Death as a Comma

At the age of 22, Benjamin Franklin composed his epitaph:

The Body of
B. Franklin
Printer;
Like the Cover of an old Book,
Its Contents torn out,
And stript of its Lettering and Gilding,
Lies here, Food for Worms.
But the Work itself shall not be lost:
For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more,
In a new & more perfect Edition,
Corrected and Amended
By the Author.
He was born on January 6, 1706.
Died 17-

Whatever happened to this early version is unknown, for when he died 62 years later his gravestone simply read:

Benjamin and Deborah Franklin – 1790

It may be that humility set in as he grew older. He had made his point with his earlier epitaph and after a life of world-changing achievements; he simply identified the place of rest for “The Body of B. Franklin, Printer.”

He knew that death is not a period, it is a comma.

God has shown us that this life is not all there is. We know that there is nothing in this world satisfies our deepest longings. Christ’s death and resurrection gives us the reality of forgiveness and the certainty of eternal life.

In the decades after Christ, the early Christians did not separate His resurrection from our own.

“With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33).

As Paul spoke in Athens, many of the people thought he was crazy, advocating what they called “foreign gods.” Why? “They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection” (Acts 17:18). Not just the resurrection of Jesus, but the resurrection of everyone (Acts 24:15).

So we have hope in a world of despair.

The longer we live in this life, the more we look forward to our own “new and more perfect edition,” fortunately corrected and amended by the Author. Until then, we serve as ambassadors for Him. What a life!

Have a Blessed Easter!

Ripping a Hole in History

I read somewhere that Jesus rips a hole in history about the size of the resurrection.

Christianity is Christ. Christ risen. Alive. He took on human flesh and still wears it – now forever glorified. He is the first-fruits of all of us who will be raised.

The next few days of Holy Week are the two axes on which the universe balances and spins: crucifixion and resurrection; death and life; sacrifice and victory.

What is historical will become personal – for all of us.

Below are some of my favorite thoughts about these days from people across the spectrum. Add to them if you have thoughts, quotes or ideas that are favorites of yours.

 

“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”

― Charles Colson

 

“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.”

― Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

 

“The resurrection completes the inauguration of God’s kingdom. . . . It is the decisive event demonstrating that God’s kingdom really has been launched on earth as it is in heaven.”

“The message of Easter is that God’s new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you’re now invited to belong to it.”

― N.T. Wright

 

“Here the whole world (stars, water, air,

And field, and forest, as they were

Reflected in a single mind)

Like cast off clothes was left behind

In ashes, yet with hopes that she,

Re-born from holy poverty,

In lenten lands, hereafter may

Resume them on her Easter Day.”

~C. S. Lewis;  Epitaph for his wife Joy Gresham.

 

“Indeed taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no single historic incident better or more variously supported than the Resurrection of Christ. Nothing but the antecedent assumption that it must be false could have suggested the idea of deficiency in the proof of it.”

― Brooke Foss Westcott

 

“A dead Christ I must do everything for; a living Christ does everything for me.”

― Andrew Murray, Jesus Himself

 

“In a world where the dead have returned to life, the word ‘trouble’ loses much of its meaning.”

― Dennis Hopper, actor

 

“Perhaps [the critics are right and] the drama is played out now and Jesus is safely dead and buried. Perhaps. It is ironical and entertaining to consider that at least once in the world’s history those words might have been said with complete conviction, and that was on the eve of the Resurrection.”

― Dorothy L. Sayers, The Whimsical Christian: 18 Essays

 

“The resurrection is the revelation to chosen witnesses of the fact that Jesus who died on the cross is indeed king – conqueror of death and sin, Lord and Savior of all. The resurrection is not the reversal of a defeat but the proclamation of a victory. The King reigns from the tree. The reign of God has indeed come upon us, and its sign is not a golden throne but a wooden cross.”

― Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture

 

“Christianity, unlike any other religion in the world, begins with catastrophe and defeat. Sunshine religions and psychological inspirations collapse in calamity and wither in adversity. But the Life of the Founder of Christianity, having begun with the Cross, ends with the empty tomb and victory.”

― Fulton J. Sheen, Life of Christ

 

“The cross of Christ only triumphs in the breast of believers over the devil and the flesh, sin and sinners, when their eyes are directed to the power of His Resurrection.”

― John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion

 

“I went to a psychologist friend and said if 500 people claimed to see Jesus after he died, it was just a hallucination. He said hallucinations are an individual event. If 500 people have the same hallucination, that’s a bigger miracle than the resurrection.”

- Lee Strobel

 

“Our brains are seventy-year clocks. The Angel of Life winds them up once for all, then closes the case, and gives the key into the hand of the Angel of the Resurrection.”

-      Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

 

“It is of the very essence of Christianity to face suffering and death not because they are good, not because they have meaning, but because the resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of their meaning.”

― Thomas Merton

 

Blessings to you this Easter season.  He is risen!

God and the weekend in Sports!

An interesting weekend in sports saw two major championship victories accompanied by two substantive testimonies.
The first is in the world of boxing. In Las Vegas, Filipino boxer, Manny Pacquiao, defeated Timothy Bradley in a rematch to regain the WBO welterweight title.
Manny

Pacquiao, 33, is not your typical fighter. He is the most famous man in the Philippines where he serves as a congressman; that’s right – a congressman.
Mannycongress

For him, even more notably, he has experienced a life-changing encounter with Christ. Here is how USA Today described yesterday’s party celebrating his victory:

Once a gambling, womanizing, party animal whose idea of fun was cockfighting in the Philippines and singing rock songs after fights, Pacquiao now finds his happiness in reading the Bible.
On this sunny morning, 75 to 100 Filipinos — men, women and children — were packed into his suite and gathered around a piano, singing and praising the Lord, with Pacquiao’s minister leading a religious service that lasted more than an hour.
Three Filipino television stations filmed the service.
As for his next opponent, Pacquiao said he’s not thinking about that right now. He will head back to the Philippines to be with his wife, Jinkee, who is expected to give birth to their fifth child, already named Israel.

[USA Today, 14 April 2014]

Before he returns home, Pacquiao is stopping in Los Angeles on Tuesday to host a fund-raiser to build community housing for typhoon victims in the Filipino region of Tacloban.

watson

The second championship is from the world of golf where Bubba Watson, won the 2014 Masters in Augusta, Georgia, the second time he has donned the green jacket. The 35 year-old Watson is not your typical professional golfer. On Twitter, he describes himself as:

@bubbawatson “Christian. Husband. Daddy. Pro Golfer. Owner of General Lee 1 (that’s the car from the Dukes of Hazard).”

Watson takes his faith seriously and frequently tweets Bible verses and inspirational quotes. Not long ago he said that he lost about 100 twitter followers because of his biblical messages. While this was actually a tiny portion of his massive following, he responded individually to the mean-spirited twitter comments with a positive message.

He says, “For me, it’s just showing the Light. There’s people who want to put down Christians. I try to tell them Jesus loves you. It’s just a way to be strong in my faith.”

After his Sunday victory, Watson hugged his wife and picked up his son and carried him off the green, greeting and high-fiving fans along the way.

Kathy Schiffer (Seasons of Grace) describes another facet of Watson’s faith:

This year, the Christian golfer praised God for the win and took time to pray, too, for Briggs Berry, a 17-year-old golf fan who is hospitalized with a rare disease. Berry has X-linked hyper IgM, a syndrome in which a lack of certain antibodies makes it extremely difficult to fight infections. He had a bone marrow transplant two months ago, but is still hospitalized.
This afternoon Berry, who uses the Twitter handle “Cpt. LOGANITIS”, posted a photo holding a Master’s flag which had been autographed by Bubba Watson.

Bubba-tweet-1

Watson likes all kind of music, including rap. One of his favorites is Christian rap artist, Lecrae.
In an interview with BGEA, he said “Lecrae said it the best. He doesn’t want to be a celebrity. He doesn’t want to be a superstar. He just wants to be the middle man for you to see God through him.”

Pray for Manny Pacquiao and Bubba Watson and their “middle man” influence.

Remember:

“One person committed to a cause can accomplish more than a thousand who are only interested.”

Atheists! Think About What You Are Saying

Atheist-Bus_1217553c

There are a number of atheists and non-believers that many Christians should read. A good dose of Nietzsche, Russell, Dawkins and even O’Hair will keep your mind sharp and give some understanding into the thinking of those who reject God. The differences are not merely worldviewish, but strike at the personal and emotional level. The value of honest debate cannot be underestimated in today’s cultural confusion. Christians are usually in attack mode out of fear, lack of knowledge or bad leadership models.

Some non-believers are exceptionally thoughtful and demonstrate a good understanding of their own atheism and Christianity. One such writer is Ed Brayton. His most recent post, “Atheists, Please Stop Saying These Things” is worth a read. Check it out here. Tell me what you think!

Noah: How Long Can You Tread Water?

The first time I seriously thought about the story of Noah’s ark was when I was in elementary school and I heard a very young Bill Cosby’s classic routine about Noah. [“God: “Noah, how long can you tread water?”] View it here.
BillCosby

But the release of Noah, starring Russell Crowe and Hermione Granger, is no joke. Many Christians are reacting to the film’s departures from the biblical story, the film’s atheist director, and the film’s veiled and confusing agenda. Christian leaders are either discouraging anyone from seeing it while others think it falls into the category of similar religious films and is worth viewing.

Here are two reviews that represent the range of Christian opinions. The first is negative.
The second is positive.

The movie opened strongly on Friday ($6.2 million) and has been very strong internationally ($28.3 million total).

So, how should we respond? If we don’t get wacky, this could be another great opportunity God has given us to tell his story to the world.

In an attempt not to say what has already been said, I will make three brief comments.

noahs-ark-8440505
1. Let’s face it; Christians also take liberties with the story of Noah. The idea of a floating zoo is the kid-friendly version that we tell with flannelgraph characters. But the reality is more akin to the nightmare scene in the film where the water is filled with floating corpses. The scene is terrifying and a sober reminder that this is what really happened.

aronofskytweet

2. Of course Noah is chocked full of biblical, theological and historical errors. Nobody thought that Darren Aronofsky – who is always referred to as “visionary filmmaker Darren Aronofsky” – would make a movie about Noah’s ark and merely retell the biblical story. In fact, when has there ever been a movie that accurately reproduced the story from a book? Scenes and characters are added or omitted to make the film work. These changes are debatable with most books; but boycott-bait if it’s the Bible.

gervaistweet

The concern about the biblical accuracy of the film reminds me of the controversy surrounding the 1970 release of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the classic example of playing fast and loose with the Scriptures (“he’s just a man. . .” Mary Magdalene sang). I was in high school at the time and was not a follower of Christ. But the songs, the play and the film (1973) made many of us all look at Jesus with heightened curiosity. We bought the book, too. The Bible. And, sure enough, the book was better than the movie. I came to know the real Jesus Christ (supra stars).

The appearance of Noah is already having a similar impact. For example, check out the Chicago Tribune conversation between journalist Eric Zorn, a secularist, and theologian Bryan O’Neal, dean of the faculty at Chicago’s Moody Bible. Take a look: “There’s something about Noah”

This ongoing substantive conversation would not be taking place in such a public forum were it not for the film. The same is true for countless other on-line discussions, news interviews and radio talk shows. And it opens doors for all of us, as well.

What an incredible opportunity to tell the true story of Genesis 6-9 and the way it serves as a historic metaphor for God’s salvation through Christ (see 1 Peter 3:18-20).

3. When a book-based movie is released, sales of the book increase dramatically. The availability of the Bible in bookstores and on-line (free!) makes this easy. I pray that they will, as I did, become captivated by the story God is unfolding and want to become an active participant.

God uses anything and everything to reach out with his truth and grace. I heard a man tell how he was sitting in a bar and God used the Beatles’ song, “Rocky Racoon” to reach him. Go figure. I think Noah will be an eye-opener for many and a first step toward faith.

So pray for open and warm hearts. Read some of the good information about Noah, God, judgment and faith so you can be ready to give a good explanation to those who are open. Let God use Noah, once again, to bring His message of salvation to the world.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

~Hebrews 11:6-7

Responding to Bill Maher’s “Hey God, you’re a [expletive]!”

noah-movie-poster-russell-crowe-691x1024
Last Friday, comedian Bill Maher told his audience that God was a “psychotic mass murderer.” He was discussing the soon to be released Hollywood version of the biblical story of Noah and he had harsh words for the Lord.

“Hey God, you’re a [expletive]!”

Maher was in rare form: “But the thing that’s really disturbing about Noah isn’t the silly, it’s that it’s immoral. It’s about a psychotic mass murderer who gets away with it, and his name is God. . .What kind of tyrant punishes everyone just to get back at the few he’s mad at? I mean, besides Chris Christie.”
Real.Time.with.Bill.Maher.2012.10.26
And he wasn’t finished: “Hey God, you know you’re kind of a [expletive] when you’re in a movie with Russell Crowe and you’re the one with anger issues. […] Conservatives are always going on about how Americans are losing their values and their morality, well maybe it’s because you worship a guy who drowns babies.”

Bill Maher is considered smart and funny and unafraid to dialogue with those who disagree with him. On his weekly HBO talk show, “Real Time,” he allows his guests to explain and defend their views – although Christians and conservatives are usually few and outnumbered and the heated debates end in a Maher tirade and dismissive humor.

What makes his statements worth response is not merely that he has a large following among the skeptical/atheist/cynical crowd (which he does) but that tucked away in the inner recesses of his observations are frequently genuine substantive questions.

In 2006 Maher admitted that he “believed in a God” although at times he refers to himself as an atheist. So his beef with religion is genuine: “We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion. I do believe that. I think religion stops people from thinking. I think it justified crazies.” Maher shakes his head in wonder at Christians whom he thinks are beguiled by the Bible and a misinterpretation of the person of Christ.

What a difference a worldview makes.

If we peel back the expletives and irrationality in Maher’s comments about the biblical story of Noah, he raises a real question that many people have about God.

Maher points his finger at God and asks, “Why do you hold us accountable for moral standards that you routinely ignore? Why can you get away with murder and we can’t?”

Either the flood story is rubbish or believers are idiots for thinking that a “guy who drowns babies” is worth worshipping. Does God hold himself to a different standard?

So, how do we respond?

What if God was one of us?

First, God is not a “guy” or one of us. And he is not merely the administrator of the cosmos; he is the creator and sustainer of everything. It is all his – every bit of it; including us. Is it possible that God can do things that we are not morally allowed to do? Absolutely.

Imagine I was in a downtown convenience store early one morning when the bell on the entrance door rang and a man swooshed in and grabbed a loaf of bread, a jug of milk and a carton of eggs. He strode past the checkout counter and told the clerk to comb his hair and was out the door almost before it closed.
My first thought would be to call the police or at least get the license number of his car.

When I ask the clerk if I can help, he says, “Nah, he’s always like that. He’s the owner. It’s all his stuff anyway.”

Now if I walked into a store and did what the owner did, the police would be on me before I had made the next block. But the owner can do so with no care of the police. It’s all his.

The fact that ethical differentiation occurs based on position and authority is understood by everyone. We can use examples from the business world, the military, education, families. To apply this to God and the universe as a whole is not only logical but required.

So, we say that God is justified in doing anything he wants without asking our opinion or advice. No one will say to him, “Who died and made you . . .”

Well, you get it.
BillMaherVideo
But Killing Babies?

“OK, God can do what he wants,” Maher may reply. “So why does he want to kill babies?”
None of us can pretend to understand why God does what he does. He is the Lord of life and death. When he acts, we do not know all of the circumstances, both past and future, that contribute to his decision.

Remember, life is not merely a blip on the earthly screen; it is unending. I believe God’s mercy to the children in eternal life will be greater than we can comprehend.

This gets at the heart of the relationship God desires with us. Faith in God is not mindless acceptance of Maher’s psychopathic tyrant. If the universe is his, then the first step in dealing with God’s actions is to acknowledge his sovereignty and respond in awe and humility.

The bottom line is that we trust him. This is the toughest step for most people to take. But “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). I remember how my son would take my hand and go with me in to see the doctor. He had no idea what the doctor was going to do to him but he trusted me. God is the perfect father.

He is the God who “wants all people to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). He is patient, longsuffering and merciful (Daniel 9:9) and his kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). So, when God acts in judgment it is usually the culmination of a long string of warnings and second chances.

God’s judgment is a hard truth and I get a pain in my gut when I consider the suffering in our world. I do not understand everything that happens, in fact, I do not like everything that happens. I get angry, upset, confused. I tell God that I am angry, as did David and psalmists. David almost seems to shake his fist at God for not seeming to hear his prayers, not responding when he needed help, and even allowing the wicked to prosper while he suffered (read Psalms 6, 13, 28, 73, etc.). The Bible does not downplay the gut-wrenching reality of our inability to comprehensively know God and his ways.

For the Christian, we know that for a time God did become one of us. The incarnation of Christ who came to die for sin forever answered the question, “What is God like?” Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). He came and suffered with us and for us.

So, Bill Maher, I don’t think that God is psychotic or that Russell Crowe’s anger issues compare to God’s holiness. I do not understand what he does much of the time; but he lets me argue with him. He is faithful, just and merciful. He loves me. And I love him.

Post Script
I am glad that you are troubled by anyone who would kill babies. Does that mean you’ve changed your position on abortion?

God Shows up at the Oscars!

81st Academy Awards¨ Press Kit Images

Give Matthew McConaughey a break!

When God is mentioned at the Oscars, the earth splits in two. He is frequently mentioned at the Grammy’s; less frequently at the Emmy’s – an analysis of the reasons would make a good Master’s thesis. But the Academy Awards ceremony is usually a God-free zone. In fact, only Denzel Washington, Jennifer Hudson, and Forest Whitaker have referenced God in over a decade of recent Oscar programs.

218217-matthew-mcconaughey-oscars
So when Matthew McConaughey thanked God in his acknowledgment speech, time seemed to stand s
till. There was a smattering of surprised applause (most likely from those who either weren’t listening or thought he said, “Bob”).

http://www.bing.com/news/search?q=Matthew+McConaughey+Oscars+%2bGod&qpvt=matthew+mcconaughey+oscars+%2bGod&FORM=NWRFSH

The twitter world went crazy criticizing or dismissing McConaughey for introducing religion into the celebration. For example,

OK, so you really deserved it McConaughey. Just stop the stupid god-talk

I thought we could get through the Oscars without someone thanking god but no he had to ruin it. *** you McConaughey!

From others, there was a burst of praise and congratulations for his courage in revealing this “private part of his life” (which is private no more). Some were wondering if McConaughey will become the new darling of the Christian demographic. Jamie Grace tweeted:

that one time Matthew McConaughey thanked God and every Christian girl started shoutin!

But it was hard not to notice the professing Christians who took McConaughey to task for what they perceived as his incomplete knowledge of God (“he never mentioned Jesus”), his choice of roles and movies (“R-rated trash”), and his future self as his hero (“self-righteous, self-absorbed”).

But we need to give Matthew McConaughey a break. Where is he in his journey with God? He has been seen reading Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Christ. He and his wife have been attending church regularly – even while on vacation in Cannes. But even without these “clues” we should never judge a person’s entire life by a snapshot. This is even more important for celebrities whose private life is a parody of their craft – one snapshot after another. As Delirious? sings: “My life’s a show on God’s TV; The world an audience watching me.”

I have a lengthy list of celebrities that I pray for every day. It helps me to see the idols of our time through the eyes of Christ. I ask our Lord to bring people into their lives today who will show them what a real child of God is like; to see the truth, grace and love of God through Christ in ways that are compelling and personal; to hear and understand the Good News of Christ.

And it may take a long time.

It is exciting when some of them begin to indicate an interest in spiritual things, like when Howard Stern starting reading the Bible (“I’m always afraid to say anything about God. What if there is a God?”).

Or, how about the recent news that Angelina Jolie is going to direct the film “Unbroken,” the epic story of Louis Zamperini told in the bestselling biography by Laura Hillenbrand.
Unbroken
His story as an Olympic athlete and WWII prisoner of war only makes sense because of his conversion and faith in Christ. How will Louie’s life and testimony affect Angelina Jolie and her husband, Brad Pitt? Louie is one of the most passionate followers of Christ I have ever met. His faith infects everyone he meets.

http://www.breathecast.com/articles/angelina-jolie-unbroken-film-takes-a-look-at-devout-christian-louis-zamperini-14256/

http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20790723,00.html

Or, how about actor Shia LeBeouf who has made the news recently by rejecting the celebrity he has attained? He tweets regularly, “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE” and “#IAMSORRY” and has participated in several bizarre programs, interviews and art exhibits, frequently with a bag over his head. While the national press describes him as inexplicably odd, the angst seems real.

ShiaLebeoufBag7

Maybe there was a hint of LeBeouf’s anxiety a couple of years ago. In a Parade magazine interview given at the height of his Transformers success, he said, “Sometimes I feel like I’m living a meaningless life and I get frightened. I have no idea where this insecurity comes from, but it’s a God-sized hole. If I knew, I’d fill it and I’d be on my way.”

Only God can fill a God-sized hole. It’s what He does best.

I read these news reports differently than many because I am praying for these dear people every day.
Matthew McConaughey has become one of the best and most substantive actors of our day. He spoke publicly of God in very personal terms. He did so intentionally and he knows he is on record for his commitment.

So let’s pray, believe and never forget that engaging the culture for Christ begins on our knees.

Who are you praying for?

Screwtape congratulates Wormwood

The well-known demon, Screwtape, is mentoring his nephew, Wormwood, in the wiles of thwarting the plans of the “Enemy” (God).
With apologies to C. S. Lewis

My Dearest Wormwood:

You have experienced a few successes recently. Don’t let it go to your head! The Enemy is shrewd and His disgusting love for these miserable creatures never allows us a moment’s rest. We must constantly change our strategies to respond to His efforts.

You should know that outside your region many around the world are choosing to follow Him. I don’t know the exact numbers but in the hallways whispers of “almost 80,000 every day” are shocking if true. “Disturbing and unacceptable” our Dark Lord says.

Fortunately, in your area of responsibility, you have a net gain – almost 8,000 on a daily basis – are choosing to walk away from their earlier professed allegiance to the Enemy. Bravo, Wormwood! Prosperity and technology are our friends so keep using them to divert these mushy-minded morons from issues that matter.

Think back, nephew. Not long ago, we were reeling in confusion at the growth of church attendance and public acceptance of our Enemy’s plan. The more thoughtful among them saw opportunities to deepen the bonds of fellowship. If you remember, we panicked. They were becoming too unified.

But we were saved by the recklessness that success always brings. Their leaders grew arrogant with power and wealth. They built their own little empires and celebrated their influence. They translated that dubious message of grace, repentance and forgiveness into a short-cut for comfort and well-being. We can give them that without any religious baggage.

The downward trend continues. Now, they no longer see themselves as victors; but as victims. Make certain they continue to blame bad entertainment, bad government, bad culture, bad preaching, bad teachers, bad theology, and bad churches. Keep their minds off big visions and on small-time agendas.

Even now, as attendance and giving roles grow smaller, their doctrinal statements grow longer. Their holy book has become a bludgeon and their theology a tool; not to enlighten and unite, but to label and divide.

They are beginning to turn inward and attack each other.

As one of their own said, “Once the tide goes out, every shrimp has his own puddle.”

This may become more than we could have hoped for!

Let them continue to blame everyone but themselves. Let them swim around in their puddles and compose more rules to follow. Make them think they must tighten their grip.

Their once great churches and schools are shells of their former glory. Work hard to have them recalibrate success. Make them think they are among a faithful, dwindling remnant.

We can only hope the divisions continue to escalate. Wouldn’t it be grand if they return to the days when the Reformed leaders were drowning the Baptists? We might even have the Baptists drowning the Baptists.

It could happen, Wormwood! It could happen! Just be faithful to your commitment.

Keep me posted.

Respectfully Yours,

Uncle Screwtape

Late Night Comedy Questions for Facebook

[please see yesterday's posting below on the Facebook announcement. Here is the intentionally almost-funny denouement ]

Facebook is now providing its 159 million US users with 56 options to publicly self-identify their gender. Allow me a moment to think out loud about how complicated this makes many social aspects of culture by providing three questions for Jay Leno (whoops, I mean Jimmy Fallon) to raise:

1. What impact will Facebook’s decision have on internet dating research? The acronyms in relationship websites will require either incredible memory or lengthy indices to correctly interpret. SWF (single white female) was easy to understand and engendered curiosity about other characteristics. DMCBsGFTM (divorced majority culture bisexual sometimes gender fluid trans male) does not raise the question, “But is he a Red Sox fan?”

2. Why just 56 options?
Someone, somewhere will be offended that their own unique gender self-description is not available. Why not just leave it open for everyone to describe themselves any way they want? However, I don’t imagine this will happen because it would make it difficult for Facebook to categorize us for focused advertisers.

3. What will this mean for public rest room options?
For example, what if our ever-expanding government required every military facility to accommodate the bathroom needs for each of the new multi-faceted designations? The Pentagon would become the dodecagon!

Facebook’s Gender Benders

What am I?

Tired of only two choices to describe your gender? Male or female too limited? This week, Facebook announced that its 159 million daily users in the US now have over 50 choices when identifying their gender. Advocates are applauding Facebook’s attempt to move beyond “binary thinking” and allow a facebooker more alternatives than the traditional two. New choices include: androgynous, bigender, intersex, gender-fluid, trans male, and gender queer.

Human Rights Commission President Chad Griffin hopes that this is the beginning of a trend: “Facebook’s action is one that I hope others heed in supporting individuals’ multifaceted identities.”

But some are suspicious of Facebook’s apparent open-mindedness. Facebook parlays self-identifying data into big bucks from advertisers who focus their ads on how users describe themselves.

But the possibility of mercenary intentions aside, Facebook’s announcement is not shocking. Not only is no one surprised by anything Facebook does but such a ploy reflects the spirit of our time.

In today’s culture, self-identity is the most important “decision” a person makes. When a culture loses its awareness of the spiritual, it turns in on itself and begins to fragment. What once passed for shallow egoism becomes the deepest it can go. Thus,
the substantive question “Who am I?” degenerates into “What am I?”

Even more obvious is that transcendent truths play no role in informing us about our identity. What we are does not need to line up with any external reality. Truth is no longer discovered but self-created.

With the loss of a spiritual center, society’s escape from reason focuses on the most common social denominators of humanity: romantic attraction and the act of sex (essentially synonymous in most cases).

A Biblical Perspective

A culture reveals much about itself by how it categorizes people.
Facebook’s options for gender identification is a clear statement that biology is not identity, which I think is a good thing. We know that we are far more than our DNA and physical bodies.

The biblical account of creation aligns with what we know about the biological make-up of humanity: God created them male and female. Together we are in the image and likeness of God and are incomplete without each other (Genesis 1:26-29).

The maker of something has the prerogative of naming the creation. But what is fascinating about God’s creation is both the incredible diversity and the unity that draws it all together. In Christ, we read, the distinctions of sex, ethnicity, and social standing exist, but they are marginal distinctions in light of our oneness in Christ (Galatians 3:26-28). All things came from him and will be brought together in him (Colossians 1:16-17).

But God’s plan from the beginning involves more binary thinking. Our most important identity is described as a collaborative effort between God and us. No matter how we characterize ourselves on Facebook or anywhere else, we all fall into one of two categories. Each will be either “in him” or not; his child or not; his heir or not. The sheep or the goats, the saved or the lost, those with eternal life and those without. Scripture resonates with the sound of a dissonant duet. C. S. Lewis summarizes this when he says that when each person stands before God, only one phrase will be heard: “Thy will be done.” Either we will say it to God or He will say it to us.

So, let Facebook have its day with the gender options. There are more to come. Our culture will continue to multiply options for self-identity in its never-ending search for meaning and significance. May God grant us favor as we explain and demonstrate where the provision for our greatest needs is found. In him.

Epilogue (caution: intended humorous perspective)
Allow me a moment to think out loud about how complicated this makes many social aspects of culture by providing three questions for Jay Leno (whoops, I mean Jimmy Fallon) to raise. I will post these tomorrow.