God Is Not Dead and Messages that Resonate

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God Is Not Dead, the low budget surprise hit of the season, is drawing audiences and brickbats that seem out of proportion to the movie itself.

God Is Not Dead is an uber low-budget film that opened in a limited number of theaters to consistently terrible reviews. The movie has a predictable plotline and, with the exception of Kevin Sorbo, who had the starring role in the television series Hercules, unknown actors.

Yet it is pulling in the $$. The small side theaters where it is showing are filling up. It’s been in those theaters long enough for any roll that accrued to the film through early direct marketing to churches has died. But the audiences keep coming, and, surprisingly, they are mostly young people who cheer and applaud when the film’s hero vanquishes the villain.

At the same time, a matching vitriol, not toward the film itself, but toward it’s message, is dotting the internet like a bad case of chickenpox.

What’s with this little film?

I didn’t get around to seeing the movie until recently, so I attended it with a post-direct-marketing audience. I personally witnessed the full theater of young people, with late-comers going from aisle to aisle, looking for a seat. I saw and heard the entire audience cheer and clap at the gotcha line aimed at the villainous professor.

I came home wondering if this was an Oklahoma thing. I looked at the box office results, and it turned out that $2 million God Is Not Dead was in range with $125 million Noah for the weekend’s box office. Meanwhile the Christian-bashing thought meisters of the internet were in a rageful froth over the film’s astonishing success.

Predictably, this spiteful jabbing was aimed, not at the film itself, but at Christians in general. The basic message in these opinion pieces is simple. Here’s the gist of it: YOU CHRISTIANS ARE STUPID, PARANOID FOOLS! YOU ARE NOT PERSECUTED!!!! NOW SIT DOWN, SHUT UP AND STOP SPENDING YOUR MONEY ON A FILM WITH A MESSAGE TO THE CONTRARY OF WHAT WE TELL YOU!!!

It turns out that there are at least three underlying messages in the success of God Is Not Dead, and only one of them is in the film itself.

I think that God Is Not Dead is somewhat analogous to the Billy Jack movies of the 70s. It has a message that strikes a powerful chord with the younger generation of Christians. Every Christian kid who’s sat in a classroom while the professor derides people of faith, or who has been belittled and given lower grades for standing firm on their beliefs, knows from their own life experience that this movie is based on reality. I think that’s the reason that this movie has legs, and I also think it’s the reason that young adults in the audience burst into applause and cheers when the student zapped the bullying professor.

I know from personal experience that nothing gets the Christian-bashing crowd going more than Christians who call Christian bashing what it is. They turn personal in one ugly step. I’ve been accused of all sorts of things, including indifference to the mass murder of millions, because I raise these issues.

The Christians-are-crazy crowd is really heaping it on right now because of the surprise success of God Is Not Dead. They appear to be confounded by the fact that people will spend their money and go watch a film with a message about Christian bashing in higher education. According to them, Christians who believe that Christian bashing exists in higher education are all a bunch of paranoid hayseeds with very small brains.

What they fail to see is that this attitude in much of the media, along with the undeniable Christian bashing that occurs in a great deal of higher education, is exactly why God Is Not Dead is striking such a chord with so many people. It speaks to their experience, an experience which is denied, derided and belittled by both big-time entertainment and the internet mavens who are jabbing at God Is Not Dead’s surprising success.

I honestly thought that this movie had the possibility of a good run when I saw the previews for it. I knew that the Christian bashing that the film dramatizes is happening and that a lot of Christians are beginning to get enough of it.

I’m glad God Is Not Dead is a success. My reason is simple: I want Christian young people to stop allowing themselves to be bullied in the halls of academia by professors with personal problems.

To the extent that God Is Not Dead raises the self-awareness of Christian young people and helps then find their courage, I think it is a very good film, indeed.

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Sherpas Walk Off the Job. Leave Mt Everest Climbers Stranded at Base Camp.

 

Everest route north

Without Sherpas, climbing Mount Everest would go back to being the province of true mountaineers. The high-risk tourism of unprepared, unskilled and feckless amateurs scaling the world’s tallest mountain is built entirely on the courage and remarkable stamina of the local Sherpa population.

There have been creaks in the burgeoning adventure tourism that Mt Everest has become before now. Sherpas staged a one-day strike last year, asking for higher wages and better working conditions. But this year a tragedy has ignited something much bigger.

Sherpas have staged a walk out, or maybe it’s a walk down, leaving their wealthy, Everest-conquering-wannabe clients stranded at base camp. The Sherpa walk out was a response to the tragic death of 13 of their colleagues in an avalanche a few days ago. At least 13 Sherpa guides were killed, three are still missing and at least three others are in intensive care in Kathmandu for injuries sustained in the avalanche.

The Sherpas were trying to fix ropes and carve out a route up the mountain at the Khumbu Icefall when the avalanche swept through. The icefall is not far from the Everest Base Camp, where wealthy foreign climbers waited for the Sherpas to set things up for them.

Everest has become a bit of a scandal due to the large numbers of people who tackle the mountain through guided tours. Many of these people have relatively little mountaineering experience. For instance my husband — who has zero experience at mountaineering — once asked an adventure tour guide how much it would cost to get him to the top of Everest. The guide answered with a high-dollar figure and told him, “I can get you on the mountain, but you have to be crazy to get to the top.” The guide was quite willing to book a spot for my husband on his next tour.

This sort of thing explains why the Sherpas were at the Khumbu Icefall, putting down fixed ropes and ladders, and hacking a path while the tourists lounged at Base Camp.

Sherpas are calling for higher compensation for their dangerous work, as well as more insurance and  compensation for the families of the dead and injured climbers.

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Easter in Nigeria: Boko Haram Will Not Have the Final Word

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Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, of Jos, Nigeria

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria spoke of Easter hope in the midst of suffering Sunday.

“We … cannot let Boko Haram have the final word … there is a greater force (than Boko Haram) and we there should not be overcome by a terrible fear and even paranoia that we are unable to even go out to worship,” he said.

Nigerian Christians celebrated the Resurrection in the midst of mourning. Seventy-nine people were recently killed in a bomb blast, and 129 school girls were abducted by the Islamic group to be used as slaves. Forty-four of these girls have managed to escape, a fact that gives hope.

I wrote a post earlier, asking why the government can’t track Boko Haram down and end them. It seems to me that having 44 girls who have escaped and could give information would be a major aid in doing just that.

In the meantime, Archbishop Kaigama says that Nigeria Christians, “… believe that God cannot abandon us and as a Church we continue to pray and preach nonviolence and we continue to inspire confidence in people. We should only succumb and subject ourselves to Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life and who is the Resurrection.”

That thought, that we should only subject ourselves to Jesus is the essence of Christian freedom. It the call of every Christian, everywhere. Our only master should be Our Lord, which means that the many things we submit ourselves to in this life are a false calling. In the final analysis, none of us answers to anyone but Him, and, again in the final analysis, each and every one of us actually does answer to Him.

Why Did Jesus Have to Die, and Why Does the Resurrection Matter?

Resurrection

Calvary is the fulcrum of history.

Everything changed on that hill called Golgotha 2,000 years ago. Three days later, when the stone rolled away, God put His final redemptive imprimatur on the story of our salvation.

Before that Day in the garden outside the empty tomb, when He looked at the woman and said, Mary!,  Solomon’s ancient wail of “Vanity, vanity; all is vanity,” was the summation of the reality of human existence.

But Calvary and what He did there, the garden and Who the woman met there, changed all that forever.

Do not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, for you will surely die, God told them.

“You will not die,” Satan countered, in one of the deceptive lies disguised in a seeming truth that he uses so often against us.

They ate.

And they did not die.

Then.

But death was born into the world with that first bite of disobedience. The scales fell from their eyes and they knew. They fouled their primal innocence with willfulness, and they knew shame; first the shame of their nakedness, and then the shame of their fallenness.

Their first action was to hide from God because, as they told Him, “We were ashamed because we were naked.”

God’s answer illuminates their changed condition, Who told you that you were naked?

Their second action was to blame one another.

Primal innocence was gone in a single bite of the apple of disobedience, replaced by primal love of self.

Humankind denied this loss throughout its history, denies it even to this day. Self-will battles with God’s will in each of us every moment of our lives. And yet, there is in each of us, encoded in our souls, a haunting memory of who we really are, and an inchoate longing that will not be silenced for what we have lost.

“Our hearts are made for thee,” St Augustine said. And so they are.

God-longing is a part of the human condition, as is a hunger for transcendence and lost innocence. Separated as we are, this longing festers into resentment and denial, while the hunger congeals on our souls as hubris and self-worship.

The curse of lost innocence drives us to rageful disobedience. It ensnares us in our own desires and, if we let it, murders us with the excesses those desires breed in our lives.

Throughout human history this pull of longing for God and lost innocence has played against the push of the hubris of our self-aggrandizements and twisted desires. The tension it creates drives us into a universal acceptance of insanity. We kill one another and we kill ourselves in as many ways as the human story can devise. Our blood-soaked history of suffering and misery has one message: We cannot save ourselves.

The God-hunger encoded in us and the God-image inside of us, drive us to seek propitiation. From moloch to corporatism, we feed our lives and the lives of our children into the empty maw of false gods of our devising. We seek our lost transcendence in debauchery and achievement; in doing good and doing bad; in war making and peace making; in causes and rights and laws.

We try to achieve a lost immortality by looking as Ted Bundy did, into the eyes of those we kill and persuading ourselves that in that moment when the light of life fades we are like gods. We attempt to overcome our finite hopelessness by doing good works, and advancing humankind through the achievements of our efforts and our minds.

But in the end, we are but dust. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

God does not force us. He doesn’t reach down and re-invent us back to our lost innocence.

That is not cruelty as some claim. It is love and longing. Love, to be love, must be freely given. Our love for Him must be ours to give or withhold, or it is not love at all.

So God led us gently over long years and slow changes to the moment when He stepped into our history as one of us in order to offer us a Way. Jesus had to die because by dying He became the ultimate sacrificial lamb, the complete propitiation for our sins. He made it right by offering Himself in lieu of us on the altar of life and death.

He was our Passover lamb and Calvary was the ultimate and final Lord’s Passover.

If that is true, then what is the meaning and the necessity of the Resurrection? Wasn’t dying on the cross enough to redeem us?

The answers people give are all true. The Resurrection demonstrates that Jesus is God. The Resurrection is a sign of the resurrection that awaits all of us who accept Him and go through the open doorway of redemption that He represents. He is the Way in a literal and absolute manner. We enter into the Kingdom through Him.

But I think there is another ultimate meaning to the Resurrection. Calvary wasn’t the only way that God could have restored us to Himself. It was the only way He could do it and leave us free.

The Resurrection was the great undoing of that curse we cursed ourselves with in the garden. If you eat of the tree of knowledge, you will surely die. 

You will not die, Satan told us, and left out the word “today.”

We believed the lie, and the curse of death, real death that is separation from the Light, entered humanity.

The Resurrection broke that curse. God Himself entered into death, took on the curse, and experienced its depths. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me, Jesus cried from the cross as He experienced the cold annihilation of The Alone in its absolute form.

I’ve have written about The Alone that we inflict on one another with our cruelties. But that Alone, which is a foretaste of the pit of hell, is nothing but a foretaste. The real hell, the true Alone, is complete separation from God.

We experience shades of this hell in the bitter blackness of our sinfulness. I have lived a bit of it, both in things I’ve done and things that have been done to me. The pleasure people take in hurting other people is a dark thing that swallows their own humanity.

We can cast other people into The Alone with our rapes, tortures, murders, greed, gossip and pretentious claims to superiority. Every time we do this to another person, we experience a bit of the cold blackness that such actions come from.

The curse of the fall is our daily experience, and that curse is death. The Resurrection broke that curse. God entered into our cursedness and experienced its shattering consequences. He, Who knew no sin, became sin for our sakes.

Then, on the third day, He shattered the curse like a glass by breaking death itself. He cast off death and arose from the grave.

This was different in every way from miracles such as raising Lazarus or the little girl or the young man who was being carried to his burial place. The difference is that He didn’t stand outside death and undo it for a time, He entered into death and dissolved it for all time.

Physical death is a huge thing to us. But to God it appears to be almost trivial. Jesus raised people from the dead as easily as taking a drink of water. Little girl arise, He said. He took pity on a mother’s grief at her son’s funeral procession and raised the young man with a word. Lazarus, come forth He commanded and Lazarus walked out of his tomb.

Physical death isn’t the great divide that it is to us to One who sees both sides of the experience, to the One Who created life in the first place.

The Resurrection isn’t another casual raising of someone from the dead so that they will die again in a few years. The Resurrection is an everlasting casting off of ultimate death altogether.

Eat, and you will surely die. 

You will not die … today.

I am the Way … all who believe in Me will never die. 

The Resurrection is the end of death. It is the Way out of getting what we deserve.

And it leaves us free. We can accept Him and love Him … or not.

Love is not love unless it is freely given.

The Empty Tomb

He is Risen!

Happy Easter my friends.

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Pope Francis’ Way of the Cross

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Holy Saturday: The Sign of Jonah

 Then, the scribes and pharisees demanded a sign from Him. But He answered them,

An evil and adulterous generation seeks a sign. But no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah. 

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The Price for Us

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I Want to Sing Pope Francis a Song

Photo Source: La Osservatore Romano

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Good Friday

 

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Pope Francis’ Holy Thursday Message: Serve One Another

Photo Source: La Osservatore Romano

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At Gethsemane

 

Gethsemane is far more than the physical garden where Jesus prayed the night He was taken.

Gethsemane is a place in the human heart, a destination we all reach. Some of us will go there many times in our lives.

Gethsemane is what I call The Alone. It is that stripped-bare moment when the pretenses and self lies that sustain us in our illusion of invincibility and significance are taken from us. Gethsemane is the realization that we are alone in a way that the glad-handing niceties of human interaction hide from us.

Emotions such as loneliness and even despair are trivialities when contrasted with the stark solitary helplessness of The Alone. It is a stunning thing to look into the eyes of another human being and see satan looking back at you. It is a soul-scouring reality to face the insignificance we really are to other people.

That is Gethsemane, and it is what Jesus faced for you. And for me.

Can you not wait with me one hour? He asked the disciples, and the question vibrates with the isolating aloneness that prompted it.

He had to face the awfulness of what was coming without human succor or understanding. When they came, when Judas struck Him to the heart with a kiss of betrayal, when He looked into the pitiless eyes of Satan, staring at him from another human face, He was alone.

That was Christ’s Gethsemane. Our Gethsemane, even though it will differ, is in some ways like it.

My friend Linda Caswell is director of All Things New, a ministry that shelters and redeems women who have been trafficked and prostituted. These women know The Alone, not as an event or passage, but as the whole of their lives. They have inhabited The Alone the way you and I inhabit our jobs, families and lives, because it has been their lives.

Most of these women have had very few positive contacts with people of faith. They avoid churches because the men who have bought them are also in the churches. Their only safety is in Jesus, but they do not understand that at first.

When Linda shows them the movie that Mel Gibson made, The Passion of the Christ, it inevitably breaks through the hard shell of their defenses. Women who do not understand the Gospels as anything but a lie told by lying liars who buy and sell them break down and sob uncontrollably when they see Jesus humiliated, beaten, tortured and disregarded.

This Jesus, the One who prayed “let this cup pass” in Gethsemane, they understand. And by the miracle of the grace of the cross, they believe that this Jesus understands them.

Their lives, which have been an unending Gethsemane, open to this Brother God who was beaten, tortured, humiliated and disregarded as they have been.

Because He understands. Because He does not disregard them. Because He is the only One who can go with them into The Alone of their personal Gethsemanes.

Jesus Christ suffered for us to redeem us from our sins, from the things we’ve done. He also suffered to redeem us from the things that have been done to us. In this cruel world, the things that are done to us can cut deeper and leave us less able to see the Divine than our sins.

We put people outside the bright circles of acceptability that we draw around ourselves and those we deem worthy. We cast them into the hell of unending Gethsemane where no one keeps vigil with them and no one cares that they are alone.

Only Jesus, Who has been there, can penetrate The Alone of our lives. He is the One, the only One, who can draw people back from the man-made abyss of life lived in The Alone where we cast so many of the people that He died to save.

It is important to remember this at all times, but especially today when we re-enact the Last Supper. Jesus was becoming Christ on this night when He gave us the Eucharist and the servant priesthood. He was teaching us how to love with a love that passes all human understanding and how to live the life of the Kingdom in this world. He was showing us that even in our Gethsemane, even in the deepest pit of The Alone, we are never alone, for He is always there.

And he will keep watch with us, not just for an hour, but for the whole of this life and into the one beyond.

 

Pope to Priests: If You Don’t Go Out From Yourselves, (Your) Anointing Cannot Be Fruitful.

Pope Francis blesses the Holy Oils. Photo Source: Catholic World Report

Pope Francis gave priests a homily at today’s Chrism Mass that could only come from a fellow pastor of souls who is also a pope.

The Chrism Mass is the annual mass at which the holy oils are blessed. These oils are used to anoint priests when they take their vows, as well as the laity during several sacraments.

Pastoring God’s people is a difficult task. Ministry to people of any sort is always difficult, because it requires the minster to empty themselves and to go beyond themselves into the other person’s needs. Every mother knows this to her core.

The priesthood is, in this way, a kind of parenthood, and like all parenthood, it is the end of me first and the beginning of living for God by living for and loving others.

A good priest is God’s instrument. God can and does reach right through him and into the hearts of His people. This is an awesome responsibility, to speak for God to hurting people.

Priests need our prayers, and sometimes, they need our forgiveness, as well.

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Pope Francis Washes Feet of 12 Elderly and Disabled People

Photo Source: La Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 elderly and disable people today, including the feet of a Muslim and — gasp! — a woman.

I love our loving pope.

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Judas, called Iscariot

Kiss of Judas Caravaggio 1602

Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve.

According to the folks at the History Channel, NatGeo and other purveyors of revisionist Christianity, Judas Iscariot was a well-meaning, misunderstood victim of his own good intentions.

Every year at this time, we are treated to shows that expose us to experts we’ve never heard of before expounding on how Judas didn’t really mean it. He was, they tell us with remarkable certainty, just trying to provoke Jesus into defending Himself and starting a revolution. Judas wanted a warrior messiah who would throw off the Roman yoke and return Israel to the glory days of Kings David and Solomon, they say.

Instead, he got this gentle healer and teacher who refused, as Scripture tells us, to bruise a reed.

So, Judas took things into his own hands. He set Jesus up with the intention of having Him throw off his attackers like Samson slaying the Philistines. What he got instead was a crucified Lord and guilt that destroyed him.

It’s difficult, 2,000 years later, to determine Judas’ intentions. Whatever he intended to happen, his failure of faith doomed him in the end.

Notice, I do not say that his betrayal of our Lord doomed him. I don’t say it, because that didn’t do it.

Peter betrayed Jesus, as did all the Apostles except John. Peter suffered the ignominy of denying that he even knew Jesus. He denied Jesus repeatedly, and then, at the critical moment, when he was actively cursing Jesus, he turned and saw his Master looking at him while he did it.

That black night was such a welter of misery and betrayal. It was, as Jesus said, Satan’s hour.

There is such poignance to the things Jesus said during this time. The hurt echoes in the statement, Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?

Think about it for a moment. Judas knew Him. He had traveled with Him, ate with Him, followed, listened and been near Him for years. He’d seen the miracles, experienced the love. Then, whatever his motives, he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. And he did it with a kiss.

Jesus’ sadness, not for Himself, but for Judas, reverberates down the centuries. Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?

But it wasn’t the kiss the doomed Judas. It wasn’t the thirty pieces of silver or the betrayal. It was Judas’ lack of faith.

In the final analysis, the thing that separates Judas and Peter is faith.

Is it faith, or is it weakness to turn to God with our sins and confess them to the depths of their utter blackness? Is it faith or is it brokenness that makes us throw ourselves on His mercy and seek forgiveness we know we do not deserve and can never earn?

It is lack of faith, or is it pride that keeps others from admitting their crimes against God? What causes one person to seal themselves inside their sinfulness and die there, while another reaches out like they were drowning and grasps the nail-scarred hand?

I think all these things are factors to differing degrees with different people. But in Judas’ case, it was most likely a lack of faith. Judas had no pride when he went to the priests and threw the money at them. “I have betrayed an innocent man,” he said.

He had no problem admitting the truth of what he had done. He just didn’t admit it to the right person. The priests, now that they had their prey, no longer found Judas useful. “What is that to us,” they replied to his anguished admission. “See to it yourself.”

One might ask what kind of priests these really were who would turn away a sin-sick man so coldly. But such a question would be redundant. They were corrupt priests who had plotted, bribed and bullied their way to the execution of an innocent man in order to preserve their delicately balanced position of power in occupied Israel.

Did they know this innocent man was God? I don’t think so. After all, Jesus, when He prayed for them, said they know not what they do.

But they did know He was innocent. They did know the lies, bribes and political maneuvering they had committed to bring about His death. They knew what they had done, and they were, as Jesus described them earlier in His ministry, indifferent with great hardness of heart. 

Judas confessed his sin. But he confessed it to the wrong person. He went to corrupt priests who told him to “see to it” himself.

Peter, after enduring what must have been unbearable grief and shame, took his sin to Christ.

Judas could and would have been forgiven. All he had to do was humble himself and ask for it of the Man he had betrayed.

The lesson in all this for us is not so much that we should never betray a friend — although that is certainly a worthwhile lesson to learn. The lesson is that, no matter what we have done, we can find forgiveness in the merciful heart of Jesus.

No matter what we have done. No matter how many times we have done it. No matter how horrible or trivial it is. We are sinners. And we need the forgiveness of the only One who has the right to forgive. We need tthe forgiveness of the Living Christ.

Confession is not a way of sidestepping this forgiveness, it is a conduit of its grace. The priest does not and cannot forgive us. He does not and cannot confer newness of life on us. Those things come only from Christ Jesus.

Confession is a simple and accessible way to meet the Risen Lord. it is contact with Christ through the graces of the Church.

However, the healing comes from one place only, and that is the Heart of Our Lord. Even though we should all go to confession, we should never wait to take our sins to Jesus.

If you have sinned — and we all have — turn to Him immediately and ask forgiveness. Then, go to confession when it’s available to you.

Then, Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, Scripture tells us.

Simon, Satan has asked to have you, that he may sift you like wheat, Jesus warned Peter.

Satan had his day with both these men. One of them emerged stronger, the rock on which Christ would build His Church.

The other went out and hanged himself.

They both repented of their sins, and grieved them deeply. The difference is who they asked for forgiveness.

Pope Francis: Jesus’ Suffering was not a Mistake

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I’m Not Feeling Politics Right Now. It’s Holy Week and I Want Jesus.

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I’m not feeling politics right now.

We’ve got wars and rumors of wars over a large swath of the world. Pro life people are battling killer legislation in Colorado and corporate raiders are raiding the public treasury everywhere and in every way they can. There are runaway bishops to write about, as well as a stand up bishops who are trying to fight the fight.

We’ve got cowards, brave people and martyrs.

There is no end to the politics I could write about.

But I’m not feeling it.

What I am feeling is a deep, aching hunger for the balm of Gilead, the peace that passes all understanding, the comfort of the everlasting arms.

It’s Holy Week, and I want Jesus.

Do you ever feel the aloneness of this life? Does it weigh on you at times that we are, each of us, the heroes of our own stories, but that we don’t matter much in the great scheme of time and history?

Even great people, on whom the fulcrum of the human story turns for a while, are, as Shakespeare said, just actors on a stage that play their parts and then go on to be forgot.

How many times today have you thought about Euclid, or Elizabeth I, or Franklin Roosevelt? When was the last time George Washington or Robert E Lee crossed your mind?

These people made us what we are. The 300 who died at Themopylae, provided a gasp of time that allowed the Greeks to win the war and save Western civilization in its seed. But what are their names to us now?

I am not writing this to convince you that Solomon was right when he moaned “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” Because he wasn’t right.

What he was expressing is the hopelessness of a world that ends at the grave, where the good we do is washed away by the harm we do and the harm we do is accounted to us without mercy forever.

Solomon was describing a world without second chances and without transcendent hope. Eat, drink and be merry he told us, for all is vanity. Nothing we do matters. We are but a passing vapor.

That is life without Christ. It is a futile, hopeless round of good times, bad times and diversions that end in dust and nothing. If we are animals in a world where the biggest and the meanest make all the rules and winning and triumphing over one another is the only thing, then life itself is both cheap and useless.

What does it matter if we exploit the weak and reduce their lives to suffering, poverty and shame? Why is there any reason to object when we kill the innocent for our convenience?

After all, we are just animals, animated things, who are passing through and then will be no more. In a world without transcendence and forgiveness, anything is possible except peace.

I’m not feeling politics right now, because politics is, like all our other human endeavors, doomed to fail as an answer and an antidote for our hopelessness. There is no balm, no peace, no second chance, without Christ.

It is as simple as that. Only Jesus Christ and His Passion, His suffering, His willingness to bring ultimate transcendence into our world and our lives by taking on our finiteness, can open the door for us to more than the nothing we are without Him.

Christ not only saves us from our fallenness and offers us eternal life, He redeems the dailiness of our lives and the bottomless despair of ultimate meaningless of which Solomon spoke.

Instead of a plaintive cry that “all is vanity,” we are lifted by the sacrifice of Calvary onto a level of existence where everything we do matters in the halls of eternity.

Even the birds of the air fall under God’s loving eye. The hairs of our heads are numbered in His sight. We are not just animated things, carrion flesh waiting to rot. We are eternal beings, made in the image and likeness of the God who breathed all existence into existence with a single word.

I’m not feeling politics right now. I’m feeling a deep yearning for Jesus. I am longing for the balm, the peace, the hope that lies on the other side of Calvary.

But first, I must traverse the painful path of Holy Week. I need, to the bottom of my sin-sick soul, to walk the ugly path of human shame that is the crucifixion. We killed God. We murdered our Creator. We lied about, tortured, mocked, shamed and did our best to destroy the only Hope we have.

The ultimate stain on humankind was also its salvation. We murdered God, and He used that act of damning depravity to redeem us from ourselves.

Politics is one of our pitiful attempts to transcend our fallen state. But, given our fallen state, politics always becomes corrupted by our venalities and cowardices. I’ve written about the cowardly acts of men in high places quite a bit these past two weeks. The truth is, I have more than a passing acquaintance with the weaknesses of princes.

But nothing I have known can touch the combination of cowardice and cold-blooded corruption that led to the final sacrifice of the last Passover Lamb.

We need to bow down before the cross this week. It is, as Scripture says, the Lord’s Passover. It is the door opening on the way out. The cross is the price of our sins. It is the Lord’s ultimate Passover by which we are saved from the absolute and final death that we deserve.

Nigeria: Islamic Extremists Kidnap 100 Girls from School

Boko haram

Boko Haram has kidnapped over 100 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Nigeria.

Boko Haram gunmen stormed the town after dark, set fire to several buildings and engaged government troops who were guarding the school in gunfire. They evidently overpowered the troops, then loaded the girls on a truck and drove away.

According to a RightScoop article, the purpose of the abductions is to use the girls for both sex slaves and slave laborers.

Al Qaeda and charitable fronts, including at least one such front in Britain are reputed to be funding the terrorist organization.  This raises the question in my mind as to who, exactly, “Al Qaeda” is. I know that we’ve heard the name in news stories over and over, but who are they? Where are they getting the money to fund rebels in a war in Syria and a guerrilla war in Nigeria, as well as all sorts of disruptive engagements elsewhere?

Aside from all other questions, war on any scale does not come cheap, and money on a war-making scale is not quiet. Who is selling them their armaments, and who is paying for them? Who is supplying them with food, clothing and shelter? Who buys the pickup trucks and motorcycles they ride around in? Who sells them the gasoline and who maintains the vehicles? Where are these vehicles parked when they’re not in use?

This is a large scale operation, and it is inexplicable to me that the Nigerian government can not track it down. If they are coming over the border from neighboring countries, why can’t that be tracked?

As for Syria, this an outright war effort that has engaged the Syrian government in a fight for its life. Again, who is feeding/supplying/training/housing a whole army of rebels?

I do not believe that governments in the West are ignorant of the answers to these questions. Money of this magnitude is a force. It’s like a big river, and like all big rivers, it has tributaries and runs in a course. Shoulder-shrugging and waving of the Al Qaeda bogeyman is beginning to look like a way to keep from telling the truth.

I’m asking these questions because I don’t “get” why the Nigerian government is so incapable of tracking these killers down and taking them out. If this was the first time this kind of attack had happened, the government’s inability to respond would make a kind of sense. However, after years of these atrocities, you’d think somebody would have figured out a plan of action.

Reports I’ve read about this raid said that the terrorists showed up riding motorcycles and driving trucks. I know this is a naive question, but why is the Nigerian government so helpless in the face of that?

People I know from Nigeria have told me that corruption is a way of doing business there, including corruption throughout all levels of government. Does corruption play a part in the government’s inability to track these killers down? What effect does the divided loyalties of the country’s Muslims have on the issue?

To circle back around, who, exactly, is putting this together? I seriously doubt that a bunch of thugs on motorcycles and driving pick-up trucks are the big brains who have raised the hundreds of millions of dollars it would take to fund and organize a long-term operation like this.

These repetitive stories of Boko Haram attacking unarmed civilians and then riding off into the night unchallenged are beginning to grate.

I’ll go back to my earlier question. Who is Al Qaeda? By that I mean who is bankrolling them, arming them and feeding this blood-thirsty beast of war on civilian populations by groups of thugs?

 


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