God or be hidden from God and remain forever. That man was doing something  so ridiculous it made me laugh, and so sacred that the acts of all the mythical gods and heroes would pale in comparison.

*

Man on Fire was a good start to the summer. It put things in perspective. Friends, family, those sorts of relationships, those are important. Obama getting thrashed, however delightful to my conservative heart, is not.

*

There was a car parked by the soda machine, blaring rap as a man got out to get his soda. I said hi to the total stranger, then got mine. I turned, strutted past to the rhythm of the beat, popped that coke open like a commercial, and guzzled like I meant it.

As the afternoon winds on, an owl is hooting in the distance. In a week I will be home and add the cry of the peacock to the ambiance. The trees around me are green, the lawns are overgrown, and it’s hotter outside than that first blast from an opening oven. My friends are doing stuff. I will join them, and we will act like adults—which is to say, like six year olds with driver’s licenses and enough cash to buy that extra bag of candy. We will be ridiculous, and we will be sacred. Welcome to the summer. Welcome to the world. Welcome to life.

Notes from Tilt-a-Whirls, Icing on Cakes

The book is good, and the bookumentary is just icing on the cake. By which I mean it is sweet, flashy, and if you’re not careful, gets everywhere.

N. D. Wilson’s take on life, the universe, and everything is somewhat unique. Like a carnie, he introduces us to a world of flashing lights and moving parts, with a heap of bizarreness on every side. In under an hour he brings us through questions about God, the afterlife, and the problem of evil.

It is his treatment of the problem of evil that makes the whole thing worth watching. He takes us from grit and guts to fluffy kittens, and every place in between, pulling no punches. If you want real answers, you have to look under every rock, and he does.

Join him in this journey. Don’t just ask the questions, find the answers. Watch it, read it, watch it again. It’s worth every penny.

Also, you may have noticed I’ve spent less time blogging. This is because it is finals week, and life is happening very fast right now. Hopefully I’ll return at some point next week. I’ve already got a poem in the works, and plans for the stuff I’ve already mentioned. Cheerio