Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Journey from Atheism to Faith

by Christian James

Religion is a reflection of the sad state of man, not God. If anything, Religion itself is the proof that we need a Savior.




History

I suppose the best description for me is that I am a skeptic. The simplest answer tends to be the correct one. I tend to over-think certain issues, but at the end of the day I take off my pants one leg at a time, just like everyone else.

There’s an old saying that the truth is self-evident. When it came to God, the absence of evidence seemed to be the evidence of absence. You’ve probably heard the argument that if this amazing, omnipotent Creator made the heavens and the earth, why would he then vanished without so much as a fingerprint?

At first blush, this seems like a pretty cogent argument, yet something nags at the back of the mind. If the existence of some “God” figure is so easily dismissed, then why do the majority of human beings believe in one?

The tempting answer is to believe that it is because people are so gullible, especially when gathered in large groups. The total I.Q. of a group seems to be inversely proportional to its size. And, since religion is generally a gathering of people in a room to pray to something that is invisible, the answer seemed (at first) pretty clear.

 Comedian George Carlin clarified the point with these words:

“…there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever until the end of time!!!

But he loves you...."

I stopped going to church. I fraternized with other intelligent atheists. I sharpened my understanding of how God was one big lie; a hoax perpetrated on the weak-minded to keep them under control and empty their pockets as well as their heads.

I have to admit, I derived a sense of satisfaction from the whole thing. I felt liberated to be an atheist, and I felt like my fellow atheists could sense it. It was like they all had a twinkle in their eye and a spring in their step. Meanwhile, you look at the religious right, shuffling from cradle to grave and packing into churches to pay God his extortion money. Maybe if you pay enough, He’ll let you in. From the looks on their faces though, the chances didn’t look good.

Atheists were usually successful people. They drove nice cars, and could hold an intelligent conversation. They knew about politics, and history, and music. They got the benefit of all the religious holidays, with none of the sad sack religion thrown on top of it. There was a “cool factor” involved.

I had a good view from my pew in the church of Atheism, next to a rose-colored stained-glass window. I didn’t realize that I was living in a bubble, because the answers were forthcoming, the pastors entertaining, and there was no tithe to pay. Then something popped my bubble. It humbled me, and made me realize that I did not know everything. There was more going on than what I realized, and in order to answer the question fully, I had to consider every side of the argument.

So, what popped the bubble? Well, like many before me, I made a good number of bad friends in a short time, some of whom tried to involve me with drugs.  What I didn't know then, is that certain "innocent" drugs are laced with heavier drugs, to jump up your addiction.  Needless to say, what I thought was a harmless puff of marijuana (still an extremely stupid thing to do) turned out to be a hard hit of something dangerous and deadly.

Do you know how they say that when you are in love, you just know? The same goes for dying. You know when you are dying, and not because of butterflies in the stomach or sweaty palms.  You feel it in your soul.  The physical pain isn’t the most alarming aspect of the process. What is alarming is what you feel at the very core of you. You feel something that is inside you being pulled out. You also know that having that “something” pulled out is a very, very bad thing.

At least, if you are an atheist.

I saw a darkness. It was like a great, yawning emptiness of nothing. You don’t know what nothing is, until you see it in contrast to something. When you look into the maw of the absence of everything, you know it for what it is. It is death, it is eternal, and it is as spiritual as it is physical.

Tipping headfirst into that darkness, I knew that I was going to die, and that where I was going was as horrible as it was eternal.

Then, I cried out something curious,“God! Save me!”  Now....if I was an atheist, then who was I addressing? I knew that God was fictional, didn't I?  Where was my smug attitude when it mattered?

They say that there are no atheists in foxholes, and they were right.

If there is any worse feeling than dying and knowing you are going to a very bad place it is this: knowing that you have lied to yourself because you were inconceivably selfish. It stings terribly, because you know you could have avoided spiritual death and embraced life, if only you had been open minded about the existence of God and made just the tiniest effort.

You see, where George Carlin got it wrong was this: religion wasn’t to blame for where I was going. God wasn’t to blame.

I was to blame.

I took the easy answers. I swallowed lies and narratives which made me feel superior to others, without examing those narratives for accuracy. I fraternized with people who couldn't care if I was alive or dead, as long as I was useful or entertaining to them. I made myself unworthy of life.  That wasn't God’s fault. I chose that path, and a stupid and meaningless death was where it ended. If anything, God simply honored my freedom of choice.  As C.S. Lewis points out, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.' "

All this passed through my mind before I felt something hold onto me. I stopped falling into that pit, because there was a hand on my shoulder. I couldn't see what it was but I knew, somehow, that it was God.

I knew that He was saving me from death. I knew that He, impossible as it was, loved me. The love of God is unlike anything the mind can grasp. It is like gazing unflinchingly into the very heart of a star, as it radiates a light so intense that it scatters every shadow which might obscure the love and authority emanating from its superlative being.

Such an encounter leaves you on your knees, crying, “I didn’t know. I didn’t know. God, forgive me.”

You see, we are the ones who condemn to Hell. We are the ones who judge. We are the ones who are unjust. God saves. God Loves.  God Forgives.  Religion is a reflection of the sad state of man, not God. If anything, Religion itself is the proof that we need a Savior.

I managed to call 911, and was taken to a hospital.  I was poked and prodded, as orderlies laughed at my gibbering state, showing their contempt for what they saw as just another burned-out drug user. I was not the first, and certainly not the last they would see, after all.

I felt like a china plate after being hurled like a frisbee down a flight of stairs, and then glued back together. I could feel the seams of my own broken state.   I have never been more ashamed of myself, having allowed peer pressure and apathy to lead me towards something as stupid and dangerous as drug use, while labeling it as "innocent".

I told my so-called friends what had happened to me, and they laughed. They openly taunted me, mocking my story as "being pulled into the twilight zone" or some alternate dimension. One of them even threatened to knock out my teeth! I was taken aback by their reaction. I thought they might, as my friends, be open-minded and willing to listen.  I should have well known they were no more open-minded than they were my friends.

But the most horrible thing of all was this: they threw my own atheistic arguments back at me.

I learned then that things you say can have a power beyond the boundaries of mere speech, for good or ill. The Bible says that life and death are in the power of the tongue, and I have spent a lifetime exploring the many levels on which this is true. I would even dare to say that words have a magic about them that few understand, and are a mystery worth trying to solve, but they are never to be taken lightly.

Things being as they are, life continues its inexorable march forward, whether you feel up to it or not. Certainly, nobody was going to believe my story. All the convenient, humanistic answers fit:  You had a brain aneurysm, or a convulsion, or some other big word that makes it sound like I know what I am talking about. Everybody sees things when they almost die.  Its oxygen being starved from the brain.  It was chemicals being released.  You saw things that weren't there. You had a bad trip. These narratives are repeated ad-nauseam, and are as mind-mindbogglingly idiotic as they sound - at least, to anyone who has actually had a near-death experience, and is not just dipping into their bag of opinionated, unsubstantiated flapdoodle.

Nevertheless, these oft-parroted answers may sound perfectly reasonable and logical in the moment, because they appeal to the rebellious nature of human beings, where rejection of God is as natural as a child disobeying its parent.

The camp of atheism taught me one thing. It is not, as some say, a faith contrary to other faiths. It is an apathetic dismissal of the possibility that there is anything beyond the sight of our own reflection.

People of faith who believe in God are not weak minded. They simply choose a substantiated life. They choose to believe, on faith, that there is a purpose and a meaning to their lives and their suffering. And while they may be a rather large bag of mixed nuts, they are not weak-minded. To say that a majority of humanity is weak-minded is nothing but utter bombast, and is the height of intellectual laziness.

The atheist accuses the believer of weak-mindedness, because they can only see others as they see themselves. They do not look outside the bubble of content without context, because they see it as a waste of time. And they see it as a waste of time, because they are trapped between the walls of their own rebellious brand of logic and ego.

You see, in the world of humanistic logic, the brain is hailed as king. It is a wonderfully complex organ, certainly, and such a complex labyrinth demands respect. However, that labyrinth is on a closed circuit, and in order to see beyond it you have to have a bridge, whether it is insight, inspiration, creativity, or faith.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the brain is a marvelous thing, but it is a physical thing, where limitations are defined as both beginning and end.  If you were able to peel back the physical layers of existence until you get to the bottom of it, all you’ll find is another layer. They used to say that the earth was riding on the back of a great sea turtle.  What is the sea turtle standing on, or is it turtles all the way down? If you start counting, eventually you’ll run into turtles you’ve already counted before.

The wisdom and humor of S.M. Lockridge captures both the essence of faith and the incredulity of the skeptic with these words, "Where did God come from? He came from nowhere. The reason God came from nowhere is that there was nowhere for Him to come from. Coming from nowhere, He stood on nothing. The reason He had to stand on nothing is there was nowhere for Him to stand. And standing on nothing, He reached out where there was nowhere to reach and caught something where there was nothing to catch and hung something on nothing, and told it to stay there."

Housecleaning

So, I find myself in the position of trying to explain the unexplainable. To give witness to those who have not seen; to substantiate without tangible evidence; to testify to those who have already reached a verdict. In much the same manner as a litterbug being sentenced to pick up trash, I must now do the impossible. I must try to convince my prior self of what I now know, absent the profound experience of feeling the touch of God.

Forgive me if I faint.

Well, the first thing we have to do in a logical argument is to remove all the clutter. There is a nice, long list of logical clutter that needs to be gone through. I’m only going to highlight 7 logical fallacies that are predominant in the atheist’s argument

1) Ad Hominem: A person’s character invalidate their current beliefs

Person A makes claim X.
Person B attacks person A’s credibility.
Therefore X is false.

“Hey, did you hear that Robert believes in God?”
“Yeah, well Robert voted for Bush. What does that tell you?”

2) Appeal to Authority: A recognized authority on a subject has the final say on all conclusions regarding a subject.

Person A is (allegedly) an authority on subject X.
Person A makes claim C about subject X.
Therefore, C is true.

“I love reading Jones. He’s a brilliant writer, and he’s an atheist.”
“Do you know he said that anyone who believes in God has a mental illness?”
“It’s the truth!”

3) Guilt by Association: The actions or behaviors of adherents of a belief invalidate the belief itself

Person A, who has characteristic Y, makes claim X.
Therefore all believers of X are Y.

“You know, Hitler believed in God….”
“I saw some Neo-Nazis at the Tea Parties. Therefore, the Tea Parties are racist.”

4) Burden of Proof, or Appeal to Ignorance: A lack of evidence on one side is evidence for the other.

Person A demands proof of X from person B.
Person B cannot provide proof of X.
Therefore X is false.

“If you’re ‘God’ is omnipresent, trot him out here and show me. Then I’ll believe.”
“I can’t. He’s not some tame lion I keep in my pocket.”
“Well, well. Isn’t that convenient?”

5) Straw Man: Attacking a similar or offshoot belief invalidates the original belief.

Person A has position X.
Person B presents position Y.
Person B attacks position Y on the grounds that it resembles X.
Therefore X is false.

"The 2nd ammendment is about preserving liberty, not hunting game."
"Yeah, well, we don't use muskets anymore, so the 2nd ammendment is obsolete."

6) Middle Ground: As two ends of the extreme are wrong, what is in between is right.

Position A is at war with position B.
C is neutral between A and B.
Therefore C is correct.

“I don’t want to be hot or cold, I want to be lukewarm. It is comfortable there.”

7) Relativism: What affects one person couldn’t possible affect all people.

Person A presents claim X.
Person B asserts that X is not universal.
Therefore X does not affect B.

“This article says that people who diet and exercise can feel much healthier.”
“Harrumph! I don’t do either and I feel fine.”

There are more logical fallacies, but I believe that these are the Seven Deadly Sins of both Atheism and belief. Indeed, both sides use them religiously. However, they are no substitute for a desire for the truth.  They are the purveyors of easy answers to difficult questions. The wide path of least resistance will not lead you to the truth, which is a path as narrow as a razor’s edge.

Atheists are accused of not opening their eyes to the truth, while believers are accused of keeping their own eyes closed to maintain their beliefs. History supports the believer, while modern science (or rather, its interpretation) supports the non-believer. We live in the most atheistic age mankind has ever witnessed, which, in a way, is somewhat remarkable.

What went wrong? Or, from the other side of the argument, what went right?

The atheist would answer that we have evolved. We have shed our skin of ignorance. The sky god no longer causes the rain. Cold fronts mixing with warm fronts condense the water vapor in the air and cause the rain. The sky isn’t blue because the gods used a blue paintbrush for their walls. The sun, going through the water vapor in the air, is compressed as the earth rotates. And, as we all know, Doppler shift causes a compressed wavelength of light to show blue. Thus, as sun sinks down, you are moving away from the sun more rapidly because the earth is spinning. The wavelength is stretched and the sky appears red.

And yet, while our knowledge has grown, our ignorance has grown in proportion with it. We assign new ignorant reasons for cause and effect where we do not understand. Only now, the flavor of the century is atheistic, or pantheistic. The Big Bang is evident by the remaining radiation in the universe; therefore the Big Bang is causal. But, what created the Big Bang; the Big Crunch? What created the Big Crunch; another universe. Turtles all the way down, my friend. This is where assumption jumps in, from both sides of the fence. The agnostic just shrugs and says there is no data either way.

Knowledge has increased, but perspective has diminished.

There is an old idea that says there are no answers, only solutions. In the attempt the bridge the gap between point A and B, we tend to use whatever seems to work as opposed to what is right. Once you eliminate the junk that you call “evidence”, and realize that you are ill-equipped to answer the question in the first place, you can actually begin.


Answering the Unsolvable

If the believers and the atheists held a trial to prove or disprove the existence of God, there would be compelling argument on either side. There would be expert witnesses on both sides. I think, in the end, the only rendered verdict would be for the side with the bigger stick, given our history.

In the end, it would be man who was on trial, not God, with a verdict of “not guilty” seeming unlikely.

The same kind of trial takes place in the minds of men who are looking for answers. They seek until they reach a point they cannot go past. And, typically, they stop there. They reach the grand chasm that stands between God and man, and say “Well, this is where the road ends”. The road doesn’t end there. Their means end there. Therefore, their belief is at the polar end of their faculties.

What is ironic is that the same compelling argument one could make against God’s existence could be made against our own. I mean, can you truly prove that you exist without bias? Can you circumvent your own ego, and declare yourself a figment?

The argument could be made that there is a creative element, but it is not a divine being, otherwise known as a “god”. The argument for God is the argument of intent, meaning, design, and purpose. The argument against God is for random chance, causality, self actualization, and fatalism. The first says that God created man, whereas the second insists that man created God.

Here, the believer has a slight edge over the nonbeliever. The nonbeliever says that there is nothing outside the box. If there is, your concept of the box has to be expanded to contain the unknown variables, but it is still a box. The believer says there is no box.

The believer makes a leap of faith across the chasm, where the non-believer submits hypothesis and seeks to prove or disprove. Both methods require vision, but the believer’s method requires something more. It requires risk. A leap is not a leap unless there is a chance you will fall.

The believer’s methods are viewed as disloyal to the established system. After all, if science is the authority on everything, and your method is unscientific, it must be invalid. Don the tinfoil hat, and make up whatever you please. Let chaos reign.

Many great human inventions required a touch of faith. For most of our history, it was a well established fact that man could not fly no matter how often he flapped his arm. Yet, visionaries continued to pursue the idea. They made a leap of faith…..and often crashed and burned. The first flying machines, though they held some sound ideas, failed miserably. Leonardo DaVinci’s helicopter had about as much chance at flying as a brick wall. Yet, they kept trying.

The problem with many believers isn’t false belief. It is that they stop seeking. They coast on their newfound moral or social authority, or they let others tend their faith for them. The method is not sound, and as life moves forward they are left behind. The leaps of faith they made as children do not work in young adulthood. The leaps of faith they made in young adulthood do not work in middle age, and the leaps of middle age do not work in the twilight of life. The answer must grow as the person grows, where we want to remain the same. Peter Pan has to grow up, at some point.

A man was fishing in the ocean, when a great leviathan swallowed him up. To his amazement, there were others in the leviathan, having adapted to the environment and survived. Children had even been born inside the leviathan, having never known any other life. The fisherman asked a child, “Does it ever bother you, being trapped within this leviathan?” The child responded, “What leviathan?”

Content, without context, has no meaning. Man, without a Creator, is equally meaningless. A painting without a painter is just a mélange of colors, a symphony without a composer, noise, a son without a father, a bastard.

Atheists insist they believe what they believe because they don’t want to be fooled, and yet fool themselves so convincingly that they have almost no hope of escaping their own logical labyrinth short of divine intervention. A believer, who helped in my walk, once said to me, “Jay, I worry that you are too smart for your own good.” At the time I thought “You just can’t disprove what I am saying, because my argument is airtight.” My God, how right she was.

There are two parts of the human spirit which pave the way of the narrow path: the mind and the heart. Believe me, they do not always agree. In this showdown, it is most often the heart that is responsible for belief in God, because God is Love. The mind can process the events of love, but not love itself. Love is too big to be contained by the inferior human mind anymore than God could fit into a box.

The heart can make a leap of faith, because it knows desire while the mind knows want. The heart can reflect, while the mind absorbs. The heart applies, while the mind calculates. This is why God is easier for the simple to grasp, while those burdened by their own ponderous intellects have to push the boulder of hubris uphill. Thus, the intellectual looks upon the simple masses and assumes that it is ignorance fueling their faith in God, when it is in fact their hearts.

The unsolvable problem has an answer, and it is not religion. It is faith. Faith is the only bridge between that which is seen and that which is not. Vision is not for the blind, or the obstinate. Faith is not for the timid, or the prideful.

Once you make a leap of faith, then you have to go about testing that faith. Otherwise, faith and imagination have no separation. Gold dug out of the earth is not gold. It is a mixture of elements, containing some gold. Once the gold is put into the crucible, and the dross is separated, only then is it a pure product.

A downside to this is that life throws us many curveballs to test our faith. Nobody wants to be perpetually at the plate, constantly at bat. Atheism would call the game on account of rain, while belief requires one to slide for home through the mud. Christianity calls this carrying your cross, while atheism calls it a sucker’s game.

Answering the unsolvable question means bridging the unbridgeable gap. To say “it cannot be done” is a guarantee that it cannot. Brave looking foolish, take a risk, make a leap, or content yourself to sit on the sidelines of least resistance. The curveball of the universe leans increasingly towards entropy and death. Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. Falling into the hole is easy, but is it profitable?

Why not take a swing at faith? In that game, the misses count as often as the hits.

Everyone falls the first time

So, we gather our courage, and we make a leap of faith. “God, are you out there? Is this thing on? Hello?”

Nothing. Just a bunch of random thoughts passing through the mind.

Depending on our patience, in proportion to our sincerity, we wait. Then, underneath all the noise, there is a still, small voice.

Then it is gone.

Well that could be anything!

Like the proverbial breadcrumbs, we must follow.  We are Hansel and Gretel lost in the forest, and there are witches out there waiting for us.

Wherever the internal compass leads us,  it can be dangerous territory. You see, you are not just contending with your own thoughts. If there is something more than just you, then understand that there are enough false paths to make the mind unreliable. You are going to go down false roads, and reach false conclusions.

This admission requires a degree of humility, to recognize that a being of such limited sense is like a boat on a raging ocean of thought, and only one sail with which to contend. Worse, if you understand and believe in the nature of good and evil, then you know there is an ill wind blowing you in the wrong direction.

Following your own compass is like putting together a puzzle while missing the most essential pieces. You are going to get an incomplete picture, and in the end you are going to make a guess at it based on the available data. If you follow logic, superstition, or popular belief then God is only going to be a distorted image of yourself; the superman. If you dissect this image, you will find yourself hating God. God will be some big bearded dotard on a throne with a magnifying glass, tormenting his ants. Or, God will be some giant mother goddess, full of love and compassion and wonderfulness who is impotent and capricious when it comes to human suffering.

God is beyond what you are capable of comprehending. The Love of God, and the Plan of God is so mind blowing, that your human experiences are like a caterpillar’s footprints alongside the march of an army at war. That is why the first step in accepting God is a bent knee; a giving up of self will for God’s will. In essence, a declaration to no longer be a god unto yourself, allowing God to be what He is and has always been within you underneath your self will.

Whether you realize or admit it, you, like all of us, are an incredibly self-centered being. Perhaps you think of yourself as giving and selfless, or “good” when measured by human standards. Maybe you donate to charities, or feed homeless people. Perhaps you have always spoken kindly to others, or done good works. The thought of those things “not being good enough” for God stirs up instant resentment. Who is God to demand that you do or be more than what you are? If He made you that way, then it is His fault if you don’t measure up, right?

Would it surprise you if I said that the answer is Yes?

Well, Yes, with a But. Let’s think of this clearly a moment. If God chose to give man free will, then he chose to give man the ability not to choose Him. Not choosing Him has produced every single evil that man has ever inflicted upon man. If you look at it this way, then God is to blame for our suffering.

Another way to look at it is God is responsible for our free will. Because of Him, we are alive and able to experience the joy of living, without having it forced upon us.

I suppose that how you look at it depends on your ability to believe you are qualified to criticize God and Creation.  Personally, I think freedom is worth the cost of suffering.  The problem is choice.

Though you may fall the first few times in a leap of faith, you will never fall so completely as to end the journey. You will fall just enough that you can climb out of the hole, if it is truly in your heart to bridge the gap of faith. God doesn’t allow this because he wants it to be difficult for us to reach Him, or because He wants us to prove ourselves to Him. He wants us to have faith in ourselves as well as Him, and in doing so experience the freedom and the reward of a love which is genuine, because it is chosen.  
Choice is what gives love its fidelity, and God chose to create us.

All roads lead to Rome, but there is only one gate to Heaven

Christianity is where we find controversy. Christians make the claim that only through Jesus can men find salvation. Coming from the perspective of non-belief, this seems like the most arrogant puffery imaginable. For a group of people, no matter how large, to say that they and only they have got it right is despicable, closed-minded, and intolerant.

What about the millions of people all around the earth, worshipping God in their own unique way with a sincere heart? Are these amongst the walking damned, simply because they do not embrace our God?

If you look at it from the viewpoint of “my club” versus “your club”, then yes -the arrogance is so thick, only a knife could cut through it. And, let’s be honest, this is what the argument usually boils down to: God loves me more and will let me in Heaven because I believe XYZ, and He doesn’t love you and you are going to Hell because you believe PDQ.

That, my friends, is the essence of religion. Religion divides, and religion, like everything under the sun, is evil when it becomes a means unto itself. Religion is a minefield of spiritual demilitarized zones.  It is the “whites only” sign on the holy drinking fountain, the unwritten membership requirement of the eternal country club. It is humanity worshipping humanism, exclusivity, and tribalism.

Christ abhored it.

Compare how Jesus spoke to the harlots, the publicans, and the drunks with how he spoke to the  the religious right of their day, the priests, scribes, and pharisees. He said that the harlots and publicans would see heaven before the clergy ever would. Why? Because when the publicans and harlots saw the truth, they received it.  They were in a state of spiritual starvation, and Christ was the bread of life. When the clergy percieved the same, they saw a very real threat to their power and authority.

Christians are fond of saying “Unless you accept Jesus, you won’t receive salvation.” While this is true, I believe that many of them misunderstand what it means. You see, if saying aloud “I accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior”, or writing it down in a book were the means of salvation, then our salvation is works-based. If you didn’t say the words, or write it down, are you done for? This is notion nonsense, in my view.

Jesus himself said, “On judgment day many will say to me, 'Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name. And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’" Matt. 7:22-23

But, didn’t they say the words, and write them down in their bibles? Didn’t they produce the fruits of salvation? They did the things! They paid their membership fees! Why were they sent away?

He said, "I never knew you" and not “You never knew me”. The emphasis is on His works, not ours, and so the question is ultimately whether or not Jesus knows you.  The Shepherd knows his sheep.

“If you love me, keep my commandments.”

What are his commandments? Well, there are a few. Let’s start from the top and go down the list.

The first and greatest commandment is this; love God your Creator more than anything or anyone else, and then love others and yourself equally.

Do not worship anything other than God your Father.

Do not make or worship idols.

Do not take the name of God in vain, or claim his seat of authority.

One day of the week should be dedicated solely to God’s worship and praise.

Honor and respect your earthly mother and father.

Do not murder.

Do not commit adultery.

Do not steal.

Do not fabricate stories against your neighbor.

Do not jealously covet your neighbor’s blessings.

Treat others as you would have them treat you.

Forgive others, and do not judge.

Be born again, in the flesh and in the spirit.

Dwell in me, and allow me to dwell in you.

Be an example for others, and do not hide the glory of God within you.

Put away disputes quickly.

If there is something in your life causing you to sin, cut it off entirely from you.

Do not swear by anything, but simply let your word be true.

Do not return vengeance for wrongdoing.

Give what you are asked, and more.

Love your enemies, and pray for them. If you don’t, what reward will you have?

Do good works in order to please God, and not to please men.

Pray and do good works in secret, so that God can reward you openly.

Let your prayers be like the Lord ’s Prayer.

When you fast, do not boast of it, but do it in secret.

Invest in your heavenly reward, and not your earthly reward. The latter shall perish.

Don’t spend too much thought on your daily provision. God provides.

Keep your thoughts on the present day, and don’t worry about the future.

Put God first, and God will provide for all your needs.

Do not judge others, for judgment is God’s and God’s alone.

Do not give that which is holy to the unholy, because they will desecrate it.

Ask God plainly for the things you want and need.

Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and comfort the distressed.

Enter in through the straight and narrow path, and not the path of least resistance.

Be aware that there are false teachers. Look to God to discern the truth.

Exercise power and authority over unclean spirits through My name.

Love little children, and don’t forbid them to come to me. Heaven is full of their kind.

Do not put doctrine above love for your brothers in Christ.

In all things, have faith in God.

Judge a tree by its fruits, a good neighbor by his actions and not his nationality.

Love others as I loved you.

When you eat and drink, remember that I gave my body and my blood for you.

Humbly serve one another. As I washed your feet, wash each others. He who would lead must serve.

Be merciful in your actions.

Tell all nations the good news, and baptize them.

Keep the commandments that I have given you.

Watch, and wait faithfully for my return.

This list is, in no ways, all inclusive of the things Jesus taught. I have paraphrased for the sake of clarity and brevity, as best I can. If you want the complete list, I recommend that you read the scriptures.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: that is a whopping big list to have to follow, and the game sure has a lot of rules! It isn’t a rulebook, where if you violate one you get put in the eternal penalty box. It is the manifestation of Christ’s character in our lives. They are reminders, not a "to do" list. Because, you see, we have broken every single one of those rules. All of us. If it were a whole new set of commandments, then we do not live in Grace, but by the Law.

It is one of the mysteries of Theology that Law exists not to liberate or civilize man, but to condemn him to an existence of perpetual unworthiness.  Grace is the only liberator.  Hate is murder, and lust is adultery, according to Jesus. You can’t judge as man judges. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are filthy rags compared to him.

So, if not in faithful unswerving daily action, where are these laws obeyed? They are obeyed in the same place from which God knows you and will judge you: your heart. It is from your heart that Jesus either knows you or does not. If his laws live in your heart, then Jesus lives in your heart. Perhaps you do not know his name, or that it is him that you love. That is why Christians have been given the Great Commission of telling others the good news of Christ Jesus. For, if that love lives somewhere in the heart, then that person will recognize Jesus for who He really is. So too will He know them when they stand before Him in judgment.

Grace means “I know you will fail the rules, but did the rules live and breathe in your heart?” We love our children, but do we not fail them? Do we not lose our tempers? Do we not turn our backs when they need us, because we are tired or preoccupied with self? We love them, but is that love shown by our fruits?

A child knows whether or not his parents love him. So too of does Jesus know if you love Him.  And, if you love Him, you love his commandments.

This is a controversial notion, because it places salvation outside the realm of religion and is instead in God’s hands. It means there may be adherents of other faiths that shall see salvation, not knowing the name of our Lord. Is it possible? Only God can judge. Our job is to tell them the good news, and bear true witness of the same. Our job is not conversion. That is God’s job. Our job is witness.

So, by that statement, am I reinforcing the New Age Philosophy of “many paths to God?” Absolutely not. There is only one gateway to glory, and Jesus is that gateway. What I am saying is “wrong religion” or “ignorance” is not a barrier to Christ knowing, and choosing members of his body as he sees fit. Pray for all, spread the good news to all and let God judge. God wants us to know that it is Jesus that is within us, if we by nature are keeping his commandments.

We all worship idols. Religion is one of those idols. We judge God’s acceptance by what brand names we buy, with mainstream Christian religion saying that their brand is the only right one. Let God be true, and every man a liar. It is not the brand, but the man, and the True man said that what He is, lives in his commandments. You cannot gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles.

For, what ministry absent a missionary would there be amongst the blind and deaf, if there were no one among them of the body of Christ, though they knew not that they were of Him? Then, damnation would often be the product of failed ministry, or the absence of words and works. Once again, this makes salvation works-based, and ties the hands of God by the actions and choices of men.

I am not advocating a casual attitude towards the Great Commission. I am saying that salvation is not dependant on our cleverness, ambition, or reach. If God wants to save, He shall save. Our obedience to the Great Commission should come from our overflowing love for Jesus, not our self-righteousness towards non-believers. Salvation is not a product of religion, or works. It is a product of the heart knowing Jesus for what he is. A rose by any name is a rose, even if you call it skunkflower. It is better to call a rose a rose, for that is its name. However, misappellation does not prevent a rose from being a rose.

I have heard apologeticists say that God “can’t” know evil, and “can’t” lie. What they really mean is “God would never say such and such because it is against His nature.” This is the same camp that believes that evil is something outside of God - as if God, being so good, cannot know what evil is. Yet that same camp says that God “uses” evil situations to bring about good ends. How can He, if He doesn’t understand evil? If evil is a filthy rag in the corner that God cannot see, how can he then use that filthy rag to mop up a spill?  That is the "dotty old man" version of God, and it doesn’t stand up in the face of suffering and death.

There is a concerted effort among Christians to avoid saying that God knows both good and evil, because then God is a cosmic jester and we are his joke. Suffering and Salvation become meaningless when they are dealt from the same hand. So, according to our logic, God cannot be the author of evil; evil is just the absence of God.

Genesis 3:22: And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

This is one of the crossroads of Christianity. Suffering and salvation are both a product of God’s love, and without suffering there is no salvation. More correctly, without Christ's suffering and death, no one could be saved. To limit God to only the good thing is to say that evil is somehow outside of his control or understanding. Such a claim of an omnipotent and omnipresent God is ridiculous.

So, is God then the source of evil? God does not intend evil for us, but he has allowed the possibility of evil. God allows his absence as well as his presence. Think of it this way. God created gravity, and he is teaching us to ride a bicycle. If we shout “I can do this on my own!”, God is perfectly capable of taking away his hand. Our bicycle wobbles, and we crash to the ground because consequence combines with inexperience.  Is gravity to blame?  Is God to blame?

So why does God take away his hand, and why did he create gravity?

With his hand always present, or the absence of gravity, the child would never learn to ride straight.  Without choice, there is no child to speak of: the bicycle, child, and hand would be one and the same.  Gravity is implicit in an environment of choice.  Without choice, there is no experience.

Again, the problem is choice.

Evil is not a creation.  It is a choice.  Is God to blame for creating choice?  Yes. Between evil and oblivion, which would you choose?  God chose life for us, and with that life, a choice between salvation and damnation.  Had we not been created, we would never have suffered evil.  Would it have been worth it?  To demand a universe without suffering  would be the same as demanding than an infinite Creator snuff out his light and stand still with his hands at his sides for all eternity.

Bertrand Russell said, "No one can sit at the bedside of a dying child and still believe in God,”  What Russell meant was, nobody who was like Bertrand Russell could sit at the bedside of a dying child and still believe in God, because Bertrand Russell considers his emotions and perceptions of suffering to be above God’s plan for creation. To me, that seems foolish.

This is the Achilles Heel of faith; that men do not understand either the weight of glory in heaven for earthly suffering, or that they believe that there is nothing worse than earthly suffering.

Compared to eternal separation from God, earthly suffering is a trifle. It is like comparing a bee sting to having your head lopped off. To criticize the bee sting, and refuse God because of temporal suffering is to reject His plan, His sovereignty, and His Will.  Worse, it is a sign that our rejection of Him was present before the insult, and took very little to bring to the surface.

I am not going to make light of suffering (especially a child's), any more than I could of the scourge upon Jesus’ back, the spear in his side, or the three days he spent in the torments of Hell. I have gotten a very light dose of suffering in my life, and it was more than I could stand. To watch a loved one suffer is  unbearable - and here, we make the mistake of believing that God does not care.

Have you ever watched a movie for the first time, and wept at the moment where the hero or heroine is at their lowest point? Why did you weep? You knew it would all turn out alright in the end? Did you weep because you knew how that person would have felt, even knowing that the outcome would be good?

Further, when you watch the movie a second or third time, are you still moved?
Why would you watch it again, if you felt that way?  You're tempted to think that God does not care, in the moment that you are suffering most. You don’t understand that God is with you in that moment, suffering with you. Feeling rejected with you. Bleeding with you. Dying with you.  But God knows how it turns out in the end. He’s read the book.  He knows the hero wins.

Where we would swerve, God holds the course. The only way out is through, and God has his eyes on the prize. What prize could possibly be worth murder, rape, torture, anguish, death, war, sickness, warped nature, lust, greed, wrath, and hopelessness: the prize of heaven won, through the sacrifice that Christ Jesus made for us while we were the embodiment of those very things I just listed.

Do you know him? Does He know you? Maybe the chance of knowing him is better than the guarantee that you won’t. Maybe he isn’t the man you think he is, but so much more than you could ever imagine. Maybe pain and death are not the final end, but just the biting gravel on the road to something wonderful. Is a leap of faith so risky? Is the prize it offers so undesirable? Is hubris so much more satisfying than hope?

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the light.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Legacy

A silent ship hangs above the world, piercing cloud and shadow. Invisible to radar or the naked eye, it waits; a metallic watcher in the heavens. Its sole occupant, a creature of silver skin and three fingers, holds a very curious object. The square object, to humans, a familiar sight. Yet, in that wondrously foreign craft, it is an object completely alien. Obsolete in design, yet beautiful in its primitive honesty.

The three fingered being places the alien object on a flat console, and a rim of light rises to encompass it. There is a soft hum, and the light separates into two squares that ring the object and spin. Then, they descend into the console and the humming ceases.

Another noise is heard; a soft pinging that seems urgent. It is time. The being tucks the object in its silver suit and moves out of the computer core into a smooth and flowing central hall. He enters a large central chamber, lined with a remarkable blue crystalline substance. A wonderful, harmonious sound resonates through the chamber. At the center of the room is a small podium of crystal, lined with metallic silver.

The three fingers of each hand extend over the podium, and the chamber resonates all the more musically.

“Is the survey completed?” The voice comes from everywhere, in and through the being as though it were inside his very mind.

“Yes,” responds the being, “the damage is beyond recovery. The planet’s ecosystem is completely destroyed: no anaerobic bacteria in the soil, no vermicular life forms present. Radiation damage is off the scale.”

“Solar winds?”

“Negative. Fission reaction devices were detonated in the atmosphere and on the ground. There are no survivors.”

“Is this your final report?”

“Yes, director, I am preparing for departure.”

“What have you spent all this time doing? The planet’s condition should have required less time to assess.”

The being hesitates. His three fingered hand stray to the square, earthly object that lay in a pocket of his silver suit, and then back to the podium. “I have conducted archaeological work, to learn more of the history of this race of creatures. I felt that I should use the opportunity, as the survey was clearly useless.”

Silence followed this report for a small space. Light years away, other such beings confer among themselves. “Do you have anything of interest for the archaeological division?” A tone of chastisement can be heard.

“Yes. While their technological development was still very primitive prior to their destruction, I did find something in their record media that interests me. A record kept for several thousand cycles, concerning their beliefs in the Originator.”

"Equally primitive?"

“Remarkably, no. My scans indicate that the final battle was over this record and its claims, primarily between two factions. I have studied the records of both factions, for submission and review.”

"We will send a qualified team for investigation."

“I think it is important to know, director, that some of the events in the final battle were…….beyond our context of understanding. They are unexplained events. The record media in question seems to have predicted this quite accurately and I feel that there is a central figure behind which -”

“Your conclusion is undoubtedly inaccurate. A team of experts is better qualified to judge these matters. Make preparations to get underway. You are reassigned.”

“Yes, director.” The musical harmony comes to a decrescendo, and the being leaves the chamber. Soon, he and his craft will return to the distant world from which they came – a world with many of the same problems of this small blue planet and its now extinct inhabitants. “You are reassigned” had an ominous sound. It meant censure and possibly more. Somehow, however, the three fingered being feels a strange measure of peace. Despite the ravaged world floating beneath him, or the trials that await him at home, he has a feeling of hope.

The committee was not told what was taken back from the small blue planet by its lowly surveyor. In time, however, its effect would reach every shore of every nation on that distant planet.

The legacy of humanity, destroyed in the flames of a final, global war, was not in the calamity of its fall. It was in a book tucked in the silver lining of a three fingered brother; a newborn believer in Jesus Christ.

The Golden Prayer

While I was still a fledgling in faith, I was serving in the Air Force at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland as a military intelligence analyst. For several years I worked in a windowless box, full of ineptitude, apathy, and discouragement. The one thing I took any solace in was my miniature King James New Testament Bible, which I carried in the cargo pocket of my battle fatigues. I would often read it in the break room, or outside in the sunlight where smokers and other outcasts such as myself sought refuge.

At this time, I was newly married, and new in my faith in Christ Jesus. I sought many answers in the Bible, as to how I could get through the misery of my current circumstances. Feeling trapped, I was constantly overwhelmed by a feeling of impossibility to everything. It was impossible to please my superiors, impossible to be recognized for good works, impossible to reach out to others, and impossible to make friends.

I then read Matthew 17:20

And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

What brought me to Christ was the search for truth, and I found his testimony to be true. Yet, this passage confused me. How could a man move a mountain, simply by having faith? I had faith, and yet I never felt more powerless or trapped. I went outside to my usual spot to pray and be with the Lord, a picnic bench that none of the smokers bothered to sit at. I wanted to believe that I had the power to move mountains, but I didn’t really believe in miracles.

So, I prayed to the Lord for a miracle, and I was specific. I asked, “Lord, if you really are all powerful, change this picnic table to gold, and then back again. I do not ask this to tempt you, Lord. I only ask for a sign that you are listening, and that you move in all things.”

The Lord responded to me, “I will answer this prayer.”

I must admit, the Lord’s response to me was surprising. Often, when I prayed and asked for things that I knew were probably wrong of me to ask, I felt like the child who asks the parent for something it knows it cannot have over and over only to be denied over and over. In a way, it is mischief on the part of the child, but sometimes the need is truly there. Sometimes the child needs that taste of your coffee, or to handle the fishing rod, in which case I believe God, like any good parent, acquiesces so that you may learn.

Such was the case in God’s answer to me, I believe. I sat, looking at that table, and waiting for it to change. There was the nagging part of my mind, “the realist”, saying repeatedly, “Nothing is going to happen. You’re an idiot for sitting here and staring at something that isn’t going to change.” Of course, this is the part in us that doesn’t truly believe in God’s power. Finally, this nagging doubt got the better of me, and I started to get up from the table when I felt a still, small voice say “Look down.”I looked down at the table, and in the middle was a fly. The fly was solid gold from head to toe, save the wings which were like flakes of crystal. And, I do not mean yellowish in color. I mean iridescent and burnished, like pure molten metal. I stared at it in wonder for a minute or two before it flew off.

Now, the skeptic may state the following: It is not a miracle that a fly have golden coloration, nor is it anything more than coincidence that it showed up at a picnic table outside where food is frequently present just at that time. The unconscious mind sees what it wants the way it wants, and connects random events together and calls them a “miracle”.

Hogwash. Gibberish from the rear end of a baboon. That fly was a miracle, period. I know that it was a miracle, not because it was golden, or because it appeared at that time and in that place. It was a miracle because I felt, very real in that moment, God’s presence in answer to my prayer. That is the miracle.It is not a miracle that Jesus walked on water. Think about it. He had all power, and hosts of angels stood by at his command. To one with such power, walking on water is no more miraculous than breathing in and out. And, if you think about it, breathing in and out is a miracle. Life is a miracle! And, that is what I saw in that tiny golden living thing – a thing that I took for granted as detestable and vile. The fact that it was golden was just God showing off, which He has every right to do and praise Him for it.

It amazed me that God could do with a common housefly and a quiet voice, what we would demand of Him with mountain blasting and shouting. We want the flash and booming voice from a God trying to teach us humility. We are surrounded by miraculous events every second, yet we demand a sign from God. The stones cry out, and the heavens shout his name, and we ask “Where is God?”The miracle is not out there. The miracle is in here. All you need to do is look where God tells you to look.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Gift of Pain

With opened eyes, I wake to know
The fallen snow and evergreen
of Christmas tree, on blessed morn
when He was born, and God was seen

So many gifts, none too immense
of frankincense, or gold or myrrh
What is this gift, I see beneath
the holly wreath? I can't be sure

A box with ribbons they adorn
In biting thorn, to give the child
I loose my seat, and bar the way
My hand to stay, and fury wild

But they respond, with patient calm
There is no balm for cancer's cure
If chemotherapy be right
A painful fight, he must endure

So many nights, I watched him die
To curse the sky at Him, insane
I, bitter-mouthed, would damn His choice
With heart and voice, the gift of pain

But still the Christmas snow would fall
And through it all, my son believed
He praised the Lord, I knew not why
I watched him die, and only grieved

But with last breath, as if a hiss
He whispered this; "Christ is the Lord"
Then gave his life, his body still
A deadly chill, and pierce of sword

I don't recall those after days,
And through that haze I tried to lean
On comfort, with those words in mind
I tried to find what they could mean

And for the first, I read the book
With open look, I saw it show
On Calvary, the Son of God
On whom I trod, but did not know

This man who taught and sought to save
By empty grave, our faith succoured
That my son too, with final breath
Would not give death the final word

With love and pain the wine is pressed
To see us dressed for wedding day
Oh, lift our veil with kiss of grace,
wipe from our face all tears away

Monday, February 25, 2008

Auld Lang Syne

I remember flowing fields of grain,
how in the wind they waved

I remember sounds of streaking rain
on sidewalks newly paved

I remember all the hills of gold
and how the children sang

I remember all the bells of old
that in the churches rang

I remember all the winter frost
when Christmas came to all

I remember when the child was lost
and men began to fall

I remember all the arms and hands
that moved us to the fight

I remember all the foreign lands
that cursed our very sight

I remember when we told our God
"Get out of all our schools"

I remember when we took the rod
and gave it to the fools

But I remember; hope and trust
are stronger weapons still

Than all the hate and burning lust
of men who seek to kill

I know that power in the hand
is not to hold the gun

The power is with ones who stand,
And proudly stand as one

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Faith of a Farmer

How can I teach, or rightly preach
Against the world’s lie?

My sheep you herd, upon My word
You shall not go awry.


How can I know just where to go,
When all my footsteps stray?

My son, to Me, beneath the tree
I saw thee on thy way.

Now take up seeds in all thy deeds
And cast them on the ground.


Some Sow, some Reap, to feed my sheep
In this, thy faith is found.

But why, Oh Lord? What of my sword?
What of my mighty arm?

Thy given strength shall learn its length
When first you learn to farm

The high made low, one day shall know
The wisdom of this way.


Some Sow, some reap. Please feed my sheep
And cast thy seed today.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kluflex Letters - continued

Cousin Nagford,

Your letters to me concerning your subject’s faith in the enemy are beginning to weary my ears, really. I mean, were we defeated at the gates of heaven when those dire arms flung us into the pit? I think not. Let them have faith. Let them have religion, even if it is Christianity. We have time on our side.
My junior tempting school gym teacher once remarked to a classmate of mine, who was ill at ease with the gentle tutelage of his own peers, “Time is the incessant heel that grinds us to the will of our betters.” In your man’s case (and any human’s case), Our Father below is the stronger will, the more insistent tug. The draw of Hell is like gravity itself. And, gravity and time are cousins just as surely as we are, Nagford! Let the little stinkblob have his faith in the enemy. We will grind it in our terrible teeth.
As you bloody well know, since your man is a self-professed Christian, we are at full scale war with his soul. It has been accepted by that terrible light, and bathed in fire and water. To us, it is no longer a sweet smelling meat roasted on a hellish spit, but a horrible burning brand.
Nevertheless, since it is we who tend the fire on the first hand, and the man himself who tends it with faith and religion on the second hand, we have the field advantage. Humans are inherently lazy and selfish, after all. So, we need to aim all our endeavors towards making him as complacent towards his relationship with the enemy as possible. Instead of continuing to isolate him, we should now thrust him into the spotlight. Make him a popular fellow with his peers – at least, the peers we control. Let his acquisition of material things go unhindered. As terrible as it is to stoke the happiness of a man, in the long run it can fuel him towards disaster. Clutter him up with goods to barrier him from the enemy. Oh, He’s bound to get through you know, but any act of diminishing Him aids us greatly.
What you are really doing in this, cousin, is creating an opportunity. Balloon his happiness till it chokes him, stoke his ego until it drives him off a cliff. There are no real successes towards materialism or power abuse due to his faith, and he’ll be aware of this. He’ll see no danger in them, and lose his way. He’ll coast on his faith, rather than tend it. Opportunity, Nagford, Opportunity! Even in a losing battle, one bullet can turn the tide. If you can skewer his faith at the right opportunity, you’ll end the man.
As a Christian, he has taken up his cross. Yet, he doesn’t yet know what that means. Most Christians, when they speak of taking up the cross, mean it as symbolically as the wooden beams on the stupid steeple or the tacky jewelry on their flabby necks. In their hearts, however, they are not truly prepared to take up their suffering and endure with it to the end. It is hardly entertaining for them, and always exactly what they need rather than want. And, delightfully, some is it is truly awful. Loss of loved ones - oh yes! Sickness - delightful! Wanton rejection and hatred of his fellow man - ah sweet misery! These are crosses, Nagford, and opportunities we could not create if total control were ours, ironically. The enemy practically drools over them at those crosses as we do, for different reasons obviously. He wants them to come through the crucible well forged, and we want them cooked to a crisp! How often have we murdered hope, and ground them under despair. Only one of them made it through to terrible victory, cousin, only one! Let them be Christians if they dare.
As shallow as a human is, their souls drink from deep waters. They thirst for that perfect life they all feel is coming, but are left in a world of danger, suffering, and seemingly endless time. That thirst is quenched for them when they stand before the enemy, and we are cast without as shaky helpless shadows. Yet, with our help, they do far less to quench their thirst with the enemy as they do with the world in which Our Father below rules as prince. Courage, persistence, and patience are called virtues, but they are crosses! Ha! See how many will take them up in that state! See how many will stand against the state and their peers for the sake of righteousness! They want it to be easy. They want it to be fair. They want it to be predictable. And you are afraid? Pah!! It is so easy to make them see the world as god more than Him. Who would look at one shining star in the heavens when tossed in a sea of noise and fury? Time is on our side, cousin. Bide yours.

Your delightful cousin,
Kluflex

Dear cousin Nagford,

Good work putting your patient’s faith to hammer and tongs. I’ve read the reports of your progress so far, and it’s clear that you’ve given him quite a few lovely jabs in the eye. If it is war He wants, let him have it. Any prey that struggles to leave its cage is going to let the bruises of such an effort teach him submission.
I can see, however, that you are overly worried about your man’s realizations. He is beginning to realize the Truth, take a lesson from it, and apply it in his life. He’s “moving forward”, as you put it. Sweet, foolish cousin. Let me tell you how to get a man so bent on moving forward that he’ll spin his wheels fast enough to move backwards: Objectivism.
Purpose is the domain of the enemy where objectives and agendas are ours. One includes His guidance, and the other is an end unto itself. Every thing that He made has its twisted equivalent. Everything made has a mockery. So, because they are so similar in form, these dull-witted humans will mistake one for the other without a second thought. Why, I once broke up a congregation with objectives. They aimed so hard at building a better community that they drove themselves apart with their own energies. What kept me laughing about it was the work efforts that tore them apart were intended as a way for them to get closer to Him. It was as easy as seeding the idea that all outcomes are events-oriented rather than faith-oriented. The objective eclipsed the purpose, and it was as easy as falling off a log.
The principle of things and the face of them are so alike sometimes that a twisted truth seems straight. It is easy to fool them, and trip them up with objectives and agendas. After all, if the objective is benevolent, then any objection or doubt or promptings of the enemy will be brushed aside with the simple phrase “It is for the greater good.”
The world of the spirit is like a vast river, the current of which has such subtleties and changes that any course without guidance, be it benevolent or otherwise, is doomed. The path to Hell is paved not merely with good intentions, but intention itself. A man of intentions is his own god, in a way. Why would a man need a helping hand when he can leverage the world? Our job is to rotate them in and out of this position of leverage at a rate that keeps their desires satisfied only to the point that they continue to crave more of the world, more of us, and less of Him. The objective is the objective.

Your delightful cousin, Kluflex

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Law in Eden

A lying tongue, the garden did profane
When forked to spit, did split the truth in twain
Where good and evil gods there did arise
From fruit forbidden, law of God despised

So Satan’s Law in Eden was a lie
With woman told “Ye shall not surely die:”
And idle man, who did not crush his head
But ate instead damnation of the dead

And both their eyes were opened to their fate
He shook the hinge, as shut He slammed the gate
With sin, the sting of death all men to feel
Till righteous son of man should bruise his heel.......

When death lamented having lost its prey
When dawn was crowned the holy Christian day
The saving grace of man was spoken true
By he who said, “They know not what they do.”

Floating Hope

A lion sleeps in shadows
Beneath the fallen trees
The bleat and bells draw nearer
The flock asunder flees
As lion bursts beneath them
Its eyes with hate abound
His curse and cudgel falling
He buries in the ground

The Lord is seeking Abel
His brother, black with mud
“What hast thou done?” He asks him
“I hear thy brother’s blood.”
“And now thou art accursed”
So caught up in his snare
The cursed responded only
“Tis more than I can bear”

The mark of vengeance wearing
He passes out from God
The son of murder wanders
Into the land of Nod
And there he builds a city
Upon the hand of blood
Till sin with rising torrent
It washed away in flood

Above the raging waters
Went Noah in his boat
That Seth, who followed Abel
Could keep our hope afloat
For God is God of Justice
Where vengeance is may seem
He sends a man among us
Through which he can redeem

Song and Silence

Long He sat in song and silence
Pain, the price of every birth
Torn the veil, devoid of violence
God made heaven and the earth

On the string, a countless chorus
Angels sing, on wing of flight
“Glory, Father, now before us”
And He said, “Let there be light”

From His chord was struck creation
Dust he made, to every mote
From his trumpet, man and nation
Blasted forth in every note

All of heaven glorifies Him,
Every stone cries out His name
Yet the voice of man denies him
Gift of choice, a rift of shame

God, who made the land and ocean!
God, who made the stars and skies!
Man, who trembles at the notion,
Let him be accounted wise

Monday, March 5, 2007

The Kluflex Letters, Samples

The Kluflex Letters

TO: Esteemed Minister Malis
FROM: Ministry Officer Vulminax

CONCERNING: Release of proprietary information / damage control

Esteemed Minister Malis,

This memorandum is to inform you of the nature of the recent information leak, as well as the steps involved in assessing and controlling the damage. I can assure you, Minister, that effective measures have been applied to both Nagford and Kluflex. Their chief protests were, of course, that the enemy was involved in some kind of conspiracy. Though I agreed with them it did not deter me from my duty, and my pleasure, in punishing them both mercilessly.
I should hasten to add one very important fact. Kluflex is not, in any way, an expert on the human soul. He is, like all such ilk, mainly familiar with the tricks of his trade, owing his position in the ministry largely to suckling at heels rather than skill.
Regarding the letters intercepted from the enemy: they have proven extremely hazardous to handle, and terrible to look upon. However, our team of experts has finally managed to render a usable translation suitable for those with eyes that cannot take in their deadly glare. They are, thankfully, now not as potent as the originals. I am sorry to report that their intelligence value is minor, as they are chalked full of the typical simpering emotional fluff of the enemy's love. They're enough to make me vomit.
I have enclosed some samples of the contraband in question for your inspection, and would like to again assure you, that no further information leaks will occur.

Greatest respect and admiration,
Ministry Officer Vulminax
5th House, Infernal Affairs



Cousin Nagford,

It has been some time since I have last written you, and I assure you that it is out of no fault of kindness that I am writing to you now. As you are well aware, the post offices are rather in disarray in Our Father's house below. Torture, no matter how refined, cannot always guarantee the highest efficiency from these cattle, and letters have been lost from time to time, as in that unfortunate incident that we now refer to as "The Screw-up Letters" found and published by that most disreputable and disgusting Oxford professor. Fortunately, the human vermin mostly regard them as of superficially intellectual amusement, and the damage has been minimal – save for that poor idiot and his nephew. Still, another similar incident is to be avoided and I have circumvented the usual routes in order to guarantee their safe delivery myself. Having secured my fare share of souls in Our Father's house below and having been promoted to a much coveted post in the Ministry of the Interior, I find myself in the useful position of giving you field-men some much needed advice.
I happened to 'stumble' over one of your last reports in which you gladly stated that your subject is well on his way to becoming a racist, and I must say excellent work! Racism was a favorite subject of mine in my old College days, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to give you reams of good advice on the subject.
Since you said that your man is a bit of a 'thinker', as you call it, you should tread lightly. Don't let him pursue his own thought processes on the subject too deeply or the game is up. Done properly, like all the tricks of the trade, you can keep your so called 'thinker' walking in a perfect spiral straight down to our doorstep without ever so much as crossing a line.
Now, as we all know, He made the human races different from one another with a specific purpose in the same way that he made two different varieties of human beings. The enemy wants them to be humble by admitting their weaknesses so that they can then draw strength from their differences in order to prepare them for their eventual relationship (He calls it 'marriage') with Him. What we want is for them to feel so arrogant in their supposed superiority that they feel revulsion towards anything different from themselves. As you no doubt surmised, this tactic works well in undoing the bonds between men and women as it does between the different human races. Therefore, what we want is to highlight those weaknesses themselves, but obscure their purpose. Once that is obscured, they can see their fellow vermin as being racially or genetically or culturally inferior to themselves after which everything becomes much easier. Your subject may then feel entitled to look down on his supposed inferiors without feeling a sense of guilt, since such condescension stems from what he regards as pity rather than loathing for "those poor, backwards savages". Such resentments serve as lovely jabs at the enemy's design, and can greatly aid in securing your subjects soul.
You should read Glurrdle's textbook essays on Dehumanization and Hypocrisy, most useful during the golden years of the humans' second Great War, and which still finds good use in some of the poorer countries of the world. Remember the old adage, "Black and White is always right!" If you can get him focused tightly on placing worldly things into a 'bad' and 'good' context (loosely defined) it will be a snap of the fingers to focus him on placing racial and cultural differences in the same context. And, since they are all such self-centered little things, they will always place their race and their culture in the 'good' bin in the blink of an eye despite any clear evidence to the contrary. In this manner, you can get a man to exclaim his disgust at the results of our own labors on one human race's culture and in the same breath laugh at or loudly praise the same work in his own culture simply on the basis that they are 'familiar' and therefore 'good'. Or, if he happens to notice the contradiction, you can get him to justify it by labeling it as 'civilized'.
Above all, what you must avoid is allowing him to take particular notice of those qualities of the enemy in the other races, or, if he does, to reduce his impression of them to something of a trivial and non-commercial quality. Never allow him to lose that practiced sense of superiority, and as an added bonus he may be well on his way to being either a chauvinist or a snob. Either way, the lack of humility will be a welcome paving stone to the road of his eventual journey to Our Father's house below.

Your delightful cousin,
Kluflex

Dear brother Maewen,

I send you this letter to congratulate you on your new posting as a guardian angel. Your laurels are well deserved, brother. Doubtless, you are very curious about the convention of this letter, and I feel that some explanation should be made. You see, as you are now attached to a mortal heart, you will soon begin to understand the true nature of a guiding and guarding spirit. Unlike you, your protégé will not drink in the pure expression of thought. He is not ready for that cup yet, and will, at the best of times, only sip from it. So, I will speak to you in the manner of mortals, to help you become accustomed to what I lovingly name their "patch-work" vision. Fear not, for I have had much practice in this ancient art. My mentor taught this method to me when I held the noble position you now occupy. It is with a glad heart that I share his gift to me with you. I know from experience that this position is a bittersweet one. From your instruction, you know that this post is life-long, and cannot be lain down till the protégé is discharged from their mortality.
There are some words of warnings that, in all love and friendship, I offer to you. The first is this; no matter how deep the despair of his suffering, you must endure with him to give him Our Father's message of hope. These children cannot see the end of the light in their lives, or know with true certainty that death, though bitter, is not the final end. There is much they suspect, and do not know, so that it is their faith alone which leads them to that which they could not willingly choose. However, some will fall into despair, and be won over by the darkness. Fear not, for Our Father has the final victory, as we see. However, even until his last breath is gasped, you must strive, for even in his final moment can he find salvation. No victory more sweet than snatching Our Father's children from the clutches of a life of sin in that last moment when they allow themselves to see what they have blinded themselves to, and receive the cup from Our Father. Though I disdain any discord against the symphony of heaven, I would almost dare to say that the wailing of our enemies' despair in that final defeat is a sweet music.

Your brother in love,
Johan



Cousin Nagford,

It was kind of you to reply to my last letter so promptly. However, I should like to request that you avoid too much reference to my own reading of your reports, as they are sometimes classified and it might cause an embarrassing situation for some people here in the office. Nevertheless, I am happy to hear that your efforts are going so well, and that your man's soul is virtually in hand.
I am glad to hear that your subject is so concerned with finding a 'real job'. Encouraging his doubt in the enemy's Providence is the key to herding him into the drudgery of an unfulfilling occupation. Get him thinking that even the most basic pleasures in life require large sums of money or the things that cost money such as an expensive car, house, or education. Do not allow him to see them as materialistic wants, however, but rather as necessities of life. Then, bend his mind fully on the acquisition of those things so that his happiness and contentment are things that he perceives he will one day be allowed to have but for the moment must forgo in order to get them. Try to make sure he finds himself in a cubicle away from the air and light staring at a screen for 8 hours a day. You want your man wound so tightly that he feels he can neither move nor breath, but can then also totter about with very controlled movements and a great deal of nervous, frustrated energy. Really get him to focus externally, and then relate that to everything he feels internally. If he feels depressed or cross, then he must think it is because he has had 'a bad day at work', even though that day was virtually identical in thought and deed to every other day he's had at his job. Always switch his signals around. When there is an external problem, get him to internalize so that he bottles it up and when there is an internal problem get him to externalize so that he avoids dealing with it. This will balance his energies like a valve, so that he can pop off on others upon command. I had a most amusing subject trained to this method so well that he was despised by all his coworkers as a loudmouthed fool, and at the same time never said anything that was really on his mind! The stress of it built so gradually that he died prematurely of a heart-attack in traffic and ran over someone's foot. That was a good day!
However, I must admit that my own advancement was largely due to the sort of complacency my subjects placed on the state of their own souls as your man does – some not even admitting that there is such a thing, delightfully. Just a word to the wise, don't get too much into the habit of enjoying your remaining time by over-indulging yourself. I imagine by now your man responds to jealousy, fear, pride, hatred, and lust in much the same manner as a performing dog and amusing at it is, let us not forget the tasks at hand. Your fellow tempters will still need your assistance in securing the souls of his friends, relatives, and coworkers, so use a tight leash. You never want your subject to fall into complete abandon so as to wake up others to the true cause of his actions, or to disassociate with him and render him useless to us. The miserable, monotonous dullness of contempt and rejection for his fellow man that the humans call 'tolerance', when balanced and regulated properly can be a true work of art. You can get your subject to swallow a virtual sewer as long as it is given to him steady drop by drop.

Your delightful cousin,
Kluflex


Dear Brother Maewyn,

Concerning your last question, the gift of suffering is indeed alien to those of our order, but it is still important for us to understand. The leading and protection of our protégés is natural enough, as natural as a mother's love. However, it is not the mother's love and affections that makes the boy into a man. Quite often, the good seed is cast on hard ground, and yet there it thrives despite wind and weather.
Now, the mortal heart may be tempted by the enemy to believe that Our Father is unmerciful and harsh in making suffering His tool of glorification, for often they cannot see the difference between suffering for something and suffering because of something. The difference is desire. The suffering a parent endures, out of a desire to raise and love its child is, in the minds of men, inconsequential and immaterial. When they consider the value or, (forgive a mercenary term)"cost" of their child, it is measured in more than weight of meat and potatoes, as our enemy has led some of them to believe so that the butchers might have rule. Some might, by the enemies suggestion believe that any decent parent would have done the same, which is true, but then be led to believe that parenthood is in itself a default decency. A mother of our fold, who remembers the pain of childbirth, remembers it without blame, but as a blessing. For, in her loving heart she knows that this which is dearly bought is bought dearly.
It is also desire that is the danger, brother Maewyn. It is why mortals brought suffering into the world in the beginning of their arduous journey. To be like gods is in their will, but only a true understanding of God's will can make anyone godlike. The lie of a forked tongue splits truth in twain, and thus have men been divided from Our Father by seeing him as they now see themselves, and indeed, all things: as both good and evil. Therefore, they will see natural affection as good, when it is in fact, natural. The difference between the good and the perfect will forever be a puzzle for them, brother, for nothing in the circle they inhabit is perfect, as they see it. Therefore, the suffering they endure will seem to them good, and they endure it grudgingly, or bad, and they endure it bitterly. The idea our enemy torments them with is the idea of meaningless suffering, but he has long striven to make all things seem meaningless, since Our Father made meaning. The idea of perfect suffering, which we strive to show them in Christ, seems to them abhorrent. It is the price of salvation in a world where sin has made entry. This idea of perfection, Maewyn, is hardest for mortals to fathom. The very word, perfect, seems to their perceptions of the finite and limited, a cheat. Yet, it lived and breathed and walked among them.
Always strive to keep your protégé's mind away from the idea of "good" or "useful" suffering as he sees it, and instead reveal in his mind the perfect suffering of Christ, for him. Our Father's gift of grace makes clear through the cross: perfect suffering and perfect love, in a world of sin, go hand in hand. Our task is to reveal their suffering to them not as good or bad, but Christ-like. So, when the rain drives and the wind tears, they sting the skin but not the heart. It is turmoil and turbulence that fill the sails of a mortal vessel. It is our duty to reveal to them that with Christ as their compass, though it rain bitter tears, they can find hope.

Your brother in love,
Johan



My dear cousin,

We are pleased to hear that your subject has found himself a job that he despises, yet which pays him very well. This is exactly the sort of drudgery we want. The last thing we need is for him to be in a job were he feels productive and fulfilled. Now, I know that the obvious thing to do at this point is to try and build in him a great desire for wealth, and turn him into a materialist. However, from what I read of your man, he doesn't strike me as particularly greedy. Therefore, what I suggest here is a more drastic but rewarding approach. Try instead to build up his fear of poverty rather than is love of wealth. You see, dear Nagford, if you get your subject in love with money, and he begins to see it as vain or greedy, you will have to constantly argue uphill by struggling against his nature. I can assure you it is exhausting work, and the path to Our Father's House below is a downward slope, not upward. Therefore, if you instill in him a healthy fear of poverty, and he begins to slip from it, you can always give him a sharp reminder from time to time when he sees a homeless person or a beggar. Make sure in those cases, however, that he does not see the humanity of such people, but solely their conditions. Remember, you want him to react with revulsion rather than compassion. Fortunately, your man is not the dreadful sort that would regard poverty as a trial of the flesh, as some of the great warriors on the enemy's side have done. So, press in him the need for constant acquisition in order to shore up his fortress with meaningless material objects that make him feel safe. I hope that you remember Professor Glugboat's lectures from our College days on spiritual inflation. My favorite quote of his was "In the grand dissonance of Our Father Below's noise, the distraction of material things is like the timpani that crushes out the horrible music of heaven." However, the same tendency towards distraction that lures them to us can lure them away, witless beasts that they are. Thus we have the organized distraction of materialism to act as the dangling carrot. Keep him busy in it, for the deadliest weapon against this tactic is calm and silence, where the subject might possibly discern the serenity of the enemy or the concussive mortar of the spiritual battlefield through which they trod, oblivious.
The brilliance of spiritual inflation is that, as the spiritual emptiness inside your patient gets larger, material gratification grows smaller. Like a man stuffing himself with food while dying of thirst. The more he eats, the worse it gets, until he is spiritually starved. The constant need for more eventually becomes cyclical and self-sustained until the subject is engorged to the point that they fall apart. Then, Nagford, we are in the crucial position! In his arrogant refusal to recognize which part of him hungers and thirsts, the patient is starved to the degree where they are ready to receive us. I recommend either new-age spiritualism or occultism as the flavor of this generation, for he'll have many compatriots.
With great effort, we have gotten these ridiculous humans so mixed up about the law of Times and Seasons to the point that they are perpetually terrified of going without, want everything now, and enjoy nothing of what they have once they've gotten it. Getting them to take everything for granted, and yet constantly struggling against the natural fluctuation of life is not only wicked good fun, but keeps them in the twilight of the human condition where we are strongest. So, the first thing you must do is blur in your subject the lines between spiritual poverty and worldly poverty to the point where the two are indistinguishable. As we all know, spiritual poverty is a powerful tool in our hands, and worldly poverty a powerful tool for the enemy. A man who is rich in spirit can withstand some of our most brutal assaults, but a man poor in spirit will welcome our miseries no matter how much money he has. Just make sure to relate words like "poverty" and "the poor" to him as physical sensations rather than conditions. The more you clutter his mind with misleading imagery and false fears, the less likely he will be to ever allow himself to face such conditions. Properly motivated, your man will not only continue with his drudgery but will actually be grateful for it, if it keeps him from the poor house. However, you shouldn't be content with cracking the whip over him from time to time. Fear is just the leaf and branch, but what you really want is your subject to be rooted in his condition, and I am delighted to tell you how.
Now, we all know that fear is simply trust in the enemy's providence that has been twisted into doubt, and is Our Father below's grand Law in Eden. However, the root of such doubts and the foundations of Hell itself is the human desire to control its own fate. The brilliance of the Law in Eden is that it springs right out of the core of the human design. You see, when He created the humans, he did it in His own image (He would, you know), and one aspect of that image was control over their hearts and actions. He designed them in this way so that they could not only serve Him and find purpose and fulfillment, but also freely choose to love him rather than be puppets subject to His will. Therein lies their weakness! This self-control can, with patience and craftiness, be turned into willful ambition. In the same manner that you twist his faith into fear, you may twist his self-control into self-will. Keep in mind however, that doubt in the enemy is founded entirely on the Law in Eden and is therefore something that can be destroyed, unhappily, by His presence. With such a constant risk of His exposure to the patient, however dim and hazy it may seem to him, doubt and fear are best only used in short burst or controlled waves. So, during the Great Blockade, self-will should be a more practical tactic.
Once you twist his fears and desires to control his own heart and actions into a desire to create his own destiny, the subject will abandon any purpose but his own. Obscure from his mind any question of Ultimate purpose, and he will be left with a fruitless existence driven only by his own ambition to acquire and control that which he can never really have, and the trifling pleasures of the moments will be swallowed up by the impermanence of a temporal life. Once the subject believes that his happiness is solely the product of his own will and actions, it is a stroll down cherry lane. What better world than one in which human actions have no meaning, joys are fleeting or nonexistent, and from which the enemy appears entirely absent! Keep up the good work.

Your delightful cousin,
Kluflex


Dear Brother Maewyn,

I hope that our hands and hearts were helpful to you. Your letters were so filled with your protégé's despondency that Our Father sounded the horns and sent us to the hunt! Once, when I was young and unknowing, I asked Our Father why we could not always sound the horns and throw back the enemy from his struggling children. He did not correct my foolishness, but said lovingly "I draw breath for the final trumpet" So, we must be content between breaths.
Be of good cheer and comfort, brother. The crest of this wave is well in sight, and your protégé will soon be bourn up on it. I am sorry that he has yet to hear you, and has left his open-heart blind to Our Father. We must continue to work within his closed-heart until his eyes open.
You write of your protégé's trouble with work and labors. My records state that he is not genuinely lazy, but very proud. Since he feels that his talents and gifts are not recognized or validated, (a validation that only his Father can provide), he tends to regard certain jobs as beneath him. Work to blend his zeal for work he is good at with patience for work he struggles with. The need for humility is obvious, but what you must guard him against is his own pride. We all remember him of us who fell, and his pride. Be on him with wing and word when he finally feels ashamed of this false pride, and provide him with good council. His conscience is not underdeveloped, so you should have good opportunities to make headway. Do not be troubled if his ears do not hear, for his heart is fertile ground. Be patient until the flower is ready to bloom. And, if it be an evil flower that grows up, still we can tend the garden.
Our brother, Tans'l, sends word and makes a gift of strength to you both. He is a shameless journeyman, bless him. He cruelly taunts me by joking about the "weighty matters" of celestial order until I am forced to smile or laugh. I'm too dull-witted to counter, but I lose no happiness over it. It is his place, after all.

Lovingly,

Johan

My dear cousin Nagford,

Your last letter did nothing to assuage my concerns that you were entirely to blame for this whole rotten turn of events. And, dear cousin, I would hate to see you try and pin the blame on any advice I have given you, as it would be most unfortunate if you did. Did you listen to nothing I told you? Where were you when he was associating with people who were obviously the enemy? You mentioned nothing about it in any of your reports, and there will be Hell to pay for those omissions. Better to out and admit that your subject is spending time with the enemy than let something like this happen.
From what I gather, your subject became curious about the whole idea of Truth from reading a Christian book. Now, your first step was right when you pointed him towards all the deliciously ridiculous varieties of human dogmas and trite clichés. However, here you made a fatal mistake! You allowed your man to reason his way through it! You must never, EVER allow them to reason, especially about Christianity! Reason means they are thinking by themselves first of all, which is always bad. Secondly, reason is His invention for discovering the Truth! You never hand your subject a sword of the enemy and let it swing it about as it pleases, unless you enjoy losing an eye or a hand.
I understand why you let it happen. Like many junior tempters, you have taken for granted the modern age's atmosphere of pseudo-scientific rationale tailored together by our control of the modern media. You should have known, however, that science and rationale were not always used as a means to an end as they now are. We worked very hard to twist them into our own tools, yet at their heart they remain in His keeping.
Still, your man isn't yet a Christian, so we have time on our side, so, all is not lost. And, even if (though I fear to mention it), he were to become a Christian, it doesn't mean that he will be sincere or serious about it. A lot of humans start to feel preachy and philosophical as they get older and decide that it might be time to pick a religion and start paying God protection money. And yet, they still seek to enjoy the life of Sin that we provide for them. In a way, these "Christians" are even better than sinners, as they provide us with our favorite sport: the match up between dogmatic zealot and disenchanted cynic.


Your delightful cousin,
Kluflex