May 25, 2007

Meyers-Briggs, Eat Your Heart Out [naomi]

There are a few places that are notorious for bringing out personalities. Take for example the lobby area of a long-delayed flight, where adults magically turn into two-year-olds before your very eyes. Or how about the great mixer of humanity: the Department of Licensing, where ‘equality’ turns out to mean ‘poor treatment for all’. My favorite, however, has got to be the bowling alley. People tend to slide into these nice little boxes when you get them into those stylish shoes. Observe, and see if you cannot recall most if not all of the following caricatures.

The cool killer. This is the guy (I’ve never seen a girl do this) who can throw the ball with that perfect curve which sends it right to the edge of the gutter, then swerves back just at the last moment to land a direct hit. Strike! Meanwhile the bowler, unconcerned with the ball once it has left his hand, casually turns to walk toward his friends, perhaps glancing over his shoulder to see all ten pins diving for safety from his killer curveball, and (this is very important), without breaking into a smile, lightly (not overly excitedly) smacks some high fives from his devastated and shell shocked companions (he may then possibly high five some people’s heads to make up for their lack of response). Then he sits down and continues whatever he was doing before the interruption. Bowling is an interest, but who cares? He’s got 20.

The passive-aggressive loser. He bowls the ball and watches it slide down the center of the lane only to curve at the last minute and send one solitary corner pin flying. He then clenches his fists, and turns around in one swift motion to face his companions. His face is stony, heartless, nearly murderous. He may possibly allow his eyes to roll back to indicate his utter disgust at his lousy performance. Bowling is a very serious game.

The commentator. There is one in every crowd. This is the guy who offers advice to other bowlers but inevitably can’t bowl a straight ball himself. He’s twice as annoying if he can bowl. The commentator usually ends up giving advice to the guy who looks like he’s going to murder someone, which the loser invariably finds “very helpful” and usually moves to a different position so that he can meditate on the advice given. Bowling is a chance for the commentator to show that even if he’s not winning, he knows how it should be done.

The feminist nazi bowler. She wants to win, or at least, she doesn’t want some guy to beat her, especially the commentator. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. Bowling is a way of proving yourself, even if the rest of the people you’re with could care less.

The goof-off. This is the person who flat out sucks at bowling and knows it. So to amend this, they switch strategies and try to win in the area of entertainment instead, where the lane is the stage and you are the main act with a ready audience. At times it is possible to see a “passive-aggressive loser” look at his pitiful score, look at the other scores, then walk up to the lane, turn around, and chuck the ball backwards, grannying it between his legs. He has cut his losses and is trying for an alternate win. I have actually seen people’s scores improve by making the switch. Bowling is a game, and if you can’t score a strike, maybe you can score the number of the attractive cashier in the back, or at least some extra cheese on your nachos.

The wallflower. Quite often there is a person (usually a girl, no offense) who not only sucks at bowling but doesn’t really have any desire to embarrass herself in front of everybody else. She will usually sit on the sidelines, perhaps cheering here and there for strikes, perhaps not. She usually will appear fairly bored, or will keep preoccupied in conversation with someone else. If through some coaxing she is made to bowl, she will gingerly pick up the ball, tiptoe to the lane, awkwardly throw the thing, then wait for the ball to make the five minute trek down the lane where it politely knocks down a few pins. It will occasionally connect and make a strike where all the pins seem to fall down in slow motion, at which time the crowd roars and she turns around with a shocked and very pleased look on her face. Bowling is a risk, usually one that you’re not willing to make.

We could continue, but this is a very good place to stop.

You may be wondering what the moral of the story is. It is simply this: Don’t marry anyone until you’ve gone bowling with them. As the endearing Anne of Green Gables, said, "You have to summer and winter with any one before you know if she's LIVABLE or not." Which shows you two things: 1) that I can turn any article, even one about bowling, into a discussion about Anne of Green Gables, and 2) that you never know what will come out of a person until you have known them in many and different situations. Well said, Anne. Well said.

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Scary Seeds [shaina]

Genetically Modified Organisms - It seems like these new seeds have been mostly ignored. After watching an eye-opening documentary on them I've realized how dangerous the times we live in are, in a very intimate way. Our very food is corrupted on a cellular level. Junk food isn't limited to aisles of sugary temptations anymore, one item at a time, one new chemical on the fields at a time, one new genetically altered food staple at a time.

Food which grows from these compromised seeds are steadily stocking our grocery shelves. For an "unknown" reason we are not being made aware of the potential hazards that these new foods are presenting to our health and to the economy of the nation. Heck the packages aren't even labeled. Monsanto, the leader of GMO patents, claims that they have no responsibility to test and prove the health of their foods for human consumption, the government is responsible for this. So is the claim.

However, the government doesn't seem to be catching up on this either. Depending on the food experiment with GMO's people have had adverse physical reactions AFTER products hit the shelves. With no long term testing, what will happen with these mutated seeds over the course of introducing them into our environments? Perhaps this explains our recent tragic loss of honeybees?

What is the purpose of a GMO? From what I gather there are 2 reasons. Money and well money. The history is basic, farmers were enjoying the freedom that chemicals were offering their fields. However, after dealing with the bugs there was still another problem with production: weeds are a profit buster too, so instead of digging up their weeds with their own bare hands, luckily there was a company who could help. Monsanto helped the farmer by supplying him with incredible sprays, but they were too powerful for plants to survive, but this was no longer a problem, with the help of E. Coli and Salmonella, Monsanto could break down the cell wall and introduce Round Up (a popular and powerful herbicide) resilient genes to the interior of the cell walls of the broken down seed. Thus a "Round Up Ready" seed-- the height of creation!

Now there were less bugs on crops, but more birth defects, cancer, and gas masks, but let's not go there.

Sure it sounds like a conspiracy theory, yet how is it that some cereals have more sugar than ice cream? Who is responsible for educating Americans about eating healthy? Parents? Kraft? The State? Food Network? Doctors? What if I told you that YOU are responsible for your food choices and that those choices are going to have an incredible effect on your life, and the lives of your loved ones? It gets a bit scary. It gets scarier if you realize that the food "friends" are really food foes and that all that education has deep pockets behind it.

The main four: corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton are mostly GMO crops.

Europe will not allow GMO food to be sold without it being clearly labeled. Mexico rejects GMO corn into it's own farms for fear of losing the many heirloom varieties that are an essential part of their culture. And we have them freely with no limits.

So I've remembered why I love organic food so much. Now if only I could get organic faith. . .

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Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread [james]

I like bread.

No, that’s not it. I love bread. Sourdough; sprouted grain; Romano cheese and herb… I could go on. I especially love lightly-toasted rye when it holds corned beef and sauerkraut in place.

Historically, most societies developed their own regional milled-grain foods that are, culinarily speaking, all in the same “bread” family; among them: pancakes, crepes, flatbread, tortillas, biscuits.

Bread is so cool: Bread sustains. Bread is basic. Bread is common. Bread is international. Bread has the same basic ingredients as beer.

The Israelites have a bread story, too. We've all probably heard it before, but let me refresh our memories. When the Israelites were wandering in the desert following God on a circuitous route to the Promised Land, God miraculously provided for them with manna, a bread-like substance that fell with the morning dew (Num 11:9) and “melted” in the afternoon (Ex 16:21). Out in the desert, God provided enough food for everyone.

God didn’t flood His people with food, though; He gave these wanderers only enough food to last the day. If, in a morning, the Israelites gathered more manna than they needed for the day, the uneaten manna quickly “bred worms and stank” (Ex 16:20). (In preparation for the Sabbath, He provided an extra portion (Ex 16:23), and it did not go bad.) The people who tried to get ahead and store up for later were disappointed to find maggots where their food should be.

This manna was basic sustenance for everyone, but it wasn’t just provision. It was also a way in which God disciplined his people:

And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. -- Deuteronomy 8:3 (ESV)

I am not unlike these wandering Israelites. I want things. Big things. Important things. I know what I used to have, and if I can’t have something better, then I want what I had before. If I’m leaving that behind for something better, I should have it right now. And if I have a say in it, I know exactly what the “something better” is that I want.

What a self-centered attitude! If I’m going to pray the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” then I had better mean it. I must trust God for enough daily provision in all matters (know that he will provide bread), be thankful for what he provides (the flavor of the bread may not always be my favorite), and use it wisely (don’t abuse it).

For my personal big-picture concerns about my health, a spouse, what this life is for and what I’m doing about it... I must at all times trust God to provide what I need when I need it. Things I want may not be the right thing for me to have. If I don’t have “it” right now, then I maybe I don’t need “it” right now. Or if I’d be better off with “it,” maybe I’m not ready for “it” and therefore shouldn’t have “it” yet.

I know in my mind that God is constantly providing, but instead of being grateful in my heart, I am usually asking for more. I know disciplining is happening, but I don’t exactly know what I’m being prepared for (and might possibly be too daft to recognize it).

Some days I get the feeling like I’m wandering like the Israelites. It’s not quite the same of course: I drive a Jeep instead of a camel; my water comes from the tap instead of a rock; and I can get an abundance of literal bread from a state-inspected bakery instead of waiting for God to drop it off on the lawn in the morning (I wonder... did the Israelites have a 5-second rule?).

But still, the journey doesn’t always make sense, and this frustrates me. I understand that God never promised a Promised Land every day, but, boy, would I like to know where this is going.

I do know this: Provision will happen. I am convinced that, because of Jesus, God has good in store for me daily, and that is a privilege. Fortunately for me, this good occasionally takes the form of a Reuben over at Grammy’s (trust me, it’s heavenly!). In the end, though, the destination is God’s. For my own good, I need to follow Him there.

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! -- Psalm 27:14 (ESV)

Other resources to check out:

Darrell W. Johnson. Fifty-seven Words that Change the World: A
Journey through the Lord’s Prayer
(Vancouver, British Columbia: Regent College Publishing, 2005).

Sermon: “Leaving Control For Faith”, by Rob Bell of Mars Hill Church, Grandville, MI, on March 11, 2007. (sermon was last available here (expect to download 031107.mp3))

Song: “Painting Pictures of Egypt” by Sarah Groves from her album Conversations.

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May 18, 2007

I Didn't Plan on This [jana]

I didn’t plan on this. So I was working on a great article up until yesterday afternoon at 6pm. Yesterday at about 6pm, I got a phone call inviting me to come and work with a pastor who is going to preach on Daniel’s dream interpretation in Daniel chapter 2.

Essentially, the idea is for me to paint while he preaches, for three different services on Saturday and Sunday. It’s an exercise that, were I not involved, I would approve of wholeheartedly. Bringing artistic expression into the church? Inviting artists to express the inexplicable mystery of dream, hope, interpretation, faith, and foretelling through their work and share it with the church? Fabulous ideals. I applaud the notion. Bravo to the church, for incorporating the arts.

Me, Lord? Are you kidding me? I haven’t picked up a brush in a while…I am a dabbler in the arts. I am not a professional, I don’t have that direct line from insight to creation…I, I, I….

From a book I was reading:

“Humility is throwing away oneself away in complete concentration on something else…the concentration of a small child at play is analogous to the concentration of the artist of any discipline. In real play, which is real concentration, the child is not only outside time, he is outside himself. He has thrown himself completely into whatever it is that he is doing. A child playing a game, building a sand castle, painting a picture, is completely in what he is doing. His self-consciousness is gone; his consciousness is wholly focused outside himself…when we are self-conscious, we cannot be wholly aware; we must throw ourselves out first. This throwing ourselves away is the act of creativity. So, when we wholly concentrate, like a child in play, or an artist at work, then we share in the act of creating.”—madeleine lengle

From a customer who prayed for me over the phone and then sent a follow up email:

trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on his faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him and he shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light…Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him, do not fret because of him who prospers in his way…do not fret—it only causes harm…those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.” Psalm 37

With that kind of influence, who’s to argue?

Better article next time, folks. I would also appreciate your prayers this weekend.

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May 10, 2007

Mourning Eve [justin]

There is still a text message saved in my phone under the sent mailbox: Time of Death 10:27. It’s been almost a year, but every time cleaning and deleting my messages comes along, I, hardly without a thought, skip over that one. Part of me wants the message to remember the reality; a similar part wants to hold on to any scrap of her it can because memories of the past fade too quickly these days. Another part, though, wants to let go of semi-superstitious practices and grieve for the last time the loss of a mother. But can one ever mourn Eve for the last time?

At the beginning of last May, my mom suffered from an unforeseen brain aneurysm that ruptured. While it took her a week to “wake up”, she shouldn’t have even made it to the hospital to begin with. There were certain things mom was stubborn about and though I believe grace was the main factor, I can’t rule out her will in hanging on. Flying from one coast to another to see her lying motionless in a hospital bed was surreal. She was always filled with life and laughter and the shackles of IV needles and a breathing tube did seem to be more bondage to her spirit than help. The first time I was alone with her I started caressing her arm, weeping and mumbling all the things I ever wanted to say about my love for her, about Jesus’ love for her, and about things I wanted her to let go of. I’m still unsure if she heard anything I said that day. Friends tell me that even if she wasn’t with it that her spirit could have still responded; I would be more comforted to know that her whole being heard it. I wanted to know she understood.

whisper to me

say you understand

these words falling from my eyes

speaking through my hands

whisper to me

leave the past behind

hear my love now

drink it down inside

As I looked at my mom, hooked up to machines and beat up from her condition, something came together in my heart and mind that never did before… she was beautiful. Even now it’s almost a mystical concept that is hard to articulate. It wasn’t necessarily her physical beauty or her character or memories of her; it wasn’t her perfection, because, Lord knows, she wasn’t perfect. It was just that she was beautiful. I told her this over and over as I was by her side that day. For the next week family and friends kept loving on her, even anointed her, and prayed using Psalm 34 as a guide [will the dust praise You… will it proclaim Your faithfulness?]. She slowly progressed but needed surgery, which was being put off due to an infection. In hope and regret, my wife and I flew back to the west coast; Mom was alert and awake the day we left. The last true memory I have of her is me saying goodbye, saying I love you and having her react. She still had a breathing tube in and couldn’t speak, but when I said farewell her eyes opened up like the dawn, wider than I had ever seen them… she slightly moved forward as though she was trying to throw her love towards me but couldn’t. Again, it was something mystical like she was saying all at once - I love you… I heard you… don’t leave me… I’ll be alright, go…. Two weeks later I received a phone call from my brother saying that Mom’s aneurysm had ruptured again and this time there was no recovery. A few long hours later we were back in the hospital where we officially got the news, where I texted my friends those three horrific words mentioned before. My Eve, the mother of life, was dead.

realized never, beautiful you are

until seeing ceased your eyes again

light falling white through the ceiling wall

listen, Bridegroom’s lips, angel’s breath

In some way, a mother is the most eternal thing we know. No matter how you slice it, we came from inside of them and it hits hard when the closest thing you relate eternity to, the very thing that bore you, dies. I always knew in my head that I was going to die, but it wasn’t until my mom died that I actually believed it. In reality, I don’t think most of us, including the Church, believe in our own mortality.

I was watching a Damien Rice performance/interview recently and the host asked the musician what he had learned in-between albums. Damien said, “I think the biggest thing I learned was that I’m going to die.” The host reacted with a joking arrogancy: “I could have told you that, you should have just asked me.” And it is that joking arrogancy, whether in whole or in part, that a lot of us use to skirt the sincerity of death. We are ignorant and the subject matter is not funny.

It appears that most Christians jump ahead of themselves, not in promise but in ignorance and fear, and forget that one of the necessary ingredients for resurrection is death. [If you’re about to make a comment using the words rapture or second coming, you’ve already missed the point.] This trivialization has the same applicable effect as talking about forgiveness without talking about sin.

Getting a glimpse at the genuineness of death stretches your faith. I’m still dealing with some anger and bitterness issues [the loss of a mother, a widowed father, a yet to be child that will miss out on a rockin’ grandma, etc.] but have an increased hope in how majestic victory over death must be. As a follower of Christ, a universalistic afterlife dependent upon personal merit is out of the question. Fallen by nature and beautiful by design we are – but our beauty won’t save us. However, the truth of the grace of Jesus, which is bigger than my own Christianity, is something to hold onto. We need a savior… and that Savior needs to be as real as death.

Mother I’m sorry I left your side

I miss your face and I miss your eyes

Oh lovely – so lovely

Jesus, resurrection, the life

Come and comfort us tonight

Give us eyes to see

Oh Father, hold me

This article has also been published at RELEVANT Online.

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Loving the Lord Your God With All Your Mind [matt]

I love reading the stories that emerge from the mess that is the Old Testament. They are not the dolled-up, moralizing, theologically imbued tales you are filled with as a Sunday-school attending adolescent. They are peculiar, offbeat, full of men and women whose actions and faith are almost as off-kilter as their relationships with the strange and moody Yahweh. And one of the strangest of them all is a man named Saul, whose bewildering actions make 1 Samuel an entertaining but perplexing book.

When Saul is first crowned king it is a complex day. The people are getting what they want, yet it is also against the will of God. A problematic beginning to be sure! But it only gets worse. In 16:14, Saul recieves a “black mood” (according to the Message) that can only be soothed with some comforting music from a lyre. Later, in chapter 18, he throws a spear at David twice while prophesying! It goes on to describe his fear of David and his willingness to give his daughter Michal to David as a bride with 100 Philistine foreskins as a trade. He does all of this in a matter of a few verses! He goes on to kill priests, hunt David like a wild animal while disregarding his duties as king, use a medium to contact a dead prophet, and ultimately ends his life in battle. It’s a strange, sad tale.

The story of Saul is tragic. It is frustrating to read about this man’s outlandish behavior and bizarre moods, and realize that they didn’t seem to warrant any extra grace for him. When we move into the New Testament, it is not much more help. A young man throwing himself into the fire is cured of his demons and leaves the narrative. Another who is violent, naked, and choosing to live among the dead is released from a legion of demons and quickly moves back into “normal life.”

These stories do not help. I am not questioning their historical reliability when I say this, but only wish to state that they bring more questions than answers to the table when it comes to mental health and its relationship to faith. Are our only two options when working with somebody with any sort of mental disorder to diagnose them with either demon posession or an evil spirit from the Lord? How do we call somebody to love the Lord their God with all of their mind when we don’t have any real understanding of how their mind works?

I find the beginning of an answer in 1 Samuel 21:10-15. This is where David pretends to be “crazy” to escape the wrath of Achish, king of Gath. Gath’s response is to complain that his men have wasted his time by bringing a crazy person to him, and complete disgust at the fact that this obviously deranged person is even in his home. Saul on the other hand is continually followed, respected, and called into account when he strays from the Lord. He has a role in the community and retains his humanity where other nations obviously would strip him of it. His otherness does not cause the community to alienate him and that is as good of a starting point as we can ask for here. Israel is again set apart from the surrounding nations in the way it humanizes the sick. They do not do this perfectly, but compared to the surrounding nations, perhaps they can still be a light of sorts.

But these answers are only the tip of the iceberg. There are too many questions and this writer has neither the exegitcal skills, mental health awareness, or the guts to go much further with answers. Instead, I have questions. I have written on this subject before, and do so again because it has much to do with my vocation and I continue to realize that the church has done little in the way of seeking real answers that deal with the complex relationship between psychological problems and theological issues. So, without any more ado, here’s my questions:

1. What does spiritual growth look like for somebody with a low IQ? And if you say IQ doesn’t matter when it comes to spiritual growth, then the question is Why do we do most any church thing that is spiritual growth related in a classroom setting (a.k.a., following an educational model)?

2. If a believer commits sins of different kinds (murder, theft, rape, homosexuality, attempted suicide, etc), but it is proven that their mind is warped in such a way that they don’t know any better, how does the church call them into account? Is it still a sin?

3. Is there still a role for things like evil spirits when the church tries to explain mental health issues? If so, how do we decide if somebody is demon possessed and needs to be freed (like the cases in the Gospels and Acts), or has been afflicted by God (like the Pharoah or Saul in the Old Testament)?

4. When people are living with other issues, ranging anywhere from ADHD to bipolar to depression, should these issues effect how we help them along in their transformation as disciples of Jesus?

I ask all of these questions out of nothing but concern. These and many more questions like them pop up every week and this is just a small way for me to hopefully start some sort of helpful conversation. Anwers to any of these questions, or just more questions to add to these, will all be helpful.

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May 3, 2007

Journal Entry: 12:49 AM [jessi]

There are magical hours. Between midnight and 3 AM everything I do seems more real than at any other time.

I have finished more gripping novels in this time period that any other. Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night being this weekend’s most recent addition to a list which also includes the first book in Fellowship of the Ring, C.S. Lewis’ Til We Have Faces, various sundry John Grisham novels, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, just to name a few. I remember as a teenager, curled up in the armchair in the family room for most of the night, physically propping my eyelids open so that I could finish the book I was reading. Or if I couldn’t finish it, at least I needed to “get to a safe place” where the main character was not in any immediate danger. Then maybe I could talk myself into going down the dark staircase to my room, and creeping under the covers for the last few hours of the night.

On other occasions, I have even been known to seize mop and bucket, or dust rag and disinfectant spray, determined to take measurable steps to enact change in my life. And it feels good. And maybe it’s only at 2am that mopping the kitchen floor seems like seizing destiny with my own two hands. It’s silly, I know, but there it is.

When I wasn’t living on the West Coast, these hours were sometimes celebrated with late night phone conversations, mostly with folks in other time zones, but sometimes also with kindred souls who also used dreamtime to do a more intentional kind of dreaming.

And when I say intentional or conscious dreaming, I mean the kind that involves spinning tall castles out of the wispy gauze of a vague desire to go somewhere else or be someone other than who I am. Once, during college, I spent a night like this planning an entire vacation: a walking tour of Ireland. It was a pretty detailed itinerary, with Bed and Breakfasts dug up out of online directories, points of interest noted, and famous pubs put on the route. No, come to think of it, I don’t think I had a paper due the next day, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there had been one the day after that, which hadn’t been started. But let’s not delve into my GPA, here. It’s just kind of amazing how tangible such things can feel to the semi-functional brain during what my grandma calls the “wee sma’s”

Every lofty plan from sailing ‘round the world (in a beautiful pea-green boat) to becoming a tour guide on a cruise ship, to owning my own used-book shop has been fostered, researched, and planned during this time.

-I started writing a novel

-I resolved to learn Italian

-I’ve collaged pictures far into the night

-I created a reading list that was 5 typed (single-space, 12p. Times New Roman) pages long.

The witching hours bring dreams so real I could almost drink them. But unless I do something; book the ticket, send off the job application, submit the essay, print and market the rendering, make a down payment on the building, or file for the business license, the seeming tangibility is a lie.

The fact is, the sun arrives and finds me: fallen asleep, face smushed against the pages of my journal, pen fallen from my hand, light still on. My life goals every bit as incomplete as the day before, as long as I only undertake them between the hours of midnight and 3am.

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Spirituality and Certainty [jenna]

Perhaps I shouldn’t laugh at something so tragic, but when a recent MSN article entitled “Rediscovering Your Spiritual Self ” offered this advice—“Gaze into the night sky and think of the stars as holes in the darkness letting heaven shine through”—I admit to snickering. It’s not that a little poetic imagery bothers me, though I do object to something so suspiciously like cheap greeting-card poetry, but this suggestion came in the context of advice for relief from suffering through spirituality.

America, as we all know, has experienced quite a revival in spirituality since atheism wore out of fashion. When Muslim terrorists brought down the Twin Towers and part of the Pentagon in 2001, we reminded each other that not all of Islam deserved censure because of the actions of radicals. Personal website hosts such as Myspace and Blogger automatically post your astrological sign on your profile. Some form of transcendental or New Age meditation was taught my class, at least, when I was in grade school, and megachurches advertise their ‘friendly, welcoming atmosphere’ on television.

The problem with the driving force behind these concepts (regardless of the merit or danger of any particular notion) is that it’s empty; a sheer senseless void that has American culture wandering in its colorless waste. In all the positive energy, the acceptance of all belief systems as equally valuable, the encouragement for each to find his or her own way, the pagan meditation and holistic ideas of therapy and healing, there is hardly a word of actual sterling truth—and truth, of all things, has the ability to provide sanity and healing.

John Henry Cardinal Newman, in his Grammar of Assent, gives us the following words:

“Now truth cannot change; what is once truth is always truth; and the human mind is made for truth, and so rests in truth, as it cannot rest in falsehood … It is of great importance then to show … that the intellect, which is made for truth, can attain truth, and, having attained it, can keep it, can recognize it, and preserve the recognition.”
There are a lot of reasons for the pervasive hopelessness and depression rampant among us: overdosing on sugar (and alcohol and drugs), instability in the family, general feelings of isolation, widespread amorality, early exposure to violent imagery, et cetera ad infinitum. I wonder, though, if more of the problem than we ever admit has to do with the loss of any concept of stable, solid, concrete, absolute truth.

We are asked nowadays to treat all faiths as equal and private; however, the idea that faith is merely personal, a matter of choice, is meaningless. The concept that all religions lead to some general heaven, regardless of how different their description of heaven itself or the requirements for entry, removes all logic from religion itself. Without logic, there is no knowledge; without some level of knowledge, hope is fragile at best. Probably few ideas, in and of themselves, have done more to destroy hope among Westerners than that stripping of all certainty out of faith.

Some of my peers assume, as one young ex-Christian, that “Nobody in this vast world of ours ever comes to the logical conclusion that if every member of every religion thinks he just happened to be born in the right religion it simply means all religions are wrong ones”—but the one thing that his argument does not have is logic; for the simple fact of disagreement between two men has no bearing on the actuality that one of them may be right and the other quite wrong. Others take the popular stance carried by the Baha’i faith, like the chant reputedly led by Bono at one of his concerts: “Jesus, Jew, Mohammed: all true” without ever reasoning that the literal and absolute contradictions between the doctrines of the three preclude such a possibility.

To me, one of the strongest arguments for believing in literal truth is the mess that humanity becomes without it. Once that confidence—with all its glory and fear—has been sacrificed, the structures of morality and security that maintain our decency, dignity and sanity crumble and dissolve.

Not that sheer confidence that one has found the truth is enough to build a structure that can support all those good things. But as G. K. Chesterton said, “It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands” (Orthodoxy, 1995 reprint Ignatius Press p. 108). If, then, truth exists, my duty is not to figure out what I think and be true to it; my duty is to find what is truth and align myself faithfully to it.

This means that of necessity I believe in right and wrong; not merely morally—that’s an outgrowth of deeper things—but philosophically and yes, spiritually. That I have confidence in the truth of Christianity should be clear from the above.

Christianity requires plenty of recourse to faith, of course; so does Islam, Buddhism, pantheism, etc.—and so does atheism, evolutionary science, agnosticism, hedonism, and all the other secular religiosities out there.

But I do believe that, centrally at least, certainty is possible. The fact that it takes time, effort, and faith to achieve it—however daunting that may make the search—does not take away from the existence of the truth itself. The matter of whether truth exists or not is only half the question; the rest is this: do we dare to know the answer?

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