Nun: The Sign of Genocide

Aug. 1: a day of solidarity and prayer.
Nun (ن), the 14th letter of the Arabic alphabet (the equivalent of letter N in our Roman alphabet), is the first letter of the word Nasara (نصارى : Nazarenes)…
It is the same name of the equivalent letter (נ) in the Hebrew alphabet (also a Semitic language), and it reminds us of the words of Jeremiah, also crying for an exile of his people sent to Mesopotamia:
Nun. The yoke of my iniquities hath watched: they are folded together in his hand, and put upon my neck: my strength is weakened: the Lord hath delivered me into a hand out of which I am not able to rise. (Lamentations, 1)
In their genocidal physical elimination of Christians from the Mesopotamian city of Mosul, Muslim terrorists marked each Christian-owned institution and building with this letter, for the extermination of holdouts and expropriation of their belongings:

 

 

 

 

They mean it as a mark of shame, we must then wear it as a mark of hope: Yes, we are in the army of the Resurrected Nazarene, the Master and Lord of the Universe, the Man who is God Almighty, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. You may kill our brethren and expel them, but we Christians will never go away.
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“I changed it because of the lack of response.”

When asked why he changed his profile picture to the ن, political consultant Ryan Girdusky said, “I changed it because of the lack of response by our media and our president . . . We feel like the Christian community is being persecuted at the same time the Palestinians are being given constant attention. There is a Christian genocide and no one is paying attention.”

 

via National Review Online.

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“C.S. Lewis: Rescuing Desire”

It is the modern assumption that we project our deepest desires on the universe. We long for God, so we conjure up an image of God. We want moral order, so we create values. We feel homeless, so we imagine an eternal home. Our desires, in this view, discredit the reality of our hopes. Dissected and analyzed, they are irrational emotions, socially conditioned sentiments or electrical impulses in the brain.

Lewis called this “the poison of subjectivism” and he drew out the consequences unsparingly. In the realm of ethics, it makes the determination of right and wrong impossible, which hardly seemed an abstract matter in the midst of World War II. “Unless there is some objective standard of good,” said Lewis, “overarching Germans, Japanese and ourselves alike whether any of us obey it or no, then of course the Germans are as competent to create their ideology as we are to create ours.”

via RealClearPolitics.

C.S. Lewis died the same day as John F. Kennedy.

Everyone remembers Kennedy, and if they remember Lewis at all, it’s as an afterthought. (Ditto Aldous Huxley, who will get my Nov. 22 post next year).

Kennedy’s death was a traumatic event, so it’s understandable that it overshadows everything else. The day itself has become a historic event, and will remain so for at least as long as those who were affected by the day remember it – and probably beyond that, also.  I think that day is one of the “lives in infamy” Hall of Famers.

But as the writer of this article points out:

…it is often noted that he died on the same day that President John F. Kennedy was murdered. Beyond a confusing congestion at St. Peter’s gate, this signifies little — except that lasting influence comes in varied forms.

The eternal flame at Arlington Cemetery is far from the small plaque commemorating Lewis that was recently placed in Poets’ Corner. But many will make their pilgrimage to the South Transept of Westminster Abbey to honor not just an author but a man who changed the course of their lives.

Lewis has had an impact on my life: he gave me back hope….the hope that believing in such quaint childish notions as God, life, right & wrong, and hope itself is not necessarily illogical, and doesn’t make me hopelessly unsophisticated (later on I realized I was doomed to be hopelessly unsophisticated anyway, but that’s for entirely different reasons.)

In fact, if you examine carefully, you see that sophistication is itself an equally illogical position.

Here Lewis applies the first twist, applying some skepticism to modern skepticism. What if the common attempt of Babylonians, Egyptians, ancient Jews, Confucians, Stoics and so many others to discover a moral order — which Lewis calls the “massive unanimity of the practical reason in man” — was perfectly rational, approximating (with typical human failings and limits) the “absolute reality of elementary moral platitudes”?

I have argued with those who believe in the “random creation” myth, and one thing they can never answer is this: if evolution is inevitable (and therefore presumably good), then wouldn’t that mean it – not some evil group of conspirators (whether calling themselves The Patriarchy or merely Organized Religion) – created Christianity? (Or Judaism or whatever religion is being dissed)

And if evolution created Christianity – and it’s because of evolution that Christianity outlives Nietzsche – doesn’t that suggest Christianity might have within it something useful? Something that human beings need, or at least benefit from?

Even if you’re convinced it’s all delusion, how do we know delusions aren’t helpful? Post traumatic stress disorder appears to be nothing more than the inability to sustain the delusion that the world is safe (after coming too close to the reality that we mortal, fragile beings are in fact very easily snapped and yet living in a cruel universe).  None of us could get into a car if we could feel car mortality statistics the way we can know them intellectually. What if the same is true of life itself?

I ask questions like this because it seems like the thing everyone hates about religion are the rules, the “right & wrong” and “thou shalt” parts – but it seems to me the rules are precisely the part of religion that are most defensible logically, especially now that the Sexual Revolution has given us solid data proving that in fact most of the things moralists predicted about irresponsible “free love” is in fact a real concern.

So far, this involves the rescue of moral standards, which most of us find a mixed blessing. But Lewis goes further, or, as he liked to say, “further up and further in.” His second twist is more ambitious: What if all the ancient, recurring myths of the human race, all the yearnings of prophets and sages for the touch of God, for a visit from God, were not just the lies of poets, but the hints and rumors of another world? In this account, our deepest, unsatisfied desires for joy, meaning and homecoming are not cruel jokes of nature. They are meant for fulfillment. What we desire most, said Lewis, is “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

If anyone has ever found Narnia to have a “magical” feel about it, this here is the source of the magic – this belief (which Lewis really believed) that maybe yearnings are themselves indicative of potential.

To his own considerable surprise, Lewis came to believe that Christianity fulfilled and completed the ancient stories. “The old myth of the Dying God,” he said, “without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. … By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle.”

Having found truth in myths, Lewis decided to produce his own — not as pleasing distractions but as reminders that we actually inhabit a world of fantastical, eternal creatures, with noble quests to perform and stories that do not end. And when we discover our true citizenship, he says, it comes with a “happiness … so great that it even weakens me like a wound.”

“I have come home at last!” says a stunned unicorn at the end of “The Chronicles of Narnia.” “This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.”

This is the achievement of Lewis: to restore the dignity of our desires, which leave us homeless in this world and lead us home.

There are some really nice Lewis tributes out there. A few I enjoyed:

6 reasons why Mormons love C.S. Lewis

Lewis and poetry here and here

A reader’s tribute

“Why I don’t believe in science…and students shouldn’t either”

I wanted to get an on-the-spot response from a scientist, so I asked one of my colleagues at work, Dr. Briana Pobiner, a paleoanthropologist, “You believe in evolution, right?” I was surprised by how quickly she answered “I don’t believe in evolution – I accept the evidence for evolution.” The believing isn’t what makes evolution true or not, it’s that there is evidence that supports it.

via  Sci-Ed.

I was all prepared for this to be a critique of how people use “science” to quote-unquote prove unprovable questions, like whether there’s a God or where the human race came from or what consciousness is.
I am disappointed that it is just a word game. “I don’t take anything on faith; I accept the evidence.”Which evidence would that be?
The evidence that is conditional on certain assumptions?That’s faith, sweetie.The most science can ever truly say about evolution (or anything else) is that if the assumptions science starts with are true, then this theory can be assumed to be correct.The problem is that the assumptions science starts with are not true. They are sometimes true. Sometimes they are demonstrably untrue.

Consider Ockham’s razor: is it true that the “most elegant” explanation is necessarily true?

Of course not. The history of science is a history of people saying “This must be true because Ockham’s razor says it is.” Then – when lots of people die – guess what! Now we have new data. So Ockham’s razor worked – not because it was true, but because it enabled us to take a situation where we didn’t have enough data to work with, and create a testable hypothesis that either would be right, or would generate more data. That’s what Ockham’s razor does. Anyone who thinks that therefore Ockham’s razor is always true is not thinking very clearly.

Materialism – aka naturalism – is another article of faith. The problem with this one is that it leads to “proof” that is in fact tautological: you are starting with the assumption that matter is all there is. You can’t use such an assumption to prove that matter is all there is.

Though it would sound sorta stupid to say, “we have proven that, if there is no such thing as God, or the supernatural, or anything that we don’t have proof for, then it is true that evolution blah blah blah…”

It sounds much more impressive – and authoritative – to say, “I accept the evidence” – and hope nobody misses that little lie of omission.

Belief Or Hate Crime?

This is why people can’t “live and let live”.

Because if I disagree with you, I’m “hateful” – but if you disagree with me, then I’m “hateful”. Isn’t that how it goes?

I’m having a tough time with this idea that a belief that has existed for thousands of years is now a crime simply because one group of people says it is. That’s not exactly a new way to “win” a debate over rights, but I thought we’d replaced rule by “whim of the elite” with the consent of the governed?

There’s just something crazy backwards about one group claiming it’s “oppression” for parents to teach their kids that children are born to mothers and fathers.

The gay rights argument is saying, in essence, that because they hold their own beliefs to be sacred, then anyone else with beliefs that contradicts theirs has to be put down – and so what if the other people hold their own beliefs to be equally sacred?

It’s a funny form of quote-unquote “equality” that privileges one set of beliefs over other beliefs. (As I’ve argued before – here and here – I disagree strongly with the idea that civil rights can or should be resolved by use of coercive force. Real civil rights both can and must be resolved through persuasion.)

And if the criticism of this book had stopped short of “playing the hate crime card”, I probably would have left it alone – or at least would be making a very different argument. But classifying a core Christian belief as a hate crime is serious stuff.

I don’t think it is coincidental that, although I have asked many, many times, not a single person has ever volunteered a reason why being gay needs to include the right to force your kid to live without a mother or without a father. Just what is gained? What horrible thing would happen if gays were expected to teach their children to call their biologically unrelated partner “stepmother” (like everyone else in the world has to do) instead of misrepresenting that person as a “second mother”? What’s so awful about letting the kid meet his dad? A child does in fact have reason to want to know his dad; he has reason to value that experience, that relationship. So why is it so important that he not be allowed to do so?

Because shut up, that’s why.

I say it’s not coincidental because I believe there is a direct correlation here. When people arguing a case have a strong argument, they don’t use bully tactics. For instance, gay rights activists know they’re on firm ground when they argue that “nobody should be forced to live a lie”. They’ve got a compelling argument. The destruction wrought when gays are shamed into lying is well documented, and so they can make their argument based on logic, reason, facts, evidence, anecdote, and persuasion. And it’s hard to refute (I have yet to hear a persuasive rebuttal).

But when it comes to why any child needs to be required to accept “having two mommies”, suddenly all those arguments about how “marriage is not procreative” vanish, in favor of a host of excuses, justifications, sob stories, sleight of hand, denials – anything to minimize what they are doing to their kids.

I believe it’s precisely because they know they’re demanding something unethical that makes them incapable of withstanding criticism. But that’s a real problem, given that approximately half the nation (give or take) disagrees with at least some of what they’re demanding claiming.

We gotta coexist. That has got to cut both ways. It’s simply not reasonable to demand that Christians will adopt humanist beliefs – beliefs that they find offensive and believe to be morally wrong, even evil – just because humanists are sure they are right. (Hey, guess what! Christians think they’re right, too!)

Reciprocity is the basic building block of civil discourse. Is it really coincidence that every world religion that holds family ties to be sacred also posits some variation on “the Golden Rule”?

The Golden Rule
do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

Nobody is forcing humanist families to make their kids read this book. It’s not likely anyone ever will – in fact, it’s far more likely that Christian kids will be forced to read “Heather Has Two Mommies” than the other way around.

But that’s not enough. It’s not enough because in order to believe that Heather can “have two mommies”, there has to be a taboo. We have to understand that we mustn’t ever talk about why Heather doesn’t get to know what it is to have a father. We must pretend that there are no differences between fathers and mothers.

Because precious rituals, experiences, relationships, and traditions are terribly, terribly important when gay people don’t get to have them, but we’re supposed to believe those things don’t matter at all when Heather is the one who won’t ever get to experience them.

The argument is that It’s okay if Heather never gets to do all the things girls do with their dads because, we are told, Heather doesn’t mind. The problem with this argument is that Heather decided she wasn’t going to mind before she was born. Her “decision” was made under duress.

Too many gay rights activists routinely teach their kids that Christians – or, to use their phrases, “Christofascists” and “Godbags” – are responsible for everything bad in the world,  deliberately ignoring or misconstruing anything that doesn’t fit the narrative, and then say it’s justified on the grounds that Christians are haters. They don’t even pretend to be halfway as tolerant toward Christians as they expect Christians to be toward them. They’re just right because they know they’re right, and that means they’re justified. Believe what I tell you to believe, or else you’re just obviously a h8r.

Well, I don’t care what gays do in bed, but I am angry about how gay rights activists are behaving in public. I’m angry at how venomous the comments on that blog site are, and how venomous the comments on that Amazon site are, and how hypocritical the people making the comments are being. And how openly, unapologetically nasty they are. They are the ones who want a society that is 100% completely ruled by their beliefs, no dissent allowed.

They can’t win by persuasion, and they don’t really try – and I think it’s because they know they can’t defend the practice because there is no reason why being gay means their child has to be motherless or fatherless. There’s no reason except “I want”, and “want” is not enough to justify what they are demanding.

No child should ever have to grow up without both mother and father. Any child unfortunate enough to be in that situation should be allowed to grieve – openly.

No child should ever have to pretend that having a stepmother is just as good as having a dad. It isn’t, and you can’t get a child to pretend otherwise except through duress – that is, emotional abuse.

Because there is such a thing as reality, and it does matter.

Christians are allowed to believe that – and so is anyone who cares about honesty.

BTW it has nothing to do with being gay: a growing number of lesbians and gays are innovating solutions (such as coparenting contracts) that do not require that their child live without the chance to know both a same-sex parent experience and an opposite-sex parent experience. You don’t have to do this to your kid, even if you are gay and you want to live as an openly gay person.

Because let’s face it: when your entire argument is based on the idea that it’s evil to live a lie – how can you turn around and ask your kid to lie for you?

The Prodigal Son Story

As a child, I was raised Christian, and like most mostly-law-abiding Christian kids, I resented never quite understood the story of the Prodigal Son.

Today, it still seems to me that this story is the real test of Christianity – and you can tell because people want to tamper with the story; they want to (for example) ascribe sin to the older (good) brother; they say he’s jealous, he’s proud, he’s this or that.

But the good son isn’t guilty of anything (at least, not except for the same fallen state that is the human condition). This is essential to the point of the story: the good son doesn’t get what’s going on, but he’s not the guilty one here. The demands of justice really are being violated in this situation, and yet we’re being told to believe that this is a good thing.

Once you’ve seen how this can make sense, the next step is to try to explain it to those who don’t. This is when I always start appreciating the wisdom of scriptural language – you try to explain a thing, and the explanation leads away from the point itself; you end up fumbling for an example – perhaps a parent with one drug-addicted child, who would gladly inflict a comparatively minor injustice on the three healthy, good children, if it would bring that one unhealthy child back to good health. But this doesn’t quite work, because our ideas about health make us excuse the drug-addicted child; the original prodigal son had no excuse. Our beliefs about concupiscence have changed to where we have to divide “sin” into categories – the explainable kind and the unforgivable kind. And we have to understand that the prodigal has no excuse. He was just plain wrong – and yet we can’t compare him to our image of the contemporary spoiled brat; we mustn’t reduce the story to mere bribery, either.

When things are violated, and order is broken, our world is rent and disfigured – then the cure, the restoration, is cause for celebration. It is a moment when the logic of justice is less important than the need to heal; the return to health – of the prodigal, of the father, of the relationships and the larger family – but here I start to try to make it rational, and in doing so, I reduce it.

This is, to me, the essence of faith: the recognition that there is something inexplicable and transcendent, something that can’t be explained by logic – but that we not only can but must believe in, because it is the thing that gives life meaning, and keeps us from the dangers of despair (which can and will kill us otherwise). One must believe in it because it is there, it is real, and it has the power to save us from something equally real and yet equally inexplicable. However literally one takes the Bible, it is one of the founding pillars of modern morality, and it does have wisdom in it. A higher truth which does have the power to guide – and I think the rejection of that is what I see as problematic today; the belief that because the prodigal son’s brother has a valid claim, he therefore ought to pursue it. Following such advice, one might gain a few dollars while losing something much, much greater.