Get Outraged and Stay Outraged

There are some things so wrong that we cannot allow ourselves to get used to them. We must always be outraged over them. Always grieved over them. We can never accept them as the new status quo. The drag queen assault on our children is one of those things.

I’m talking about the celebration of little children in drag.

I’m talking about drag queens dancing for our children (and reading stories to them).

I’m talking about children posing with naked (or nearly naked) drag queens.

This is unacceptable. This is perverse. This is outrageous.

It was bad enough when this stuff happened at gay pride parades.

It was even worse when it started to happen in our community libraries.

Now it has even entered houses of worship. As a June 24 headline announced, "Drag Queen Reads During Worship Service as Cincinnati Church Celebrates Pride Month."

As reported, "Following the song ‘God Welcomes All’ by the church choir, [Dad] Davidson [who was dressed up as ‘Spark Leigh’] walked up on stage and read the book Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag to the audience. The story was intended for children, some of whom sat at Davidson’s feet during the reading."

Yes, you ought to be outraged.

It wasn’t that long ago that LGBT activists were telling us that drag queens were an entirely separate category, not to be confused with transgenders.

Drag queens were flamboyant gay men who enjoyed dressing up in drag. They were hardly representative of the gay community at large. They were marginal, circus-like characters, on the fringe of the culture as opposed to representing the mainstream.

Now, here they are, front and center, and they are coming after a very specific target audience: your children.

You might ask, "Why do you have to keep bringing these subjects up? Why talk about them so much?"

I can answer that in the words of one of my activist friends: "I’ll stop when they stop."

When drag queens stop trying to "groom" our kids, I’ll stop.

Yes, those are the words of a drag queen explaining why he wanted to read to toddlers. To quote him exactly, "This is going to be the grooming of the next generation. We are trying to groom the next generation."

Not on my watch, if I can help it.

You say to me, "But you are a minister of the gospel. You should have compassion on this drag queen and want to reach out to him."

I do! I care about him as a fellow human being and want to see him find wholeness with God and with people. Absolutely.

And I want to keep him from "grooming" the next generation to tolerate, let alone celebrate, men dressing as women.

That’s also consistent with being a follower of Jesus and a minister of the gospel.

I care about the drag queens (and their LGBTQ allies). And I care about the children. Stay away from our kids!

Sorry, but I’ve had it with headlines like this: "Nine-year-old drag queen is a hit on Instagram."

As the story explains, "Meet Kween Kee Kee—the ‘baby drag queen’ who is teaching his own teachers a lesson about gender identities.

"Keegan, 9, lives with his parents and brother in a Christian suburb just outside Austin, Texas. He plays football and video games, and also likes to dress in drag. He usually goes by the pronouns he/his, but his mother Megan describes him as ‘gender creative.’"

This is not healthy. This is not right. This is not good. No amount of LGBTQ spin can make this normal or positive or praiseworthy.

Another article reports, "the dance music is thumping, the audience is giddy and 10-year-old drag artist Queen Lactatia is sashaying up and down a makeshift catwalk in a shimmering metallic dress. The enthusiastic crowd hoots in approval as the diminutive style phenom weaves between tables at the all-ages brunch event, where the Montreal grade-schooler is followed by three more big-haired preteen performers, each in varying degrees of glitter, eyelash extensions and rainbow-hued attire."

You better believe we should be outraged over reports like this. Activists have gone too far when they start messing with our children. (And how terribly misguided are the parents who approve of such stuff?)

I’ve had it with headlines announcing, "Sick All-Ages Drag Show Had Young Kids Handing Bills to Performers."

I’ve had it with pictures like this (viewer discretion advised), where these "drag kids" are being exploited.

Enough.

That is why I’m going to stay outraged. I will not get used to these perversions. I will not sit back idly when our children are being used and abused.

Earlier this month, the Huffington Post ran a story titled, "Are Pride Parades Kid-Friendly? Parents Say Children Can Handle The Kink."

And on a recent TED talk, the speaker closed with, "Talk to a kid about sexuality. Teach them about consent. Tell them is it OK for boys to wear dresses. … Let’s spread radical queer joy."

Thanks, but no thanks. There are far better things to teach them and far better things to spread.

So, let the outrage continue, my friend. And let that outrage turn to prayer, compassion and courage.

This is happening on our watch.

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Trauma: How the Church Can Heal Soul Wounds

Faith communities provide space to lament and compassion in suffering.

Trauma knows no boundaries.

People of all ethnicities, social economic status, ages, and religions experience trauma. With a world filled with trauma, it is clear that the government, mental health practitioners, and psychologists are unable to meet the millions in need of trauma healing.

One “organization” in the world situated to respond to trauma is the church. But is the church prepared? Is she willing to understand the nature of trauma and participate in supporting faith and Bible-based healing responses?

Some of these responses include practices the church has not always been known for: validating, supporting and comforting victims, speaking up about injustice, inviting individual and corporate lament, re-connecting oppressed people to God. We need the church to be a safe community for victims.

What Is Trauma?

A person may become traumatized after experiencing an event or series of events that overwhelm their capacity to cope. These experiences include actual or threats to physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual well-being. The adverse reactions impact not only the person but also their relationships.

Trauma disrupts faith and spiritual connection to God. It is this particular wound of the heart that is the focus of this blog post.

Trauma Wounds the Soul and Creates Barriers to the Gospel

Pastor Kevin Brown shares, in Exodus 6 we learn that Moses received a clear message from God that the Hebrew slaves were about to be freed from 400 years of captivity. Soon, they would have their own land. Moses faithfully delivered the message but verse 9 gives us a stunning response: “Moses told [the good news of their deliverance] to the Israelites, but they would not listen to him, because their spirit had been broken …

Continue reading

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Charismatic Pastor Cautions Against This Bad Approach to Sharing the Gospel

Rev. Mike Pilavachi, co-founder and senior pastor of Soul Survivor Warford in the United Kingdom, recently explained how to evangelize—and how not to evangelize—in a sermon. Pilavachi uses his own early days as a Christian as a cautionary tale. He says he had a radical conversion and became obsessed with trying to lead others to Christ. He bought a bunch of gospel-themed stickers from a local Christian store and started posting and sticking them all over his town, hoping to saturate his city with the gospel. Then he overheard a fellow believer complaining about the mystery person who was annoying the town with gospel-themed vandalism. She called him a "bad witness."

Pilavachi says that his experience shows in many ways, the church has driven people away from the gospel—rather than toward it—through misguided evangelistic zeal. Evangelism is important, but it’s important to do it the right way—and no one offers a better model than Jesus himself, Pilavachi says.

"We’ve also got to be the gospel," Pilavachi says. "We can’t just preach the gospel and not be the gospel, because people listen to who we are, not just to what we say. … The point isn’t how they respond. The point is that we show the love of Jesus. Some people will respond, and some people won’t."

Listen to his message and hear how Jesus embodies true Spirit-filled evangelism through his encounter with the woman at the well.

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Why You Might Want to Put Down That Sunscreen Right Now

This time of year, many like to enjoy the sunshine. But too much can lead to future problems like skin cancer. Doctors commonly point to wearing sunscreen as protection, but there are new concerns about those products.

Our skin can pay a hefty price for summer fun in the sun. Just one blistering sunburn in your younger years can increase the risk for deadly melanoma skin cancer. Dermatologist Whitney Bowe told CBN News although skin cancer diagnoses are on the rise, it doesn’t have to be that way.

"Ultraviolet exposure from the sun’s rays is really the number one most preventable and avoidable cause of not only skin cancer," she said, "But also signs of aging, so things like fine lines, wrinkles, brown spots, loss of elasticity."

Questions Concerning Chemical Sunscreens

Dr. Bowe, author of Dirty Looks: The Secret to Beautiful Skin recommends using sunscreen to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful rays. However, she points out the US Food and Drug Administration is now questioning chemical sunscreen with ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule.

"They’re actually calling on sunscreen manufacturers to really take a closer look at the safety of some of those ingredients," said Dr. Bowe.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed some sunscreen chemicals can be absorbed into the bloodstream. That’s why the FDA states these products "need to undergo further testing to help determine if they increase the risk for cancer, birth defects or other adverse effects."

Click here to read the rest of this story from our content partners at CBN News.

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Video Shows Georgia Deputies Finding Baby Alive in Plastic Bag Abandoned on Side of Road

FORSYTH, Ga. (NBC News) Georgia deputies released body camera footage Tuesday of the moment first responders found a newborn baby alive abandoned in a plastic bag in the woods.

Authorities found the baby girl in a wooded area in Cumming, Georgia, after a 911 call came in around 10 p.m. on June 6, according to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. Baby India, as she has been named by authorities, is “thriving” and in the care of a foster care approved by the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services.

In the video released Tuesday, a deputy ripped open a plastic bag to reveal India still covered in fluids and an umbilical cord attached. India was then wrapped in cloth and given first aid by paramedics before being taken to a local hospital. …

Forsyth Sheriff Ron Freeman told WXIA Tuesday that the department has had hundreds if not thousands of calls and emails asking to adopt India or donate to her care.

Continue reading this story >>

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Cindy Jacobs: The Lord Gave Me Prophetic Strategy to End the Conflict in Venezuela

On The Jim Bakker Show, Cindy Jacobs said God gave her prophetic strategies about how to end the conflict in Venezuela between President Nicolas Maduro—seen by many in the international community as a human rights-violating dictator—and rebel insurgent forces. Jacobs suggested that U.S. President Donald Trump should launch a military invasion of Venezuela with the cooperation of neighboring Colombia in order to overthrow the Maduro regime.

"Most intercessors don’t know how to pray strategically," Jacobs said. "We met with a roundtable of Latin American prophets a few days ago in Bogota and we have—all over the world—there are prophets that are meeting. Like, there’s one for Europe, one from Australia, one for Canada, these roundtables. As we were meeting with all these people, the Lord began to give us strategies about Venezuela. In other words, if the Colombian military went in with the U.S. military, I think that thing could fall like in a day or a few days. I mean, it wouldn’t be a long, drawn-out thing. So we need to pray for the president of Colombia, because Trump would go in. And he’s quite a good guy, this [Ivan] Duque [Marquez], this president of Colombia."

During the interview, Jacobs also said that God told her America would enter a season of hyperinflation—like the economic crisis Argentina is currently going through—and said that she prayed for Argentina’s economy to collapse so that they would undergo revival.

"Probably 10 years ago, I was pumping gas and the Lord said to me, ‘America is going to come into a season of hyperinflation,’" Jacobs says. "I didn’t know what hyperinflation was. … We’ve already had it. We don’t realize how much inflation we’ve already suffered."

Later, Jacobs added about Argentina: "I prayed that the economy of Argentina would collapse, and then God gave me a second word, OK? And the second word was that if they will start, there will be a great prayer revival, and it would be a miracle how they get out of that economic problem."

Argentina—which was once one of the richest countries in South America—has seen inflation rise over 50% in the last year.

Watch the full clip here.

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Ancient Baptismal Discovered in Bethlehem’s Church of Nativity

Palestinian officials say they discovered a Byzantine-era baptismal font in the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem.

The church was built in the fourth century on the site traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Jesus. The baptismal font was discovered during recent renovations on the church.

Ziad al-Bandak, head of the Palestinian committee in charge of the church restoration, called the discovery "magnificent."

Click here to read the rest of this story from our content partners at CBN News.

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Torrential Rain of Biblical Proportions Destroying Midwest Farms

The wettest 12 months in all of U.S. history were followed by the second wettest May on record, and for some parts of the Midwest, the month of June will be even worse. Some portions of Ohio and Indiana have gotten 10 more inches of rain since Friday, and more rain is falling on the Midwest as I write this article.

When I describe what we have witnessed as "torrential rain of biblical proportions," I am not exaggerating even a little bit. Even before we got to the month of June, farmers in the middle of the country were already dealing with a disaster unlike anything that they had ever experienced before. And just when everyone thought that it couldn’t possibly get any worse, it did. Since Friday, the rainfall totals in the Ohio Valley have been staggering:

As much as 10 inches of rain has fallen in the Ohio Valley since Friday, causing flooding, necessitating water rescues and creating a mudslide near Lexington, Kentucky.

Parts of southern Indiana have seen 10 inches of rain, while up to half a foot fell in parts of Ohio. Other parts of Kentucky have reported 5 inches.

More rain is coming for the rest of the week, and that is exceptionally bad news for Midwest farmers.

At this point, millions of acres that farmers had intended to plant with corn will go completely unused. And according to a Washington Post article that was republished by MSN, corn futures are surging because traders are anticipating "an impending shortage" of corn:

Ohio trailed behind, with 68 percent of its corn planted, South Dakota had 78 percent, and Michigan and Indiana each had 84 percent of their hoped-for acres planted. Last week, the USDA lowered the projected total yield to 13.68 billion bushels (last year’s corn yield was 14.3 billion bushels). And as of Monday, in anticipation of an impending shortage, corn futures continued to trade at their highest level since June 2014.

I know that the USDA is projecting that somehow we will get to 13.68 billion bushels of corn, but a lot of experts are convinced that the USDA’s reduced projection is still wildly optimistic.

In some parts of the heartland, it literally looks like a hurricane just came through. When Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda recently toured farms in her state, she saw fields that were "filled with water and weeds instead of crops":

"I visited with several farmers this week and saw firsthand the impact of this devastating rainfall. Fields are visibly filled with water and weeds instead of crops," states Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda in the press release.

And for Ohio farmer Charles Kettering, hundreds of acres that he recently planted with corn and soybeans can’t be seen at all because they are currently underwater:

As much as a third of the 800 acres of corn and soybeans that Kettering planted a few weeks ago is currently underwater. The chances of that part of his crop surviving are next to nothing. As little as a full day underwater is enough to kill off whatever he planted. The deluge of heavy rain in late May and early June flooded much of the area’s fertile farmland, including Kettering’s acreage, which sits in the bottom of a valley.

As a result of the flooding here in June, the Ketterings will lose approximately $100,000.

Could you imagine how you would feel if you were suddenly hit with a financial loss of that magnitude?

Other farmers will be hit with huge losses at the end of the season when yields are way down. Thanks to the absolutely horrific weather, it is being projected that yields could be down by more than 50% for some Ohio farmers:

For those planting corn in June, yield losses are likely—even if the grower has switched to a shorter-season variety, said Peter Thomison, a corn field specialist with CFAES. The losses hinge on growing conditions after planting, but they could be more than 50% for some farmers, he said.

In the end, there is no way that we are going to come anywhere close to the 14.3 billion bushels of corn that was harvested in the U.S. last year, and that is going to have ripple effects that are going to last for a very long time.

For many Midwest farmers, this will be their last year in operation. Farm bankruptcies had already risen to the highest level since the last recession even before all of this rain, and this unprecedented disaster will be the final nail in the coffin for a lot of farms that have been teetering on the brink.

According to one recent survey, it is expected that the number of farm loan defaults over the next year will be double what we saw in 2017:

Midwestern bankers are tightening the purse strings on farm credit lines amid some of the toughest financial times for farmers in decades.

A survey of bank CEOs by Creighton University’s Heider College of Business found they expect the percentage of farm loan defaults over the next 12 months in a number of Midwestern states, including Illinois, to be double the default rates for 2017.

I keep warning that our planet is becoming increasingly unstable and that global weather patterns are changing dramatically. Midwest farmers are desperately hoping for some drier weather, but instead a lot more rain is coming:

Rain is in the forecast every day this week until Friday, and then we have a break over the weekend with more rain coming in Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday of next week.

The true scope of this crisis will not be fully known until harvest time rolls around, but right now the outlook for U.S. agricultural production in 2019 is exceedingly grim.

Perhaps things will soon dry out, and we will have picture-perfect weather for the rest of the growing season. If that happens, it will definitely help matters greatly.

But there is also the possibility that Midwest farmers could be hammered by extreme rain, extreme heat and/or an early frost.

Sadly, at this point, it certainly wouldn’t take very much to turn an exceedingly bad growing season into a catastrophic one.

This article originally appeared on the End of the American Dream blog. Reprinted with permission.

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Guilty Plea From Former Parker Adventist Hospital Nurse Accused Of Stealing Fentanyl Meant For Patients

25 June 2019 | According to the Denver Post, a former employee of Parker Adventist Hospital is facing up to ten years in prison after pleading guilty to tampering with a consumer product. Jessica Sharman, a 35-year-old nurse, acknowledged that she stole the pain medication fentanyl intended for patients in the intensive care unit where […]

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Guilty Plea From Former Parker Adventist Hospital Nurse Accused Of Stealing Fentanyl Meant For Patients

25 June 2019 | According to the Denver Post, a former employee of Parker Adventist Hospital is facing up to ten years in prison after pleading guilty to tampering with a consumer product. Jessica Sharman, a 35-year-old nurse, acknowledged that she stole the pain medication fentanyl intended for patients in the intensive care unit where […]

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Guilty Plea From Former Parker Adventist Hospital Nurse Accused Of Stealing Fentanyl Meant For Patients

25 June 2019 | According to the Denver Post, a former employee of Parker Adventist Hospital is facing up to ten years in prison after pleading guilty to tampering with a consumer product. Jessica Sharman, a 35-year-old nurse, acknowledged that she stole the pain medication fentanyl intended for patients in the intensive care unit where […]

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Canadian Couple Files Complaint After Teacher Allegedly Tells Children There’s ‘No Such Thing as Girls and Boys’

OTTAWA — A Canadian couple has filed a complaint with a human rights tribunal as they state that their six-year-old daughter came home confused after her teacher allegedly told the class that there is “no such thing as boys and girls.”

Jason and Pamela Buffone state that first graders at Devonshire Community Public School in Ottawa, Ontario were shown a video last year entitled “He, She and They?!? — Gender.” The video (pictured above) is part of a YouTube channel called Queer Kid Stuff.

“Well, Teddy, did you know that some people aren’t boys or girls?” the host asked the talking teddy bear “Teddy.” “Some people are boys. Some people are girls. And some people are people.”

As the host had told Teddy that there’s nothing wrong with boys wearing dresses, a confused Teddy then asked how one can know someone’s gender if boys and girls can wear the same clothes.

“All you have to do is ask someone what their pronoun is,” the host asserted. “When you meet someone, just ask them what their pronoun is.”

Teddy then concluded that he doesn’t feel like a boy or a girl, “so I guess my pronoun is ‘they.’”

The Buffones state that during the course of two months of gender lessons, including the teacher allegedly telling the class that “there is no such thing as girls and boys” and “girls are not real and boys are not real,” their daughter came home confused as to why it is not “real” that she is a girl.

The Post Millennial reports that the child asked her parents if she could “go to a doctor” to discuss the issue, and that she was “not sure if she wanted to be a mommy.”

Concerned about how the lessons had effected their daughter, the Buffones spoke with the teacher, but as she did not rectify the situation, the couple then contacted the principal, Julie Derbyshire. However, Derbyshire defended the lessons, stating the teacher had engaged the students on the subject as one child had an interest in identifying as the opposite gender.

The Buffones then moved on to the board superintendent and curriculum superintendent. However, “[t]he school board did not agree to communicate with parents when sensitive discussions took place, nor did they agree to issue any directive or take corrective action in order to ensure that children of female gender identity were positively affirmed.”

The couple consequently decided to enroll their daughter in another school, where she is doing better and has made affirmative remarks about how certain objects are indeed “real.”

They have now also taken their case to a provincial human rights tribunal, and are asking that the court order the board to ensure that classroom lessons do “not devalue, deny, or undermine in any way the female gender identity.” They also request that teachers inform parents “when lessons on gender identity will take place or have taken place, including the teaching objectives and the materials that will be or have been used for such lessons.”

According to The College Fix, the board asserts that the tribunal doesn’t have the power to rule in such a case, and that even so, no discrimination took place as alleged.

In Mark 10:6, Jesus said, “But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female.”

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A Heart for Yearning

Written by: 

“But how very beautiful are those instants in which desire is on the verge of being satisfied.” —Jean Grenier[1]

How does one describe air: a colorless, odorless (usually) gas without which there is no life? Adequate, perhaps, but notable only in its subtractions and absences. How odd that something with weight, velocity, temperature, penetration, and mobility should be so ubiquitous and so indispensable — and yet so invisible.

Our language reveals these absences and ambiguities. “I can’t breathe!” Even reading these words, we feel our throats tighten. “Put your hands in the air!” We instinctively know where to put them — but where were they before? “He has an air about him…” We should hope so. In fact, let’s be generous and wish him the presence of many airs, not just one.

It is the marvelous capacity of our social imagination that these phrases usually bring about the desired effect and yet when we take them literally their meaning expires with a little gasp.

***

I struggle to describe God with any sense that I’m making sense, even to myself. I know that the letters G-O-D hold realms of meaning for many of us, but I suspect that these are inherited meanings which form an oral tradition that keeps us talking about God. If we come up dry on names for God, we need only hum a few bars of Handel’s Messiah for a full list. Those names come from Isaiah and it makes one wonder if we’ve added anything of value to the list for names and descriptions of God since the 5th century BCE. Alfred North Whitehead said in passing that everything in Western philosophy was but a footnote to Plato — an exaggeration perhaps, but one that reveals how indebted we are to our ancient masters.

“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent,” said Ludwig Wittgenstein in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. This advice, if followed, would save us from a multitude of fevers carried like a bacillus in the veins of our social media. Wittgenstein also said, “The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” This too, seems like a good word. Language expands the world we perceive, and our horizons shrivel for lack of vocabulary. “Only describe, don’t explain,” cautioned Wittengenstein. But how to describe a being whose hiddenness preserves us from extinction in that presence?

But we learn, however haltingly, by trying this and that, by speaking and hearing ourselves speaking, and by listening and speaking and going away to think. When it comes to speaking about God, I’ve done enough of it as a youth pastor, a one-time evangelist, and a teacher, to know that I wish I’d spoken less, listened more, and not been so…certain that God could be described within the limits of our language alone.

***

Since the Enlightenment we’ve taken “belief” to mean assent to demonstrable truth. Still, the word “faith” in the New Testament, pistis, or pisteuo, meant trust, loyalty, engagement, commitment.[2] One committed to a person, took a vow of loyalty, promised to engage. Early Christian converts went through an intensive preparation leading up to the baptismal rites performed on Easter Sunday. They fasted, prayed, attended vigils, received instruction on the basics of the gospel message. But they weren’t required to believe anything before baptism. The transformative power of the ritual was first necessary; understanding the dogma came later. Experience of commitment led to belief.[3]

In the Jerusalem community after Jesus left those who loved him were still reciting the Jewish declaration of faith, “Hear, O Israel.” Listen, don’t speak, especially not the name of God. Only the high priest was allowed to say the name of God, and that was only on one day of the year, Yom Kippur, when he pleaded for the life of the people, knowing that he was touching fire.

It’s hard for some Christians to listen for God; it’s easier to speak. I cringe when I hear the name “Father God” or “Jesus” repeated mindlessly in public prayers, as if running up the number could force God’s hand. Jesus invited his disciples to pray to God, and indeed to call God, Abba, the familiar name, equivalent to “Daddy.” He also cautioned them to keep their prayers short and to pray in private. He intimated that long prayers in public were all for show and like any hypocrisy the users had their reward already.

***

In graduate school, studying philosophy of religion, my classmates and I took up the proofs for the existence of God. Thomas Aquinas played a starring role. Here was a man who fused the philosophical categories and reasoning methods of Aristotle with the scriptural and dogmatic propositions of Augustine, adding to it his own extraordinary powers of reasoning and expression, and forming the basis of medieval Catholic theology. Aquinas could keep six scribes busy at once, dictating to each the contents of separate books he was writing, the equivalent of a Grand Master at chess playing six opponents simultaneously.

In his Summa Theologica, Aquinas defines “God” as “that than which nothing greater can be signified, and that which exists in reality is greater than that which exists only in the intellect.”[4] It was self-evident to him that God exists. He proceeds to five proofs for the existence of God, the first being the argument from motion. God is the First Mover who is himself not moved by anything and, Aquinas says, “all men understand that this is God.”

Aquinas lived in a time when the existence of God could be vigorously disputed and stringently proven. I was impressed by his logical brilliance, somewhat envious of his unshakable certainty, but ultimately unmoved by his First Mover. My professor was fond of saying, “No one ever gave his life for the ontological argument,” a statement that could not be verified, but rang true, nonetheless.

Now we live in an era in which the arguments for the existence of God are mostly of historical interest for the philosophy of religion. They may also function as exercises in logic. But the ground has shifted under our feet and we are no longer as confident in our syllogisms and proofs. For many people, these are irrelevant arguments about a mythical being in whose name enormous atrocities have been perpetrated, and whose adherents, be they Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, are responsible for much of the injustice and suffering in the world. They are willing to hand in the ticket for their share of God’s grace and go it alone.

I believe them when they make that claim, but in turn I will not claim that I know how they feel. The mystery of evil has been, and remains, the rock that I roll up the mountain as Sisyphus. Meanwhile, I continue to pray and to sense — in ways that probably would not stand up to philosophical scrutiny — a presence in my life that I am convinced is God.

***

The Hebrew Bible is the record of the gradual withdrawal of God from direct human interaction. Angels, fire from heaven, visitations from God in person cease after Elijah. God appears in prophetic visions and dreams, and after Hezekiah even that avenue gradually dwindles to nothing. God is remembered through words and those words rise in strength and meaning. But God is not seen in the land.

“Our faith,” said Julian of Norwich, “is nothing else but a right understanding, and true belief, and sure trust, that with regard to our essential being we are in God, and God in us, though we do not see him.”[5]

Then comes Jesus, the Word, who reveals God with signs and wonders, who heals through the power of God and becomes the lens through which his disciples and others can see God again. But this revelation is not self-evident and most miss it entirely. God speaks only twice to Jesus in the presence of others and most who were there probably thought it was summer thunder. As Barbara Brown Taylor says in When God is Silent, “the voice of God in Jesus was not a shout. In him, the revelation of God comes to us as a whisper. In order to catch it, we must hush, lean forward, and trust that what we hear is the voice of God.”[6]

In this world and this time and this place, we trace the presence of God in hindsight through the paths we make between our memories and God’s movements. Our future in God, however wildly our faith may flicker, we can imagine as Jesus, the anticipation of hope fulfilled.

In our wordless desire for God we are already in God’s presence.

 

Notes & References:

[1]  Grenier, Jean. “The Attraction of the Void” in Islands: Lyrical Essays. Translated by Steve Light. Copenhagen: Green Integer, 2005, 22.

[2]  Armstrong, Karen. The Case for God. New York: Alfred Knopf, 2009, 87.

[3]  Armstrong, The Case for God, 97.

[4]  Aquinas, Aquinas on Nature and Grace. Edited by A. M. Fairweather. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1954, 50.

[5]  Julian. Revelations of Divine Love. Translated by Clifton Wolters. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1966, 158.

[6]  Taylor, Barbara Brown. When God is Silent. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998, Loc 475.

 

Barry Casey taught religion, philosophy, ethics, and communications for 37 years at universities in Maryland and Washington, DC. He is now retired and writing in Burtonsville, Maryland. More of the author’s writing can be found on his blog, Dante’s Woods. Email him at darmokjilad@gmail.com.

Photo credit: Kristine Weilert on Unsplash

 

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A Heart for Yearning

Written by: 

“But how very beautiful are those instants in which desire is on the verge of being satisfied.” —Jean Grenier[1]

How does one describe air: a colorless, odorless (usually) gas without which there is no life? Adequate, perhaps, but notable only in its subtractions and absences. How odd that something with weight, velocity, temperature, penetration, and mobility should be so ubiquitous and so indispensable — and yet so invisible.

Our language reveals these absences and ambiguities. “I can’t breathe!” Even reading these words, we feel our throats tighten. “Put your hands in the air!” We instinctively know where to put them — but where were they before? “He has an air about him…” We should hope so. In fact, let’s be generous and wish him the presence of many airs, not just one.

It is the marvelous capacity of our social imagination that these phrases usually bring about the desired effect and yet when we take them literally their meaning expires with a little gasp.

***

I struggle to describe God with any sense that I’m making sense, even to myself. I know that the letters G-O-D hold realms of meaning for many of us, but I suspect that these are inherited meanings which form an oral tradition that keeps us talking about God. If we come up dry on names for God, we need only hum a few bars of Handel’s Messiah for a full list. Those names come from Isaiah and it makes one wonder if we’ve added anything of value to the list for names and descriptions of God since the 5th century BCE. Alfred North Whitehead said in passing that everything in Western philosophy was but a footnote to Plato — an exaggeration perhaps, but one that reveals how indebted we are to our ancient masters.

“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent,” said Ludwig Wittgenstein in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. This advice, if followed, would save us from a multitude of fevers carried like a bacillus in the veins of our social media. Wittgenstein also said, “The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” This too, seems like a good word. Language expands the world we perceive, and our horizons shrivel for lack of vocabulary. “Only describe, don’t explain,” cautioned Wittengenstein. But how to describe a being whose hiddenness preserves us from extinction in that presence?

But we learn, however haltingly, by trying this and that, by speaking and hearing ourselves speaking, and by listening and speaking and going away to think. When it comes to speaking about God, I’ve done enough of it as a youth pastor, a one-time evangelist, and a teacher, to know that I wish I’d spoken less, listened more, and not been so…certain that God could be described within the limits of our language alone.

***

Since the Enlightenment we’ve taken “belief” to mean assent to demonstrable truth. Still, the word “faith” in the New Testament, pistis, or pisteuo, meant trust, loyalty, engagement, commitment.[2] One committed to a person, took a vow of loyalty, promised to engage. Early Christian converts went through an intensive preparation leading up to the baptismal rites performed on Easter Sunday. They fasted, prayed, attended vigils, received instruction on the basics of the gospel message. But they weren’t required to believe anything before baptism. The transformative power of the ritual was first necessary; understanding the dogma came later. Experience of commitment led to belief.[3]

In the Jerusalem community after Jesus left those who loved him were still reciting the Jewish declaration of faith, “Hear, O Israel.” Listen, don’t speak, especially not the name of God. Only the high priest was allowed to say the name of God, and that was only on one day of the year, Yom Kippur, when he pleaded for the life of the people, knowing that he was touching fire.

It’s hard for some Christians to listen for God; it’s easier to speak. I cringe when I hear the name “Father God” or “Jesus” repeated mindlessly in public prayers, as if running up the number could force God’s hand. Jesus invited his disciples to pray to God, and indeed to call God, Abba, the familiar name, equivalent to “Daddy.” He also cautioned them to keep their prayers short and to pray in private. He intimated that long prayers in public were all for show and like any hypocrisy the users had their reward already.

***

In graduate school, studying philosophy of religion, my classmates and I took up the proofs for the existence of God. Thomas Aquinas played a starring role. Here was a man who fused the philosophical categories and reasoning methods of Aristotle with the scriptural and dogmatic propositions of Augustine, adding to it his own extraordinary powers of reasoning and expression, and forming the basis of medieval Catholic theology. Aquinas could keep six scribes busy at once, dictating to each the contents of separate books he was writing, the equivalent of a Grand Master at chess playing six opponents simultaneously.

In his Summa Theologica, Aquinas defines “God” as “that than which nothing greater can be signified, and that which exists in reality is greater than that which exists only in the intellect.”[4] It was self-evident to him that God exists. He proceeds to five proofs for the existence of God, the first being the argument from motion. God is the First Mover who is himself not moved by anything and, Aquinas says, “all men understand that this is God.”

Aquinas lived in a time when the existence of God could be vigorously disputed and stringently proven. I was impressed by his logical brilliance, somewhat envious of his unshakable certainty, but ultimately unmoved by his First Mover. My professor was fond of saying, “No one ever gave his life for the ontological argument,” a statement that could not be verified, but rang true, nonetheless.

Now we live in an era in which the arguments for the existence of God are mostly of historical interest for the philosophy of religion. They may also function as exercises in logic. But the ground has shifted under our feet and we are no longer as confident in our syllogisms and proofs. For many people, these are irrelevant arguments about a mythical being in whose name enormous atrocities have been perpetrated, and whose adherents, be they Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, are responsible for much of the injustice and suffering in the world. They are willing to hand in the ticket for their share of God’s grace and go it alone.

I believe them when they make that claim, but in turn I will not claim that I know how they feel. The mystery of evil has been, and remains, the rock that I roll up the mountain as Sisyphus. Meanwhile, I continue to pray and to sense — in ways that probably would not stand up to philosophical scrutiny — a presence in my life that I am convinced is God.

***

The Hebrew Bible is the record of the gradual withdrawal of God from direct human interaction. Angels, fire from heaven, visitations from God in person cease after Elijah. God appears in prophetic visions and dreams, and after Hezekiah even that avenue gradually dwindles to nothing. God is remembered through words and those words rise in strength and meaning. But God is not seen in the land.

“Our faith,” said Julian of Norwich, “is nothing else but a right understanding, and true belief, and sure trust, that with regard to our essential being we are in God, and God in us, though we do not see him.”[5]

Then comes Jesus, the Word, who reveals God with signs and wonders, who heals through the power of God and becomes the lens through which his disciples and others can see God again. But this revelation is not self-evident and most miss it entirely. God speaks only twice to Jesus in the presence of others and most who were there probably thought it was summer thunder. As Barbara Brown Taylor says in When God is Silent, “the voice of God in Jesus was not a shout. In him, the revelation of God comes to us as a whisper. In order to catch it, we must hush, lean forward, and trust that what we hear is the voice of God.”[6]

In this world and this time and this place, we trace the presence of God in hindsight through the paths we make between our memories and God’s movements. Our future in God, however wildly our faith may flicker, we can imagine as Jesus, the anticipation of hope fulfilled.

In our wordless desire for God we are already in God’s presence.

 

Notes & References:

[1]  Grenier, Jean. “The Attraction of the Void” in Islands: Lyrical Essays. Translated by Steve Light. Copenhagen: Green Integer, 2005, 22.

[2]  Armstrong, Karen. The Case for God. New York: Alfred Knopf, 2009, 87.

[3]  Armstrong, The Case for God, 97.

[4]  Aquinas, Aquinas on Nature and Grace. Edited by A. M. Fairweather. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1954, 50.

[5]  Julian. Revelations of Divine Love. Translated by Clifton Wolters. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1966, 158.

[6]  Taylor, Barbara Brown. When God is Silent. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998, Loc 475.

 

Barry Casey taught religion, philosophy, ethics, and communications for 37 years at universities in Maryland and Washington, DC. He is now retired and writing in Burtonsville, Maryland. More of the author’s writing can be found on his blog, Dante’s Woods. Email him at darmokjilad@gmail.com.

Photo credit: Kristine Weilert on Unsplash

 

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.

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