Saturday, January 12, 2019

Self Centered New Year's Resolutions

This time of year, there is much talk of new year’s resolutions for self improvement and self care. I think this is interesting from a Christian perspective. Where should our focus be?

Is self care a Christian concept? Well, yes and no. When we consider the idea, we have to think about the example and teachings of Jesus and the apostles. Striving for spiritual discipline was always more important in the New Testament. Worrying about how we look or even simple material needs was not on the docket.
“25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:25-34
Jesus was quite clear about these things that we call basic needs, but we go above and beyond worry about these things. We worry about our weight, do we look good in a tank top, should I be using a moisturizer, how much time at the gym is too much? Am I wearing the right shoes for this outfit? Do these jeans make my butt look too big? Am I too skinny to make this shirt work?

We are such a bunch of brats. Jesus seemed to think that if we dress like flowers and eat like birds, that was enough. How did we get to this degree of shallowness? Perhaps a lack of spiritual discipline?
I think we do need to be concerned about our bodies. God gave them to us and we have a responsibility to them. The very reason I abstain from same sex sex is because our bodies are temples of God’s Spirit.
“19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20
If we seek to be obedient to God we will not pollute our bodies. We must use our bodies in worship of Him….right???

So how do we keep out temples clean, in good repair and serviceable for the Lord? Paul said this:
“24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. “ I Corinthians 9:24-27. 
So we have to bring our bodies under a strict discipline in obedience to Christ. What does that involve? Maybe running, maybe boxing? Possibly. The discipline we bring could be spiritual and it could be physical with the goal of bringing obedience to Him who saved us.

So is self care a Christian concept? If spiritual discipline is the goal, then yes; anything that enables us to serve Him and others to a greater degree. We must take up our crosses and deny ourselves. It’s a rough prescription, but we have to do it. I will not quote it here, but I would suggest a reading of Colossians 3:1-17 and Philippians 2:1-18.

In the end, it’s not about us. It’s about Jesus. If our “self care” and "self improvement" does not serve His purposes, then it is Christian malpractice.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Vice

Last week I went to see a movie about the life and times of former vice president Dick Cheney. The biopic is called "Vice". If you intend to see it, please be advised that there are spoilers ahead.

I found the film interesting because of the approach the director, Adam McKay. He made the film into sort of a black comedy; the type of comedy that crosses the line of what may be considered tasteful, mocking events that may be considered too serious to joke about. This becomes obvious in the on screen introduction to the film and it goes on from there. The film also has a narrator that seems to be an ordinary American that has opinions about Dick Cheney. You will see him and hear him throughout the film at various points giving feedback on various events while he plays with his kids, interacts with others at work and outside the home. As you watch the movie, you will find yourself wondering why he is there, and then suddenly, it becomes apparent about three quarters into the film. It is both funny and tragic in many different ways.

The movie gives you glimpses into Cheney's life at various points that give you clues about why he became the man that he is. Alcohol was not his friend. He liked to fight. He was an angry man, but it only came out when he drank. Initially, he was kicked out of college for failing grades that were the result of partying too much. After this, he worked for the phone company as a lineman, spending his time working and drinking and fighting and even getting arrested. At one point, his wife Lynne gives him an ultimatum to dry out, straighten up and become something or she would leave with the kids. This is kind of a turning point in the film. Cheney loves his wife so much that he does exactly as she asks. This strengthens their partnership, and together, they begin to climb the social and political ladder of the country they love so much.

They finally end up in Washington DC with Dick working an internship serving then Congressman Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld would become Cheney's mentor early on and together, they both go on to serve in the Nixon and Ford administrations in the cabinet. The ideologies of both men are defined in this time. A combination of controlling, ruthless power grabbing and bending the mind of the sitting president seem to drive them.

Both men end up out of power after the election of Jimmy Carter. Dick goes on to become the congressman for Wyoming and Donald works in the private sector leading the G D Searle Company, pushing the development of Nutra-sweet, Equal and Metamucil.

During the Reagan administration, neither man served directly in the cabinet, but they did have unofficial assignments. They would disappear together for days at a time to work on a project called the Armageddon Plan. This is not clearly presented in the film, but the plan was to, in the event of nuclear war with the Soviets, subvert the constitution and place other non constitutional authorities in charge of government; extra-constitutional continuity of government.

During the George H W Bush administration and later, the Clinton administration, the men continued to work together inside and outside government to achieve their purposes.

It all comes together in the George W Bush administration when Cheney becomes the secretary of defense and Dick Cheney is elevated to the vice presidency of the United States. The film  indicates that Bush begged Cheney early on to be his VP and that Cheney only submitted to the request after a deal that would give Cheney control over certain intelligence, defense and financial assets within the government. He would become the first vice president to wield presidential power in peace time and in a time of national emergency.

The roles of Cheney and Rumsfeld in the 9/11 debacle is telling. When the planes hit the World Trade Center, President Bush was in Sarasota, FL visiting an elementary school. It was the perfect storm for power hungry politicians. Cheney sent Bush to a bunker at Offut AFB in Omaha on Air Force One and then Cheney took control of the government from an "undisclosed location". The protocol was new. Cheney exercised his theoretical plan to take control of events in the absence of the President called the "unitary executive". In the event of national emergency where the president was not available, the vice president was empowered to do whatever he thought was needed to protect the country, even in the face of constitutional prohibitions. Strangely, Cheney's lawyers were with him throughout the event and he spent much time in conversation with them as 9/11 unfolded.

It was only the day before that Donald Rumsfeld had advised congress of a missing 2.3 trillion dollars that Pentagon officials could not account for. Strangely, the next day, the portion of the Pentagon that contained the records of this missing cash was destroyed by one of the planes of the 9/11 attackers.

Also destroyed on 9/11 was World Trade Center Building 7. No plane hit this office tower, but for some reason, fires broke out inside this building and just after 5:00 PM that day, it collapsed on itself just as the twin towers had done that morning. Inside that building were the largest offices of the CIA and and defense departments outside of Washington DC. Strangely, all records there were destroyed too. Odd no?

In the aftermath of 9/11, Cheney and Rumsfeld worked diligently to create what would become a national security state to ensure this would never happen again. Secret courts (FISA), the TSA, off site (outside the US) detention centers for suspected terrorists and torture were authorized and the war against terror began in earnest.

Though none of the alleged 9/11 terrorists were from Afghanistan or Iraq, the war on terror began in these countries. They were believed to be hot spots for al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein was supposed to be harboring weapons of mass destruction. None of this proved to be true, but this did not stop them. Combat still rages in these countries and many more. The United States has been at continuous war for 17 years in many countries in the middle east and Africa, but we have never made war in any country that had terrorists involved in 9/11. Odd no? Strangely, all 9/11 terrorists came from nations allied with the US; Saudi Arabia (15), the United Arab Emirates (2), and Egypt and Lebanon (1 each).

One must wonder what was the real purpose of the war on terror??? Was it to end terrorism or was it to consolidate power at home and bring chaos to the middle east? The film does not answer this question directly, but I think the answer is obvious.

The film's final scenes give more insight into Cheney's character. Throughout the movie, Cheney has heart problems. He has a bum ticker. He finally reaches a point where a transplant is required, but there is no heart available. As he is in the hospital with family gathered in preparation for his death, a bicyclist is tragically killed on the streets of Washington DC and his heart is delivered to the hospital in time to save Cheney. Strangely, the bicyclist is none other than the film's narrator, implying that his untimely death may have been a timely "accident".

After Cheney's recovery, there is one final moment of unlikely but likely character fulfillment. Dick Cheney actually fires Donald Rumsfeld from his position as secretary of defense. The mentor is now put out of power by the mentee. Supposedly, this was at the direction of President Bush, but Rumsfeld clearly thinks otherwise as he is fired by what the film portrays as his co-conspirator.

I liked the movie. It was both funny and serious while being funny at the same time. I think it is probably an accurate portrayal of history too. Let there be no doubt. Steely eyed, immoral men still control government and empower themselves at the expense of others. The problem is that the ability of the common man to object to this and dis-empower them is rapidly being lost. Is it too late? That remains to be seen.    

Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Mandela Effect, Trans-temporal Quantum Editing and Trying To Remember What Happened

What if someone somewhere had the technology to go back or forward in the timeline and change a thing or two? Impossible right? Well, maybe or maybe not. God would be able to do this. We would call it a miracle. If humans did it, we would say it must be trickery. Is it?

Some of you may have grown up with children's books about the Berenstein Bears. I know I could have sworn that I did. The current truth about that though, is that I did not. Those books were about the Berenstain Bears. Yes, that's right.

So what is it that causes this kind of delusion (Mandela Effect)? I know a number of you are asking the same question right now and many of you are insisting, as I did, that it was always the Berenstein Bears. Is it faulty memory? Is it a building of an improper pronunciation into the current culture? Or is it possible that at one time it WAS the Berenstein Bears and that someone changed it, maybe as an experiment, to see what we could accept in terms of changes in what we think we know. Something called trans-temporal quantum editing - the ability to go to a certain place in time and change something so that what was was once thought as a truth becomes a falsity. Interesting no?

Another more serious version of this is Biblical in its proportions. Have you ever compared the 1611 Authorized King James Version of the Bible to the NIV, NEB or NASB? There is some serious departures from what was known as truth then and what we call truth today. If you don't think so, take this test on what you think you know about the KJV. I grew up on the KJV and I was shocked by how I had been influenced by more modern translations. There was nothing that changed ultimate salvific truth, but much that had changed with certain understandings. Bottles and wine skins are two very different things. Shoes and sandals are both footwear, but what was worn in Jesus' day? Is Jeremiah a prophet or is it Jeremie? It's all very weird.

Words mean things. Truth is always supposed to be truth, no matter how minor the truth. Yet words evolve in culture. They are used by authorities to persuade, be they politicians, pastors or public administrators. And we listen to them all. Our reality and our truth is formed by our perceptions of what these people say about whatever is being discussed. They are all word wizards, casting spells to influence, guide, manipulate and create what we perceive as reality. We have to be careful...really, we do.

That's why when I try to remember things that happened in my childhood, I also need to question myself. Is this what I remember or is it something someone told me happened,or worse, is it something that I believe happened that never happened at all.

I have very clear memories of my childhood from age two onward. I remember when I had my tonsillectomy,  being abused by nuns at the local Catholic hospital, even waking in the middle of the night in the children's ward where another inmate got me a glass of water. I remember coming home after and having an out of body experience, watching myself enter the kitchen of our small house in Bondurant, Iowa from near ceiling level.

I wonder how much of this is real memory. I question it, but it has the ring of truth. And as I delve deeper, trying to figure out where things went wrong with me, I question my life events even more. There are things that I do not want to be true, but I am certain are true. It makes me weep for what could have been and I want very deeply that reality that would make "now" so much more palatable.

If I could just change the timeline and accept a new old reality, my life would be different...I think...I guess. But maybe it was The Berenstain Bears all along.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Boy Erased

When someone remodels a house, trying to turn it into a home, sometimes major repairs are desired to make it livable again. A supporting wall might need to be replaced if the house is to be made safe for occupancy. But you can't just tear out that supporting wall without making sure that what it supports is properly safeguarded against collapse. The house will come down around your ears, on your head and may kill you.

With a house this is possible if done properly. But can it be done with the human mind? Why would I ask that?

The book, "Boy Erased" by Garrard Conley is the true story of the gay son of a Baptist minister and his experience with conversion therapy. Conversion therapy, known in some circles as reparative therapy or even ex-gay therapy has been used in its many different forms to attempt to turn homosexual men and women to heterosexuality. The book is Garrard's personal memoir; his story in dealing with family, church and the therapy in 2004. It is very painful to read and even more traumatic if you have had a similar experience. Nevertheless, I find myself recommending the book.

Though the writer becomes somewhat resentful of Christians, I think he is very fair to the faith and to his parents. Unlike the film of the same name, this is not a screed of anti-evangelical venom. It is one man trying to understand what happened to him as he came of age and was forced to deal with his homosexuality.

In summary, Garrard knew from an early age what his desires were. He tried very hard to deny these desires. He had a girlfriend in high school. But that all fell apart as he was preparing for college. When he started his freshman year, he made a few friends.One of them was a young man named David that was studying to be a youth minister. David took Garrard under his wing, took him to church and even worked out with him. Then one day when they were alone together in his dorm room, David raped him. Following the assault, David began crying and confessed to having done the same to a 14 year old boy at his church. After this, things began to fall apart for Garrard in a most severe way. Fearing exposure as a rapist and pedophile, David called Garrard's parents posing as a college counselor and told them their son was gay.

After considerable discussion about the phone call with his parents, Garrard finally came out to them. It was devastating for his parents. He was their only child. His mother had miscarried an older sibling in the 3rd trimester of her first pregnancy. Adding to the pain, Garrard's father was about to be ordained as a pastor in the Missionary Baptist church after years of owning a car dealership. It was the perfect storm. His father sought the advice of other pastors and it was concluded that the best course of action would be a Christian conversion therapy group called Love In Action located in Memphis, TN. And that is where the real story is and also in how it all played out.

You need to read the book. Suffice it to say that, in most circles, Conversion therapy has been discredited. Exodus International, which was the umbrella organization for many of these groups, was also over Love In Action. Exodus disbanded not long after the events in this book and so did Love In Action. There was almost no success in what they were trying to do. Even the group members that managed to marry say that they never completely lost their same sex attractions. And I think the problem with all these groups lies in there approach to the whole issue.

It is assumed by these groups that people with same sex attraction were somehow damaged by parents and family psychologically. Participants are urged to map out the sin in there families and how their parents treated them. Did you receive enough attention from Dad? Did he touch you and show you love. Was Mom overbearing? How did Grandpa's alcoholism effect your Dad and how he treated you?

Really! My thought here is that if bad parenting and family moral issues were the cause of homosexuality, half the world would be gay. That's just not the case.

Then there is the constant taking of moral inventory. Confession of every sex related sin, asking for forgiveness and trying to pray the gay away. In the program portrayed in this book, John Smid, the facilitator was constantly pushing the participants for these things. Frankly, when you're 18 or 19 and you're a Christian living in the southern US, you don't have all that much sexual experience to confess to. The whole process is filled with shaming and blaming and can do severe damage to a young psyche. Some participants were even making up stories so they had something to confess.

And you cannot treat same sex desire with a 12 step program. It is not an addiction like alcoholism, drug abuse or gambling. Becoming addicted to these things comes from experience. One would never know they were prone to alcoholism until they started drinking. One does not have to participate in homosexuality to know they are gay. Is straight sex required to learn of one's heterosexuality? No, of course not.

All of these things contributed to the demise of Ex-Gay therapy. There is more, but this is the worst of it. Though Exodus and LIA are out of the business, there are still groups, both religious and secular attempting to fix homosexuals. The practice has been made illegal in some states for minors and that is because well meaning parents were forcing their children against their will to participate in these programs. In my opinion, no one should be forced into these programs against their will. It should be strictly voluntary and for those 18 and older.

One more thing of note. John Smid, the founder of LIA is today living with his husband in Paris, Texas. After two failed marriages to women, he finally gave up his own battle with SSA and moved on. Similar things happened at Exodus. John Paulk, Exodus board member and Ex-gay poster boy, divorced his Ex-lesbian wife and took a husband too. Alan Chambers, the chairman of Exodus, remains married to his wife, but says he still has same sex attractions.

I hope you get what I'm saying here. Conversion therapy does not work. It just creates a bigger messes and can ruin lives and even cause suicides. My advice? Stay away from it.

I have some limited experience with this kind of therapy. Mine was not as intensive and 8 hours daily, but I did it for a year and guess what? I'm still gay.

Read the book and see what you think.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Is It Art? Part 3

You may recall my last two art purchases. They were not your ordinary works. They provoked in me some kind of emotion or other, but what I particularly like is art that makes me laugh, and usually in an ironic way. I'm just so bored with the whole landscape, hotel room approach to decorating my living room. I need to interject some oddness that, in some ways, reflects my inner turmoil. Let's face it, I am odd for a number of reasons. The work below expresses some of my oddness, how I have felt from time to time. And it makes me laugh..it is so freaking funny. But I know some will look at this and be repulsed. To you I say, get over yourself and move along. If you want milquetoast art, visit a Holiday Inn. I'm sure they will have just what you want.

So...Is it art? You decide. I like it. I look at it and laugh. It makes me happy in a very ironic way. It was created by Eugene Heffron. He writes for Your Other Brothers at https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/ .
He created this work to go with a blog post that can be found at https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/2018/08/21/side-b-friendships-hard/ .

And now I would like to present to you...Bro White...it's OK to laugh...really it is.


It's currently at the framer's.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Why I Hate Ecclesiastes


Again I saw something meaningless under the sun:
There was a man all alone;
    he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
    yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
    “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless—
    a miserable business!
Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.